Erin (from the USA) and Lionel (from Kenya) wrote in to share their story. Thank you!

Erin: We met in Juba, Southern Sudan in 2007 where we were both working at the time, at a Halloween Party at the US Government compound. Lionel was dressed as an angry mechanic complete with coveralls, a wrench and a hideous mask, and I was dressed as a flamenco dancer (only because I had a red dress with flowers – resources for costumes were limited in Sudan!). We now live in London where we are both furthering our education.

When do you notice that you are from different cultures?

Erin: I most notice that we are from different cultures in the way we approach day to day living here in the UK. When it comes to our relationship in terms of communication and what we expect from each other it’s like we were born on the same street, it comes so naturally!

We were together for two years in Sudan before moving to London. The living situation here is extremely different to say the least. Since Lionel is from Nairobi (a big city) there were a lot of things I assumed he would know how to do (or at least pick up quickly) like choosing internet and phone providers, setting up bank accounts, paying bills, even applying to schools and getting around on the train system. They are all things that I easily cope with but took a long time for him to adjust to. The differences in how things work here compared to how they work in Kenya are very apparent, something we thought about before the move but didn’t expect to be as difficult as it was. It did cause some tension in our relationship, but we were able to deal with it, and after about six months it was like we had been living here all our lives.

I definitely think it helped that this is a new country for both of us, “neutral territory” so to speak, instead of me moving to Kenya or him moving to the US. Even though we are from different parts of the world, we are both united in our distaste for the weather here!

What was it like meeting your partner’s family for the first time?

Lionel: It was great to finally meet Erin’s family during a trip to the US after we’d been together for over a year, to finally find out where she comes from and meet people important to her in her life I had heard so much about. Her family are amazing and very close. I found it so easy to be myself with them, especially her mum and grandmother, and we got along very well. I loved all the shopping trips, they really spoiled me on my birthday and it was such an amazing day. Erin’s Dad is someone to admire; he is very determined and makes sure everyone is ok before himself, he loves his family and I like the fact he loves his beer too! With Erin’s brothers, I must say when I saw pictures I did think about starting to go to the gym again, big boys they are! But both great friends and always ready to crack a few jokes with me which I do all the time =).

Labour day weekend with Erin’s Mom’s family was touching, it’s so nice to see that every year the extended family makes an effort to be together for the holidays, which hardly happens with my family because everyone is always too busy and we have too much drama. I fell in love with Erin’s family and am hoping that one day they can become my family too. The main thing to do now is to get my family to meet her family, wow that is going to be a story and a half and I will keep you posted…

Read more:
What advice would you give to cross-cultural couples?
Who is Elvis? Communication and cultural references
“I wanted to make a good impression” – meeting the in-laws

About the author

Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.