Chances are you’re here because you are married to a foreigner. I get it. It’s harder than you thought it would be. You had pre-marital expectations and the real post-wedding scenarios are quite different from what you imagined. Well, you are not alone. As one of my mentors married to a foreigner said to this effect, “Marriage in itself is difficult and marriage with someone from another culture is much more difficult.”
Let’s not dwell too much on the difficulty. Rather, let’s focus on the solution on how to ease the difficulty we have in our cross-cultural marriage. Take note, I am not claiming to be an expert here. I would just like to list the time-tested tips I have tried in my nine-year cross-cultural marriage.
1. Learn your spouses’ culture.
Do your due diligence in learning as much of his/her culture, custom and history as you can. Thank God there are resources readily available online. Here are the top three links or sites you may want to visit.
- The World Factbook of CIA
If you have a chance to live in his/her home country, observe the ways people behave and think. Also, ask your spouse as many questions as you can to feed your curiosity about their customs and traditions then adjust accordingly without compromising your personal convictions.
2. Learn his language.
Take an extra mile trying to learn his language. Here are the three easy steps that helped me learn my husband’s language.
a. I did a self-study using a grammar book on Bengali in English.
b. I interacted with the people in his village to practice what I learned.
c. I watched online resources like cartoons (lol!) to help me get more exposed to the language. If you are married to a Bangladeshi like me, try watching Meena cartoon.
You just don’t know how many doors of discoveries about your spouse can be opened if you would only try to understand how they express different emotions in their own tongue. You can save yourself from many misunderstandings if you do this.
Some takeaways from my experience?
- First, never regret investing on books that can help you learn his mother tongue.
- Second, do not underestimate the help you can get from others by simply using what you know. Things multiply when they are in proper use.
- Third, be creative in finding resources that will best help you learn your target language. More senses are involved, the better. Practice reading, writing and listening to his language!
3. Learn to eat/cook his/her country’s traditional cuisines.
As I stepped on the country of my husband, I knew how to cook mostly Filipinos dishes. Thank God for my parents and friends who taught me how to cook!
However, being married to a Bangladeshi, I had to learn how to cook both ordinary and special dishes to be prepared for guests. In their culture, having unexpected visitors is quite common and preparing either lunch or dinner for them is a must especially if they are relatives and if they came to visit from a far place.
I will always be forever grateful to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who are very supportive in my endeavours to be a master chef of my own home. They give honest feedback and generous praise to whatever I cook.
4. Learn his/her beliefs.
While my husband and I are both Christians and agree in most of the doctrines there are in the Bible, I understand that there are also couples who are having interfaith marriage. One could be from a Christian background while the other is from a Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu background. This is when things become difficult. It will depend on your conviction as to which belief you will stick to. Please bear in mind, though, that you have children who would be the most influenced by the decision you are making. Which belief would you like your kids grow up embracing? Pray about it seriously. The last thing you would like to be is appearing to deny the faith God has placed in your heart.
5. Last but not the least, love and respect your differences.
No matter how different you are from each other, remember your vows to love and respect each other. You have your flaws and he has his. Embrace your differences and stay together in love for God’s sake. Let love prevail!
Are you married to a foreigner? What are the tips you have on enjoying your marriage? Please share them in the comment section and help others learn from you too!