Strangely enough, Communication works better with different Culture and Language – 21 Oct 13


When our friend Sylvia was at the Ashram, Ramona had a conversation with her which she told me about and which I thought was quite interesting. It was about couples who come from different countries and cultures, especially when they also speak different languages. Sylvia had read a study which had found that such couples last longer.

As one of two parts of such a couple, this was of course interesting to me as well and we talked further about the reasons why this could be true and made sense.

The first argument could clearly be that people who are in a relationship with someone who is not originating of their regular surrounding are more open towards people, things and thoughts that are not ‘normal’. They may like an adventure and get excited about new things or they simply don’t refuse something which is different right away but consider it at least. In a relationship this can mean a lot because as the years pass by, both persons will change. It is natural that new things appear in the personality of one or the other and there has to be a certain flexibility and openness in order for the relationship to last!

In an intercultural relationship, both partners are aware of the fact that the other one has made fully different experiences while growing up, was surrounded by people who thought very differently and probably also thinks at least slightly different himself as well. This is something that even happens within one country and culture, as the culture of two homes only two meters apart can be very different from each other! The benefit of the international couple is the awareness about this fact! They don’t just assume that they know what the other one means! They don’t just put an opinion into the space, thinking their partner would feel and think the same. They look back to confirm, they wait for the reaction and they are ready to explain if necessary.

This is where the next aspect comes into the picture: the language. Due to the difference of culture, an intercultural couple is ready to put into words what they want to say. A bilingual couple however puts even more care into their words because they know that it is either not their own mother tongue they are speaking in or not the other one’s mother tongue or maybe even both! A word can mislead so much when it is understood in a different sense and those couples often have to get a hint for the real meaning in the eyes of their partner, consider their feelings for each other and thus understand a word, sometimes even completely in the opposite way than its literal meaning.

In general, a relationship with someone from another country and culture and maybe even language forces you to do what some people try to achieve by meditation and other mental or spiritual practice: to be more aware of what you want, think and feel, act accordingly and express exactly the same. You are more conscious of what you do and say and what impact this has on the people around you.

While your love for a man or woman of another nationality may get you to do that, I believe it would be good if you considered actually doing this in your relationship with a partner or your own nationality as well. No, actually, I would suggest even doing this in all your relations of your life – be aware of your expression and not only your relationships but also your friendships will last longer!

Comment (1)

  1. Vik

    I have never actually given this topic much thought until now – maybe because I have never had a relationship with a girl who is from a different country! After reading this post, I am intrigued by the idea that cultural and language differences in a relationship can encourage one to be more open-minded and self- aware.
    Thinking about my own experience, whenever I have communicated with my friends from different countries, I have consciously thought about the key message I was trying to convey, how well I was articulating myself, and how it was being interpreted. This often triggered other questions: why am I saying this, what am I trying to achieve, how would I feel if someone said this to me? To some extent, my friends from a different country were getting a better experience than my friends from the same country. Had I applied this in my relationships, then I am certain they would have lasted longer (with fewer arguments!)

    In terms of experiences, I have noticed that whenever I meet someone from the same country, I have the tendency of making assumptions about what they like/dislike, their beliefs and values. However, the inter-cultural factor prompts me to refrain from making assumptions: instead I would ask and take the time to learn about them and seek verification.

    I guess this topic can perceived very differently, depending on whether you’re a glass half empty/half full person. Growing up, I have always been taught that cultural differences are like ‘barriers’, and that one should seek to bridge the gap by trying to find similarities between cultures. Conversely, you can embrace these differences and use them as opportunities to reflect and improve yourself.

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