When two people come together, no matter their backgrounds, there is a lot to figure out. You both come from different cultural contexts, upbringings, sets of morals, and ways of doing things. Finding a common ground with anyone you decide to merge your life with is difficult – particularly when this person is from another country.
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Not everyone worships Beyoncé the same way I do
OK, obviously every country comes with its own set of musicians, fads, movies, etc. But let’s be real, Beyoncé is a worldwide superstar. A diva of world class proportions. Who wouldn’t worship the ground she walks on? You know who? Argentines. Maybe it was my fault assuming that all homosexuals have every Beyoncé song ever on their iPhones. Or assuming that Argentines knew what was good in this world, but I guess not. When my partner told me he didn’t like Beyoncé, it was almost over right then and there. But, trying to be a mature adult, I understood that maybe Beyoncé isn’t worshipped without question in other countries. I also understood that those countries are places I do not want to live in. He’s slowly coming around to Queen Bey. Slowly.
Communication Problems never go away
Communicating can be trying, even when you’re from the same place. Amplify this by 1,000 when your partner is from a country on the other side of the world that doesn’t speak your same language. My partner is fluent in English, but that still leaves a lot of room for miscommunication. There are many, many times where I have to explain what a word, phrase, idiom, or joke means. I have to take a deep breath and appreciate that he doesn’t understand a lot of cultural and societal undertones. He has his own ways of cooking, cleaning, etc. This is also a good thing – giving you a whole new way of thinking about things. But when your partner comes from a place where they save soy-sauce packets for decades, you may run into a bit of frustration. With all of this, however, I also appreciate that he is learning how to navigate things here and that I do a lot of things that frustrate him too. But know this: If I come across one more fucking soy sauce packet in my sock drawer I will lose my shit.
Every day comes with new perspective
Living with someone from a different country has many perks. Every day, my partner says something that makes me think on a global level. Something about how gas prices can go down as well as go up, about how there’s a 4-lane highway serving a community of less than 20,000 people (where he comes from the highways are two lanes and serve about 14 million people), that our presidential elections start very early, etc. These are things I never think about and take for granted.
Every day, he points out something that makes me appreciate where I am. This is also a drawback. There are some nights when I come home from work and I am not in the mood for the 20 minute update on the political climate in Argentina. What the currency is worth, who the president is, what politicians bought an iPhone (I guess that’s a thing), etc. However, that being said, I know that he has to listen to me about things about the US, he’s in a place that he’s not used to, and that talking about his homeland makes him feel more connected. Plus, it’s nice to be able to know a little bit more about the world every day.
There is never a dull moment
Dating a foreigner is not dissimilar to having a small child around all the time. Anytime he hears a new word, hears a new song, sees a new thing, it’s “Ooooooh what’s that? What does it mean? How do you use it?” Needless to say, I’ve had to tell him “No, it’s not appropriate to rap Nicki Minaj in Red Lobster.” He recently learned a lyric from one of Nicki’s latest songs, “Only,” that goes something along the lines of “Let it soak in, like season-in.” So now, every time he’s behind the stove, I hear him say “Let it soak in, like season-in.”
Misused or mispronounced words are always fun too. We were in the car once and he said “Oh wow! That car has 2 evacuation holes!” I gave him a horrified look and asked “Do you mean exhaust pipes?” And he said “Oh, that’s what they’re called. Yes. Those.”
You understand each other more than other couples
Because of the language barrier, you find yourself asking each other “What do you mean?” or “Did you mean to say?” more often. You start to understand each other on a very deep level. You start to understand their motivations for doing things, why they say the stuff they do, and what really makes them tick. It’s fascinating. You know how a little kid’s mom can sometimes be the only one that can interpret what her kid is saying? It’s the same when you date a foreigner. Like recently, when in a moment of horror, I had to say “What he meant was that your boyfriend is very laid-back and nice, not that he’s stupid.” This happened when my partner said to my friend “I like your boyfriend! He’s very simple!” In Spanish, that expression is not insulting, but it’s most definitely offensive in English. In any event, this strengthens the bond between us as we develop your own style of communicating – just as he has to do for me when I try to speak Spanish to his family.
In sum, living with/dating someone from a different country brings its challenges, but really is amazing and teaches you how to live outside of yourself – to become a better version of who you are. Because if you really love this person, that means you have to make it work around their very different way of life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and reinforces the notion that there truly is someone out there for everyone.