“Could your soulmate come from another country?” my cousin asked me days before my university graduation. I was the kind of girl who was lucky in school, but unlucky in love. Or so I believed. Ever since I discovered infatuation, the plot of my love story (more of a tragedy, really) had always been like this: guys would court me and then I’d find out that they were also seeing other girls. So, in the end, I turned them down. Or vice versa. The courtship ended. Simple, fast, and with a bitter ending. Always predictable. In order to break this streak of bad luck, I stopped welcoming love at my door for some time. What my cousin asked me struck me hard. Fast forward to the present, and I find myself recalling that question now that I have found someone who comes from a different country.
At first, I was hesitant to be in a multicultural relationship. I couldn’t even handle guys from my own culture; what more someone from an entirely opposite one? Misunderstandings and petty fights can be a common occurrence due to the contrasting cultures in the relationship. The food you eat, the language you speak, the interests you live off – all these simple differences can create bigger issues. Surprisingly, in the opposite manner, our dissimilarities can also broaden our horizons. How? Here’s how dating someone from a different culture can change your life.
5 Ways Dating Someone From a Different Culture is Life-Changing
5. You become a multilingual.
When you date someone who speaks a different language, there is the necessity or desire to learn his native language. When I started dating Oscar, who comes from Mexico, I had to speak to him in Spanish most of the time. Although he can speak English, he is more comfortable in his native tongue just as I am in Taglish or Chavacano. Coming from Zamboanga City, which is referred to as Asia’s Latin City, I can somehow understand his Spanish as 70% of our words are Spanish. He, on the other hand, had to learn Tagalog.
After almost 2 years together, I can say I have improved my Spanish a lot and he has improved his Tagalog. I’m truly grateful to mi dulce amor for his patience in teaching me Spanish (and correcting me most of the time). Sometimes, we don’t even know what language we are speaking in anymore as it has become a mix of Spanglish, Taglish and Chavacalish! Lol. My Spanish co-workers even mentioned that I already acquired a natural Mexican accent.
Communication is key to a healthy relationship. However, that doesn’t mean I can understand him completely now that I can communicate with him in his own language, either. It takes a lot of effort (sometimes sensitivity) to fully comprehend his non-verbal cues, as well.
4. You acquire a new set of skills.
Aside from converting into a polyglot, you tend to learn other skills by constantly sharing your culture with your foreign partner. Growing up in the Philippines leads you to believe that basketball is the most popular sport in the world. But no! All this time I was wrong. Football, it is. It was only after I met Oscar that I found myself in an artificial football field in Taguig, wearing football shoes and a Barcelona jersey, desperately trying to kick the ball every other Saturday. For me, it was harder than dancing zumba, but it was just as fun.
Speaking of dancing, have I mentioned that I just started to learn salsa? Yes. When you are invited to a Mexican party, you cannot just dance there alone with impromptu choreographic steps. A know-how of basic salsa steps, perhaps cumbia and banda, as well, can be your saving grace. Whoa, I learned a lot, right? Similarly, Oscar has to adjust learning to sing in karaoke and practicing to swim whenever we go to the beach. It is not one-sided at all. Both parties will likely learn from each other’s different interests.
3. You turn into an adventurous foodie.
I am not really picky when it comes to food, but I’m not adventurous, either. I remember when I was in Cambodia, I didn’t try the recommended Khmer dishes like the amok. I opted for food that was more familiar to my palate instead. Thank goodness some Cambodian dishes are identical to Filipino food like siopao and chop suey, among others.
Then came this guy who loves putting chili in everything he eats – and not just as an adornment, floating in the sauce, either. One time, he mixed it in natural tomato sauce without my knowledge. After I tried it, my cheeks suddenly turned into red cherries. It was too hot and spicy for my standards. As a (sweet) revenge, I also let him try our tinola infused with lots of ginger!
When I was in Mexico, my rice was corn tortilla, which I dipped into a spicy, flavorful tomato sauce. I can never escape these chilies and piquant sauces. In the end, it turned out to be good… real good. Somehow, my taste goblet has adjusted to this newfangled zing. From my fondness of salty, seafood-dominated cuisine, I’m slowly becoming inclined to savoring meat-oriented, spicy sauce-based fare. Now, I can eat mango and other tropical fruits with chilis. Trying what my partner eats has expanded my tastebuds over time.
2.You evolve into a world traveler.
I love to travel – not just as an opportunity of seeing new places, but also as an avenue of learning new cultures. The only thing I didn’t become aware of is the other way of learning different cultures and traditions: through a cross-culture relationship. When you date someone from the other side of the globe, chances are both of you come from totally clashing cultures and one manner to sort things out is to travel to each others’ countries. I got to visit his country (because he insisted), Mexico, as he wanted me to understand his beliefs and values; and why he acts, behaves, thinks that way.
I also asked him to visit my city, so he could get to know me better. He was very interested in our Muslim brothers, so I brought him to the Badjao and Yakan villages, too. After completing our Southeast Asian tours, we also planned to travel to Northern and Western Asia because he thinks that Asia is the most diverse continent for an adventure. After having fallen in love with Mexico, I would love to tour South and Central America, as well.
1. You develop a sense of openness.
You cannot get immersed in his culture and traditions, learn his native tongue or eat his food without having an open mind (and eyes) to see the world from another lens. At first, the picture might be fuzzy, but your focus will change after viewing the world from another’s perspective.
Sometimes, there are things that we see in a subjective way because we are accustomed to our own traditions, and people who live outside from our society let us perceive them objectively.
Respect and tolerance should still hold place in an interracial relationship, though. This way, both of you can develop a sense of openness to embrace each others’ cultural differences with open arms and celebrate the similarities.
Have you ever dated someone from a different country? What was your experience like? Share your story with us!