We get asked this question sometimes and it’s only natural that it does come up. Relationships can be hard even with someone from your own country, and who speaks the same first language as yours, so how do you make it work when you are both from different countries and have different native languages?
Well we have some advantages:
– my husband is from a younger generation that is very exposed to western culture. I think there would be a lot more issues about being with a western woman for someone of his father’s generation.
– my husband has traveled around a lot, enjoys discovering new cultures and interacting with all types of people
– before I met him I’d already had a lot of exposure to Korean culture, which meant I wasn’t working through my own prejudices and ideas with him- I’d already been adjusting my views and trying to understand more about Korean culture before I met him.
As with every relationship, communication is very important. How do we communicate with each other when we grew up speaking different languages? His speaking English skills are quite good but my speaking Korean skills are beginner. However, being constantly aware of communication helps us because we immediately try to understand what the other person is trying to say and trying to see their perspective instead of jumping to conclusions or getting upset or defensive.
When we had some premarriage sessions with my hometown pastor he commended us on using our cultural and communication differences to our advantage instead of just letting them hinder us. So that’s advice I would give: take the disadvantages and work hard to make them help your relationship.
One of our sayings is “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” when one of us may not like or understand something in the other’s culture. We make sure we never say “That’s wrong” or “That’s stupid” about a cultural difference.
When you have problems in your relationship with someone from a different culture it is easy to blame the culture when things go wrong. I’ve done that in the past. My husband was not the first Korean man I dated. In a previous relationship with a Korean man- when it all fell apart I came to the conclusion that ‘He is too Korean’ and that’s why it didn’t work.
Actually it was just that we were not compatible and had different goals etc. But it is easy to fall into the trap of blaming culture.
At the same time though, some things will be related to culture and you do have to try understand it. But if both of you are trying to find the middle ground things will go a lot smoother.