You're lying if you said you've never fantasized about dating someone from another country, speaks another language, or at the very least, has some hint of a foreign accent. We have all thought about it, at one point or another. What would it be like to fall in love with someone from a strange land? To swoon over their accent every time they spoke to you? To, maybe, one day run away with them and never come back?
It seems like a fairytale ending, doesn't it? We see it all the time in movies, too. Hollywood does an excellent job of emphasizing the romantic and passionate parts of mixing cultures and languages with someone. What often goes overlooked, however, are the behind the scenes issues of when those same attractive ideas about having a significant other from a different country in return can cause crucial struggles in your relationship.
I met my partner during my junior year of college. With me being an English major and him being an English minor, we naturally crossed paths in one of our literature courses (I know, romantic right?). Our relationship moved from casual after-class chatter to a first date to eventually a serious and committed long-term relationship.
Of course, at the beginning, I absolutely adored his thick Italian accent and European sense of style. You know how they say Italians are known for being some of the most romantic lovers. Yeah- I can vouch for that. Needless to say, I was swept off my feet. However, now that our relationship has matured, I have looked past those superficial reasons that initially drew me in and learned who he is beyond them, and my love for him has grown even deeper.
Being well over a year into our relationship, I have learned quite a lot about what it is like to date someone from another country. Yes, it can be as dreamy and romantic as one might think, but, like with most dreams, there are some struggles in reality that I never expected.
The first struggle being…
1. Language barrier
This may seem like an obvious one, but when I first met my partner, his English was fluent enough that I did not realize this issue may arise. No matter how fluent your s/o may be, there will always be instances of misunderstanding. Whether that be having to explain definitions, meanings, idioms, sayings or anything in between.
If you still don't quite get what I mean, just imagine how you would explain the phrase, "Let's play it by ear" to someone. Yeah… do you get it now? This may seem like a simple thing, but, in my experience, it can be hard to remember to be sensitive to those possible misunderstandings. When you become so comfortable with someone, it's easy to forget that they may not understand everything you say. You may have to push yourself to actively slow down or go back and explain what was missed.
Along with language struggles comes the accent. I cannot tell you how many times my partner and I have gotten into mini-arguments because I misunderstood something he said or because he could not understand me. It's natural to become frustrated when you think someone isn't communicating clearly.
However, it can be even more frustrating for the person who is trying to communicate around a foreign accent. Patience is a virtue, and if you're dating someone from another country, it is a necessity on both ends of your relationship.
The next struggle that has surfaced is...
2. Cultural differences
One of the best parts about dating someone from another country is the different cultural perspective, and one of the even more amazing parts about it the way it can broaden your own perspective of the world. Part of the reason I believe these relationships are so magical is because of the way you can balance each other out.
However, that can be where the trouble happens. We like to think that opposites attract, and they do for many reasons, but in some situations, it can be extremely difficult to ignore those differences.
For example, let's talk about time. Americans are known for their value of time. We think of it as a resource not to be wasted. I am very much aware of my use of time. My partner every now and then gets frustrated with my commitment to a schedule and concerns about how much of it we have.
Similarly, Italians think of time as a convenience for them, not something to be ruled by. Therefore, I may get frustrated with him and his lack of attention to the clock.
And of course...
3. The uncertainty of the future
Last but not least, the big question mark stamped on your relationship: What's going to happen? If you're in a situation like mine, one of the biggest struggles of dating someone from another country is wondering what the future holds.
Will they move to the U.S.? Will they move back to their home country? Will you move to their home country? Are you willing to do the infamous L-D-R (long distance relationship)? Being that my partner and I are still in our undergrads, we have time to ponder these questions and see where our paths go, but we, too, will inevitably have to make these kinds of decisions.
Friends, family, even strangers ask me all the time what's going to happen, and I completely understand where they're coming from. It's a scary thing to put your heart on the line for something that possibly has an expiration date.
The truth is, I don't know what's going to happen. I don't have the answer to these questions. All I do know is that the person I've become, and the times we've had since finding each other makes the unknown not so scary.