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Valentines Intercultural Love

Relationships are difficult. Families can meddle. And communication breakdowns happen often. But what about relationships with a cultural twist? Do these differences make it harder to overcome? The Point Magazine spoke to some couples about how they make their relationships work – and how they deal with each other’s cultural expectations. And all seem to agree it is easier to triumph over obstacles when you’re in love...


Lorin and Monika

COUPLE ONE: Lorin + Monika 

What are your cultural backgrounds?

Lorin: I am third generation Maltese. Both my parent’s families immigrated out on the same boat together after the war during the 50’s.

Monika: My father’s side of the family is from Basque, Spain. My mom is Chinese-Filipino.

Where were you born?

Lorin: I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia.

Monika: I was born and raised in the Philippines.

How /where did you meet?

Lorin: We met each other at film school. She caught my eye from the start but it took me a bit before I could find enough common ground between us to muster the up courage to ask her out on a date.

Monika:  We met at film school. I thought he was being a snob at first, but when I heard him bragging about his trip to the Philippines, it gave us a chance to start up a conversation and get to know each other.

What do you do as occupation?

Lorin: I run and own a bulk billing skin cancer clinic and facilitate a skin cancer support group in Sydney’s western suburbs. I also do a bit of teaching as an Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Monika: Film Production Designer

What have been some of the challenges of dating a person from a different cultural background?

Lorin: It’s funny because when you work well together the challenges don’t really seem like them. The greatest challenge would have to be communication and making sure we clearly understand each other at times.Our worldviews frequently clash but it rarely escalates into anything dramatic and we often find we are arguing on the same side of the debate but through different points of view.

Monika: I’m the kind of person who can blend in with everyone. However, there are simple things that do take me time to get used to and that is his antics and humour.

What have been some of the rewards of dating a person from a different cultural background?

Lorin: There are so many things, like sharing discovery and adventure, exploring new places and experiences. The acceptance and support we hold for each other’s differences, allowing us to be who we are and not tied into the many cultural and social conventions that normally weigh us down… and on a very superficial level, being able to get my picture taken under the street sign named in honour of her family while pointing up at it.

Monika: It is never boring. Diversity makes it interesting. There’s always something new to learn from each other.

How did each of your families respond to your relationship?

Lorin: They were a little weary at first with what I was doing but quickly adopted her as one of our own.

Monika: They are very happy that I found the love of my life.

What food do you cook at home?

Lorin: Is menulog an appropriate answer? Monika doesn’t cook and with the hours I work these days I don’t get to cook eat as much as I’d like to. I have a soft spot for cooking French cuisine and seafood but our more staple foods we eat are poultry, rice, fresh fruit, vegetables.

Monika: I don’t cook. I grew up with a cook in the house, and we weren’t allowed in the kitchen.

What has the experience taught you about yourself and about others?

Lorin: it’s allowed me to find a place of stability I never thought and grow as a person knowing she’s there to comfort when I screw up and supports me while rebuild and plan my next endeavour. I have also learnt how important clarity in your communication is and that fundamentally, no matter what place, culture or belief system you come from; we are all the same people and experience the same fears, joy, hope and regrets.

Monika: That I don’t need to be tamed, because I now have someone just as wild to run wild with. I could be as crazy and weird… and that’s okay. I can be myself freely without being judged.

What do you love about the other person’s culture?

Lorin: The general respect, especially towards their elders and the whole-heartedness they approach all aspects of life. A great example is their roads, as their rules aren’t as strict as here. It’s like pandemonium with bikes and traffic beeping at each other going in every direction at the same time.

Crispy pata (a kind of deep fried pork knuckle dish) is another thing I love.

Monika: They are very generous. They are not too fussy about their looks.

Caroline and Paulo

COUPLE TWO: Caroline + Paulo

What are your cultural backgrounds?

Caroline is half-Danish, half-Indonesian. Paolo is half-Greek half-Italian.

Where were you born? 

Caroline in Brazil, Paolo in Australia

How /where did you meet?

We officially met as graduates at the engineering company we worked for at the time, but really, it was because of the salsa lessons we started taking after work!

What do you do as occupation?

I am a Facilitator, Dancer, and Language teacher. Paolo is an Electrical Engineer.

What have been some of the challenges of dating a person from a different cultural background?

Understanding that what is important to yourself and your family, might not necessarily be the most important thing for the other person and their family. For instance, Greek Easter is more significant than Christmas!

What have been some of the rewards of dating a person from a different cultural background?

Becoming immersed in a totally different culture and learning about a different way of living, expressing and being!

How did each of your families respond to your relationship?

Very well. The first night I met Paolo’s mum and dad at their place, I felt so welcome! Paolo met my dad and was understandably a little nervous to get the fatherly approval, but as they are both electrical engineers, there was an intellectual connection there too.

What food do you cook at home?

Caroline's family: A lot of Brazilian food… rice and beans!

Paolo’s family: Contemporary Greek/Australian fusion.

What do you love about the other person’s culture?

The importance of family and spending time with them. I love seeing that Paolo is so close with his brother and his cousins.  Oh yeah, and not to mention all the amazing Greek food I get to eat!

What has been the biggest cultural faux pas you have made to each other?

Caroline: I once missed Greek Easter lunch with Paolo’s family because I went out to see a friend, knowing it was Greek Easter. I didn’t realise that Greek Easter was so important, and I felt bad afterwards, but I made sure to always go from then on!

How did you show your partner you embraced their culture?

Simply by being open minded and willing to learn. For instance, I started to learn the Greek alphabet and I am learning to say simple greetings like “thank you” in Greek, and even learning some Greek dancing! The point was not necessarily to be good at it; it is just about putting yourself out there to show that you are interested in the other person’s culture and family.

What would be your advice to other people who might be struggling with inter-cultural relationships?

Reframe “issues” as “opportunities” - if something is different to the way you know, embrace it as a new and exciting experience that you can learn from. Ask questions, even if they sound like obvious ones, because by understanding you eliminate judgement. Finally, always remember the reason why you were attracted to each other in the first place and that your common higher values stand above anything else.

The Point

The Point Magazine speaks to couples on the challenges and wonders of intercultural dating.

Author Note

Photo from creative commons by Gilles Guerraz


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