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Cross-cultural relationships?

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posted on May, 26 2006 @ 03:07 AM
Well, I think it's official now. Vagabond still has a heart. There was some speculation on my part that I'd never really fall again after my engagement to my first love fell apart some 5 years ago.

Thing is, the girl I'm falling for is Japanese. She's been here 4 years- speaks great English, though she still needs help on the academic end of it (which is how we met).

So what's the conventional wisdom on relationships across cultural barriers?
So far things have been pretty good, but certain things haven't translated so well.

Apparently (forgive me if I'm misconstruing) in Japan it's customary to express any number of things, not the least of which is gratitude, materially. Of course, in America it's customary to express most things not at all, especially gratitude.

In some ways this has been really cool, but I've been worried about offending her. I saved her butt on a history exam, and afterwards we went out to lunch. She assumed she was paying as a thanks, but of course, I insisted (and with a little gracious talking, got my way without offending her).

But I've got to admit I've had to guess a bit at what messages I'm sending from time to time. I have no idea how it comes across for me to help her and then insist on not taking anything, but infact on paying when I take her out. Just nice (i hope), but I'd be embarrassed if that were interpreted as trying to buy affection or something similar.

Just curious what others might know or think- any interesting stories out there or whatever?
I'm not so much asking for advice as conversation though. My basic rule has just been to keep my finger on the pulse of our conversations- we're definately interested in eachother and I haven't sensed any uneasiness really. It's trippy though, and I do sort of worry that if things start to progress that something might translate badly at a critical moment. I take it she hasn't dated a lot if any here, and I don't know what the "rules" are a she knows them.

Oh well though, she's beautiful, she's nice, and she's not afraid of me physically or intellectually- rare combination. I suppose I'll take my chances with something going wrong.

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 03:58 PM

You should court this lady but don't smother her. Just be yourself and smile if she is looking at you.

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 04:42 PM
That sounds very cool.

My thoughts:

If you do get more involved, be sure to share your concerns about this with her. Let her know that you realize that there are cultural differences and you are concerned about offending her. Talk about compromise and be willing to compormise, yourself. (Not "compromise yourself" but you be willing to compromise, too.)

For 2 people in such different cultures to get along takes honoring and respect of each other and the differences you bring to the relationship.

I dated a man from Africa for a year and a half. It was absolutely wonderful! We learned a lot about each others' cultures and through genuine respect for each other and compromise, we did really well.

I also dated a French man for a while. Ahhh... memories...


Oh, yes! The Vagabond. Good luck. Being aware and voicing your thoughts are your best tools, I think.

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:12 PM
Good advice from both of you, thanks. I definately think things will be alright, the only real risk that we need to beware of that I can anticipate is that something one of us says or does will be misunderstood, and that's something we'll have to talk about.

The big obstacle is pretty well out of the way though: neither of us is particularly religious. That gets a ton of complicated stuff out of our way. My last girl was a Wiccan when we met, but then went back to Christianity (and was a minister's daughter) and that was a huge problem for us.

I gotta relay one part of this whole thing that made me laugh quite a bit though. I know it's incredibly incorrect to say, but you know how when you're not familiar with the features of a given group, it's hard to really distinguish between them sometimes? (or as bigots say "they all look alike") well I've lived in some pretty diverse areas and don't have that problem.
But Cana thinks I look a bit like Ben Afleck- and it's not even close. I guess that door swings both ways.

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 05:39 PM
Another thing I'm a big fan of is agreements. My 15 year marriage has been saved and blessed by the agreements we made 15 years ago and since. For example, if you guys get close, you might suggest an agreement that if either one of you feels offended and you suspect it's a cultural thing, bring it up right away without letting it fester. Keep things open.

One of ours is "If you want it done, do it." Meaning if I want the trash taken out and I'm not willing to ask him, I'm not 'allowed' (per our agreement) to let resentment build up about him not doing it. I can either forget about it and let it go, ask him to do it or do it myself. If I ask him and 4 hours later it's still not done, before resentment starts to build, I promise to do it myself. After all, I'm the one that wants it done.

What I love about dating someone who speaks another language are the misunderstandings.

The guy from Africa was always cracking me up as he tried to fit into American culture and use our slang. An example:

No problems. Everything is honky-donkey

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 06:26 PM
Honkey Donkey... that's a good one. That could definately get interesting. If this lasts very long at all I'll probably end up taking a Japanese class, since I need the foreign language credit anyway and as a poli sci major probably should be paying attention to the growing importance of Asia- nice coincidence of circumstances there.

I'm sure that will be REALLY fun- my tones in ENGLISH tend to come across more serious than I mean to- God only knows how I'd butcher a tonal language.

I'm sure we'll have some great laughs with language... I've noticed that metaphors translate HORRIBLY. I get the impression that Japanese is a very literal, very practical language, for instance "bad idea" or somthing to that effect seems to be what she was looking for at one point, but it came out as "unprofitable". Understandable, not hillarious, but if that's representative of the way translations generally come out it warns me to consider the practical implications of abstract words before I use them.

Luckily it's not so bad that we can't communicate- she actually understands me better than most native english speakers, as long as I put it in the right words. She's the first person I've ever studied with who I didn't want to give up on after 20 minutes.

Edit to add:
I've got an Africa story too actually. A gentleman from Cote d'Ivoire came over here about three years ago and joined the church I used to attend, and since my former pastor is still my best friend, I met him and discovered that I actually knew him at school through two degrees of separation.
Anyway... at some point this person, who tends to be very specific, very articulate, and very very well mannered, heard Eminem, and was ABSOLUTELY SURE that he had simply misunderstood, because nobody would ever say those things! It was a little embarrassing to explain to him that no, there weren't good words that sounded like the ones Eminem was saying, he really was rapping about every vice a person could concievably have, and Americans love it. I neglected to mention that I have all of his albums.

[edit on 26-5-2006 by The Vagabond]

posted on May, 29 2006 @ 07:14 AM

Can't stress it enough. If there's the potential for cultural miscommuncation, misunderstanding, faux paux, etc. Discuss it immediately.

I've been married to an Asian lady for 20 yrs now. We've adapted to each other's culture through the years. Always talked and discussed things to avoid any misunderstandings. Sure, there will be some. Just confront it immediately.

Sounds like you're on to a good thing with this lady. Best of luck.

posted on Jun, 18 2006 @ 01:31 AM
Watch some romantic anime movies... and learn from them.... *lol*

Just be yourself but tell her that if she is uncomfortable that she can tell you...

posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 10:53 PM
My advice to you would be to intentionally focalize more on each other's intentions than the way things go down. Cultural filters have a way of occasionally turning the best of intentions into actions which are later misinterpreted (by the other's cultural filter).

From your anecdote about the trip to the restaurant, it sounds like you two are already on the same track.

As far as learning to speak another language goes, it is so true that there is no better way to learn a foreign language than by having a lover of that language. My wife's French, and that's how I learned. Just take it easy and make it a fun, even intimate, process.

I highly recommend cross-cultural relationships. In fact, I can't imagine things going any other way without me eventually getting bored.

Cheers, and good luck.

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