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On Intercultural romance

25th October 2020

Someone once told me that you do not choose whom you fall in love, that it just happens. I could not agree more. This special person could be from a different community or country from that of your origin. Enter our discussion this week on the challenges that intercultural couples face;

Expectations about relationships and marriage
For example in African and Asian cultures generally when people are dating the expectations are for a wedding or marriage in future, in the western culture people may date just for fun, experience and companionship.One may anticipate the question of a marriage proposal after dating for a year, and yet the other partner never had marriage in mind in the first place. After a period of dating or even at the onset of dating it is good for a couple to understand each partner’s future desires about the relationship.

Fighting negative stereotypes
Based on people’s backgrounds and racial profiles, society may place stereotypes on a couple. For example as a Kenyan dating an American one may think that the Kenyan is after a green card yet the Kenyan genuinely loves the other human being. Other negative stereotypes sadly have to do with interracial relationships. Here locally we have our own stereotypes e.g. Kisii men are like this and like that, Kikuyu ladies are blah blah blah and so forth and so on. This is a societal problem and we need to see people as individuals and not judge them based on stereotypes from communities and races they belong to that they have no control over.

Yet another challenge that couples from two different cultures face may be a language barrier and what language works best for a couple and their children. Many choose a neutral language like English or Kiswahili in Kenya that may work for any community, better still why not the children have the best of both worlds and learn all the languages.

To different cultures are different palettes. At this point I am reminded of a friend of mine from the coast who is married to a lovely lady from a community where ‘Tumbukiza kila kitu kwa sufuria’ reigns. It really was a point of friction when they began life together because he was used to exquisite food like what is prevalent in the coastal communities. Actually, it got so bad that one of his sisters moved in with them for a while and taught
his wife some recipes from the Swahili community. They have been ‘living happily ever after’ eating tumbukiza and coastal cuisines intermixed for several years now.

This can be a very serious bone of contention when two people from different cultures meet. Most of the time one has to concede their faith so that there can be unity and congruence in the home. Closely related to this is what faith should the children be raised in particularly if the parents adhere to different religions.

Where to live and make home
This is especially when a couple originates from two different cultures. This can prove to be a challenge especially to the partner whose quality of life may be downgraded or with the move comes separation from family and friends. To counter this regular visits should be made to the other partner’s country of origin from time to time. Culture shock and assimilating into married life in a foreign country This is one of the tests of intercultural marriage. It is up to the partner who is more conversant with life in the home country to make the transition easy for their foreign partner.

Parenting styles
Our backgrounds affect our parenting styles. Some come from a more democratic background where a child is allowed to navigate and learn from mistakes. Others come from a more autocratic background where children are monitored closely. A couple should take the best from their cultures and find a balance to what works for their children.

Extended family and in-laws
Intercultural marriages are a novelty in many a family, with it comes a lot of curiosity and attention from family members. The couple should set boundaries on what is and what is not acceptable as they interact with in-laws.

Last but not least are Immigration and legal challenges
Ensure that your partner or spouse has legal documentation to facilitate stay in a foreign country.

Can you think of other challenges intercultural couples face?

Next week the month of October 2020 comes to an end with a focus on “Having a social life as an expatriate or as a foreigner.’
One love, One world.

‘Wacha niKwambie’
October 2020 – I am a citizen of the world; Living, loving and working in a foreign country
© Kwambie Nyambane, October 2020.

PS The fight with the corona virus global pandemic is far from over let us not tire from adhering to health protocols that is wearing masks in public places, maintaining the social distance and maintaining hand hygiene.