7 Tips for Successful Communication in Cross-Cultural Relationships

by on January 10th, 2011
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7 Tips for Successful Communication in Cross-Cultural Relationships

Maybe you met that someone special through an online dating site or while traveling. If your significant other is from a culture different than your own, you may struggle with misunderstandings and communication issues. These issues can be particularly troubling if you do not share a native language.

It is important to remember that love can endure through even the most trying times. It is also important to keep a few essentials in mind when communicating across cultural boundaries. The following tips provide guidance to partners who are struggling with issues common to such relationships. Keep them in mind when having serious discussions or forging compromises.

Keep the dictionary handy, but remember its shortcomings. A bilingual dictionary can be a lifesaver when you are involved in a relationship with someone from another culture. It can be essential when your significant other uses a word that you don’t understand or when you want to explain something but are struggling to find the right words. Keep in mind that there are many things a dictionary cannot do.

Most importantly, a dictionary doesn’t always give you good insights about how a word is used culturally. Sometimes words that seem to have a straightforward definition in the dictionary have very different meanings to native speakers. You may use a word that is vulgar in the area your lover came from, or the word may not make much sense.

Keep a standard dictionary in both of your languages on hand for when such occasions arise. If you used a word without understanding its full cultural importance, your significant other may be offended. Showing them the dictionary definition of the word, in their own language, can help you smooth things over.

Take a language course. No one can become fluent in another language overnight. Nonetheless, taking a course in your significant other’s language is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the relationship. It can also help you avoid many of the issues caused by linguistic misunderstanding.

If your significant other speaks your native language fluently, you may not see the point in taking a course in their native tongue. Learning about your lover’s culture and language can be a great way to show your appreciation. It will also benefit you personally and will challenge you to grow intellectually.

Watch movies and TV shows from your partner’s country. Maybe you really dislike the telenovelas from your significant other’s home country. Perhaps you find his or her local TV programming downright strange. Nonetheless, watching movies and shows in your partner’s language is a great way to develop your linguistic skills.

It’s also a great way to develop cultural understanding. You may see traditions and events that you didn’t know about. Open up dialogue with your partner about these shows. Keep an open mind and enjoy viewing such shows and movies together.

Go to a wide variety of social events. A great way to get over the initial struggle of coming from different cultures is to get involved with something that is foreign to both of you. Go to an ethnic restaurant that neither of you is familiar with. Try visiting regional museums or going to special cultural celebrations.

Learning about completely new cultures is a great way to grow as a couple. It also provides a safe space to discuss your own cultural traditions and expectations. Don’t forget that it can simply be fun to learn something new and try some new eats.

When in doubt, ask for clarification. If you’re not sure that you understand what your partner said, it’s important to ask for clarification. There is no need to dwell on a potential misunderstanding. Sort out translation issues as quickly as possible.

When not in doubt, ask for clarification. You probably don’t need to confirm the details of simple sentences. If something your partner said offended or hurt you, though, it’s important to ask for clarification. Even if you don’t doubt what they meant, you should talk it through.

Perhaps you did misunderstand. Being open to discussing your anger and pain will help create a solid foundation for your relationship. Even if you didn’t misunderstand what your partner said, talking through issues is crucial.

Keep your cool. Even the most even-headed people can lose their cool when trying to communicate in a foreign language. Perhaps you are frustrated that your partner is slow to understand your cultural customs. Maybe you just can’t come up with the right words for the situation and want to let off a little steam.

Resist the temptation to raise your voice, yell or explode. This advice applies to any relationship, but it’s important for people who do not have a temper otherwise to be on the lookout when communicating across cultures.

Remember that respect is the foundation of a solid relationship. Work hard to establish trust and respect with your partner. Extend your understanding, even if it is difficult to do so. Relationships between individuals from different cultures can be extremely invigorating and strong.


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