You know that person at the bar with the sexy accent? Or the person sitting next to you on the plane with the exotic features? Don’t deny it, you’ve totally fallen a little in love with someone from another culture before, but what happens when things become serious?
I met my boyfriend Thomas in 2011 while we were both volunteering in Virginia. It’s hard to explain what initially attracted me to him, but I’ll admit, it definitely had something to do with the fact that he is from Germany. It was something unique to me and I was fascinated to learn all about what his life had been like.
Five years and two countries later, I’m still fascinated by him. He’s the only person I can imagine sharing this crazy life with, but along the way I’ve learned that loving someone from another country brings with it a whole new dynamic of what a relationship can be like.
Here are seven things nobody tells you about loving someone from another country.
1. Cultural Differences:
This is somewhat obvious. Of course you’re going to experience culture differences when in a relationship with someone from another country, but it’s not the big cultural differences that will surprise you. It’s the little things like differences in bedding expectations, cleaning supplies, how to wash the dishes, and what fruits belong in the fridge. Seriously, these are things my boyfriend and I disagree about.
I expect the big things like him being a super organized, on time German and me being a spontaneous, laid back American, but the small things always catch me off guard.
We recently wanted to buy new bedding, but after a month of trying to compromise on top sheet or no top sheet, duvet or comforter, two twin size covers or one big cover; we’ve both given up. I find it all humorous and love that these little differences can still surprise me after five years.
The thing I didn’t realize getting into this is that one of us will never feel completely at home. I moved to Germany in 2011 so Thomas and I could be together. While living there I missed my home constantly.
I found myself resenting him for the fact that he had all his friends and family nearby and everything came easy to him. His family and friends were always extremely welcoming, but it will never be the same as having your own family.
We often talk about where we will raise kids someday, what language they will speak, etc. It scares me to think that our children will have to be raised not being fully a part of one of our cultures.
3.Things Get Serious Fast:
If you like to take things slow it will most likely be extremely difficult to do that while in a relationship with someone from another country. You’ll be faced with things like getting married for visa purposes or moving in together just so you can be in the same location.
Thomas and I discussed getting married, like honestly debated it, after being together for two months. Neither of us were actually ready for marriage, but his US visa was scheduled to expire soon and we needed an option to stay together.
We decided to wait on getting married, but we did end up living together just a few months later, in Germany. It was the fastest relationship either of us had ever been in, but we really didn’t have much of a choice.
4. Unequal Opportunities:
When you move to a new country for your partner (or they move for you) one of you is likely going to have to take a job that you don’t really want in order to make things work.
We are constantly struggling to find equal opportunities for both of us, which in turn results in neither of us taking the jobs we dream about.
After four years in Germany, Thomas and I were both ready to move somewhere new, but we both needed to find jobs. If I found a job first it would become nearly impossible for him to follow me (he teaches little kids…in German).
For now, where we move really depends on him finding a job first (which is not necessarily the job he wants) and me taking whatever English speaking job I can find in whatever country we end up in.
5. Long Distance:If you love someone who lives in a different country from your own it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have to do the whole long distance relationship thing for at least a brief period of time.
One of you will have to finish studying, or interning, or whatever it is you do.
I was fortunate that my long distance relationship was only five months long, but I have friends that have done the long distance thing for years while one of them finishes studying.
Being in a long distance relationship with someone from another country means you have to deal with dreaded time differences. Get ready for phone conversations at 3am or eating breakfast over Skype while the other person eats dinner.
6. Which Family?:
We have to choose between our families on a regular basis. Holidays are always difficult because one of us is bound to miss at least one family member. Not only that, we always have to have some money set aside for if something happens to someone in our family and we have to fly home.
I literally live in constant fear that we’ll need to be there for one of our family members and we won’t be able to get there in time because we are thousands of miles away.
It’s hard now, but I expect it will only get more difficult. Thomas is an only child. His parents are older than mine. We want to be there if they need us someday. My parents are divorced and if anything health related happened to one of them I’d want to move back to the US.
I also have a younger sister who I’m obsessed with and I’d really like to live near her someday.
7. It’s the Most Fun Adventure:
I have no idea how many multi cultural relationships fail, but I have a feeling the percentage is pretty high. It’s a challenge, but it’s an amazing one.
Through all of this, I never questioned my relationship with Thomas, and I think that is a beautiful thing.
I love meeting people who have been with their partner from another country for a long time. It’s amazing to see the strength in their relationship after going through years and years of these struggles.
When you meet someone who you are willing to live this crazy lifestyle for, get ready to fight for them like crazy and then fight some more.
If you are willing to do that for a person, and they are willing to that for you in return, well I’d say that is true love.