3 Tips For Expats & Cross-Cultural Relationships

3 Tips For Expats & Cross-Cultural Relationships [EXPERT]
Self

Living in a foreign country and enjoying a cross-cultural relationship can be one of the most rewarding — and challenging — experiences one could ever imagine. I never thought I'd be in one when I first went to France in my early twenties. However, the universe had other plans when in my first week of classes I laid eyes on the man who would be my husband for 27 years.

We were polar opposites in nearly every way. I was Jewish and from Los Angeles. He was Catholic from a small town of 4000. His English amounted to the beginners, "My tailor is rich" ... with a charming French accent, of course. He loved the mountains, skiing and snow while my idea of altitude was driving along Pacific Coast Highway a couple hundred feet above sea level in a convertible with the top down. What we shared were our astrological signs and deep love. Compatibility: In A Man's Eyes

Yet, no amount of love can rid culture shock — a tangible experience with distinct symptoms that can eventually wreak havoc on an unprepared couple or individual. Being married to a foreigner can be spicy and exhilarating, but when the exotic honeymoon is over and the rubber hits the road in the reality of everyday living, feelings of nostalgia, homesickness and loss may begin to loom heavily over many cross-cultural couples.

Thankfully there are ways to remedy the situation when emotions seem to take on bigger proportions far away from home. Here are 3 tips to help combat cultural collisions and nostalgia:

1. Honor your values. It is one thing to say, "When in Rome ..." and quite often difficult to accept the local ways of doing things. Usually, that is because a value is being challenged or a need isn't being met and we get frustrated with cultural miscommunication and differences.

Take stock of your values and determine which ones are being challenged. Some are much more important than others. Is it about how people relate to time and punctuality? Is it about socializing? Is it about education?  One Love, Two Cultures: How We Made Our Long-Distance Relationship Work

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very bothered by something and one not being bothered at all, evaluate how bothered you really are and what you can do to adapt or to let it slide. If you could rewrite the situation and turn it into a new movie, what would the scenario look like? Who would the actors be? What solutions might they come up with? How could the scenery change? How much negative energy do you really want to spend complaining about something you may not be able to change and that is just easier to go along with?

2. Be compassionate with your partner. You cannot make your partner happy if they are sad and homesick. However, you can greatly help them with their feelings by showing empathy and compassion.

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For anyone who remembers being away at camp as a child or receiving a care package, you know how a taste of home can renew your spirits. Knowing that bouts of nostalgia are common will help you express empathy for someone suffering from homesickness. How Compassion Can Enrich Our Lives

This is the time to step into their shoes and listen with compassion. Don't try to talk them out of their feelings, ask them how they can be sad and unhappy in Paris or remind them of all the wonderful opportunities and experiences awaiting them if they would just snap out of it. Instead, just acknowledge that you know how wonderful it would be to have a cup of coffee with their best friend back home and how normal it is for them to be missing that right now. Adapting takes time and this is one step in the process. For Food Network's Ted Allen, Romance Is All In The Food

3. Think outside the box. When nostalgia is hanging around its easy to want to stay holed up and feel sorry for yourself. This sounds like a no brainer, but is worth mentioning. Go out and challenge yourself to a daily dose of discovering the local culture. Even if it is just a short hike, use all of your senses and observe everything around you. You may see something and become instantly passionate about learning more about it. 3 Tips To Gain A Sense Of Control

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Are you in a smaller town and missing the museums and galleries from your big city back home? Maybe this is the time to take up painting or drawing and become an artist yourself. Even if you have always been afraid of a blank page, how about starting a blog or a journal about your experience and see who you connect with? Whatever you do, honor your feelings of nostalgia then get out and be curious.

With these tips, you'll be able to weather the ups and downs and have fun. Then go out and write a few post cards, such as:

Greetings from France! Wish you were here!

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