Embracing different cultural backgrounds

Thursday January 07 2021
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When two cultural backgrounds meet in a relationship, it can be incredibly enriching for all the parties involved. It can, however, take a lot of adjusting and many obstacles may need to be addressed and dealt with.

Culture refers to the ideas, customs and social behaviour of particular people or society. We (in this society) often think culture only refers to our ethnic background and the personal beliefs we share with our tribesmen and women. It goes way beyond that.

Culture also refers to behaviour learned during socialisation, education, travel and conversation. All the ideals about human nature come together to form an individual.

The differences in upbringing, life accustomed to and experiences can cause serious contention with couples as they get to know each other.

We get lost in translation and fail to accurately express ourselves and get frustrated when our partners do not understand us, totally negating the cultural divide and differences.

The way you are brought up is the way you will live unless you discover another option that is preferable. Customs and culture have taught you and your partner different values and priorities, which means the two of you need to learn and compromise. Educating yourself and your family on the cultures and norms of your partner and theirs, asking questions and carrying out research on norms and expectations is a good idea. However, this in no way means I am suggesting you change who you are to fit the mould of someone else’s expectations.

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Challenge any false beliefs you may have about their culture, discuss as a couple the belief system each person has and explore the evidence supporting those beliefs if these beliefs are upheld simply because their family told them to do so or because “that is just the way of the world” then challenge them gently and respectfully.

Jointly discuss the positives and negatives about each other’s cultures and only retain the positive that fit best in your relationship. Talk openly and freely about the strengths and weaknesses about your own culture, discuss which attributes from both cultures work best for the healthy relationship you hope to build with each other. Exercise patience as your partner adjusts. This is an activity that takes humility and courage. It also takes willingness to give up some of your learned behaviour in order to accommodate someone and to meet their needs. If you continually correct them, they may lose interest in learning about your culture or adapting to it and this may cause dissolution. Through compromise, communication and understanding the waves of cultural differences can be calmly sailed.

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