Category Archives: love

MULTI-CULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS – Falling for a Foreigner

I just celebrated my 5 year anniversary with my half Spanish half Colombian boyfriend. When you consider that I am half British and half Cypriot, that’s an interesting mix of nationalities, although I know many more exotic couples than we are! So I wanted to share, in a light-hearted way, some of the pros and cons of falling in love with someone from a different country.

I don’t really like the word foreigner. It is, of course, a relative term and I am as much a foreigner to someone else as they are to me. Or more specifically in this case, I was the ‘extranjera’. I wasn’t even looking for a boyfriend, but that night in a bar in Madrid, I met such a special man that I welcomed him into my life for the long run. So let’s start with the pros.

  • Learning another language – I had been in Spain for almost a year when we met but my Spanish still left a lot to be desired! Google translate was the 3rd wheel on all our first dates and it was hilarious. There’s no better motivation to get good at a language quickly than when you are desperate to communicate with the person you’re falling in love with.
  • Gene diversity – this might sound like a joke but there is actually scientific evidence that gene diversity is linked to disease resistance. Good news for our future babies!
  • Open mind – living in another country will certainly open your mind but actually sharing your life with someone from another country will involve you day to day in another way of living so being open-minded is the only way it will work for both people!
  • More tolerant – learning about another culture from someone you love is bound to make you more tolerant and understanding of other people’s views and beliefs. You will realise that often there is no ‘right’ way to do things, rather, different ways. Part of the fun of a multi-cultural relationship is combining your two lifestyles and making a hybrid that is even better than either of the originals.
  • Know yourself better – the combination of opening your mind and becoming more tolerant inevitably leads to some self reflection. I cannot express how grateful I am to have learned so much about myself and to have questioned things I considered to be ‘right’, ‘normal’ and ‘good’. You get much closer to some kind of ‘truth’. It is so liberating to free yourself of your ‘home’ culture and to create your own life together with your partner, it’s like a fresh start.

I could only think of 3 cons which is a good sign!

  • Argument fails – the first time I tried to argue in Spanish was such a fail! You take it for granted being able to express yourself in your own language. It’s also when you realise how your brain doesn’t function quite the same when emotions are running high. The words didn’t come and I ended up reverting back to English even though I knew he didn’t understand. That also taught me about my lack of self-control in arguments so in the end it was actually useful. Even if you are quite advanced in the other language, if you don’t share the same first language as your partner then some misunderstandings are inevitable. There will be some mis-translations and even just some cultural differences in how you express emotions. It’s definitely a learning process.
  • Food differences – eating habits can differ greatly from country to country. We don’t realise how important our eating habits are to us until we can’t eat what we want when we want. But again, you keep an open mind and learn to adapt. In Spain the biggest meal of the day is usually lunch, with dinner being a lighter meal. Of course that is the other way around in the UK and I wanted my huge plate of pasta in the evening. I did get used to the Spanish way of eating though and learned to thoroughly enjoy my big bowl of plant-based pasta in the afternoon. It actually makes more sense to have the bigger meal for lunch!
  • Timing – this was a tricky one. It takes a bit of adapting to relax your concept of punctuality. That is a must if you live in Spain. However it’s a whole other level when you’re trying to navigate that in a relationship. I had to learn that ‘ya llego’ (literal translation – I’m arriving now) actually means ‘I’m on my way and I’ll be arriving in 10-20 minutes’. In the end there was some meeting in the middle on this one!

 

In the end, these cons just reaffirm my points about becoming more tolerant and openminded. So it’s really all positives! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, it’s just a bit of fun 🙂

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE WITH ‘THE ONE’ – Soulmates or best mates?

Looking for that one special person who will complete you, love you unconditionally, make you happy for the rest of your life? Before finding someone else we first have to be a whole, content person on our own, we have to genuinely love ourselves and commit to honouring and respecting ourselves for the rest of our lives. This is real life after all, not a Disney film, so what does love look like for modern day princes and princesses?

Here’s the thing… I don’t believe in ‘the one’, I certainly don’t believe in soulmates but, my goodness, do I believe in love. I actually think believing in the ‘romantic’ idea of true love and living happily ever after, will more than likely prevent real romance from blossoming in a long-term relationship. Having unrealistic expectations of fairy-tale love will only lead to an unattractive sense of entitlement and ultimately, disappointment.

I think there are many people out there who we could be happy in a relationship so it’s about recognising when we meet someone who is special to us and deciding to commit to building a relationship with that person. After all, what could be more endearing than two imperfect people, who are not ‘destined’ to be together, making a commitment to grow together, to learn from each other, to bring out the best in each other, to forgive each other.

That is not to say we can make it work with anyone. If there is something I have learned through my own experience and watching some of my closest friends go through it, it’s that as much as you might want a relationship to work with someone, if they are not willing to change, you will never change them. That can shake your confidence in your own judgment, you thought they were ‘the one’, but it didn’t work out. Sometimes it is about situations, circumstance and timing as well as the person.

There are two things which I think are so important in making the right decision for a long-term partner. First of all we have to love ourselves and be clear about how we should be treated and the high level of physical and emotional respect that we deserve. If we have that clear from the beginning then we won’t waste time with people who won’t be a good partner for us long-term, no matter how fun, talented, good-looking or generous they are. Respect must come first.

Secondly, I think it’s about recognising real commitment. Real commitment isn’t about a getting a ring or a changing your second name. It’s about the willingness to resolve problems in the relationship, it’s about listening, admitting when you’re wrong, it’s about forgiving and moving forward. It’s making time for the person you love and giving them your undivided attention. All of this needs to work both ways. Everything we expect in a relationship we must be willing to give.

What I realise is that when you find someone you love, who loves you back in the same way, who is also your best friend and who is as committed to building a future with you as you are with them, you’re onto a good thing. There is no guarantee that is will be forever, only a consistent recommitting to each other everyday will make that possible, not one day of repeated vows at an alter. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly 5 years and I know we are both in it for the long haul. I don’t need a proposal or a promise, I know from his actions every day. He is absolutely my best friend and he has shown me a depth of romantic love that I never even knew existed. We have given everything to each other and to our relationship even, and especially, in the hard times. I have let myself be completely vulnerable and now I understand that is the only way to truly love. We have to trust them with our whole heart. I don’t believe in doing anything in life half-heartedly and certainly not love.