Advice From Bi-National Couples on Cross-Cultural Dating

Advice From Bi-National Couples on Cross-Cultural Dating

What happens when two people from different countries fall in love? Bi-national couples offer their advice for making it work.
by Nicolette Stewart

"Love knows no borders, has no nationalities, and doesn't need a visa." -Reza Farivar

In a series called Heartbeats on, sixteen bi-national couples have shared their stories and offered advice for others in cross-cultural relationships.  We’ve compiled their advice below in this guide to bi-national relationships.

Keep an open mind.

“After being married for 14 years, I came to the conclusion that what really matters is that the person you live with has an open mind for your culture and background.” –Nadia and Ted

“Being open-minded and talking about possible misunderstandings is essential in a multi-cultural relationship.”  -Ratna and Nele

Be patient.  Be tolerant.

“Being in a cross-cultural relationship takes a lot of patience and tolerance, and it can take a while until one gets used to the other. But as complicated as it might be, it is always interesting and sometimes rather funny when you get to find out and explore all the cultural differences.” -Andy and Ben

Learn your partner’s language. (Especially if you move to your partner's country.)

“Learn the language and never compare the two countries. For me, learning the language wasn’t just about something I had to do. The main push for me was for my own well-being. I needed a job and personally needed to no longer feel like an outsider looking in. Of course learning German wasn’t the easiest task I’ve ever accomplished. I made tons of mistakes and have said some pretty embarrassing things along the way. But that’s the price I and thousands of other foreigners have paid to integrate into the German culture.” –Derek and Marc 

Start working on your romantic German vocab here.

The language you meet in will be the language of your relationship, whether you like it or not.

“The night that we met, he asked me if I wanted to speak English or German, and I insisted on English because his English was much better than my German. It still is, though I have studied up to C1 level since then, but since our relationship was initially grounded in English, that’s still the default. I really want to change that—having a half-English half-German scenario would be ideal for me, as we could communicate in whatever language makes the most sense at the moment, and it would still allow us both to improve on our second languages, but it’s a struggle to ‘force’ ourselves into that mode, unless our environment dictates one language or the other.” –Mirko and Natalye

Cultural differences are harder to overcome than linguistic differences.

"If those in the relationship love each other then they understand each other on a much deeper level, and the language becomes less important. But cultural differences are tougher to overcome. Cultural issues are the big ones." -Dr. Jane Elizabeth Dum

Germans don’t go on dates.

“The English (and American) dating culture is much more formalized than in Germany, so when you’re dating in the UK, it’s much easier to know what you’re supposed to do.  In German, the word “date” doesn’t really exist, certainly not with all the rules and codes that come with it, and Germans tend to either be too shy or too cool to date.  I lived in Berlin for 10 years before moving to London, and even when I thought I was on a date with a German woman, half the time I couldn’t really be sure whether I was or not.” –Bernie and Christie

Nature versus nuture: Sometimes it will be hard to tell which bits of your partner are them and which bits are cultural.

“The cultural differences between Germans and Australians may seem rather small or non-existent at first sight, but over the years and especially since we have moved back to Australia, I have noticed there are actually quite a lot, but rather subtle, cultural differences. I now believe that Brett and I are probably more Australian/German than I thought we would be. For example, trying to be on the safe side all the time and planning well ahead really is quite a German trait. I think by now that “playing things a bit more by ear” is not just Brett’s personality but actually something quite Australian. I find this is amazing about a bi-national relationship: There are so many different layers to discover, not only in each others personality, but also in the cultural background – even after 12 years of marriage!” –Sandra and Brett

You may have to compromise when it comes to tradition.

“One thing we can’t agree on, though, is when to celebrate Christmas. Thankfully, Tobias lets me have our Christmas tree up all December long. Most Germans put their tree up right before or on Christmas Eve. Because Christmas is my favorite time of year, I would be so sad if I didn’t get my tree until the 24th! We make both the 24th and the 25th special and combine our respective traditions. I think that’s one of the best things about a binational relationship – you can pick and choose your favorite traditions from each culture and get to know a few different things in the process.” -Sarah and Tobias

One of you is going to miss their family. Support each other.

“The hardest thing was the sadness of leaving all my life and family in Peru. My husband was able to understand how hard that decision was for me, and he supported me and dried my tears whenever I needed it. The most beautiful thing now is that we are both discovering new things about each other’s cultures and that excites us so much.” –Jasmine and Roland

Communication is king.

“As the age old saying goes, communication is the most important thing in any relationship. If these criteria are met you are in for a world of cross-cultural delights, learning all about the others wonderful and mysterious land, which I have found gives you a lot more to talk about than a regular couple.” –Amelie and Dean

Skype will be your best friend and your worst enemy when you’re apart.

Many bi-national couples have to deal with long periods of separation: whether it be while waiting for a visa to come through or before one person decides to uproot and move across the globe.  Skype is a great tool for communication, but it can also be frustrating when internet connections are spotty or you are tired of having a picture on a screen for a boyfriend or girlfriend. But again, patience is key, and most bi-national couples are particularly thankful for tools like skype when they move abroad and use it to keep in touch with their families. -Diana and Wolfram


Want to hear more bi-national couples in Germany talk about cross-cultural relationships? Check out the videos below:

by Nicolette Stewart