My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now and I am very happy in my relationship. He makes me laugh, he challenges me, he broadens my horizons and he loves me just the way I am (which must be challenging sometimes). But, like a lot of other things in life, the past months have not only been sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. And that’s totally ok. Especially when being from different countries- he’s from the Netherlands, I’m from Germany and we met in San Francisco- things can get tricky. So, here’s an accumulation of things you will likely encounter in your first months of being in a transnational relationship.
You meet in this super hot club or bar or classroom or office and hit it off immediately. His smile is amazing, her eyes are gorgeous and you are hooked. You want to find out more about this person. There is excitement in the air and possibilities. The fact that they’re from a country other than yours is, at most, very enticing. And for now, your first-date-outfit is the biggest of your concerns.
#2. “Ik sprek geen Nederland.”
The first couple of dates probably went great. Being from different countries automatically means always having something to talk about. The other person’s culture, tradition, language, foods, jokes, sayings, believes give material for countless talks. You make fun of each other in a tender way and you laugh and learn and are happy. The duration of this phase will vary by couple. For me, it’s still there.
#3. “Ik hou van jou”
No matter after how long and in what language your SO is declaring their love in, it is a big deal and puts your relationship on a new level. You give in to the idea of a future together, you spend your days painting pictures of exploring the world, building something good together. You start semi-serious attempts of memorizing phrases in your SO’s native language, which result in humorous misunderstandings. You secretly google “Visas South Africa” or “How to survive in Italy as an American” or “I am Venezuelan. Should I follow my boyfriend to Norway?” because..you know…just looking at your options here…
#4. “I wanna go home.”
Chances are, you met while you both lived in a country other than the one you grew up in. Or maybe just one of you did. But, eventually, culture shocks or sat backs or simply a bad day will cause homesickness. You’re tired of living in a foreign country and you’re tired of not speaking your native language. And your SO might just be the channel you express your frustration through. That’s the first moment both of you realize that your relationship will not go on like this forever. One of you might want to move home. Or go somewhere else for a job. You begin to understand that, sooner or later, you will either have to find common ground in this matter or your relationship will have an expiration date to it. But thinking about that is ugly, right? Let’s go back to that movie!
#5. “Mom, Dad, meet…”
After a couple of months, it might be “Meet-the-parents-time!”. This can get tricky if the parents can’t converse in English and your own knowledge of their language is less than abysmal. In that case, your dinner conversation will be limited to friendly smiles or gestures, awkward attempts of throwing random words at each other to make a point and a lot of translating through your partner. Which, eventually, will get so tedious that they just give up, talk to their parents in Russian/Urdu/ German and occasionally give you a rough synopsis of what’s happening. Awkward is what this stage can be like!
#6. “Sorry, we don’t really celebrate Christmas…”
Being from different countries will spice up your daily routine in both positive and negative ways. Your relationship will likely be less boring because, again, there is so much to learn about them and their origins. You may be delighted by how they never even consider splitting the bill and always open the door for you because “that’s just what a man does!”. They may be amused at how you get mad when they’re five minutes late to your date because that is “so German of you.” Both of you may be challenged when one of you wants to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah because you’ve just never done that before and certainly not like that! Does that mean you have to go to church with them on Easter Sunday and drink Christ’s figurative blood? (Schatz, don’t worry, it’s red wine!). You might get frustrated about how they communicate, you might not understand their convictions and what is a funny joke to them is a cultural offense to you.
#7. “Soooo…after graduation…”
Your visa might expire in the near future or your exchange year is over. You might graduate or are finishing up that project or simply want to know where you stand. Whatever it is, eventually something will bring back the difficult talks about the future. And, while we’d all hope that love could surpass all matter of logistics, life shit can determine the longevity of a relationship. Living in this global world is great most of the time- it opens you doors and let’s you live in places you can’t even pronounce. But nothing sucks more than long-distance relationships. And avoiding that can be near to impossible when both partners face a variety of options for their respective futures. Who compromises how much? Do I really want to move for him? Do I really want to make her move for me? There will be more than one talk about this. It will cause doubts and fears and fights and tears. But don’t avoid it because, once you have found a solution that works for both of you, you can finally go back to simply enjoying each other’s company.
#8. “So, here we are.”
You may break up because you were simply too different. You may somehow slide into a long-distance situation or you could belong to the lucky ones that continuously make it work. Whatever it is, appreciate all that your partner is teaching you. Take it as something that makes you grow and look at relationships in a different way. Ideally, I hope you are happy, enriched by them, in love with love and life and really excited about what the future holds!