Mike Gyi

November 17, 2022

Testing 123…Cultural Difficulties

[written in 2021, found in my drafts yesterday, see this post for an explanation of its tardiness]

One of the biggest things I have learnt is that the foundation of our relationships are built upon: 

1. Verbalised communication
2. Non-verbal communication (assumptions)

In both of these, your childhood environment and country's culture plays a huge part. I want to talk about number 2, especially because some of us are pretty shit at number 1. 

You may have dated or been in a relationship with someone from a different country. 

Have you talked about how your cultures differ at the start? Or have you painfully found this out over time? Or better yet, did it not work out because you weren't able to understand each other's culture, assuming behaviour as the person's identity?

I believe when we meet somebody there's a long period of forming that happens, like a dance, trying to work each other out before committing further. This is why wild romantic fast relationships are dangerous. Hormones blind your better judgement and you skip to level 1 million before assessing what's in front of you. 

Slow down, and talk about cultural differences. 

For example, if you're a northern European dating another northern European, you're still going to have differences. However, if you're a northern European dating a southern European, mamma mía, you've got a job on your hands. From lots of conversations and personal experience, these two groups of people are culturally distinct. Then, if you go even further afield - a northern European dating someone from South America, you're really going to have to have that chat. The basis of your feelings will be well-intentioned, but you'll probably argue and most of the time this will be down to cultural difficulties. 

I want this post to encourage you to think. I want to encourage you to have a cultural conversation with your partner. I want to encourage you to slow down. I'd even say this is a universal conversation that needs to happen at the start of all relationships. Even if you're from the same culture. 

"What do you expect from me?" 
"Where do we differ?"

Some examples include, who pays on the first date, who chases who, how rough or gentle your sex is, boundaries in the bedroom, what's expected physically from both sides of the relationship, what's expected emotionally from each side, what makes you happy, what gets you off, what's your passion, how much time alone you need, the list goes on. This goes way beyond culture, but we all have our own culture and it's just that people from different countries start poles apart. There's work needed to bridge the gap. 

For example, imagine a guy from Denmark dating a girl from Portugal. Danish men are increasingly brought up in a non-macho environment. They see a meeting with a girl as their equal, there's no dominance hierarchy in the relationship for him. The girl is seen to be independent and strong and wishes to be treated fair and not ordered about. This is because the Danish guy has been brought up with this culture, his expectation of what a girl is and how she behaves is modelled on Danish women: his mum, previous girlfriends etc. 

Now the Danish guy, Mathias meets Madalena. Madalena has grown up being ordered about by men, right or wrong this is what happens. In her previous relationships the man has used an imperative tone to her to give directions, she is used to being dominated. 

I have a friend, who for the purpose we'll call Pablo, he's from Spain and his girlfriend from Belgium. Pablo told me he had gotten into hot water recently due to trying to order his girlfriend, Anna, around. She isn't used to it and it feels weird. She loves Pablo, but why is he being so dominant and ordering her around? She feels suffocated. 

So you see, it happens both ways. 

A final story is from Argentina, I have this conversation a lot with others, the Argentinian way is super macho. My American friend was in a WhatsApp group with girls and boys, the girlfriends never spoke in the group and my friend messaged one of them outside the group to ask her something about an event. The American friend, having a girlfriend himself, was then castigated by the boyfriend for not going through him. That's crazy. It's the 21st century maaaaan and this still happens. 

Talking talking 123...iron out your cultural difficulties. 

About Mike Gyi

UX/Product, ex-architecture, ex-TW, community addict, building https://www.townspot.uk