Nowhere else is the saying “the World is getting smaller” more apt than in cross cultural relationship statistics. There are more dates, marriages and other types of short and long term relationships that transcend cultures, languages and other social barriers. This is a very good thing, correct?
Yes, up to a point. When two people from different cultures come together, there is also a negative side—lack of empathy for each other’s culture and social protocol. Let me give you this real life example.
An Japanese woman and a Russian-born American had formed a close relationship. She thought it was time to introduce him to her father. So they took a trip to Northern Japan, a small village, together. First mistake. Father found out about it when the boy bragged about “getting to know each other up close and personal”. Then he did the unthinkable. When the girl introduced him to her father, she said, “Mike, this is my father, Mr. Kokoro (she stressed the “Mister”, figuring Mike would take the hint.” Mike warmly shook his would-be father-in-law’s hands and said, “Hey Kok, howya doin? Glad to know you. Hik (short for Hikari) here tells me you are a wild guy–we will get along just fine… ha ha ha!’.
Second and fatal mistake in managing cross cultural relationships. The relationship ended soon thereafter. So what happened?
Mike did not take the time to learn about his girl friend’s cultural and social framework of behaviors. In Asian, particularly Japanese culture, elders are treated with extreme respect bordering on reverence Getting familiar, that too on first meeting, is totally unacceptable. Elders also do not like to be called “wild guys”, however well meant. Names are very important to the Japanese and shortening any name given at birth is close to committing an act of immorality.
You may be thinking–couldn’t Hikari continue the relationship once they were out of the house? Does she still need her father to OK the alliance?
The answer is somewhat complicated. You see, in many Asian cultures, when you marry, you are marrying the family, immediate, intermediate and even distant. Hikari would rather given up the relationship than be ostracized by her family and community. We may consider it tribal and feudal, but those are the facts.
So here are a few simple tips on how to avoid a minepit when engaging in cross cultural romance and relationship.
- Talk it over with your partner. Who is he/she close with, role models in life, their personalities, likes etc.
- Be genuine when meeting the other side. People can usually smell a fake a mile away.You can be deferential, respectful but keep your pride and do not be obsequious.
- Read up on the culture. When engaging in small talk, you score when you exhibit knowledge of their culture.
- Stay away from controversial topics. No need to say, “Our Texans will whop you Cheeseheads!