Navigating a multi-cultural relationship
Navigating a relationship as a couple has its own set of challenges. But what happens when you throw two cultures into the mix?
Text: Bailey Jensen
Knowing how to navigate a relationship as a couple who comes from two different countries can be challenging at times. A multi-cultural relationship is much smoother once you initially learn and honour each others cultures, and live by your own timelines.
Learning from one another While my Danish husband is excellent at English, the first few months were a bit of a challenging learning curve. I never knew how much American slang I used until dating someone from another culture. Suddenly I began aware of the way I spoke and made sure I took the time to explain what I truly meant. This helped build a strong foundation and a deeper understanding of one another.
While it takes each couple time to get to know each other, more of a conscious effort is needed to understand one another’s expectations. What is romantic or meaningful to an American, can be quite different from the simplicity of a Dane’s vision of romance. Also, learning some vocabulary and how to say “I love you” in your partner’s native language proved to be extremely meaningful.
Honouring both cultures I remember when I celebrated my first birthday in Denmark with my Danish partner, he celebrated me the way he knew how to celebrate. He woke me up singing the Danish birthday song and decorated the house in flags. While these things may scream birthday to him, my notion of a typical birthday involved balloons, candles, and the happy birthday song. While my heart was overwhelmed by being with my loved one on my birthday, it just did not feel quite like my real birthday.
"We created our own little kingdom of Denmark and America, called Danica. I have dubbed myself Queen, and we combine the best of both worlds."
After our birthday learning curve, from that point on, we always combined traditions from Denmark and America for each holiday. For example, we generally spend each Christmas in Denmark and celebrate the holiday traditionally. However, my husband Rune always saves me one present to open Christmas morning because he knows the connection it brings to my native culture and the deep feelings of my American Christmas nostalgia it creates.
Rune and I had two small weddings a month apart, a Danish wedding and an American wedding. It was important for Rune to have the ceremony in Danish, while it was important for me to have my dad walk me down the aisle and write our own wedding vows. It was meaningful for us to experience one of life’s biggest moment through each culture. We feel equal parts married because of each of our weddings, so we can never decide when our actual wedding anniversary is.
Danica Considering my husband and I are a couple from two different countries, we created our own little kingdom of Denmark and America, called Danica. At our home in Danica, where I have dubbed myself Queen, we combine the best of both worlds. One of the most liberating things of creating our own little country is living by our own timelines and creating our own normal.
In the United States, it is common to get married fairly young and have children right afterwards. In Denmark, it is the complete opposite where Danes generally have children later on in life. Danes view having a child as more of a commitment than marriage, so most couples have a child first and then get married afterwards, if at all. We quit while we were ahead by trying to appease both cultures in this sense. Collectively we will never be purely American or Danish, so having our own identity as something unique freed us any expectations from both sides of the pond.