Alanna is a Canadian novelist, singer and blogger. After 2 years of long-distance she has closed the distance with her British sweetheart and now resides at their home in Cambridgeshire. LDR13 Blog
Kalyn is a 20-something American girl who moved to the UK to complete her university degree. After falling in love with a British boy (and the UK), she decided to stay and live life as an expat. She now blogs about her adventures and other cross-cultural topics at Girl Gone London. Girl Gone London Blog
1. Learning a new language
Even if you think you and your partner both speak English, think again! Every country has their slang, and I guarantee you’ll pick up some new words just by virtue of being around them all of the time. There’s also nothing more relationship-building than an intense, hour-long discussion on the correct way to pronounce “oregano” or “aluminium/aluminum.”
And if either of you speak any other languages? Double the fun! Just make sure they’re not trying to be funny by teaching you swear words disguised as basic vocabulary or teaching you phrases that don’t exist. I’ve spent many hours triple-checking with my boyfriend that the new British word he’s taught me is a)not offensive and b)a real thing. It comes with the territory!
2. Airport Reunions
If one wants to know what love looks like, one must only spend a few minutes people-watching at an airport. Whether it’s families, couples or canine friends they all have one thing in common: the semblance of heartbreak when watching a loved one leave, and the glow of intense happiness at being reunited. Seeing your loved one come through those airport arrival gates is one of the best feelings imaginable, and I wouldn’t trade in those precious moments for anything.
One tip though: if you’re blind like I am, make sure to wear your glasses as you await your loved ones arrival. I’ve nearly thrown my arms around the wrong person once or twice!
3. Celebrating more holidays
Imagine a world where you get to celebrate holidays for two countries instead of just one! For instance, being with my English boyfriend has introduced me to Boxing Day, Bonfire Night, Saint George’s Day, and more ‘bank holidays’ than I know what to do with. Similarly, he has now been forced to stuff his face at Thanksgiving and ironically celebrate the fourth of July.
More holidays also means more excuses for fun dates and new experiences. We also spend more quality time together and with our families around our respective holidays, so you can never have too many.
4. Two Homes
All of a sudden, you not only come to know what being a native of your own country is (I now have a much stronger sense of what it is to be “Canadian”), but you also develop an appreciation for the country your other half is from, and it begins to feel like a second home.
I love being a supporter of all my man’s favourite football (soccer) teams, and also dressing him up in Maple Leafs and Blue Jays memorabilia from back home (though he might prefer a bag to put on his head if the Leafs keep playing so badly!). I also love that during the Olympics we have two countries to cheer for.
I feel a sense of pride for both homelands which is something my man shares as well. Not long ago he attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in Belgium, and was quite affected when he saw the graves of some young Canadian soldiers and heard stories of their bravery. It’s almost instant; the heightened interest in all things British (for me) and all things Canadian (for him).
5. An Expanded Worldview
Though there will always be different viewpoints within a country, dating someone from another country will expand your worldview even further. Because you’ve grown up with two completely separate governments, school curriculums, and ways of relating to the rest of the world, you’ll be able to share these views with your partner and become a bit more cultured as a result!
For instance, it’s been a great learning experience to talk with my boyfriend about how the ‘revolutionary war’ is taught in the UK. As opposed to my American upbringing, where the revolution is one of the main parts of our history and England are viewed as the ‘bad guys’ ( it’s a revolution, after all!), the UK curriculum barely touches on it! They have such a long and rich history that the war with America was such a tiny blip on their radar, and when it is mentioned, it’s certainly from a less emotive standpoint.
It’s a great reality check that the world doesn’t revolve around your particular country (whichever country that may be) and that the fears, hopes, history, and focus of other cultures and countries may vary significantly from your own.
One of the best things about being in a long-distance or cross-cultural relationship is that you will most likely travel to distant places you might not have otherwise, and make wondrous, life-enhancing memories. And when it comes to experiencing your S.O.’s stomping grounds, they’ll know all the best local gems, so you couldn’t have a better tour guide. The best part: you can pay them in kisses.
Plus, when things go pear-shaped (awry) and you’re cream crackered (tired) and it’s pissing down (raining) and you’re completely blooming lost, it’s a great opportunity to find out what you’re made of as a couple. As Mark Twain said: “there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
A cross-cultural relationship can be a truly great adventure.
7. Better Communication Skills
Because you have differences in languages and culture, you quickly learn how to communicate more effectively to hear each other out and understand what the other is saying. Unlike a ‘normal’ couple who grew up in the same culture and might assume they’re on the ‘same page’ when they’re not, you’ve already practiced the skills it takes to be an empathetic and supportive partner by learning about and appreciating the other culture’s viewpoints and never assuming you’re seeing eye-to-eye without checking first.
This is a huge bonus when it comes to arguments or heated discussions (as much as we would all like to wish they don’t happen). You’ve learned that “you’re wrong!” gets you nowhere and “help me understand where you’re coming from” is a much better solution (unless, of course, you’re discussing how to pronounce ‘oregano,’ in which case, good luck).
8. New Shows, Music and Celebrities
It’s a given that if you date someone from another country or culture, it will open you up to a whole range of awesome music, shows and celebrities you never knew existed. I can’t believe there was ever a time I didn’t know about the hilariousness that is the British tv series The Inbetweeners. I’m so happy I’ve discovered British humour.
I’ve also become partial to charming, small-town British shows like Heartbeat and the real-life archaeological program that is Time Team; it makes me want to dig up our backyard in a manic search for ancient treasure but I’ll talk that one over with the boyfriend first.
Then there are the list of interesting people and groups you’d never heard of before like Mary Berry, Stephen Frye, David Attenborough, Kaiser Chiefs, The Pogues and, well, pretty much everybody. Get used to feeling like you’ve come from the distant planet Living-Under-A-Rock-Ville (and people looking at you incredulously, as if you’ve just done something shameful in your pants. You’ve never heard of !?!?!?!!!!!!!). You have a lot to learn and see and listen to!
9. A Whole New World… of Flavor
The saying goes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it’s also true that the key to a successful cross-cultural relationship is all in the stomach! Well, maybe not all, but the benefit of having your partner share their country’s best culinary classics with you is a huge plus.
There’s also a whole world of snack foods just waiting for you to explore. Not only am I now addicted to my favorite American foods, but I’ve also stocked up on all of my favorite British treats. Cadburys? Crumpets? Yorkshire pudding? Scones? Don’t mind if I do!
The only downside to growing your foodie repertoire is the also-growing waistline that comes along with it, but, hey, it’s all in the name of love.
10. A Deep Appreciation for One Another
If your cross-cultural relationship happens to be long distance there are so many amazing things you’ll get to experience. Like writing and receiving letters. It’s so wonderful to find a letter or a surprise waiting in your mailbox. And there are so many fun and creative ways to date and stay close while apart that you’d never have experienced otherwise.
Probably the very best thing about long-distance is knowing that you are with someone who would fly across the country, even across the world just to be with you. Someone who would do whatever it takes to love you. And because you have to spend so much time apart, every second you spend together is a precious gift and never goes to waste.
Plus, when you do finally close the distance, and you can fall asleep beside each-other each night and wake up to one another each morning. You still never take that for granted, because you remember what it was like to miss them. And you can look over all your old letters and postcards and think, this is really something.