Intercultural Dating: How To Communicate When You Can Barely Speak

The current population of the world is 7.6 billion and the options for travel are endless, which means that people of all cultures are meeting, developing friendships, and becoming romantically involved. While this paints a picture straight out of a movie, real life intercultural dating can be frustrating as well as riveting. Mostly stemming from language barriers and a misunderstanding of the partner’s customs, the frustrations are not ill-conceived and are easily fixable.

Dating, even with another of the same culture, is a process full of tribulations and joys and circulates equal, fair investments from the two parties. Essentially, what somebody puts into dating is what they will get out, intercultural or not.

Communication Pitfalls: What Goes Wrong and How to Avoid It 

As previously mentioned, language barriers create turmoil in business affairs and, certainly, affairs of the heart. While partners are usually willing to learn their beau’s language, most conversations take place in a dominant language. For example, if one partner speaks English and is learning Spanish while the other speaks Spanish and is learning English, the conversation will take place in English, meaning that the one with this language as their second will strive to keep up, straining themselves in the process.

Additionally, some intercultural relationships involve a couple equally speaking a foreign language, such as an Italian-speaking German and a French-speaking Canadian, both attempting to speak English. While this seems fair in all regards, the conversations will be very limited to what the partners feel comfortable speaking in a language they have only known for a short while.

Overcoming language barriers is salient and only as successful as the effort invested by both partners. Attempt speaking both languages throughout any conversation, whether discussing the weather or politics. This equality will allow for a level of comfort and natural conversation to ensue.

Learn the Culture and Customs of Your Date 

When two cultures mesh together, they attempt to create a uniform life by adopting a culture often foreign to both of their own. Rather than attempting to dive into Indian, Russian or Italian culture, for example, spend time learning about one another’s. If your woman is of Ukrainian descent, learn her holidays and regional cuisine and never attempt to avoid certain aspects of her culture because it can be considered insulting as well as demeaning.

In addition to learning cultural traditions, opt to travel to your partner’s native land as well. Spend time living as a local rather than a tourist. Doing this will demonstrate to your partner that they matter and that you care enough to learn about them on a level far deeper than exchanging favorite colors and zodiac signs.


Remember, they intrigued you from the beginning despite being different than you, so never expect them to abandon who they are. Learning each other’s culture will only benefit communication as well.

How to Appropriately Offer Criticism 

When you are raised one way, it is immensely difficult to change as an adult. While you can consider yourself adventurous, everybody has a line that they often do not cross. From the refusal to try new foods to being afraid to venture through certain portions of the world, these self-declared barriers can be insulting to those of another culture.

In Japanese culture, for instance, it is offensive to not finish your plate of food while it is common in the United States to leave uneaten food in fear that finishing a plate will make someone appear gluttonous. If you are dining with a person of Japanese descent and they prepare a meal for you, eat it in its entirety.

Patience Is a Virtue

Aside from adapting to your date’s customs and taboos, be patient when it comes to communication. When learning a new language, mistakes are to be expected and more often than one would think. Rather than losing interest when your partner is attempting to talk in a new language, remain engaged for as long as it takes. Do not become critical when they make a mistake because, chances are, you will, too.

Distinguish Between Humor and Insults

While humor is important for most relationships once they are developed, it is easy for good fun to become insulting. For example, in the Kenyan language, “mtumba” means used clothing, but the similar-sounding word of, “matumbo,” means intestines. Those learning this language make common mistakes such as that, but laughing before they make the move to first is rude and discouraging to the speaker.

Of course, it is acceptable to correct your date in a polite and supporting manner as it can ultimately strengthen any budding relationship and set the grounds for constructive criticism when it’s your turn to make any errors.

Conclusion: Intercultural Dating Successfully 

To finalize, communication is key in any relationship. Failing to communicate appropriately from the beginning will set the entire relationship up for failure by demonstrating to one another that care and patience are not applicable to the prospective intercultural relationship. Offering constructive criticism is acceptable, but insulting your partner is cruel. Embrace each other’s customs and a healthy relationship is sure to ensue.

So, get the conversation started with these helpful tips here.


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