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Interracial Dating - How to overcome Walls
I'm Australian born and my ethnicity is Chinese. My partner is Western.
Being in an interracial relationship comes with walls/issues that would not have been there if I dated someone else with the same ethnic background.
Issues that I came across with my partner included - language barrier (he can't speak Chinese so he can't communicate with my Mum), not understanding traditions (e.g. no shoes inside the house), other people assume I'm a gold-digger (when I actually pay for everything), his family initially thought I was temporary (an international student or studying exchange from Asia, his family initially thought I didn't know English (his Mum spoke extra slow with me when we first had a chat, even though I can speak English just fine), etc. The list goes on.
** The question to those in interracial relationships - How do YOU deal with problems from your relationship? **
With me, I tried my best to educate my partner, his family and others. If his family said something I considered not funny because it was racist, I wouldn't laugh. Instead, I maintained a deadpan face. It seems to be working because there hasn't been any racist comment for ages. Apart from my deadpan face, I'm my fabulous self to his family. I show them then I love my partner and that our relationship is awesome. My partner has adapted to comply with my culture and is very stubborn about remaining in a relationship with me, which I love. At the end of the day, it's our relationship, not anyone else's. I think we look very cute together!
Loved your story! As someone was in a marriage for 15 years with a partner of the same ethnicity as me but Australian-born and then after my divorce, in another long-term relationship with my second partner for 8 years who was of a different cultural background to me (Anglo-Australian), I find elements of your story familiar and intriguing. As a Greek, I identify as a Westerner since I'm European, even though many Australians see me as 'oriental'. My first wife was Greek too but born and raised in Australia. There was a great difference in culture and family traditions among us even though both Greek. People of culturally and linguistically backgrounds are by no means a homogeneous group.
Being with my ex-wife felt on many levels as an interracial relationship for me. The walls/issues still existed as my culture was urban 80's from Athens and her's was one from Melbourne raised by Greek older migrants in the 60's who came from agricultural setting with minimal formal education even in Greek language.
Even though we both spoke fluently Greek, we still didn't communicate effectively or understand as communication is much more than words we utter, it involves body language, intonation, eye contact, affirmative actions etc. (In fact, words make up only 15% of our communication). Some traditions like - no shoes inside are actually universal and applicable to many. in a relationship no one should be 'paying for everything' unless there's consent and all parties are happy with that arrangement. My neighbors are both Australians but the woman complains that her partner doesn't pay for anything....I guess this can happen to anyone independent of their cultural identity. I have lived in Melbourne for more than 30 years and people still ask me 'what's with the accent?' to which I laugh.
Every relationship is as unique as the individuals involved in it.
It is up to both partners to 'educate' each other and each side of the family. Anglo-Australians have culture too and adjustment needs to take place on both sides. Many people find certain jokes inappropriate and racist and choose to not participate in them even if they are of the same cultural background. Seeking family counselling individually or as a couple has helped me and there are numerous resources and supports for cross-cultural relationships from organizations such as DrummondStreet, RelateWell and RelationsshipsAustralia. Also check Beyondblue website. And don't forget: you look cute together!
What an important thread! Appropriate too just after Christmas and all the stress that comes from a mixed culture family.
I'm Australian. Hubby is Polish. Our kids are bilingual. So Christmas with my extended family was as always a bit stressful. It is important to me that our kids learn both languages so hubby has always only spoke Polish to them.
At family gatherings the usual comments rear their heads "we're in Australia", "why can't he just speak English so we all know what he's saying". And I have to explain all over again. Made worse by family saying to hubby "oh isn't it wonderful how the kids are bilingual" (and I sit there seething at the fakeness).
Then there are people who judge me. Like when we took the kids to an open day for saturday school. And everyone was speaking Polish only. Whenever they realised I didn't follow I got the usual reprimand directed at my husband not even to me...Why has she not learnt Polish?
Sometimes I get tired of this but then hubby reminds me of the important thing. That our responsibility is to eachother and our kids. So if we are happy who cares what anyone else thinks.
Thank you for this topic. I do think it is important.
That is indeed a very important topic you raised. I think it's great for people and especially children to be bilingual and I advocate for languages. People will always judge. One of the many great things about living in Australia is that we do not need to be like the person next to us and we are encouraged to make choices and we are supported in the choices we make. This topic is relevant not only for a mixed family but also for couples of the same cultural background. I commend you for your efforts and dedication to make sure the children learn their father's language. It must be exhausting but as you said your responsibility is to each other and to your kids. Good on you for making this effort as clearly this is something you both have chosen and is important to you. Many people who are from the same cultural background as well as others in mixed relationships choose not to speak anything but English to their children. Others choose to do. It all depends on ones values, philosophy and priorities. I believe it is important for people to have choice and to choose for themselves when and if they want to learn another language or follow a faith etc according to their own priorities and values as individuals. Upon arrival in Australia many parents 'force' their children to speak English at home so they can learn the language. This was my experience. Others insist the opposite. Majority is somewhere in between - speaking to their children in native language but they reply in English or speak English among them. But it's never too late for anyone to pick up a language. I started learning Italian (my 3rd language) in my 20's and became an Italian school teacher!
However, I think it's courtesy when there is a mixed group that everyone speaks a language that is understood by all. This is certainly the case at workplace and you'd expect in any social situations. Of course if you are in someone's home and they don't know English then I can see how this will be tricky. But then again people travel to other countries and visit places where nobody speaks their language and still find ways to communicate. After all oral language constitutes only 15% of our total communication. I guess if you are in a community language school you'd expect that everyone speaks that language. It's learning by immersion. Finally, it's great that we have a choice and that we live in a country that values diversity and supports and encourages multiculturalism and pluralism. 🙂
Hi Donte' (and a wave to blueskye),
What a good point about courtesy! I hadn't considered that. And knowing my family that (them finding it rude because they don't understand) is probably a big part of the problem. I think I've been so caught up in making sure the kids got to have the best of both of us I'd forgotten courtesy.
You're right though it is difficult to be excluded because you don't know the language. One of the downfalls for me is at my inlaws house only Polish is spoken. I often feel excluded but I have gotten used to it because it was my choice (plus I am learning... Very slowly). I asked for this to help my kids learn. So I had forgotten how rude/exclusive it can feel. Thanks for the food for thought.
If it's ok to ask how do you feel now about being encouraged to only speak English? Do you think this helped you long term?
Sorry blueskye for taking your thread on a detour. I do hope more people join in about making interracial dating work. I have already benefited from your thread 😊
I'm glad you found the point on courtesy beneficial. (And apologies blueskye if we've digressed). It all links to cross-cultural communication and effects on mental health and resilience building.
Often some people can easily forget and start chatting in their native tongue without intentionally wanting to exclude others or being rude. I've been in situations where we chat in our native language with someone and the moment another person walks in the room who doesn't understand us (let's say at the staff room at work during lunch etc), I make a point to switch into English and remind the other person too. You see, I've been in situations where I was the only one who couldn't understand and felt really awkward and left out so I know how it feels.
For my family was very beneficial to ensure we spoke English at home and among us as I was 18 and my brother 13 when we arrived and our parents in their 50s. The inclination was to speak in our native tongue but we had to make an effort and it paid off. Mum picked up conversational English classes and dad ended up going back to university and completing a Masters! Both my brother and I also found it much easier getting into University and later finding employment, forming relationships etc. but our situation was different as we arrived as migrants and we were already grown-up.. 🙂
This is a topic that really resonates with me. I was born in Chile and I married an Australian born with English parents. We struggled very much at the beginning of our relationship as you can imagine most people from my country are very touchy feely and are always hugging and kissing, and my husband did not like this at all, it was not in his DNA and so found it very difficult to hug and kiss people that were basically strangers to him.
When we got married my family used to come in at any time and he found this extremely difficult to understand (borderline disrespectful were his exact words) as his family would basically make an appointment to come and visit. We are very different even in our religion.
His parents are more open to discuss issues that for me and my culture are no go zone, such as wills and funerals we usually don't talk about these things.
Language barrier was a big thing, but he has learnt enough pleasantries to get by. If family and friends come over and the conversation turns to Spanish he just excuses himself and goes to another room as he knows that some time is difficult to translate everything and most of the time (specially jokes) don't make any sense in English.
I have also reminded my family and friends that we come from different cultures and to be respectful of that and he has done the same for me.
I think we got over these hurdles by talking about it, expressing our feelings and accepting all our differences and understanding each others perspectives (not embracing in some cases but knowing they are there). We have been married for 17 years, but you need to put the effort for each other. Love conquers all!!
I understand your perspective. The Greeks have a saying that goes: ‘When the two want it, nobody asks the rest!’
In my case, leaving my wife of fifteen years for another man that I fell in love with at the age of 35 wasn’t quiet as my parents or my ex wife or even as I was planning things to go, but life happens despite our wishes. X