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15 Hacks For Inter-Cultural Lovers

15 Hacks For Inter-Cultural Lovers

A Norwegian friend of mine once told me how he had to pass a very severe test before he was accepted by the parents of his Italian wife. He had to stay in a hotel and was invited to various meals, where he was vetted. As well as coping with the language barrier, he had to display an understanding of Italian cultural values as regards marriage and family. Fortunately, he passed the test and yes, they are living happily ever after!

Now that was easy, really. Consider where two lovers come from very different racial backgrounds and where religion, ethics, family values and beliefs about marriage will, sooner or later, be present on the stage. But, before you even reach that point, let us look at what hacks you can put into practice so that the relationship will be on a much firmer foundation.

1.  Learn about the culture

There is no shortcut here. You really have to do your homework. You can ask each other about the family background and the values that were instilled in childhood. But you also have to find out a lot more by reading, watching films and getting down to the very core values that determine life attitudes in your partner’s country.

2. Speak the language

This is essential if one partner lacks confidence in the other’s language. Communication will be key in understanding attitudes, beliefs, political views, opinions, and values. Very often, these are tied to the language by having words, expressions and idioms which reflect their world view perfectly.

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3. Talk about religion

You may be an atheist, very religious or something in between. The problem is that there is often a clash when your partner has strong views which are based on a religious upbringing which will determine attitudes to sex, child rearing, religious practices and customs. Use your time together to explore these and try to understand where your partner is coming from.  If you are both from a much more secular background, this may make things less complicated. However, this does not remove the obligation to discuss these matters sincerely and honestly.

4. Be aware of pressure from outside the relationship

Very often, inter-racial and inter-cultural couples are perfectly at ease. It is when they encounter the prejudice of family and society, that problems may raise their ugly heads. There is some useful advice in an article mentioned in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. The best plan is to be prepared for this and also assess whether you can really cope with all that. Fortunately, things are moving in the right direction. In American society, according to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 12 marriages are now inter-racial.

5. Celebrate your differences

There may be customs and rites that should be celebrated together, rather than ignored. This can strengthen the relationship. There are some excellent stories about mixed couples who more or less coped with these issues in the book, ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ by Brenda Lane Richardson.

6. Fight stereotyping

Be prepared. There are commonly held views which make sweeping generalizations about different races and religions. Asian women are supposed to be very meek and submissive. Be on the alert for those friends who will spout all sorts of prejudices about races on the pretext of offering advice!

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7. Talk about how you would raise children

Many people are put off by the fact that any children they have may be bullied or discriminated against in some way. It is important to discuss this openly. If your relationship is sound, any children will benefit from a loving home and grow up to be mature, balanced adults. Being bi-racial will teach tolerance.

8. Adopt your partner’s culture

You may get a lot of indiscreet questions and sneering references such as going for the ‘jungle fever’ if you happen to be dating an African or that the Japanese are workaholics. The best questions are those that ask you what is the part of your partner’s culture or traditions that attract you most. Think about this and have your answer ready.

9. Broaden your horizons

A great way to explore your partner’s culture and traditions is to experiment and try ethnic dishes. It is a great way of bonding and can open up new horizons, while becoming an expert cook as well.

10. Travel and explore

Travelling to each other’s country is one of the greatest experiences ever. You get an inside view and understand much better your partner’s background and upbringing.

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11. Talk about what religion you would like your kids to have

Many inter-faith couples have to decide which faith their children should have.  They may decide to bring up their children in both faiths. The benefits may well override any concerns about confusion, as outlined in Susan Katz Miller’s book, called ‘Being Both – Embracing Two Religions In One Interfaith Family’.

12. Inter-cultural relationships make you stronger

Going into an inter-racial or inter-cultural relationship can be a challenge. It is an excellent training ground in that it makes you think of issues that may arise. The great advantage is that you are both able to cope with differences and obstacles and that can make the relationship so much stronger in the long run.

13. Show tolerance in your arguments

At times, there may be arguments and rows. The best advice is never resort to racial slurs or stupid prejudice against your partner, because of an issue about his/her background.

14. Think of human diversity

Learn to look ahead. Forget the racial and religious differences and look forward to a society which is not based so much on race, but on human diversity. Your children will learn to do the same when you set the example.

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15. Follow Kayne West’s advice

Kayne West has made no secret of the fact that the press hates his inter-racial relationship with Kim Kardashian. Follow his advice: ‘Write that… headline when you try to make me look like a maniac or an animal, because you afraid of inter-racial relationships, because you afraid of the future, because you afraid of a rapper that was raised by two educated parents.’

Let us know in the comments how you have coped successfully with an inter-racial or inter-cultural relationship.

Featured photo credit: Strange things are happening these days/Koshy Koshy via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 19, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments—you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time. That’s why the art of saying no can be a game changer for productivity.

Requests for your time are coming in all the time—from family members, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To stay productive, minimize stress, and avoid wasting time, you have to learn the gentle art of saying no—an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger, or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to stop people pleasing and master the gentle art of saying no.

1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it.

Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which, for many of us, is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

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For example, if my wife asks me to pick up the kids from school a couple of extra days a week, I’ll likely try to make time for it as my family is my highest priority. However, if a coworker asks for help on some extra projects, I know that will mean less time with my wife and kids, so I will be more likely to say no. 

However, for others, work is their priority, and helping on extra projects could mean the chance for a promotion or raise. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say yes and no to in order to get there. 

You can learn more about how to set your priorities here.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word[1].

Sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry, but…” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important when you learn to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.

When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you. 

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5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. However, if you erect a wall or set boundaries, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss—they’re our boss, right? And if we start saying no, then we look like we can’t handle the work—at least, that’s the common reasoning[2].

In fact, it’s the opposite—explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

“Look, everyone, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects, and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

This, of course, takes a great deal of awareness that you’ll likely only have after having worked in one place or been friends with someone for a while. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be incredibly useful.

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8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, try saying no this way:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands. If you need to continue saying no, here are some other ways to do so[3]:

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Saying no the healthy way

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so—you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization—but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true, as people can sense insincerity.

    The Bottom Line

    Saying no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you. There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good to you.

    Remember that when you learn to say no, isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and prioritization. 

    More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

    Reference

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