Thinking of Marrying Someone From Another Culture?

Husband and WifeMarrying someone from another nation can be exciting! There are so many things that are new and different, interesting and challenging. These same things can be a source of frustration and conflict, misunderstanding and hurt. Before you marry someone from another nation, take a look at this list. Perhaps you will see some things here that you have not considered.

We are not trying to convince you that marrying someone from another culture is right or wrong. That is something you will have to determine for yourself. But the Word does say that a wise man calculates the cost before beginning construction on a house. Hopefully this will help you consider the cost of cross-cultural marriage.

Marrying someone from another culture [could] mean that one of you will be living outside of your home nation permanently —which means that you will not be able to see your family very often. That means your children will see very little of one set of parents (their grandparents).

[The following are a few questions to ask yourselves before you go any further in considering marrying someone from another culture.]

Are you willing for your children to not really know your parents?

Not only will your children not have the opportunity to know one set of grandparents very well, if there is a language barrier, one set of parents will not be able to really communicate well with your children.

Are you willing for your family members to not be able communicate well with your children?

Marrying someone from another culture means that you will have a hard time understanding each other’s humor. Things that are funny to one will not be funny to the other. You will have to explain the humor to one another. (Example: Jokes from TV shows, childhood games, comic strips)

Are you willing to take the time to explain why something is funny to you?

Have you considered that you might get tired of having to explain jokes to one another?

Are you ready to just accept the fact that you won’t be able to share each other’s humor?

Marrying someone from another culture means that one of you will not be experiencing your cultural traditions and/or national celebrations.

Are you willing to let go of some of your traditions and celebrations?

Marrying someone from another culture means that one of you must be willing to not give your children the cultural traditions and national heritage that you have.

Are you willing for your children to grow up with a different set of family traditions than your own?

You need to be aware that the day may come when you may need to move to your spouse’s home country.

Are you willing to live in your spouse’s home country indefinitely?

You may need to consider that the socioeconomic class one holds in one culture, may not cross over in another culture. For example, a well educated man from Latin America may not receive the same respect he enjoys if he lived in the United States or Australia.

Are you willing to lose your place in society?

Have you considered how both of your cultures view cross cultural marriages? Light skinned people marrying dark skinned people may be perfectly OK in Venezuela, but frowned upon in S. Korea.

Are you willing to face the possibility of being prejudiced against because of your spouse’s nationality or color?

Growing up in another culture means that the gender role models for your children may not be what you would consider to be good role models. (Example: Machismo in Latin America, outspokenness in American women)

Are you willing for your children to grow up with gender role models you don’t approve of?

You may need to consider the effect of the “home court advantage” on your marriage. If a foreign man marries an American woman and they live in the United States, she would be cast in the leadership role in some aspects of their relationship. (She would better understand the language and protocol of the nation) Whereas if they lived in his nation, he would be able to lead out more effectively in their marriage.

Have you considered how the “home court advantage” may affect your marriage relationship?

The above article was written by Bill and Carol O’Hara who are former missionaries and were involved with Marriage Ministries International. They also formerly had their own web site along with their children Kim and Ryan. This is where we found the above article posted.

— ALSO —

To give you further insight as to some of the positives and negatives when one marries someone else from another culture, the following Boundless.com web site link will take you to an article where you can read about several couples and their experiences within:

CROSS CULTURE MARRIAGES

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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Comments

68 responses to “Thinking of Marrying Someone From Another Culture?

  1. It will sound stupid but I am married in Peru but working for 2 years together with a Myanmar woman (Asian). I fell in love and I’d like to spend my life with her. What should I do? I don’t have kids yet.

  2. I am Indian and i have a girlfriend from Venezuela and i want to marry her….
    What shall i do in order to marry her i am confused about the required documents and procedure….

  3. I am an American married to a man from Iran. We married in the U.S. He went back to Iran and married an Iranian woman. We never divorced. Is that legal?

    1. According to his Iranian culture and family, your marriage does not count. You are a foreigner and not muslim so you do not exist. You are, at best, considered a “temporary wife”. The Iranian family will only recognize his Iranian marriage/wife. Please note that his family will negotiate a financial deal for his iranian wife – it is a set amount of money he is legally bound to pay in case of divorce. Kind of like a prenup. The amount is usually very high to deter him from leaving his wife. The amount is announced at the wedding (so there are many witnesses). If he marries an Iranian woman, there is serious money involved and think about how that impacts you.

      Also — his family will set them up financially — buy them a big house, luxury cars, country house, pay for the grandkids private schools etc etc… so marrying an Iranian woman is a big payday for him too. He has no financial worries. His family takes care of everything.

      In the muslim religion, men are allowed to have 4 wives. He is also allowed to have an unlimited number of “temporary marriages” = contracts for concubines. You may not be his first wife. He may have other legal wives back in Iran. Not likely, but possible and legal for him.

      In the US, bigamy is illegal — only the first wife is recognized as legal. So whichever wife he married first is the only one US law will recognize. That might be you or it might not. In any case, his family is not going to recognize you. They consider you to be a temporary contract wife (=slut/whore) and unimportant.

      If you do marry (again) under Islamic law, know that you automatically become muslim — meaning if you travel to a muslim country, you are bound by Islamic laws. Under sharia law, you cannot travel without your husband’s consent, your husband can divorce you at the drop of a hat, or kill you for some imaginary infraction (honor killing) and it is legal.

      Muslims operate under a completely different set of rules and morals from Christians. The middle eastern people are charming and attractive people, but their basic social mores are incompatible with those of the West.

  4. Hi…I am Indonesian. I have a boyfriend from Pakistan but as long as we have known each other we just see from a web cam and never met face to face. But we make friendship very well, and we have plans to get married. I don’t know when, maybe it will still be a long time. So what we must do, because from my boyfriend’s side all the family knows me already, and from my family also the same… so what we must do?

  5. I am a Myanmar (Asian). My boyfriend is native American. We have plan to get married. We came to an agreement that i will move to America. Which documentations should we complete to get Fiancee visa and get married?

    1. Angela, I’m afraid we can’t answer that question for you. You may want to contact the American Embassy. We’re sure they have had this question asked many times and will be able to give you there best “legal” counsel on this.

  6. Hello. I just found your website and found it quite interesting. At first glance this seems to address people who marry from different countries. What about people who have grown up in the same country, but still have very different cultures?
    My husband grew up in California USA, and comes from a very Welch-English family. He was in the military when I met him, and military service is quite common in his family; my father was also military, and we moved quite a bit. I lived in California as one of many different places in the USA. I come from a Jewish-Italian (primarily) background (4th or 5th generation American).

    As a young person, I did not know or even think about my ethnic background, nor his. Only in the last few years have we learned it. It explains a great deal about our likes, dislikes (not only in food, but music, lifestyle, etc.). What brought us together was our mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ. However, knowing our ethnic backgrounds, how they differ culturally (the reserve of the English, the outspokenness of the Italians and often of the Jews), etc. would not have kept us apart, but maybe would have helped us get past some of the “hard knocks” we experienced the first 5 years of marriage.

    Sometimes we still “speak a different language”; that is not driven from our sex, but from the way our nationalities think and respond. After 36 years, who would have thought it would be so distinctively different? Our children are an amazing mixture of us both. Our oldest is a great deal like my side of the family (while looking like his father). Our youngest is nearly an identical twin to me at her age. Our “middle child” has traits of both of us, but highlights some of the “etc.” on my side. She is our translator and interpretrer at times; not just for my husband and me, but between all of us.

    Perhaps it would be good if “all American people” found out their ethnic backgrounds – even going so far as to take a blood test and do some geneological work – to understand their beloved before they marry. Then to learn more of the culture of the other person, if it differs from their own. It might lessen misunderstandings and increase love for one another.
    What do you think?

  7. I am a white American who married an older Hispanic man. We are 15 years apart. He was married before to a Hispanic woman and has 3 sons who are all married to Hispanics and all have children. I was married to a white man and had 3 children, 2 are married with children. I also have health issues.

    My husband’s children were raised here but when I go around them they hardly speak any English around me. I’ve been called a user by them and told how their father kisses my a××. I’m now uncomfortable to be around them. My kids treat my husband with respect. We moved to the country, which I also found hard. I’m on disability but get a small amount because I used to be a stay at home mother. I’m finding the older my husband becomes, the harder it is. I’ve had difficulty making new friends where we live while my husband hooks up with other Mexicans. I’ve been judged a lot as well even by neighbors. I fell and have another injury, which has me housebound a lot. I feel sort of lost now. What can I do, I wonder?

  8. I am having an extremely hard time being married to an Arabic guy. I am an extremely good cook but it is not good for him because it isn’t Arabic Food. I make hispanic & Italian dishes plus lovely pastries. When I can I make different variations From Arabic culture. But everyday is just too much!! I am also expected to do everything & not appreciated for ANYTHING at all. This was a mistake. Hopefully one I can fix before it’s too late!!!

    1. My opinion is marriage is work and when we marry someone whose values, religious and cultural upbring and belief systems are radically different than ours, it is more likely to lead to unhappiness. As Americans we will never fully understand the mind or emotions of a different culture, especially very different cultures. I have male friends from Columbia, Japan and the Middle East and all of them have expressed to me how differently they think and feel than Americans. This revelation was meant as a warning to me, to not assume or naively believe everyone is human and therefore the same; I was also given some very direct examples to get the point across.

      I have also lived in several other countries and traveled to many more. In my experience it is safer to date and marry someone in your faith, ethnicity (or a compatible ethnicity), nationality, race and maybe even intellect, educational level and interests that are similiar or the same. Life is hard enough with all the normal things that happen, it is much easier when you speak the same native language, have the same belief systems and are treated in the manner you are used to from birth.

      I’ll also add I was happily married for a long time until I was widowed; we were both from old Scottish/Irish/British families that have been here for hundreds of years. I’m now engaged to a man who was the best friend of my deceased husband for thirty years. Somehow I knew intuitively that I would be better off marrying someone who thought and believed as I did, that strategy worked very well for me, as we had the same interests and intellect, as well family backgrounds.

  9. Is it possible for a man to get married to a woman from Tunis if he is still legally married in Australia?

  10. I am Jamaican dating a Nigerian. It’s hard just for him being a doctor and doing his residency, mostly at work and long hours. Culture is a big factor and do have our daily challenges. Can anyone give some info on the Nigerian marriage/culture?

    1. Hey Carlene, I’m Nigerian and I’m also in a similar situation like yours. This is a tough situation for me and I want to help you, that’s why I’m writing this. I’m gonna give you some information about the Nigerian culture and some other truth that can be hard to see. I’m a Nigerian guy and I’m dating a Dominican and We kind of already have plans for marriage. Since I don’t know if that’s the same with you, I will state some factors you may want to consider, if you plan on marriage.

      Nigerian is very diverse when it comes to culture. We have 3 main tribes in Nigerian and each tribe has different values and culture. I’m Yoruba which is one of the main tribes. Yoruba people value family relationships a lot and the same goes for Igbo people (the other main tribe). If you plan on marrying him know that there may be some frustrations when it comes to raising your kids. His parents may want to have easy access and close relationship to their grand kids and that means they may want them to be close by. They will definitely want them to learn a lot about their culture. This may be a problem for you if you don’t want to live in Nigeria or raise your kids in Nigeria. Also, you may not be able to completely blend in with our values.

      Honestly some of them are just outright strict and ridiculous – lol. If your partner is Yoruba, they take greetings seriously. They also take cooking seriously. In most Nigerian culture, a good partner should be able to cook very well and not just any food, but the Nigerian food. Also the weather may be too different for you and may not first suit your lifestyle; it’s super humid over here so I hope you’ll adjust quickly – lol. Also I like that you know that you may not really earn full respect from all of his family members but that’s okay. As long he loves you and his parents are okay with you.

      Another thing is his parents may not fully support your relationship. When our parents see that something will benefit/harm us, they can go to any length to support/protect their boy from It. In regards with the social status, he may also lose some respect from people that know him or his family just for marrying a foreigner. I don’t want to overwhelm you. I believe you should be able to have a heart to heart talk with him about his culture and the support of his parents. And I hope at the end of the day, you both fully understand and accept the frustrations that may come with inter-ethnicity dating.

      One last thing is you will both need each other’s love and support to make this thing work. I know that because I’m going through it right now. I mean you have to love your partner to leave your country, family and friends and move to his own country and raise your kids there. Good luck Carlene

  11. I’m a 22 yr old Muslim girl from Malaysia. Unlike my friends, I have no interest to get married within my own race. I’ve been keeping a wish to get married to someone who is the same religion as me, but not the same ethnicity as me or someone from another country. I love the idea of a mixed marriage, different culture etc. I wonder if is it only me who feels this way? Is it a good idea for my future?

  12. I was in Iraq 3 months and I led a man to accept Christ and he was baptized. We have strong feelings for each other.
    His family does not accept his decision for Christ. It’s complicated but I have fallen for him. Advice?

  13. Hello everyone, I’m Indian; I fell in love with a Brazilian girl. We both want to get married. I want to move to Brazil but I don’t know if I can live there without a visa after marriage, because it’ll take time to find a job there. I want to live there with her, but I don’t know how. Suggestions please.