You know that person in your bio class with the sexy accent? Or the person with the stunning features next to you on the plane? Don't deny it: You've totally fallen a little in love with someone from another culture before. But what happens when things become serious?
I met my boyfriend Thomas in 2011, while we were both volunteering in Virginia. It's hard to explain what initially attracted me to him, but I'll admit it definitely had something to do with the fact that he's from Germany. It was unique to me, and I was fascinated to learn all about what his life had been like.
Five years and two countries later, I'm still fascinated by him. He's the only person I can imagine sharing this crazy life with. But along the way, I've learned that loving someone from another country brings with it a whole new dynamic when it comes to relationships:
Here are seven things nobody tells you about loving someone from another country.
1. Cultural Differences
This is somewhat obvious. Of course, you're going to experience culture differences when you're in a relationship with someone from another country. But, it's not the big cultural differences that will surprise you. It's the little things, like differences in bedding expectations, cleaning supplies, how to wash the dishes and what fruits belong in the fridge.
Seriously, these are the things my boyfriend and I disagree about. I expect the big things, like him being a super organized, always-on-time German and me being a spontaneous, laid-back American. But the small things always catch me off guard.
We recently wanted to buy new bedding, but after a month of trying to compromise on top sheet or no top sheet, duvet or comforter, two twin size covers or one big cover, we both gave up. I find it all humorous, and I love that these little differences can still surprise me after five years.
I didn't realize getting into this that one of us will never feel completely at home. I moved to Germany in 2011 so that Thomas and I could be together. While living there, I missed my home constantly.
I found myself resenting him for the fact that he had all his friends and family nearby, and that everything came easy to him. His family and friends were always extremely welcoming, but it will never be the same as having my own family there.
We often talk about where we will raise our kids some day, what language they will speak, etc. It scares me to think that our children will have to be raised without fully being a part of both our cultures.
If you like to take things slow, it will most likely be extremely difficult to do that while in a relationship with someone from another country. You'll be faced with things like getting married for visa purposes, or moving in together just so you can be in the same location.
Thomas and I discussed getting married — like honestly debated it — after being together for two months. Neither of us was actually ready for marriage, but his US visa was scheduled to expire soon. We needed an option to stay together.
We decided to wait on getting married, but we did end up living together in Germany just a few months later. It was the fastest relationship either of us had ever been in, but we really didn't have much of a choice.
4. Unequal Opportunities
When you move to a new country for your partner (or he or she moves for you), one of you is likely going to have to take a job you don't really want in order to make things work. We are constantly struggling to find equal opportunities for both of us, which, in turn, results in neither of us taking the jobs we dream about.
After four years in Germany, Thomas and I were both ready to move somewhere new. But, we both needed to find jobs. If I found a job first, it would become nearly impossible for him to follow me. (He teaches little kids in German.)
For now, where we move really depends on him finding a job first (which is not necessarily the job he wants), and me taking whatever English-speaking job I can find in whichever country we end up in.
5. Long Distance
If you love someone who lives in a country different from your own, it's almost inevitable that you'll have to do the whole long-distance relationship thing for at least a brief period of time. One of you will have to finish studying, interning or whatever it is that you do.
I was fortunate that my long-distance relationship was only five months long, but I have friends who have done the long distance thing for years. Being in a long-distance relationship with someone from another country means you have to deal with dreaded time differences. Get ready for phone conversations at 3 am, or eating breakfast over Skype while the other person eats dinner.
6. Which family?
We have to choose between our families on a regular basis. Holidays are always difficult because one of us is bound to miss at least one family member. Not only that, but we also always have to have some money set aside in case something happens to someone in our families, and we have to fly home.
I live in the constant fear that we'll need to be there for one of our family members, but we won't be able to get there in time because we are thousands of miles away.
It's hard now, but I expect it will only get more difficult. Thomas is an only child, and his parents are older than mine are.
We want to be there if they need us some day. My parents are divorced, and if anything health-related happened to one of them, I'd want to move back to the US. I also have a younger sister who I'm obsessed with, and I'd really like to live near her.
I have no idea how many multi-cultural relationships fail, but I have a feeling the percentage is pretty high. It's a challenge, but it's an amazing one.
Through all of this, I have never questioned my relationship with Thomas. I think that's a beautiful thing.
I love meeting people who have been with their partners for a long time. It's amazing to see the strength in their relationships after they have gone through years and years of these struggles.
When you meet someone who you are willing to live this crazy lifestyle for, get ready to fight like crazy and then fight some more. If you are willing to do that for someone, it's love.