Being in a relationship with someone from another country can be challenging at times when cultures clash. But just the same, it can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience, bringing a lifetime of love and happiness. When you’re serious enough to venture to your partner’s homeland to meet the extended family and get a better understanding of his or her cultural background, it can be thrilling but also scary, especially if you don’t know much about the culture or don’t speak the language. Making a few preparations can help avert disaster and make the experience a delight.
Here are some dos and don’ts to observe when traveling to your partner’s home country for the first time:
DO learn some of the native language before you go.
Not only will knowing some phrases help you out in practical ways while traveling. It is always worth showing that you made some effort to make communication easier. Your partner’s family will appreciate that. And it will also comfort them that you are considerate and serious about the relationship, as well as respectful of your partner’s heritage. It will also be a comfort to your partner, as well, to know that you won’t have to constantly be pressing him or her into service as a translator.
DON’T expect anyone to speak English.
It’s a popular language, to be sure. But it’s just really not that common in most places outside the traditional English-speaking countries. Your partner’s family may have made an effort to learn a few phrases to make things easier. However, don’t be expecting them to. Just take it as a pleasant surprise if they did. Remember that it’s your job to make a good impression on them, not the other way around.
DON’T expect things in your partner’s country to be like things at home.
Hotels, telephone service, taxi service, and especially food, entertainment, and local customs may be extremely different from what you are used to. Be flexible and roll with it; there’s no point in complaining about something you can’t change and that most people probably will not see as an issue.
DO embrace the opportunity to experience new things.
Just as there will be some things that are weird or “not as good” as back home, there are plenty of things that will be fascinating and much better than back home. Most people return from a trip out of the country with a new appreciation for things back home but also wistfulness for things that just aren’t available there. The main thing is to have new experiences and make amazing memories!
DO be polite!
You are representing your home country. Respect local customs, even if you don’t agree with them. For example, if you are a woman traveling to a country where the hijab (head scarf) is worn, it’s better to go along with the local custom than to upset or embarrass your mate’s family. After all, you’re just a tourist, so save your battles. If the hijab, burqa, or other traditional dress is optional, let your partner’s family advise you as to what is appropriate. Both men and women should observe local custom as far as what is typically done or eaten. Obviously, you do not have any obligation to go along with something that would hurt or endanger you; if you know you won’t be able to stomach eating stewed yak brain or smoking a hookah, you can always beg allergies–just do it nicely.
Overall, good manners, patience, flexibility and a willingness to experience new things should serve you well abroad, just as it does at home. So when the opportunity arises to travel to your partner’s home country, enjoy the experience. You might want to go back soon, and often!