20 April 2019
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is the latest example of cross-cultural relationships. Photo: Reuters
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is the latest example of cross-cultural relationships. Photo: Reuters

Cross-cultural relationships

British royal weddings have always been global sensations. This year’s event at Windsor Castle was even more sensational because of the cultural differences between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

All couples face various kinds and levels of cultural differences.

Everyone has their unique beliefs, education, and family upbringing, which may affect their relationship with their partners and may lead to conflicts.

Kyle Killian, a professor of psychology at York University in Canada, said cross-cultural relationships were more difficult to be accepted by family members in the past. Many scholars focused on the problems of cross-cultural relationships, and that being the case, their studies tended to have negative conclusions.

But as globalization becomes pervasive, more and more people now accept cross-cultural relationships. Killian cited recent studies showing that cultural differences do not increase the chances of separation or divorce between couples.

That said, what should we do when we face conflicts arising from cultural differences?

Researchers at Houston State University in Texas made a study on the subject, and came up with these recommendations:

1. Adjust your mindset and maintain a sense of humor. This is key to overcoming many relationship problems. For example, making light of your different table manners could a good way out of an embarrassing situation.

2. Appreciate the differences.  Explore the origin of the cultural differences. This can deepen your understanding of each other, and stoke your interest in, or admiration of, various cultures. As such, you avoid turning differences into a burden in your relationship.

3. Integrate cultures. Many cultures value the same things, such as family or freedom. Our beliefs and values only appear different because of the different ways we express or show them. These similarities, along with education and communications, can very well serve as a bridge to integration and compromises.

4.Do as the Romans do. If it is not ideal to integrate cultures, you may choose to follow the customs of the other or the culture of the place where you are residing. For example, you may want to learn the local language and customs.

There is no one absolute formula for sustaining a cross-cultural relationship. Your love for each other will transcend your cultural differences. Understand each other and get used to differences in your personalities. 

“Living happily ever after” is not just a fairy tale ending. It can also happen in real life.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 30

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Education Officer from the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong

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