All relationships are special and unique in their own ways. But there is something about mixed culture relationships that makes them stand out in a way. Everyone is interesting in the story of how those two met? And what about all the cultural differences, how do you handle them? Are you guys happy? And most of all, though rarely asked in a direct way, how do you make it work?
Being one half of a culturally mixed couple, I have heard these questions many times. And I get it. Not only do couples in mixed relationships go through the same hiccups and struggles like any other couple does, they are also facing a lot of challenges that come with combining two cultures in their relationship. Challenges like speaking different languages and the struggle to find a way to express yourself in a language other than your own. Or having grown up in a different culture and with a different mentality than your partner, which can lead to small and big misunderstandings. Or liking different foods. And believing in different rituals, possibly even having another religion. And other ways and habits of doing things. And on top of all that, in some cases, there is also the ultimate test of long distance. Boy, this can be a tough one to master. The missing, the uncertainty, the phone calls and the ‘why the heck is he not answering?’. It’s all part of it. The ‘when can I come visit’ and the ‘please come visit as soon as you can’. Those who’ve been there know exactly what I’m talking about. And I know that there is quite a few of you among my readers because this is, after all, the story of Alanya. That little place in southern Turkey by the Mediterranean Sea, where East End boy meets West End girl.
All this can add up to the feeling of having to ‘work harder’ than others to make such a relationship work. Especially on the outside it may look like that. But let me tell you from firsthand experience that there is a little twist to that. These challenges and struggles happen to be more than just that. At the same time they are also the best thing about it. They are the thrill and the excitement for all the same reasons and exactly why it works. Learning a language surely isn’t a piece of cake. It’s difficult and it can be immensely frustrating. But when you do it out of love it becomes so much more fun and easier. Suddenly you really want to speak that language and understand everything. The language gives you more insight into your partner’s background, family and culture and what he’s talking about on the phone too. Plus it’s fun to share the learning process. Helping each other to become better strengthens the bond.
And all those cultural and mentality differences? There comes a point when you start to realize that they are actually eye and mind opening experiences to you. Not only do they add more color and more layers to your perception of life, but they also show you that there is different ways of doing things and your personal understanding and opinions might change profoundly. You are more willing of simply accepting what is, instead of expecting things to be as they should. You quit comparing everything in judgmental terms of better and worse.
Yes, the learning curve is steep and sometimes overwhelming but it’s exciting at the same time. Tasting new food and discovering a new country. Meeting new people and its cities. And being introduced to other ways of believing and praying. As Rumi says so beautifully: there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. It makes you realize two very important things in life: how unique we all are and how much alike we are at the same time.
And because the one and only reason for being on this amazing adventure is the love of your life, you are willing to plunge right into it. It opens you up and teaches you to be more flexible, to be comfortable outside of your own comfort zone and to become better at compromising. As long as there is plenty of love and blessing and gratitude, all of these challenges don’t feel so much like hard work but more like an invitation to new adventures. And that my dear ones is the beauty of mixed relationships.
Katharina Lundgreen-Bayar lives in Alanya with her husband Bülent and son Ilyas. In her popular blog Canım Benim (‘My Life’) she writes about Living and Loving her life in Alanya, Turkey. In her columns for Hello Alanya Magazine she shares her thoughts and tells about what is keeping her busy in her daily life.
This column was published in Hello Alanya Magazine August 2015