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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Listen Up!

The inspiration for this blog was sparked the other nite by a conversation with a friend here who is latino and is in the same situation as me where she has made friends with a foreigner to whom she feel there is strong potential in their relationship. A year of friendship with Marisa has taught me so much and I was glad to be able to share some pearls of wisdom with my friend here on how to maintain a relationship with a foreigner. While chatting with her on MSN, I made a joke that Marisa and I should write a book and we would sell millions.

It then occurred to me today that why not start a series of articles here on my blogsite that deals with this very issue. I know for certain that I am not the only one in the world who has a cross cultural friendship. There are thousands of other people in the same situation and now that Marisa and I have figured out a way to navigate through our cultural differences, I am sure that others would love to hear how we make it work.

It may sound sweet to have a cross cultural connection but the truth is that to maintain it takes a tremendous amount of love, commitment, and patience. When you meet someone for the first time, (whether it's a friendship or a romance) there is excitement in the air and lots of feelings and emotions. That's awesome but what do you do when the newness starts to wear off and you are more used to that person? And if that isn't enough, what do you do when it is clear that your friend wants a relationship with you but doesn't even know one word in your native language? As well, comes the stress of having to deal with the fact that not only do you have two different cultures but you also live in two different countries and you spend part of the time abroad.

What I was explaining to my friend last nite is that love goes beyond feelings and emotions. Love is what stays when the newness and the sensation of meeting someone begins to die down. A great example is her first message to me a few days after I arrived in Canada. Remember that our friendship was still fairly new and this was a whole new situation for us. She messaged me on FB and a portion of the message read "I hope that you are quick to return communication because you know that you have lots of friends back here". Translation: "Angelina, I don't want to wait months and weeks for a response!"

This is why I love my friend, she told me exactly what she wanted and what she needed to feel a sense of security. On my part, it was really important for me to be listening and reading her emails carefully. Because it would have been really easy for me to read that comment and think nothing of it and not realizing that my friend is trying to communicate something to me that is important to her. But I did catch that and was able to create some kind of routine through FB, SMS and various means of communication to give her a sense of security and let her know that her happiness is very much a priority for me when I am overseas.

On her part too, she does things to make our friendship work and make sure that she is not only hearing but listening. It was just the other nite that for the first time ever I noticed something in her body language that I had not noticed before. I noticed that whenever I try to talk to her and tell her something, she tips her head forward slightly and leans her ear towards me. If you study psychology, this means that someone is attempting to listen carefully to you. Her actions told me that she is not just wanting to hear what I have to say, she is trying to listen and understand exactly what I mean.

The key to a successful relationship can be summed up in two words: LISTEN UP! It is harder than it sounds but is well worth the trouble when you end up with real sense of security in your friendship. And this is just one of many things that you'll be needing to successfully maintain a cross cultural friendship. You'll want to stick around as I cover colorful topics such as:

In a cross-cultural relationship where there are tons of areas where miscommunications and misunderstandings could happen, it is important to make sure you are listening and not just hearing what the other person is saying. Otherwise you might not "get it" and just like Jack, find yourself missing out on a very important moment....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas