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Monday, April 09, 2012

Tasty Timbits: 2 Tips for Maintaining Cross-Cultural Relationships

I LOVE chocolate glazed timbits. i can eat a w...Image via Wikipedia

Hope that all of you did some fantastic feasting over the holidays but saved room for dessert.....and by dessert I mean timbits.  That is the theme of todays post, timbits.  There are some random thoughts and pearls of wisdom that have been rolling around in my mind. These are things that I have learned from experience and observation but are not necessarily big enough to be the only theme of an entire post.  So I created a blogpost today where I can serve up some timbits for you to chew on.

1.  Super-Size Me Up

Life abroad is made up of all kinds of relationships. Some are the one time encounter with others who happen to be in the same hostel. Other relationships consist of expats like myself.  While others relationships are with native Argentines. The latter can be one of the most rewarding or the most challenging depending on the dynamics of the relationship. Every so often, I will get one or two people that really want to know me on a deeper level.  I treasure those moments when the come by but I also am learning that it is important to have a strong criteria of what you want in a person.

There is a very good reason for need to keep in mind that you have two languages and cultures involved. For this reason, it is super important that the other person has strong character.  Personally, I look for people who are very strong, mature, and secure in themselves.  Not that I would disqualify someone who has insecurities.  But all of us know that relationships even with people of our own culture and language is difficult enough. You have to learn to communicate, resolve conflict, deal with emotions etc.

This gets twice as hard when you now have to deal with all these things in addition to a cultural and a language barrier. And I can tell you from personal experience that things can get almost impossibly hard if that person is deeply insecure and has low self esteem and no self love. How many balls do you want to be juggling?

I am so blessed that my first cross cultural relationship with Marisa was with someone who is very strong an secure. To be honest, she is probably one of the most secure out of all my friends. That helps so much because we have enough to deal with on our plate with language, culture, and separation. For my lifestyle, it is important that my closest latino friends are ones that deal with with separation and they can handle the crunch of long distance relationship.

To each his own, there may be some types I can handle that you wouldn't be able to and there are other types that you can handle that I wouldn't be able to.  But it was important for me to take time out and take about the challenges of cross cultural relationships.  The trick is to know yourself, what you want and what you can handle. Because you are already gonna have a language and cultural barrier to hurdle over and if you are dealing with someone who is very insecure or has some deep internal issues, that will be another hurdle in itself.

2.  War of Words

So now that you have had a tiny nibble of that tasty timbit, I'm gonna throw you another random thought and pearl of wisdom. And this is pertaining to the various types of communications with someone who doesn't speak your language and the scale of difficulty. Mode of a communication may not make a difference to someone to whom you share the same native language with but it makes all the difference in situations where there is a potential language barrier.

Firstly, talking to them live and in person is the easiest way. You can  both hear them and see them and even if you don't understand every word, you can read their body language.  The second mode of communication that is also workable is anything like SMS . Anything where you can see the words being sent to you. SMS does get a little challenging because like us, the latino world has their own slang, idioms, and abbreviations when they SMS each other. The first time Marisa sent me an SMS with the words "TKM" I had no idea what it meant. Now I know it means "te kiero mucho" (l love you!)  MSN is fantastic too. The reason for this is that you can actually see the words and you do have time to cut and paste their words into a translator for clarification. The added bonus is that you can also reread your conversation later on just in case you missed something.

The last and most difficult method of all is talking on the phone. This is due to the fact that you cannot see the person so you can't read their body language. And unlike SMS or MSN messenger, you cannot read the words and pop them into a translator. Your level of fluency has to be enough to keep up with the other person. And this becomes especially important when you are phoning Uruguay from Argentina and paying long distance charges by the minute :O

Everyone who has ever had box of timbits knows that there is always more than just one or two timbits in the box. And there is a treasure trove of stories, experiences, pearls of wisdom, random thoughts, things that I have discovered and am discovering in what makes cross cultural relationships working. So stay tuned because you'll never know when I might be tossing out some tasty timbits ;)
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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas