Now more than ever, more people are finding themselves in intercultural relationships. With the help of the Internet, and the gaining movement of long term traveling and living abroad, it’s no surprise people are dating outside their own cultures. I think it’s wonderful (though I’m biased :P). As someone in an intercultural relationship, I know how enriching and challenging it can be. I’m curious to find out how others are navigating their own intercultural relationships, and thus this series was born.
My first interview is with Marcella, a Londoner, who is dating a Chilean. She runs the travel and photography blog What a Wonderful World where she writes about her life in London, and her travel experiences. A few years ago she embarked on a trip to South America that would change her life.
I “met” Marcella through the Travel Tuesday link up, and she kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Let’s start with the basics. How did you and Carlos meet?
Carlos and I met over five years ago when I was travelling in South America for five months. Before I set off on my travels, a Chilean friend of mine who lives in the UK, said I could stay with his friend in Chile if I went to Santiago so that’s exactly what I did… and I never looked back.
I then went to live in Chile for ten months, and for the last four years we have lived together in the UK. We are going to live in Chile again from this October and are getting married in December.
Aww congratulations! What did you know about Chilean culture before you started dating Carlos?
Very little! I don’t think many people know much about Chile at all, maybe because it’s so far away and the population is really quite small? I thought I knew some things about South American culture in general but of course, not all of the countries are the same. I think most of these were based on Brazil as I think that’s the country that is most portrayed to us here in the UK. I always thought of bright colours, beaches, celebrating Carnival and dancing. Actually, Chileans don’t even celebrate Carnival!
I think that’s a very common misconception, that all of South America is culturally the same. What is your favourite thing about Carlos’ culture?
Definitely the hospitality and kindness of Chilean people. Chileans are so warm and welcoming and they go out of their way to make you happy and comfortable. Chile is a very family orientated country where people generally live with their parents for longer than we do in the UK and even when they have moved out, many go back at the weekend to have long family lunches and to spend time as an extended family.
People will always get anyone and everyone they know to help you. For example, I was waiting for a taxi to take me to a bus station but the taxi didn’t turn up so the neighbour of my sister-in-law quickly phoned her brother who worked in a local company to drive and come and get me in his company vehicle. I kept insisting that she didn’t need to but she did and got him to take time out of work to come and get me despite the fact that I had never met him before. I have so many examples of events like this. Being surrounded by kind people really makes for a happy country.
Sounds like a great support system to have. What is your least favourite thing about Chilean culture?
Despite the fact that I love the slower pace of life, I find the adjustment to time difficult. Us Brits are known for being punctual and I am an extremely punctual personal, well I usually get to places way before I need to! But in Chile, people are always late, it’s the expected thing. Also, long-distance buses may say they take a certain number of hours but more often than not, they usually take longer. Luckily, Carlos is always punctual!
That’s a common issue here in Spain as well! People are always running a bit late. What is the most difficult aspect about dating someone from outside your own culture?
For me, it’s the language. When I arrived in Chile, I spoke no Spanish at all and I learnt it by listening to my family-in-law and gradually I picked it up as I went along but I’ve been away from Chile for four years now so it’ll be difficult to get back into the swing of things. I am so glad that Carlos’ family speak no English at all as it forced me to learn Spanish, otherwise it would have been to easy to just speak English. Carlos and I speak both English and Spanish to each other but we definitely sway more towards English as we are surrounded by it all the time here in the UK.
It’s great that you used the obstacle of not being able to communicate with your future in-laws as motivation to learn Spanish. What is the biggest way dating someone outside your culture has affected your life?
I never would have moved to Chile if I hadn’t had met Carlos! I lived there for ten months between 2010 and 2011 because of meeting him and we are moving back there again in October. So it has made a huge change to my life. It has also changed my family’s life, as they will be taking lots of holidays to come and see us while we live in Chile. Luckily its’ a stunningly beautiful country which is perfect for holidays.
You bring up a great point about how intercultural relationships can also affect our families. What has being in an intercultural relationship taught you?
So much! It’s taught me about a whole new culture that I knew nothing about, it’s taught me a new language and it’s taught me how to live abroad. Despite those life-changing aspects, I don’t think about Carlos and I being from different cultures everyday, I just see him and I do often forget that we were born on opposite sides of the world!
Do you have any advice for people in (or considering being in) an intercultural relationship?
I’ve said this before, but patience is the absolute key! Things may take lots of time if you are moving to a different country or have a long distance relationship. There are so many things that involve lots of paperwork and time, if you have patience you can survive all of these things including lengthy visa paperwork, translating certificate, job applications in a different language etc!
Thanks so much for taking part in this series, Marcella. Can’t wait to read more about your upcoming Chilean adventure! If you’d like to learn more about Marcella (or just pop over to say hello) head over to her blog.
Are you in an intercultural relationship and interested in being interviewed? Contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use this contact form.
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