1. Stereotypes are easy to buy into. And a lot of the time as soon as someone tells you from their X country, you’re going to try to reference things you think you know about people from said country. Still, avoid it as much as possible.
2. Don’t treat them like a fetish, a novelty, or someone to check off your mental list just so you can say, “I’ve tried that.” There is nothing worse than feeling like someone is only taking an interest in you out of some warped excitement or desire.
3. Comparing them to the men/women from your country and insisting how they are so much better doesn’t work either. It’s an incredibly patronizing thing to do and they will often be unimpressed.
4. Don’t lead with your nationality or theirs in conversation. Saying things like, “Well of course you feel that way because you’re [insert nationality]” is not going to end well for you.
5. Never erase their culture or nationality from them. There is nothing more frustrating than telling somebody, “You’re so not [insert their nationality here].” Those are fighting words and rest assured that they don’t conform to the box you put them in, doesn’t make them any less than what they are.
6. How you both communicate in the relationship is going to be different, at least initially. Don’t expect them to respond and do things in a way you expect. And even then, don’t always put it down to cultural differences.
7. Remember that romance is a very culturally specific endeavor. And the ways in which people express it are not only individually different, but depend on their upbringing. It’s good to always be aware of that.
8. Take an interest in their way of life, their worldview, their childhood, and your similarities and differences. This is how to show you do care about where they come from without being patronizing or pretentious.
9. Once in a while, do something that reminds them of “home.” Whether it’s taking them to a restaurant or trying to make them a dish, or maybe even learning a few cool sayings or phrases in their language. Those little things are pretty much universally heart-warming.
10. Always give them an A for effort whenever they try to do something for you in a culturally meaningful way. Anything from making cultural references and jokes, to buying you a gift, can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Depending of course on where you are from, in relation to where they are from.
11. Recognize that the ways you look at the world are inherently culturally different. Politics, and especially historical politics and affected current events, is a touchy subject. Tread lightly.
12. Your sense of humor and theirs might be fundamentally different. Then again, it might not. But don’t try to force the issue either way. It may be nothing more than a learning process that you undergo by being attentive.
13. You’re going to have to compromise on petty things and you better get used to it. Whether it’s by the names you used to refer to things, or big conversations such as where you might live in the future.
14. Know that their family’s opinion of you might matter even more now that you have less of an opportunity to gather together often. They will likely only bring your name up or insist you meet their family when the relationship is important. Learn to take this as it comes.
15. Traveling to each other’s countries or even traveling in general will be a tedious endeavor. But it is one that should tell you a lot about what the future of your relationship might hold. So learning how to cope in such an environment is an important thing you have to be prepared for.
16. Patience is the name of the game in these sorts of relationships. And be prepared to have a lot of it. Cultural differences in our modern and globalized world often don’t seem like that big a deal. Until of course they are.
17. Remember that you are two people who just so happened to fall for each other. The differences can be beautiful even when they are complex. But don’t ever make anything harder than you need to.