Community Magazine

An Interview with Us: International Couples

By Internationalcouples @icouples

This is an interview we gave to Tonya Vrba and that was published on

International Couples

What is it like dating across countries? Do most international couples have a solid period of time where they are constantly around each other or is it usually a long distance relationship?

Truth be told, ‘international relationship’ is a very broad term and it usually refers to couples where there is some international element. In ‘What truly is an international couple’ I will try to explain the many faces of such relationships. Generally, with this term we are referring to a union or a relationship between a local and a foreigner, two locals in a foreign country like an expat couple, two locals with different cultural backgrounds, like a Native American or someone with an Hispanic background, or more simply two foreigners in a third country. Furthermore, it is easy to define interracial but what is the separation between what is multicultural and what is international? In my experience, the distance factor comes into these relationships at some time. And when distance makes its appearance, it is the ultimate test for the couple. Distance can make couples stronger or destroy them.

There are couples that start off by living together as ordinary couples and then, when one of the partners moves back to his/her country of origin, they cope with distance for the first time.

Other couples experience distance from the very beginning. On the one hand they probably grow stronger but they also kind of wear out sooner. This is the case for those partners that meet while both or one of them moves abroad to work, to study or simply goes on vacation. At one point those couples must settle down in one of their respective countries or in a third country. There are also those couples that keep commuting for many years.

Then, there are those international couples that already live in a certain country (either because they moved there or they grew up there) and so are less likely to be affected by distance.

When dating, there must be a lot of time and money used when traveling to see each other. How do internationals couples justify this expense?

When distance forces couples to commute, dating can be a very stressful and expensive game. If someone is still depending on their parents for their finances, parents usually end up paying the phone bills and for the train or plain tickets. Those coming from well off families may pull the game a bit longer but, at some point, parents are going to stop paying for that. This is when, if the entire thing is feasible, one of the two might decide to leave and join the partner wherever he/she is for a shorter vacation or to continue studying in his/her city.

Parents do not always approve of such relationships and this can lead to family conflicts.

Funny enough, the state of things does not change radically for those people that meet when they have already started working or already have a business or profession. Indeed, if when we are still students or teenagers we may have more freedom but fewer resources, when we have a job we have more resources but, almost always, very little freedom. International couples that date across countries usually undergo one of the following phases:


  1. They have just met. For a little while they will try to make the long-distance relationship work.
  2. They want to stay together and are working out who should move and where.
  3. They love each other but it is too difficult to leave the job/country.


In each case, the monthly expenses depend on many factors. Low-cost fares are a great help to contemporary couples. Within Europe, for instance, there are many low-fare airlines which means that couples can meet over the weekends and travel for as little as twenty or thirty euro. Such situation is favorable also because you get basically anywhere within one to three hours of flight. Those couples that come from countries that are more distant say an American citizen and a European, or Asian or African cannot enjoy short haul flights and this can be frustrating. In my experience, though, long distances spur such couples to search for long-term solutions, and this is one of the main differentiator between the couples that ‘normalize’ and those that keep commuting.

Phone bills represent another spur in the wheels for international couples. Smart phones do help a lot, these days. Up to five years ago Skype was the only solution for calling home, nowadays you can use Skype and similar tools (Voipbuster, for instance) for telephone calls from your mobile phones as well. Moreover, there is a number of smart-phone Apps which can be downloaded for free or for peanuts, really.

On the overall, expenses always top the list of reasons as why you international couples split up or marriages fail.

Furthermore, some people forget that expenses must be accounted for also later on in the relationship. Indeed, when an international couple settles some costs may be cut down but others remain. Travel expenses, for example, will be reduced but unless the couple wants to forget their roots and travel back home only once in a while, they will keep showing up.

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Different cultures have different ideas about what is right and wrong, proper and improper. How do international couples deal with cultural differences without offending one another?

It is more difficult than it seems since many differences are actually tiny little details in the way people go through their days. It is paramount to understand and interiorize that in most cases there are no right and wrong ways of doing things but just different point of views and the results can be just as right with both methods. I also strongly suggest doing some research over what is believed to be a population’s characteristic. In many cases, such readings can be a bit stereotypical but helpful all the same.

Good advice in order to not to offend one another and to better understand the other’s culture is avoid creating isolated cultural worlds. What I am saying is that partners should try to blend together and join each other’s cultures. What I often see, instead, is that partners behave like watertight compartments. The one partner follows his cultural habits and so does the other one. Melting, in this case, means to join the partners’ habits and so slightly modify yours. The secret is to understand that the couple should have its own identity and it is not purely two single persons together.

How do international couples resolve moral issues and religion, especially when it comes to how children will be raised?

I suggest discussing these topics in advance and to be very clear about what are your own expectations and values. As always, I suggest to search for the values shared by both instead of underlining what are the differences. So, families might decide to attend religious services separate as they have different faiths, which is fine, but they must agree on the basic values that they want their children to be brought up with. Also, parents might give different importance to study and physical activities but the well being of their children should be at the first place.

Coming from an American point of view, I imagine my family wouldn’t be too thrilled to find out I was maintaining a long distance relationship with someone across the ocean. Their concern would probably double if they learned I was planning to move out of the country to be with the person. How do international couples gain acceptance from their own family and their spouses?

A certain degree of stubbornness is required but family acceptance is also very important. In any case, it is paramount to remember that the aim is to have the family of origin and your partner both on the same side: the side of those that love and support you. It is not a battle of wills and it is not a competition as who loves you the most. You need both types of love.

Therefore, there are some moves that might help this process. Having your partner coming over and visit you and introduce him/herself to your family does show your willingness to gain support from your family. It also shows your partner’s desire to be accepted by your family and that you regard you relationship as something important.

When an international couple decides to make their relationship permanent, through marriage for example, how do they decide which country they will live in.

I think that in such phases both emotional and factual factors are taken into consideration. Emotional factors answer needs like where people would like to live, how deep are their roots and how good they manage homesickness. The factual factors, on the other hand, are those factors that have a factual and materialist nature such as who is enjoying a better career at that moment, whether the couple is planning on having children, who is earning the most etc. Both factors are important. Factual factors are fundamental since a good career or a healthy business can guarantee stability to the family. But, at the end of the day, emotional factors play a far more important role since jobs can be changed but emotions and feelings are not to be messed with.

Seeing each other in person at least once in a while must be important to the health of the relationship. How often should an international couple plan to travel to see each other?

It really depends on the distance, the depth of the relationship and, of course, on the financial means that the couple has. I would suggest that the distance-phase is kept at a minimum and during that time for partners meet at least once a month or every couple of months (for those couple that live in very distant countries). Deciding to resolve and stop commuting saves time, stress, energy and money.

Obviously there are many hardships in maintaining an international relationship, but there are certainly benefits as well. What is your favorite part about being in an international relationship?

I like being able to immerge myself in another culture whenever I like and I love to have two cultures. I love switching from one language to another and I think I am very lucky because I can pick the best from both cultures.

A lot of concern involved in international relationships surrounds differences in language, culture and way of life. What are some similarities people can find amongst themselves when in international relationships?

I like to think that people in a relationship are, in a certain way, like products. In international relationships, in particular, the packaging can be very different indeed. What people should be looking for is similar products, not similar packages. People, then, should be interested in finding shared values in the persons they fell in love with.

You can discover that behind the surface and across hundreds of thousands of kilometers, families and persons may have very much in common in terms of values, life style and the importance given to children, love and respect.

What are the unique personality traits of people who maintain healthy international relationships?

This is a very good question and it gives me the opportunity to explain what I regard as ‘minimum requirements’ to enter the international world. I am absolutely convinced that single-minded persons and those who do not really appreciate anything that differs from their routine, habits and beliefs, are ill-suited for such relationships. It is a personal view, of course, but over the years, meeting with couples similar to ours, I have noted that such persons do accept differences with difficulty and manage changes of habits very badly. I am not saying that their relationships will not work or that they are not caring persons but, on the long term, these personalities are going to impact the couple somehow.

Open-mindedness, then, is one of the first characteristics that international couples should possess. It goes without saying, naturally, that this does not mean a blind acceptance of all the differences of the partner but, instead, a mature and non-conflictive approach to them. International couples are blessed with having the chance of being able taste the best out of two or three cultures. If they are close-minded or simply do not need what is best in other cultures then why are they together?

For those couples that come from different language groups, I reckon that a minimum ability with languages is a great help. I have met couples in which one of the partners completely disregarded the partner’s language. Because of language ability (and laziness too), for years they went on speaking just in one language. Needless to say, when the couple was off visiting relatives and friends where the other language was spoken, one of them was cut out of the conversation and completely clueless about what was going on. I do understand that language, as math for example, is not for everyone but an effort should be made all the same. It also increases intimacy within the couple.

I am also convinced that a certain degree of stubbornness is needed. Why? Well, as it happens in school, sometimes people like to gang up on those that are different. And international couples are different. People in such relationships may be foreigners, they may speak different languages, they may have different skin colors, faiths, accents…In my experience, I have seen people that get too stressed when comments or innuendos are made and stress impacts the couple. Being in such relationships, where there are possibly more issues than in ordinary ones, is like starting up a business and listen to negative comments and many friends saying that it will never succeed. You have got to believe in your feelings and forget the differences.

What advice would you give to a single man or woman interested in starting an international relationship with someone?

Truth be told, I do not really think that one can choose to start an international relationship on purpose but, should one fell in love with an international partner, I would recommend to dive into it as open minded as possible, enjoy the cultural richness, the different flavors, the opposite point of views and be patient with the myriad of small differences. After all, no pain, no gain!

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