People & Inspiration

Love Actually: Four Pinoys Get Extra Real On What It's Like To Fall In Love With A Foreigner

Love Actually: Four Pinoys Get Extra Real On What It's Like To Fall In Love With A Foreigner

In today's globalized world, the pathways to forging connections are no longer linear, with migration patterns blurring boundaries and barriers. It is increasingly easy to meet people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds – and, sometimes, to fall in love. But, while love can bring a common element to cultures that are seemingly different, what does it take to make an interracial relationship work?

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For Ab and Warren Shana'a, a Palestinian-Filipino gay couple living in Montreal, interracial relationships are no different than any type of relationship. All relationships are, to some extent, multicultural, in that both parties come together from different backgrounds, to build a new unit together “Any relationship will be tested with obstacles; it is how the two will work together to overcome them,” shares Ab, “When I was looking for my soulmate, I didn't consider race as a factor, I sought someone with the same core values.” For the two, diversity is something to be celebrated. “To be entirely different from each other is actually a good thing,” relates Warren. “Others see it as a challenge but I see it as an opportunity to always have something new to learn from each other.” It is only a matter of seeing their differences as something that provides value to the union, rather than a stumbling block. “Food has been an adventure for both of us. We have enjoyed exploring each other's ethnic cuisine; this has enriched our relationship,” shares Ab, “In North America, the speed of everyday life is quick and it took some adjustment for Warren. On the other hand, I have learned to slow down and enjoy life more.”

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Seen in this light, cultural differences inject more depth into the relationship, providing a broader perspective on how the world works. Coming from different backgrounds means having life narratives that are foreign to each other. These keep interactions fresh and exciting as Eoghan Ryan and Chique Morato, an Irish-Filipino couple, relates. “It definitely made life more interesting because you are constantly interacting with someone from a different part of the globe,” says Chique. Eoghan agrees, “Growing up, I’ve never even considered visiting the Philippines, yet alone living here. I am fascinated to learn new things about this country all the time.” Language can be somewhat of a hindrance on occasion. “When Eoghan is talking with his boys, he would say 'birds' instead of 'girls.' He also says 'dinner, when he actually means 'lunch,' laughs Chique, “And, he also has no idea how much funnier I am with my Tagalog jokes!” Eogahn agrees, adding that there are some cultural contexts that are lost because of the differences in upbringing. “Sometimes, it's hard to relate something that’s fundamentally Irish which I could share with, say, Irish people. For example, sharing memories of growing up in Ireland and what it’s like to be Irish,” he relates, “But, it's nice to be able to explain those experiences and memories to Chique.” Dating someone from a totally different culture adds color to the relationship. There are so much to discover, so much to learn, and so much that remains a mystery. “Being from two different environments makes things more fun than normal because there can be a surprise story about his shenanigans back home in Ireland or my strict upbringing here in the Philippines,” shares Chique, “For example, when we went to a friend’s wedding, Eoghan would occasionally whisper how certain rituals would have been done, or when the drinking festivities would have started, if it was an Irish wedding. It’s a very fun way of learning about the world: seeing things differently than how they normally are.”

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Because each culture comes with its own set of beliefs and practices, it can be somewhat difficult at times to understand the other's way of looking at the world and vice versa. Coming from a different culture almost guarantees that you will enter the marriage with different expectations, with issues such as gender roles, household duties, financial attitudes, raising children and religion coming into play.  For Janko and Maika Slatensek, a Slovenian-Filipino couple, these differences were found in the mundane, everyday details of life. “I never thought about cultural differences much and was taken by surprise when I started experiencing them,” confesses Janko, who moved to the Philippines to marry Maika. “They weren't what I expected. Instead of big things, they were mostly small things both of us took for granted to be done one way or the other.”  As such, coming from a place of compassion and understanding is important.  “It's hard for Janko because he has to adjust living in the Philippines. He is out of his comfort zone. I would feel the same way If I was in his shoes,” relates Maika, “The differences do make it challenging. Sometimes, you feel you need to work twice as hard. But, when you both talk, you'll start to see each other's point of view. You just need to be more open to suggestions.” Janko agrees, adding that the diversity fosters introspection. “We're all different yet we all crave and yearn for the same basic things,” he says, “At the end of the day acceptance is key.”

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Jin and Kara Jeong, a Korean-Filipino couple, believe that the disparity can also be chalked up to the individual's personality. “More than any cultural differences, I think it's the habits and tendencies that we've grown accustomed to even before we got married,” shares Jin, “There are certain ways that I like to do things that Kara may not do in the same manner.” Adapting an attitude of flexibility does wonders: working on compromises that both partners can adjust to. “We've had to redefine some cultural expectations and traditions as we've deepened our relationship,” shares Jin, “I've had to revisit some of my old ways of thinking and work on some of my own stubbornness; acknowledging that there are other, and sometimes even better, ways of doing things.” Kara adds, “I for one have learned to be more open minded, flexible and patient. Just because things have been done in a certain way in the Philippines, it doesn't immediately translate that it is the only way.”

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Beyond the cultural differences, there is no single formula for a happy, long-term relationship, let alone a multicultural one. “Interracial relationships are only perceived as challenging and different because we don't look the same. Every relationship faces challenges and difficulties but I don't think it has anything to do with race. There will always be hardships whether you’re with someone of the same race or not.,” shares Kara, “Relationships are more about the color of the skin, or if both our eyes have double lids. Ultimately, it's about having the same faith and values, and shared vision of life.” Whatever challenges each couple faces on their journey, whatever complications arise from the differences, it is important to always remember that there was a reason the relationship started in the first place. It might become tainted, marred, or forgotten—but that reason will never really disappear. Having cultural differences isn't what makes or breaks a marriage. It is the failure to communicate to each other that does,” shares Warren, “Trust that your partner will always have your back. Learn how to look past color, gender or religion and just let love win, always.”

ALSO READ: Love Actually: The Fil-Jap Connection Between Jose Sarasola And Maria Ozawa

Photographs from Jin and Kara Jeong, Chique Morato, Ab and Warren Shana'a, and  Janko and Maika Slatensek




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