3 Ways Intercultural Issues Affect Friendships

Intercultural friends are great and I feel fortunate to have a diverse group of friends who are open-minded, unique and present creative ways of looking at the world, I’ve also realized some of the impacts that the cross-cultural divide have on our friendship.

1. Create a distance.
While spending time with my friends who are from other cultures, I’ve begun to notice there is somewhat of a distance between us.  No matter how close our relationship may be, there seems to be an area of them and their lives that I can never quite grasp.  I’m talking about their cultural identity.  For example, I’ll never be able to relate to them as a fellow Russia, I won’t feel nostalgia for certain foods, films, holidays, traditions, etc.  I don’t understand the nuances of their language or fully understand their thought process.  We don’t have the cultural history to effortlessly understand each other without words that I’ve observed they have with some of their same-nationality friends.

2. Fear of offending.
Depending on what country or culture you and your friends are from, there can be a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance.  As far as the relationship between Russia and America, I’ve felt tension at times between myself and my Russian friends.  I don’t want to offend them with my sometimes negative perceptions of life in Russia and I’m sure they don’t want to offend me by saying something about America.  Although we hardly tiptoe cautiously around each other, there are sometimes opportunities for misunderstanding to lead to negative feelings toward one another.

3. Awe and respect.
In order to improve my language skills, I’ve been writing to my Russian friends in Russian.  Emails usually take a lot longer to write because I have difficulties with Russian spelling and am constantly checking the dictionary.  My friends, on the other hand, write seamlessly and perfectly.  While reading their messages, I’m simultaneously taking in their grammar and spelling and am blown away by its sheer perfection.  Now I suppose it’s not that shocking that a native speaker will write quite well.  But when you have a friend that can easily do something that you struggle with, the result can be admiration and respect for the abilities they possess.

What other issues, if any, have you noticed at play in your intercultural friendships?


2 Responses to 3 Ways Intercultural Issues Affect Friendships

  1. Guy Farmer says:

    Great insights JoAnne. I’ve found that many friendship issues relating to culture can be alleviated by focusing on the things we have in common. People are amazingly forgiving and accepting when we build deeper connections with them through kindness and empathy. It’s sort of like building a foundation of trust before jumping into all the worries about cultural differences. This isn’t to say that intercultural issues don’t affect relationships, it’s just that things are a easier when we first connect on a deeper level to where the differences don’t matter as much.

    • JMS says:

      I couldn’t agree more! The three things I mentioned are quite small in comparison to the deep friendships I have with my intercultural friends. If you already have a solid relationship foundation, these things won’t affect you and you’ll feel comfortable discussing them if they do come up. Thanks for the comment!

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