• The White Punjabi Bride

Lost In Translation: When Communication Is Misinterpreted In Interracial Relationships

Communication in any relationship plays such a vital role to understanding ones wants and needs to maintain a healthy relationship. However what happens when you and your partner speak two different cultures? You both appear to be speaking English though each of you uses it in context relative to your own culture. This can make for some heated arguments or lead to insecurities simply because your partner doesn't speak the same culture as you; lost in translation.

However managing with the cultural barrier can actually be more beneficial for your relationship, even if it sometimes makes communication more protracted. Because of the differences between cultures and at times even language, means you are going to ask more questions and never take anything at face value. Therefore not solely relying on what one has said verbally, can bring you more in touch with one another emotionally and physically. Love can be expressed in many different ways and words is just one of those ways.

When it comes to my husband and I, I use words literally as defined in the dictionary and tend to be descriptive when communicating. Which means I pay attention to the detail therefore when using words with similar meanings it makes a difference to me. However my husband will use the same word in many different situations, mostly because in Punjabi one word tends to hold about ten different meanings depending on the situation.

Unlike the English language there are usually several different synonyms that can be used for different situations, although some words do hold different meanings. Unlike me, my husband will use words loosely rather than literally, so it may not always hold the same meaning to the message he is trying to convey. Naturally this means you really need to know your partner well to understand them, however at times it can be difficult.

For the most part I am usually on the same page with my husband however when times are stressful it can lead to arguments and insecurities. For instance my husband always tells me how he will only ever have children with me as I am a nice chick. Translated in my culture this says to me I chose you because you will be able to care for my children so that if I leave you one day for a younger hotter version than it will be okay. However what he actually means is I want to be with you for life as I know you are the one. During times of stress you tend to automatically interpret something in your own culture rather than your partner's which can create insecurity.

How you were raised also plays an important role in the way you communicate with your partner. This forms part of learning to communicate in any relationship to truly understand your partner however can be more of a challenge between cultures. Given your cultural beliefs influence how you communicate and identify with others.

For instance you may have been raised in a supportive and encouraging environment where criticism is conveyed in a positive and constructive manner. Whereas your partner may have been raised in a harsh and insensitive environment where criticism is conveyed up front in a callous manner. This might mean that should you be harsh with your partner although with good intentions they may construe this to be offensive even after explaining your intentions. Simply because they identify such a behaviour in their culture to be abusive despite all the best of intentions.

Without a doubt learning about your partner's culture when in a bi-cultural/ cross cultural relationship opens you up to new experiences, and is a great way to broaden your perception on life. It forces you to truly listen and understand what your partner is trying to convey, strengthening your relationship. Sure this can present with it many challenges along the way but remember to be patient, as all great things come with time.

Have you had times when communication is lost in translation?


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