Types of Intercultural Relationships

Broaden your horizons by making friends who differ culturally from yours.
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In today's society, intercultural relationships are common, including those spanning race, age, religious, class, nationality, gender preference and physical and mental abilities, note Judith Martin and Thomas Nakayama, authors of “Intercultural Communications in Context.” Your relationships with culturally different individuals may include people you meet through marriage and family, friendship, the workplace or school, the community and traveling. For peaceful coexistence, approach those who differ from you with openness and acceptance.

1 Families

Diversity within families is more common than ever, notes a 2010 Pew Research report, “One-in-Seven New US Marriages Is Interracial or Interethnic.” You might marry someone who differs from your cultural background, or you might become part of an intercultural family when a sibling or parent marries outside your race, nationality or spiritual perspective. Most Americans believe that intercultural relationships are acceptable, and approximately one-third of Americans say they have family members who are culturally different from them. Romantic relationships with someone from another culture often present adjustment challenges but can be very rewarding.

2 Friends and Colleagues

You may have friends, fellow students and work colleagues who differ from you on various levels. You benefit from this cultural diversity, note Martin and Nakayama, by learning new languages, expanding your world knowledge, dissolving stereotypes and incorporating new skills. You may discover you have many more things in common with these people than you have differences. When you open your circle up to someone from a different culture and become friends with that person, you may find it easier to include others who differ from you.

3 In the Community

Individuals within your community can band together across cultural lines to improve the lives of others. Faith organizations may offer assistance to the needy or safe and low-cost childcare or counseling. Groups may provide job training programs to the underemployed or unemployed. These cross-cultural groups succeed through a focus on common goals and beliefs and a respect for others. It takes time and effort to establish trust and cooperation, notes community advocate Juliette Mayers, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort. In a group situation, communicate effectively and assume everyone is motivated to improve the situation.

4 Traveling the Globe

It’s easy today to transverse the globe and explore new cultures as an international student, worker or traveler. Experience how others see your culture and learn flexibility and problem solving in the process, advises Dr. Terri Givens, faculty adviser for the University of Texas at Austin’s International Office. Wherever you go, remember that you represent your own culture, so make your influence a good one by using your best manners and respecting cultural differences. Enjoy your role as an unofficial ambassador for your country.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.