We have been dating my Mexican partner for five years now of which we have lived together almost the whole time. We really didn’t make the beginning of our story easy, as I moved in with him after months apart because I was traveling around Australia. In addition to getting to know each other, I also needed to relearn the Finnish way of life. In the beginning, we struggled with issues that every other couple does as well; money, cooking, and housework.
As an independent Finnish woman, it was really difficult for me to accept financial assistance from my husband, even though I was unemployed when I came back from Australia. I tried to compensate for this by doing more homework. While grocery shopping, I found myself grabbing the cheapest products off the shelves, while my husband, on the contrary, wanted to buy more expensive options.
My daily budget in Australia had been minimal and I practically ate pasta, minced meat, and porridge for a year, while my husband was used to having lunch outdoors and investing in quality ingredients. The first relationship mess was ready and we had heated discussions on how I thought that small savings would help in the long run and he thought we could afford to put a few euros more in quality food.
For us, a visit to the grocery store was a relationship test until we found a service through which we were able to order groceries and just pick them up! This way we knew exactly the price of the weekly food and were able to discuss food choices at home instead of in front of the milk shelf.
Personally, I love Finnish home food and in the first few weeks after arriving from Australia, I made traditional Finnish dishes for my husband. His upbringing has taught him to always eat everything without complaints, but after a few weeks, I started to wonder when he always added salt and refused politely when I suggested cooking some dishes again. So here’s the first tip for a multicultural relationship: ask, don’t assume, or as my husband says, “‘ trust and verify. ’”
I had made the mistake of assuming that he liked my Finnish cooking and I began to suspect that it was about a more serious challenge in our relationship when he did not want to eat my Finnish delicacies. After a while, I asked him directly what is the crux of the matter. The answer was that he didn’t really like my cooking, but he would rather eat them than starve. During the discussion, it became clear, that he finds most Finnish food is quite tasteless because he is used to spices, chili, and coriander in Mexico.
My relief was tremendous as I had already gone through various options inside my head from miscommunications to couple's counseling. It was just about tasteless food!
It is therefore important to understand that many foods are tied to cultures and family values. Many flavors take us back to childhood and these memories make certain foods important and special to us. For example, every time I eat traditional Finnish food, I go back to the family dinners after school. However, my husband may only see a vague, blah dish. Realizing this, a whole new world opened up for me (both for our relationship and for my cooking) and I started to get used to the spicier foods and new tastes myself. So here is my proven recipe for a multicultural relationship:
A generous dose of love
A handful of transparency mixed with understanding
Half a liter of listening, followed by a few decilitres of questions
Pinch of tolerance of uncertainty
A few spoonfuls of experimentation
Allow to rise and slowly cook until all the ingredients are deliciously blended together.
Today, my cooking is on a completely different level than a few years ago and you can always find chili, coriander, and lime in my kitchen. We combine a lot of flavors from Finland and Mexico, for example, we eat rye bread with a jalapeno salsa called pico de gallo and we spice up the traditional minced meat soup into a food called caldillo.
Therefore, my second tip is to find the balance between two different cultures and turn them into a package that works for your multicultural relationship. Also, keep in mind, that food is a way to retain your own culture so remember to respect each other's taste preferences. A language you are speaking also influences the way you think. Read more about it here.
Food rhythm vs day rhythm
In Finland, we emphasize the importance of breakfast and my own day does not start properly unless I get a carbohydrate and protein-rich breakfast within an hour of waking up. Besides, I am used to eating every three to four hours which means that my dinner is relatively light.
In Mexico, on the other hand, the morning starts with coffee and the first proper food may not be eaten until lunch. Dinner is usually heavy so that you don't wake up with your stomach growling. Combining these two completely different food and daily rhythms were REALLY challenging and still causes discord in our relationship every now and then.
For our multicultural relationship, the best way has been to negotiate at the beginning of the day when we will eat together. We consult each other about the hunger situation and if my husband isn’t hungry yet, I usually make myself a lighter breakfast, like oatmeal. My husband, in turn, eats biscuits and a cup of coffee, and at lunchtime, we eat '' breakfast '' together. This has allowed both of us to plan the day ahead while respecting each other's need for food.
I have noticed that since these small adjustments that we are both happier since we don't have to stress so much about the scheduling anymore. Moreover, I usually get angry hungry, so the amount of bickering has also been declining!
As with all families, you should have open conversations but especially in multicultural relationships. It is important to understand the reasons for each other’s routines and habits and not to knock them out. Just because you do things differently doesn’t mean you do them wrong. When you understand the way your other half is thinking, it is possible to create a unique relationship (and delicious recipes)!