5 tips for marrying outside of your culture

Well, there's some happy news for Julie Benz, of Dexter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel fame: she's married! And not only that, but she got married in a Mexican-themed ceremony in honor of her new hubby Rich Orosco's culture. But there's one thing that I know: marrying outside of your culture isn't the easiest thing in the world. Luckily I have two very great role models in my parents (my mom is Russian and my dad is Cuban) in how to have a successful marriage even when you come from two very different cultures. So, for Julie and all of you out there who are married to a non-Latino, here's some advice based on over 25 years of experience (or at least observation).


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1. Learn each other's language: I don't think anything helped my parent's marriage more than my mom learning Spanish and my dad learning Russian. Now they both know English as well, so they can communicate in all three languages. But communication is key here and it helped a lot to be able to understand each other in their native tongue. Plus, it certainly helped that my mom was able to talk in Spanish with my abuelita and my dad was able to talk to my Russian grandfather!

2. Try the food with gusto: Just like with any food experimentation, you most likely aren't going to love every dish that your husband loves from his culture. I for one am a big baby when it comes to really spicy dishes, so I know that if I marry someone who's seriously into jalapeños or spicy curries, I won't be able to relate. But it's important to at least try all of the food with a smile on your face. Food is such an important part of any culture that just think how offended YOU would be if he didn't want to try one of your mother's recipes.

3. Figure out how to raise the kids: Will you be raising them bilingual and bicultural? How will you teach the kids about each other's backgrounds? Will they get quality time and visits with both grandparents? All of these things are important to consider. Your kids will benefit from knowing where they came from and the two of you will benefit by learning even more about each other's culture as you go to teach the kids. It will be a family bonding experience for sure.

4. Create your own traditions: Although I think it's extremely important to celebrate the holidays that come from each other's cultures, what I loved most about growing up was how uniquely my family celebrated some of our own traditions. My favorite example is our Russian/Cuban/American Thanksgiving celebration, where we serve the traditional turkey, arroz con frijoles and Russian olivier salad—along with some other favorites from all three cultures. It's these kind of combined traditions that really make your cross-cultural family special.

5. Prioritize understanding over judging: It won't always be easy, right? So the main thing to keep in mind, as you're learning about each other's cultures both before marriage and for the rest of your lives, you have to keep an open mind. You won't be thrilled by everything and there will be some things that will be lost in translation because you just didn't grow up with it so you don't get it. But try to be understanding as much as possible and never, ever judge. It's better to make the effort to say "okay, I understand as much as I can" than saying that some cultural tradition is stupid or ridiculous.

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Did you marry someone outside of your culture? What are your tips?

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