What is different for binational couples?
A binational couple often has to overcome legal, social, cultural and financial obstacles.
If partners live in different countries or even on different continents, a binational relationship cannot take its "natural" course and develop in accordance with the needs of the couple where the first stage of being in love can be experienced and enjoyed in a relaxed manner. For reasons pertaining to residence rights, a binational couple has to think about getting married after knowing each other for just a short period of time because - in many cases - living together without being married is not possible in Switzerland, except, on occasion, for EU nationals. In addition to this, binational couples often have to face reservations or prejudice from their social environment.
Looking for a new home
For binational couples, living together often means that the man or the woman leaves his or her native country, family, familiar surroundings and culture. S/he has to find his/her way in a foreign country and build up a new social environment.
Integration into the new country of residence depends on many factors. The couple cannot influence all of these. It can thus be difficult for the foreigner to find work that corresponds to his/her professional qualifications. In addition to the psychological strain, this can also lead to financial problems, which is another challenge for the partnership. Cultural values and attitudes as well as religion influence integration into the new country of residence, as does a lack of knowledge of the language spoken there.
Even if the relationship and the integration process are developing well, homesickness can still be an issue for the foreigner. Maintaining social contact to one's family back home can sometimes help alleviate the homesickness. Under certain circumstances, however, homesickness can accompany a binational couple throughout their whole relationship.
The role of relatives
In a binational partnership, it is recommended to get to know the relatives of one's partner before getting married and to discuss the significance thereof in the partnership. The significance of relatives and one's duties towards them can vary from country to country. This also depends on other factors, such as social status , social milieu and gender, and is handled differently by various people. Finally, every family also has its own "cultural rules", whether in Switzerland or abroad.
Multilingualism as an opportunity
Binational couples often communicate in a language that at least one of the two of them does not master in all its subtleties. This makes it correspondingly difficult to communicate and understand one another emotionally, in particular. If the couple's language is a foreign language for both of them, comparable preconditions can be assumed. If, however, one person is speaking in his/her mother tongue, an imbalance develops, which can impede communication. Misunderstandings that arise from linguistic difficulties are not always recognised as such.
At the same time, multilingualism provides the couple with the opportunity of learning a foreign language in an everyday context and of giving their children the possibility of growing up multilingually - and this is an extremely valuable asset for the future generation with regard to increasing globalisation.
Language and culture
Language, however, is only one of many factors that influence interpersonal communication. To understand one's partner properly, it is not enough to speak his or her language. It is also important to be aware of the social and cultural context in which something is said, so that it can be evaluated. This knowledge can help to prevent misunderstandings and to double-check in the case of queries.
Awareness of cultural differences
Every society, every nation, every partnership, every family, every couple and every individual has innate cultural standards and values. Even in Switzerland, which covers such a small area, these social values and standards deviate slightly. Binational couples, however, have to face the issue more frequently than other people about how to deal with cultural differences. These can be greater or smaller depending on their country of origin. The better a partner knows his or her partner's surroundings and vice versa, the more aware they will be of differences in values of this kind and the better able they will be to work out how they want to handle these different values and standards in everyday life.
Important preconditions for everyday life together include the desire to get to know one another, curiosity and mutual tolerance.
The role of religion
Religion plays its part in characterising a society and the legal system of a country. Religion bears some responsibility for values and standards that apply to life together. This is also the case for people who do not consider themselves to be religious. With openness and tolerance, various religions can find their place in a partnership or family. It is important to encounter one's partner's religion with openness and interest and to find out which influence religion is to have on everyday life and the partnership. If a binational couple is thinking about having children together, the issue of religion must also be taken into account. This includes thoughts on which religion their children will belong to and the question of which religious traditions are to be adhered to and experienced in everyday life.
Exchange as enrichment
Every binational couple needs to find its own individual solutions in a wealth of areas of life. It can be helpful to make contact with other binational couples and to exchange experiences. The recognition that a couple is not alone in difficult situations and that solutions exist can remove some of the pressure. The quality of their personal relationship is decisive for a stable and workable partnership. This includes an ability to cooperate, the nurturing of common issues, dealing with differences and the further development of one's own way of life as well as openness towards one's partner's way of life.
Binational couples constantly have to face social prejudice. In a climate of openness and tolerance towards new ways of living, a binational couple also has a unique opportunity to embark on new paths of partnership in dealing with its surroundings.