Relationships come with their own set of challenges. Coming from somewhere different than your partner just adds a whole other set of issues to the mix.
What are the most common problems faced by Czech and expat couples? We asked František Cihlář, a counselor at Sdružení pro integraci a migraci/The Association for Integration and Migration (SIMI) who also hosts a monthly meet-up for intercultural “pairs” to share with us a list of the common problems that come up in his couples counseling sessions.
“In general, I believe the problems of intercultural couples in the Czech Republic varies in relationship to where the non-Czech partner is coming from. Couples with partners from Ukraine, for example, would probably be facing quite different, and maybe fully opposite, situations to those from the US, Tunisia or Indonesia. In addition, gender of the partner would play an important role, too.
“However, I would say there are pretty common topics that most couples usually need to face/address.”
Here they are:
1. Problems with immigration authorities
Expat partners (EP) usually expect the procedures to be smooth, which they are not. It takes a lot of time and effort and a lot of assertiveness is needed.
2. Need of assistance and help from the local partner (LP)
A lot of help from the LP is usually needed, especially in the initial period in order to arrange even simple things (shopping, dealing with authorities, meetings with local friends and parents) for the EP. The EP sometimes turns into a “child” who needs help with even small issues. This requires a lot of patience from both the EP and LP.
3. Different perception of marriage between both partners
Depending on the region of origin and gender, EPs sometimes perceive marriage more (in my experience usually female EPs from Christian countries) or less (especially male EPs from Africa) binding in comparison to LPs.
4. Different perception of religion between both partners
Many EPs are religious, however over 80 percent of LPs are agnostic and/or atheist. In spite of being quite spiritual, many LPs usually distrust the church and similar organizations, mainly the Catholic church. Catholic or Muslim weddings, meetings, rituals, authorities and so on may become a major issue.
Some EPs hesitate to learn the local language and tend to use their own language as often as possible. Sooner or later, this might become a problem.
Same thing: some EPs tend to stick with their expat community instead of mixing with the local population. [This is a] potential problem.
7. Life expectations
Cultural and other differences may mean different life expectations from both partners, even when they are coming from relatively similar cultures (West Europe and CZ for example). It might become much more serious for couples with different races, continent of origin, etc.
8. Relationships with family members and/or friends
Sometimes the relations seem to be too loose, sometimes too tight for the other partner. Family members sometimes want to be involved in the day-to-day life of the couple: for some partners it is standard, for others it is unacceptable.
There is one general solution, says Cihlář. “Similar to being in any other relationship, keep all the potential problems in mind and live a balanced life, full of open communication, love, understanding, empathy, acceptance, generosity, humor, trust, flexibility and readiness for change and compromise.”
Are you part of a Czech-Expat (or other nationality) couple? What’s your take on the most common problems? Can you offer any solutions that have worked for you and your partner?