A relationship, be it romantic or platonic, is a wonderful thing. It’s especially so when two separate human beings, with diverse backgrounds, form a connection despite the cultural differences. Intercultural relationships, to be precise.
As a child, I never spared a second thought regarding who I befriended. If you were nice and could get along with my weird behaviour, then you were aces in my book. This was a benefit, that I didn’t know was a benefit. Something that not everyone could enjoy.
It was only when I entered the marks of teenage-hood that it was brought in focus. It was then when people started to nit-pick and question who I befriended. Then and only then did I really notice, when pointed out by a relative, that most of my social circles consisted of a colourful array of foreign cultures outside of my own.
Though to this day, I’m still confused as to why having intercultural relationships raised eyebrows and seemed to be frowned upon. How can having such a friendship matter so much, that it had to be said or tutted at?
Sadly, it still happens to this day. Receiving side comments and slight shade for the choice of companions I have. Some strangely given ‘advice’, all in the name of ‘looking out’ for me. Most of them were along the lines of:
“They only look for their own”
“You have to be careful what you say, they’re so different from us”
“It’s better to find someone more along to our culture and belief, they might use theirs against you.”
These barbed sentiments and statements, (even if they might have meant well in their minds), do not sit right by me. In fact, they make me like the speaker less, rather than feeling some sort of gratitude to such a notion. Chances are, hearing it would just make me shut down, and stay away from such negativity for any future interactions.
To judge and not know the person, to make such a presumption without taking the actual ‘person’ into account. Well, it honestly leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
“Is not Allah the best of all judges?” The Quran 95:8
It is often that we find those that judge based on what they see and know of a person. But is not Allah is the only true judge? As He, the Almighty, would know the facts and situation and what is in our hearts of hearts, and thus be the best of all judges?
Then why is this so popular? All the judging, and preconceived notions on intercultural relationships?
Truth is, most of my closest and oldest friends are those of different backgrounds and cultures.
One of my oldest friends is a particular girl, who is devout in her differing faith from me. Her piano skills are phenomenal, and our humour matches along nicely. Her blunt and unyielding approach to matters, are something that I can respect and have grown accustomed to. She and I, have butted heads over discussions (just like every other friendship will, mind you), but we always come back to each other, because there isn’t necessarily a black and white view to things.
Fact: We still talk from time to time, and she’s still someone I know I can trust and look out for me despite the inter-dialogue feuds we may have.
My best friend is someone whom I spent my young teenage afternoons with; young wannabe philosophers taking on the universe and the ever alluding ‘I’. She’s spunky, reserved and physically strong: quite an opposite from me. She is often described as the yin to my yang, and people often question how we can get along. She’s of a different culture, upbringing and faith, but that’s never stopped us from peeling the layers of beliefs and figuring out who we are and what we believe in.
Fact: She’s one of the few that I can see shooting the breeze with when I’m old and wrinkly. The person I know will stand by me, with whatever choice I choose, even if it’s vastly different from what she would do.
There’s a lot more examples I could dredge up, but the main gist of what I’m building up to is:
Someone’s belief and culture shouldn’t really play the deciding factor regarding whether a person is worthy being friends with or not.
I am in no way saying that I don’t see people’s cultures or their races for what they are (That is a debate I’d like to stay clear of, thank you very much), however.
“The best neighbour to Allah, is the best to his Neighbour” – At-Tarmidhi 1944
Friendship should be freely given based on one’s inner values. It shouldn’t be limited to those who are similar by experience, upbringing or culture.
Intercultural friendships and relationships might have more ground to cover, and differences to meet half way through. But there’s a sort of beauty that comes with its difficulties. The main concept that I personally hold onto is, to focus on the similarities and not take offence with all the differences.
The world is a warmer place when we judge less and practice having a more open mind. Having friendships with different people from different walks of life can broaden your horizon and enrich your knowledge banks.
Well, that’s my two-cents on intercultural relationships. What about yours?