Dating someone from another country – and often even someone from your own country with a different cultural background and different family traditions – takes more work than the average relationship; but it’s usually worth the effort. You’ll live a richer life learning about new cultures, perhaps practicing a new language, and traveling around the world together. However, there will be misunderstandings that can lead to hurt feelings. For example, be prepared for your humor to sometimes not translate – and learn what to do if it looks like your joke struck a nerve.
If your joke doesn’t elicit a smile on your loved one’s face, stop laughing for a minute. There are two possible reasons for this. One—she either doesn’t understand because English is her second language and/or the joke is a foreign concept to her culture. Two—she finds it offensive, or maybe eventually, both. Don’t make her feel foolish for not “getting” it. Explain the joke as gently as you can and give some cultural precedent as to why it’s funny to you.
Ask Him How He Feels
Perhaps after you explain the joke better, he’ll laugh too. If he doesn’t, ask if the joke is offensive to him. He doesn’t have to explain why (although he might offer up a reason), but if you know that it bothers him, refrain from making jokes of a similar nature in the future. Respect his views and try to view the joke objectively to better understand why it might have been hurtful.
Watch for Forced Laughter
Of course, if your loved one doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, particularly if you haven’t been dating long, she might force a laugh after you explain the joke, even if it means stifling her own feelings. Forced laughter could mean she either still doesn’t understand even after you explain or that she really does find it offensive but doesn’t want you to think poorly of her for doing so. Don’t get frustrated. Drop the issue but consider joking about other things in the future to see if you get a better reaction from her.
Careful Around His Family
Your partner is more willing to forgive any cultural transgressions you make, but his family, complete with parents of an older generation, is less likely to do so. You don’t want your attempts at lightening the mood to be responsible for your loved one’s family thinking less of you. Try to keep humor to a minimum and joke about less controversial topics if need be.
On the same token, if your partner says something and laughs and you don’t find it very funny, allow him or her to explain the joke. If you still don’t find it funny or it’s insensitive to your culture, gently explain that to your loved one so he or she doesn’t make the mistake of making that joke in front of others. If your partner is willing to adapt and apologize, let it go, but do be wary of anyone who keeps acting the same way even knowing the effect it has on your feelings. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to “get a sense of humor” or you just “don’t understand.”