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Challenges of a cross-cultural relationship

JJ-02Over a year ago, I met Joseph while rock climbing. As much as I would like to say that I fell, he caught me and we fell instantly in love.. that was not the case. Like many Malaysian (or Asian) relationships, it started off at a mamak with some friends.

Fast forward 9 months into the relationship, it is safe to say that being in a cross cultural relationship is enriching and fun, yet it comes with its own set of challenges. I forgot to mention that Joseph is Filipino and I am, of course, as Malaysian as a girl can be. When I was younger, I always had this idea about dating a foreigner. I have always enjoyed getting to know people from different cultures and I thought how much fun it would be if that was a lifetime thing.

Obviously, I was naive. Every relationship has its challenges, and adding cultural differences into the equation is like asking for more work to do! Learning and adjusting to each other’s worldview, lifestyles and beliefs wasn’t as easy as I thought. Food habits was one of the first hurdle I had to learn to accommodate. Not only do Filipinos refer to ‘dinner’ as ‘supper’, their taste in food are at the extreme ends. Something that is bordering diabetic to me is not sweet enough for him; something that is bland to him is too salty for me. Although English is our first language, Joseph had to adjust to my Manglish slangs. Teaching him the difference between lah, meh, mah etc was quite a challenge. There were even times when he had to ask, “Like this cannot.. lah..? ..meh?? ..leh???”.

Despite our differences, I’m ever thankful that we share the most important thing, which is our love for Christ. It is not only about sharing the same faith, it is sharing the same values and principles that are fundamental to both our lives.

I am no expert in relationships, but what I have learnt so far is that: communication is key; and having the support of your family and closest friends is more important than you think. At the end of the day, it is all about choosing to love a person, and making that choice is a daily decision in which you have to let your selfish desires go. And when I’m at the altar, I can finally say, “I choose you!” (pun intended – but probably only Pokemon players can understand).


Wedding Video Highlight, G Hotel, Penang: Desmond & Elizabeth

You know the saying, “You mess with the bull, you get the horns!”. That, apparently, is Elizabeth’s life’s mantra. I wouldn’t want to get on her blacklist! But as a lawyer of 11 years, I would definitely want her on my team. Realistic and sometimes cynical, she said she can’t help but sometimes be a smart-ass! Elizabeth was born and raised in Indiana, USA. To give her credit, she has a really soft side to her tough exterior… she is an old-fashioned romantic…an extroverted person who loves to make people feel comfortable and at ease. She loves to travel, eat and is totally into sports… more than most guys!

Which are all of Desmond’s favourite activities! Traveling, eating and sports! (Tennis, specifically!). The only other thing in his list is that he adores shopping, but mostly for other people! He is an introvert with extroverted tendencies (not too sure how that works!), is kind, caring, thoughtful and a romantic at heart. Born and bred in Penang, Malaysia, Desmond moved to California when he was 19 for college and medical school.

It was there in the States that they met one night through a mutual friend. It was trivia night, and he came with some colleagues from the hospital. His first impression was that she was easy going and fun to talk to, though he thought that she was a smarty-pants through out the whole night!

Her favorite memory about that evening was when the question “What does the ‘A’ in DNA stand for?” came up and how all the doctors at the table looked at each other and said “acid?”. It made her concerned that the lawyer knew it was “acid” but the doctors were not so sure! Elizabeth is bad with names, so she had ‘labels’ for everyone to help her remember better – there was a ‘guy leaving early’, ‘guy with no sleeves’, ‘Yoba’, and Desmond was apparently the ‘hottie doctor’.

Despite the smarty-pants label, Elizabeth made an impression on Desmond, and so to enlarge his social circle, he asked for her number before leaving (which made her think that he was trying to pick her up!). But I guess she gave him a chance because they started hanging out more often, and the interest kept on growing…and the rest, is history.

Desmond & Elizabeth: Wedding Video Highlights from Stories on Vimeo.


Videographers: Nick, Delvin & Ivan
Location: G Hotel, Penang
Photographer: Alex Tan
Wedding Gown: M.H. Pomander’s Bridal, Indianapolis, USA (Designer: Lea-Ann Belter)
Groom’s Attire: Blaine’s Mens Apparel, Ohio, USA (Designer: Canali)
Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo (Groom) & Nina (Bride)
Make up & hair: Stella Inn International (Leslie Hong)