Communicating across cultures and languages can lead to crossed wires and arguments, especially when marriage is involved.

YouTube couple Rachel and Jun have been married for five years and regularly upload videos about life in Japan and their international marriage on their YouTube channel. Their most recent video discusses some of the issues that lead to arguments in their marriage.

Let’s check out the video first!

The first two issues revolve around Japanese husband Jun’s propensity to avoid strong shows of emotion and standing out in public. In contrast, American Rachel wouldn’t think twice of, for example, gently chiding someone for stepping in front of her in line or giving her bad service in a restaurant. “You have to be firm but polite!” she explains, as Jun responds with, “If it’s something small I don’t care.” Jun’s approach is reflected in the oft-used Japanese phrase shikata ga nai  (which means “it can’t be helped”), and of how Japanese society often prioritizes social harmony over rocking the boat.

Language issues can lead to arguments, too. Miscommunication can be a big cause of conflict in any relationship, but with a dual-language marriage, subtext and nuance can often be missed or over-inflated, leading to hurt feelings. For example, Jun’s completely innocent use of the English phrase “What’s wrong with you?” as opposed to “What’s wrong?” tends to make Rachel see red.

Compromise seems to be the best solution to such issues, but how do you balance staying true to your cultural identity with respecting the values held by your spouse and the culture of the country you’re currently in? Do you think the onus is on the non-native spouse to make the most effort to assimilate into the native culture or should both parties hold firm to their cultural identity and celebrate their differences regardless? We’d love to know your thoughts!

Source, images: YouTube/Rachel and Jun