Intercultural relationships require communication 

Seblewongel Tariku

Published 17.04.2024 2:02

As of 2022, Finland had approximately 96,808 intercultural families, with 152,563 young people under 30 born into such families. 

Research Director emerita Elli Heikkilä from the Migration Institute of Finland, who has extensively studied multicultural marriages, highlights the challenges faced by such couples: “Despite the cultural richness they bring, multicultural marriages tend to encounter more internal difficulties and social ​challenges ​compared to other couples.” 

Heikkilä encourages couples to talk about important values already before marriage. 

“If they don’t, there can be hard times”. 

Important topics that can potentially cause difficulties include family’s common languages, raising children, sexuality, ​religion, celebrations, ​and friendships in multicultural marriages. Neglecting these aspects can lead to disagreements and, potentially, ​even to ​divorce. 

One vital thing according to Heikkilä is gender roles. Western men​ can​ expect non-Western wives to behave in ways that would not be expected from a Western wife, she says.  

This dynamic has been observed for example in Thai women who marry Finnish males, with elderly men sometimes expecting their Thai spouses to adhere to traditional roles, such as taking care of home and children and serving their husbands. 

Over four decades of intercultural marriage have taught Keijo and Sumiko a lot