7 July, 2019

Love knows no borders

Many of the readers of the Newbie blog know that love knows no borders. Several of you moved to Sweden for love, or maybe you are like me – originally moved for my job, but then fell in love with a Swede here.

International relationships, especially if your new partner is a local, can be extremely rewarding, as they give you a completely different way into the Swedish culture. It might be the greatest motivation to learn Swedish, as your spouse friends will switch to Swedish eventually during dinner and the parents might not be as comfortable speaking English. Or it is the biggest help to figure out how to fill in the tax form for the first (or second and third) time.

But, from my own experience, and from other international couples I’ve met over the years, an international relationship is definitely more challenging than a relationship with somebody that comes from the same country/culture than one-self. Here, I will go through the 3 points I think are important in international relationships (but most likely apply to any relationship)

Different expectations/views

Different cultures might have different opinions on the development of a relationship. When is it normal to move in together? When to get married? Should you be married to have kids?

These questions, of course, apply for all relationships but they are even more important to be talked about when you are in an international relationship. In Sweden living together as Sambos is a very natural thing, and most likely nobody will pressure you to get married. However, depending on our background, your own family might be much less understanding.

Also, there is the possibility that one or the other family will not be happy with your choice of a partner from abroad, as this will reduce the possibility that you will move back home again.

My tip is to have these discussions already very early on in a relationship, to be sure you are on the same page. Only then you will be able to talk to different parts of your family and don’t get into awkward situations. Making sure that you are on the same page is in all regards very important. Having big expectations that are not fulfilled can lead to major disappointments that are threatening a healthy relationship.

Feeling of dependence

As mentioned above, it is very helpful to have a Swedish partner. However, the downside is that at certain times it might also feel like that one partner has more power, and needs to help the other one constantly, while the other one doesn’t contribute as much.

Also, you might live in the apartment that belongs to your partner, putting you into some sort of dependent situation.
My tip to handle this feeling of dependence is two-fold. On the one hand, try to get as independent as possible. Take notes when you ask for help, so that next time you can do it yourself, and don’t need to ask again. Take initiative whenever possible. Even if you don’t speak Swedish, order your food yourself, ask for directions, talk to the personnel at the shop directly and do not hide behind your partner. Fill the apartment with your belongings and give the apartment your personal touch.

On the other hand, have the right mental attitude. It is normal that if your partner is a local, that she or he will be more dominant in certain aspects. This might really depend on your personality, but I saw it often enough that the non-Swedish speaking part of a relationship relies too much on the Swedish one, and doesn’t feel good about it.

Talk to your partner regarding this. In most cases, they are not aware that you might feel bad about this. Talking about this will make them aware of your feelings. Also, keep in mind, if you ever would move again, the situation might be the opposite!


Communication is, of course, the key in every relationship. However, if you do not speak the same language, it is even more important. Unless you are native in a language, you will always have slight issues in communication fine nuances in the right way, which can lead to misunderstandings.

It is likely that your common language is English, and if one of you is native while the other one is not, you will be at a slight disadvantage. Especially in emotional situations, as in a fight, you might not always use the right words, which will sometimes worsen the situation.

My tip here is that both partners are very aware of this! If those situations occur, give the other person the benefits of the doubt. In those emotional cases, make sure to double-check with each other if the message got across the right way. It might be weird at the beginning, but over the long term, it will help to better understand each other and avoid misunderstandings.

There are many more difficulties that can occur during an international relationship. What is your experience with this? Did you move for love? Did you fall in love with somebody here after you moved? What are your tips to make an international relationship work? Leave a comment below, I am curious to hear your story!

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Michaela Roth
My name is Michaela and I grew up surrounded by mountains in Switzerland. When I moved to flat Lund to do my Ph.D., I initially thought it would only be for the 4 years that it takes to obtain this degree. Of course, life had other plans, and falling in love with a Swede changed my life completely. I am passionate about science, outdoor activities, and balancing multicultural traditions.

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