Mishaps, Misadventures, and Mistranslations: Blogging About Intercultural Relationships

By Dana Ter September 10th, 2014

I’ll be frank: There’s a lot of crappy content about relationships and dating advice. Every women’s magazine runs the same covers with the same romantic tips. There are only so many new ways to spice things up.

The crappiness only increases tenfold when taking into account relationship-oriented blogs focused on visiting or living abroad. Don’t even get me started on dude-blogs that give advice on picking up girls in foreign countries.

But there are also young, devoted bloggers in intercultural relationships who are changing the norms. I’ve rounded up three vivacious storytellers to ask them about insights on running successful blogs about intercultural relationships and living abroad. Grace Buchele Mineta of Texan in Tokyo is a freelancer living with her Japanese husband in Tokyo. She is also the author and cartoonist of the upcoming comic book My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy. Lina (who only wanted to use her first name) runs My Hong Kong Husband, a blog about being a Polish woman married to a Chinese man living in the U.S. Then there’s Cate Han, an Atlanta-based flight attendant who writes about her Korean husband on Oppa and Me.

By chronicling their lives with their significant others through hilarious vignettes, pictures, and cute cartoons, all three women challenge stereotypes of Asian men through their content. As Han remarked, the fact that her husband is Korean “doesn’t mean he is automatically handsome, romantic, sexy or that he is going to act like a character in a Korean drama.” Although the writing on Oppa and Me is mostly fun and light-hearted—Han said she wishes to “add a positive voice to the discussion”—her earnest message is still significant.

Buchele Mineta agreed that keeping her blog positive and humorous is the best way to attract a diverse crowd of readers who may not be familiar with different cultures. “First and foremost, I want to share all the wacky and hilarious bits about being in a intercultural relationship and living in Tokyo,” she said. “So my topics are all over the place, from getting pushed in a midnight train to Coca-Cola-flavored soy milk.”

Likewise, Lina explained she “hopes to make people more familiar with Hong Kong and Polish culture.” She also joked about her intentions to “put those nice Hong Kong men on the ‘AMWF’ (Asian male, white female) market.”

Although their mishaps (discussing bowel movements with your husband), misadventures (doing the walk of shame to your own apartment) and mistranslations (when a typical dinner conversation with relatives involves navigating three languages) are intended to be fun, there are more serious messages within.

Forbes recently noted young people are traveling more these days, not just for vacation, but for the purpose of studying languages and gaining overseas work experience. Therefore, it is not surprising many of us young travelers can easily relate to the topics covered on these blogs.

As Han said, “There aren’t that many blogs out there that contain quality content about dating Korean men or women.” When you’re in such a relationship, it’s almost inevitable nagging questions will creep up: Should I pursue my dream of living abroad or stay with my boyfriend or girlfriend? How do I cope with being in a long-distance relationship? Which country should we live in after we’re married? That’s not to mention the visa woes that accompany all these issues.

Although these three blogs may occupy certain niches, such as AMWF relationships or living abroad, they’re successful because they focus on pursuing dreams regardless of obstacles—and that message is certainly relatable across cultures.

Buchele Mineta told me a majority of her readers “have dreams of running their own restaurants, doing stand-up comedy, or traveling the world.”

Indeed, there’s a growing crop of global citizens who are not bound to ideas of home, belonging, or office jobs. At least for me—an expat kid turned freelance writer—this is why I find blogs that bend boundaries to be so relatable. Moreover, although these experiences of “culture clash” can be difficult, they are simultaneously amusing and educational.

When Lina was adjusting to moving from Poland to Hong Kong to the U.S. for her husband’s career, she stayed positive by looking for that amusement. “I currently live in a place where the cemetery is the most alive part of the city,” she said.

Building off of that positivity, she has found situations from her daily life to blog about. For the last few months, Lina’s mother-in-law—or “Momzilla,” as she (half-)jokingly calls her—has been her muse. “She’s like a never-ending sources of topics: babies, food, complaints, real estate.”

Mother-in-law troubles is something that many people can relate to, and because Lina’s mother-in-law is Chinese and Lina is Polish, their interactions are all the more comical.

I’m really looking forward to reading about the next misadventures for these bloggers. As a traveler, writer, and (occasional) hopeless romantic, these blogs have helped fill the void created by my disillusionment with relationship “advice” columns in glossy magazines and superficial travel listicles.

They’re also home to some damn good storytelling.

Image by Sidarta
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