Lessons in Culture from 90 Day Fiancé (Before the 90 Days)

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In this current time of lock-down and restricted living, we (in our house) have become hooked on the TLC television show ’90 Day Fiance: – Before the 90 Days. A simple overview of the show 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days features Americans who believe they’ve found their soul mate online and are traveling to a different country to meet them for the very first time. The show shows the pathway from the internet relationship, to getting ready to travel, meeting their soulmate in a different country and then showing how the face-to-face relationship develops. During the trip, the American will get to know a practical stranger, uncovering truths and secrets that they never expected. At the end of the trip, they will either propose marriage or just simply walk away.

Sounds pretty reasonable and before you say it … yes it is another reality TV show. But … it got me thinking (after the 5th episode), where people are struggling with their relationship but also appreciating the cultural differences. And this brings me to the point of this blog post … there are a huge amount of lessons to be taken on how the participants are dealing with the cultural differences as they encounter their new partner but also their environment. Cultural appreciation is one of the key aspects of not only appreciating new environments but also being able to manage situations. A lot of the US folks that travel to new countries, they are not appreciating the cultural dynamics and hence are running into major issues.

Here are three of the major lessons that can be gleamed from the TV show: –

  • Be compassionate towards existing social bonds. One of the contestants Lisa goes to Nigeria where she fails to understand the bond between family, friends and associated colleagues. Extended families are still the norm and are in fact the backbone of the social system. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and in-laws all work as a unit through life. A family’s honour is influenced by the actions of its members and there is a strong tradition of mutual caring and responsibility among the members. She is attempting to rule based on what she wants and is dismissing the bonds that her partner has with his colleagues
  • Understand how relationships are perceived. Another contestant Geoffrey travels to Russia to meet his partner and is shocked at the coldness / transactional nature of the relationship. Russians are transactional and do not need to establish long-standing personal relationships before they do business with people. Patience is essential and there is a need to prove your worth to be trusted. Sincerity and honesty is crucial as it is required to build trust, and trust is needed to build a relationship. An indication that you have successfully developed a personal relationship is being asked for a favour by that person.
  • Know what Society expects from you. The last participant is the New York lady called Stephanie and she is struggling with trust and the interaction that her partner expects of her. Australian culture is not very formal, so greetings are typically casual and relaxed. A handshake, smile and a simple ‘hello, how are you’ should suffice and this should be return in the similar fashion. There is no need for formality and relationships are conducted in a causal way. Trust is built through how you interface with you partner / colleague and not based really on what you do or give. Drop the guard and get on with it.

To Lisa, Geoffrey and Stephanie I wish ye the very best but what this TV Show has shown me, is how unprepared you were for the cultural differences that you were presented with. In turn, this caused major friction for you and your partner. For the rest of us, tune in for some prime time TV.

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