Last week a friend was visiting, and a sure component of catching up is the topic of love. An observation I made years ago, was that many men in the field of physics seem to have foreign partners. I have no other data to support this notion, but let’s assume it is true for the sake of this post. My first hunch was that it was due to ‘getting’ a foreign woman is easier, because either she or you are abroad, which makes even the most diehard introverts more up front about seeking companionship. As physics is a very international field, the chances of meeting and dating a foreigner are much elevated anyway, so perhaps it is the same in other international fields (in medicine, not very international, it seems not to be the case).
Now that me and my friend did some reflecting, I came to realize I now fit my own observation, and that I can give more supporting clues as to why a relationship with a foreigner might fit better. First of all, in the first weeks of the relationship (and with the other foreigner I dated it was similar) I realized that communication is extra difficult, as (again, in both cases) we communicate in neither our first languages. It is reasonable to suppose that international dating is always more difficult than dating someone with a shared first language. The opposite has been true however, for me. Communication has been best in those foreign relationships, and here is why. Both sides expect an increased difficulty in communication, and compensate by making more effort and being more patient. Both the quantity of communication may be greater (cultural differences means explanation, sometimes conflict), as well as its quality (communication is more careful). So, when the inevitable conflicts pops up, one tends to be more patient and more rational.
So, the anticipation of difficulties in communication leads to a more slow and rational mindset when dealing with conflicts: conflict resolution is more likely to happen and more likely to happen well. Since physicists tend to be more introvert and perhaps rational (in that the population has a tendency to favor analytic reasons and answers over emotional ones, not that they’re actually more rational!), then it aligns with the assumption that being with a foreigner makes one more rational in conflict situations. Of course, this willingness will depend on character, but perhaps we can assume that most university-educated people interested in foreign love, realize the necessity of being slightly more patient than usual.
How many conflicts are due to bad communication is relationships? Would it be bold to say all?