The first time Paul Liu attended one of Tazha dela Cruz’s family reunions, he was shocked at the sight of a whole roasted pig and cow.
Liu was born in Shanghai, China, to Chinese parents, and moved to Sydney when he was 5 years old, where he was raised with Chinese traditions at home and with Australian culture in school. Whole roasted pigs and cows weren’t a familiar sight for him. Dela Cruz was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, where the roasts are staples in big celebrations and gatherings.
As an interracial couple, food is just one of the cultural differences Liu and Dela Cruz have had to work out. Now seven years into their relationship, they’ve found themselves facing many others. For example, they handle conflict very differently.
“I think a big part of Chinese culture is avoiding conflict, and it is still an ongoing challenge for us to communicate when we have a disagreement. Paul tends to shut down and evade talking about issues with me, which prolongs problems,” Dela Cruz said.
Despite these differences, however, the couple has managed to make their love thrive.
Now based in Sydney, Liu, a 35-year-old medical physics researcher, and Dela Cruz, a 33-year-old IT engineer, dated for about five years before tying the knot in 2019. They credit the success of their relationship to highlighting similarities, embracing differences, and standing together through tough decisions.
For Liu, one of the best things about being in an interracial relationship is that it expands his understanding of others and the world at large.
“It takes time, but as you learn more about a different culture, you slowly understand how things that are different to your own culture [manifest] in people’s personalities and worldviews,” Liu said.
“It could be something trivial like the climate, something critically important like the political situation, or something ridiculous like the way words are conjugated. I’ve learned that everything has an effect on who you are as a person and this, in turn, has broadened my own view and own understanding of the world.”
Below, Liu and Dela Cruz share their tips to make an interracial, cross-cultural love last.
Ensure your compatibility early on
The foundation of the relationship needs to be strong. We talked about how we stand on issues that matter to us—like politics and religion—to ensure that we don’t unnecessarily invest our time and emotions into a relationship that wouldn’t work down the line. —Tazha
Embrace and enjoy the things that are different
Most things that come up as differences because of our backgrounds are the things we joke and laugh about, rather than make issues out of. Tazha cleans many things with wet wipes and tells me to “turn off” the candles and “close” the lights, but she doesn’t get offended when I laugh [at the way she says things]. —Paul
Be ready to make decisions that may be frowned upon by others
As someone who was raised Catholic and who came from a large family, having a small and secular wedding was something I and my family had to come to terms with if I wanted to solidify my relationship with Paul through marriage. I have also decided not to take his last name, which is unusual and often questioned by others in the Filipino community. —Tazha
Make the effort to learn
It’s far better to dig deep into each other’s cultures, to try to understand even tiny trivial things, than to ignore or to assume anything. —Paul
Make efforts to keep each other’s cultural traditions alive
I try to keep up with all the Chinese holidays and learn how to celebrate these important days, especially during COVID lockdown, when we can’t visit family. Simple gestures, such as giving mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, were greatly appreciated by his parents, and showed them that I’m committed to being a part of their family. —Tazha
Dela Cruz and Liu acknowledge that being from different cultures can pose some challenges in maintaining a relationship, but they believe that these challenges are nothing a committed love can’t win over.
“Interracial relationships are just like any other relationships and need the same effort, communication, compromise, and understanding. If both people are or are not willing to put in that effort, the relationship will or won’t last just like any other relationship,” Liu said.
“The fact that a relationship is interracial can have some additional challenges and also be rewarding in lots of unique ways. But in the end, the foundation that needs to be there is exactly the same foundation.”
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
This article is written in partnership with Closeup. VICE and Closeup celebrate love and champion closeness of all forms. For similar articles, check out www.LoveForAll.info
Follow Romano Santos on Instagram.