We aren't the couple who claims not to even notice the fact that we come from two different cultures. It's noticeable. Pretty much all the time.
Our skin isn't the same color. We didn't grow up eating the same food. Our families don't speak the same language. They don't even land on the same side of Protestant Reformation. Add to that the fact that we were born in different decades and spent our formative years on different sides of the globe, and you've got a pretty strange combo.
The one thing we have going for us is that we're both born U.S. citizens, and I'm grateful for that (differing citizenship adds an extra level of complexity).
Usually, we appreciate and value our different backgrounds. Between the 2 of us, we speak the 3 most widely spoken languages on earth. We talk about whether our children will have English or Spanish names (or English names with easy pronunciations in Spanish). I'm more aware than I ever was before about racism towards Hispanics in the USA (i.e. the man visiting the hospital who asked my ICU nurse of a husband if he moved to Michigan to work in the onion fields) and Angel is now far more interested in Southeast Asia and the local news of that region than he ever thought he would be. But times come when our lack of shared cultural background is a genuine cause of frustration.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to living well with a spouse whose culture is different from your own?
Don't forget that your spouse doesn't know the things you know--prepare them for success by informing them ahead of time about cultural situations and expectations they're likely to face.
Angel has told me recently that this move to China has gone so much more smoothly for him than it would have gone if he hadn't had me as a mediator to prep him for cultural expectations and rules of what life is like here. Even though I hadn't ever lived in China itself before, living in a part of Malaysia with a heavy Chinese influence and majoring in the language, history, and culture of China in college does a pretty good job of preparing you for the change.
On the other hand, my most dramatic failure in adapting to cross-cultural situations brought on by marriage came in large part because Angel did not prepare me for something that is very different from my own native culture. Neither Malaysians nor Dutch West-Michiganders are known for being the touchy-feely type, especially with strangers and people of the opposite gender. I don't hug my own family members every time I see them, unless it's a first meeting after a long time apart--and I never kiss anyone on the cheek, except maybe my littlest sister--certainly not my father!
Angel, on the other hand, is a hugger. He hugs my own relatives far more often than any of them hug each other, but because I had no prior experience with his culture, I assumed this was just a personality quirk and not actually a cultural phenomenon (and I did helpfully inform him that some of my relatives are even less comfortable with hugs than others, so that he'd tone down the physical affection a bit).
The problem came the very first time I met some of Angel's extended family. I came down the stairs to find everyone seated in the living room, was introduced, and greeted everyone with a bright smile, a general wave and a "Hello! Nice to meet you all!"--was enveloped in a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek from someone standing nearby, found that slightly strange, but returned the hug, and found a place to sit down in the living room and listen in as best I could on the Spanish conversations going on (this was before my Spanish 101 class at college had even begun, so I was totally lost).
That's my point of view--and for the point of view of a shy 19 year old being introduced to her fiancee's family for the first time, I behaved respectfully and appropriately for the situation.
Turns out--there was a larger cultural phenomenon going on. I only found out later, that somehow during the course of my introduction, I'd managed to offend all of the elders present, who had assumed that like any good fiancee being introduced (or in general, any young family member walking into a room full of her elders), I would have made a round of the room, greeting each aunt and uncle with a hug and a kiss. Angel didn't even think of telling this to me ahead of time, because to him, it was simply an automatic reaction (and, in fact, he had done exactly the same thing upon meeting my family, although we'd chalked it up to "He's just being Angel..but why is he touching everyone?" instead of "Oh, this must be important in his culture.").
I was crushed, because who wants to completely fail at making a good first impression on all of their future in-laws? Rough. But I'm glad it's a lesson we learned so early on. These days, we set each other up for success by making sure that the other knows what to expect before they're placed in a foreign situation. In 2013, Angel and I picked out Christmas presents for his family together, and he explained to me ahead of time about staying up till midnight on Christmas Eve (that's probably the only time I've stayed up till midnight in the last 3 or 4 years), and eating tamales. This year in February, Angel asked me all sorts of questions about ang pow for Chinese New Year--who do we give to? How much should be in the envelope? When do we give out the envelopes?
For us, we've found it to be immensely important that we do not forget our differences. When we remember not to make assumptions based on a non-existent shared cultural background (weirdly, something that's all too easy to do) we help each other the way we ought.