An Alien’s Perspective: Dating international students

Dating across cultural barriers can be exhilarating and honestly, quite unparallelled. The idea of dating someone exotic is a massive turn on. Much like the honeymoon effect, the differences between you are pronounced in a positive, exciting way. This can apply to everything from the texture of her skin to the fact that he measures distances in kilometers. However, like most relationships, the differences between you can create a lot of work.

One major issue of concern that I have noticed is religion. Coming from a country with a very strong religious background, I expected the amount of religious enthusiasm in the U.S. to be insignificant  by comparison. However, I have come to learn that though religious involvement may be different here, it is of no lesser magnitude. That being said, a mutual respect for religion and religious freedom is of utmost importance. Getting evangelistic if your partner follows a different religion is major mistake. Respecting your partner’s faith is a basic necessity.

First-date

The role culture plays in the relationship is not something to be undermined, and yet I notice culture being undermined all the time. If you are unfamiliar with your partner’s culture, assume you know nothing about it. In fact, a partial understanding of someone’s culture does not qualify you either. Just because I have a friend of a friend of a cousin who has travelled to France for a month, that does not make me an authority on French culture.

Something as simple as their choice in food can be difficult to understand. In a culture where the term “non-vegetarian” is rarely used, it can be difficult to understand your partner’s food choices if he or she is vegetarian, which can be both a religious and cultural choice. For cultures dominated by vegetarianism, even being in a restaurant that serves non-vegetarian food can be nauseating. It goes without saying that patience becomes far more than a virtue.

Another thing I can never stress on enough is that different acts, gestures and phrases have different implications across different cultures. If he is nervous about going to a public event with you, it does not mean he is ashamed of you. It just means he is mortified by the idea of being photographed and tagged on Facebook and receiving a call from home two hours later if dating is not common in his culture.

“Will my Dad force choke me over the phone or will it be my uncle,” my mind races desperately, “Or maybe I will just die of embarrassment when I try to swing dance,” I decide, consoling myself.

If you are considering dating someone from a different cultural background, go ahead. It may be the best you ever have. But tread carefully; tread respectfully.

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6 thoughts on “An Alien’s Perspective: Dating international students

  1. Haha another thing I can relate to, because on my one trip to the US I noticed how religious their communities seem! How would you describe their religious involvement as different from that in India? Also, if you don’t mind my asking, why did you choose to go to school in the US?

    Lily

    • Well, I grew up in a society where religious co-existence was a necessary virtue. Disregard for any sort of religion was considered horrible. Okay, so religion was important to us. We believed in God, in all religions being a single road to a common goal. However, religion was something personal. It was between you and God. We incorporated our beliefs into our daily work. But still, it was personal. I’ve sat next to people born into Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism at the same time, and we’ve prayed at the same time. Even in collectiveness, our relationship with God was a point-to-point (lol computer networking term) connection. Our spiritual journey was something we had to undertake by ourselves.
      Out here, it is different. I find religion being a social phenomenon in the U.S. I rarely see people pray by themselves. Religious activities are collective. The influence of the Church exceeds the confines of its walls and enters into their lives. Um…. I’m unable to word it exactly… But you do get the point, right?
      Back home, it was a personal connection.
      Out here, it is a public celebration.
      I’m not saying either is better than the other or vice versa. They’re both great approaches. They’re both beautiful. However, they are different.
      🙂

      PS: The university I’m attending has an incredible aerospace programme.

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