An Alien’s Perspective: Dating across cultural barriers

“So are you sure you have never dated before? You’re 21,” my girlfriend at the time said to me for the umpteenth time, and for the umpteenth time I assured her I had not dated prior to meeting her.

Coming from a different culture, while it seemed bizarre to her, it was quite normal for me to not have dated during my teens in India.


Except in a few major cities, the dating scene in India is much slower when compared to the dating scene in the U.S. The same words, phrases and titles have significantly different meanings across both cultures.

Conventionally, what is termed as dating in the U.S. would be the “pre-dating” phase in India. The pre-dating phase is overtly dramatic, excessively subliminal and can last several months, if not years. This is primarily because dating is taken far more seriously in India, thanks to every cheesy movie Bollywood has rolled out.

So is romance dead in India? No. The only difference is that people are hesitant to use the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” titles immediately, or openly.

This is especially a problem if you belong to a small town. There could be 100,00 people in the town, and inexplicably everyone seem to know everyone. Whenever I hung out with a girl I liked, I would rehearse my excuses in case I ran into someone who knew me.

My mind would race, “This is not a date. We just happened to run into each other completely by accident although I live more than 200 miles away.”

I would pause for a moment.

“Yes. That’s a rational possibility,” I would convince myself.

Though I am in the U.S. now, every now and then I end up having dreams where I am interrogated by my uncles, aunts and grandparents about whom I went to the movies with.

And no, my mom does not know about my girlfriend.


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