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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