Dating outside of your own culture can seem exciting, exotic and even glamorous! When you spend a lot of time travelling the world and meeting people from other countries, backgrounds and cultures, it makes sense that cross-cultural relationships may be something that is on the cards for you.
Dating someone whose background is extremely different from your own can be a lot of fun. Not only do you get to go through the usual process of getting to know a new person, but you also get to learn new customs, traditions and foods in the process.
In some ways, intercultural relationships can be a lot more rewarding than relationships with people from your own country and background. However, at the same time, they present a unique set of challenges and obstacles that perhaps only others who have found themselves in the same situation will be able to relate to…
Dating outside of your culture
Considering dating outside your culture? A number of light-hearted and fun observations about what you can expect, as well as some useful tips for making the relationship work in the long run, are provided below.
Expect to start speaking in a weird, broken form of your own language
For some strange reason, and perhaps for your partner’s sake, you adapt to speaking in a weird caveman-style version of your own language. You realise that by speaking in broken English you are actually hindering their learning but it becomes strangely difficult to stop and revert back to speaking correctly.
When you then go to speak with native-speaking friends, they are concerned that you’ve bumped your head or something. This is particularly the case when they catch you dropping phrases like “I go metro by my feet!”
You’ve hung up your Grammar Nazi coat and hat
Ordinarily, it may make you sick to your stomach when people use the incorrect versions of their/there/they’re or your/you’re. You actually consider it as a murderable offence, or at least one worthy of banishment.
However, you give your foreign lover a free pass. Hey if university-educated native speakers can’t get it right, you have to cut them a little slack, right?
If you date someone whose first language isn’t English, it can help you understand precisely how difficult the language can be. There are so many obscure rules and practices in the English language, as well as a bunch of words that don’t adhere to any rules. You can understand why some people struggle!
Obscure words in their language sound so sexy
“Oh my gosh!” You gasp with a hot flush as you fan your face. “That is such a beautiful word! Whatever does it mean?”
Often, words in foreign languages sound absolutely nothing like the English equivalent. You can expect some words for really random, everyday objects to be incredibly beautiful, and others to sound peculiar and obscure.
You will likely get a few laughs when your partner tells you what an English word is in their language. They too are likely to laugh when they hear an odd-sounding English word for an item. I mean, imagine seeing the word “yacht” for the first time or “discombobulated”.
You become more motivated to learn their language
Being in cross-cultural relationships can really motivate you to learn a new language. This is particularly true if your partner speaks a different first language to you or if neither of you is completely fluent in the other person’s language.
If you live overseas in your partner’s country or you are planning to move there in the future, the importance of learning their language increases tenfold. Learning languages is never easy, particularly not if you haven’t grown up speaking multiple languages.
However, when learning a new language unlocks the opportunity to better get to know a wonderful human being from a different background, it is easy to feel more motivated. There is something incredibly wonderful about being able to make jokes and be sarcastic to someone you love in another language.
With practice, you may find that this is not as challenging as you first thought. You can start slow and simple.
When you watch TV shows and movies, alternate between displaying the shows in one person’s native language and having subtitles in the other person’s. That way, you gradually get exposed to hearing and reading certain words and phrases.
Free language apps like Duolingo are great to use at home. Try to speak in each other’s language where you can, even if you end up speaking an odd blend of the two languages.
Text each other in the other person’s language, even if you have to start out by using a lot of Google translate. Language skills always come in handy and even if your partner speaks fluent English, they likely have friends and family members who do not.
They say hilarious versions of words in your native tongue
A fun highlight of dating outside your culture? Sometimes your partner may say hilarious versions of words in your native tongue and you can’t laugh. (Even though you may want to!)
For instance, hearing the Mexican guy you are dating say that your eyeses look really pretty (as in one eyes, two eyeses) is too cute to laugh at! So too, him saying that he just stood up too fast and now he’s feeling a little bit dizzle.
You learn all of the rude words and curses in each other’s language first
You know that it would absolutely be more practical if you could teach yourself how to order coffee. It would be great if you could understand what the letters of their hieroglyphic-looking alphabet mean so that you will finally be able to identify the difference between cheese and yoghurt at the supermarket.
However, learning the rude words is just so much more fun! So what if you can’t ask someone how they’re feeling? You know seven different words for the male genitalia!
You find it strange to think that the thoughts in their head are in a different language to yours
Isn’t that strange? I bet when you’re watching TV he’s thinking like “Hadjagawimopayoga gogo doto to” What the devil is going on in there?
You learn not to attribute behaviour that you don’t like to cultural differences
It can sometimes be tricky to establish whether someone’s behavior is a result of their personality and actions or as a result of their culture. You may find yourself asking things like
“Is he acting this way because it’s a cultural thing, or is he just being a douche today? Hmm, better cut him some slack. Maybe it’s a thing Greek men do.”
This is where you have to be careful. Never accept disrespect, mistreatment, or bad behavior in a relationship and put it down to being “the way things are” just because someone is from another culture.
Be mindful of stereotypes and generalisations
If you are dating someone outside your culture for the first time, it is perhaps human nature to try to do research and read more about that culture and what people from that country/background are like. Be careful with stereotypes and generalisations.
Not everyone from a specific country behaves the same way and people certainly do not have a hive mind. It is absolutely true that someone’s culture, upbringing, and the things that they have been exposed to while growing up, can influence their behavior and relationships later in life.
However, it is always a good idea to treat people as you find them and remember that everyone is an individual. If someone treats you badly, it may be just because that person is disrespectful, not because everyone from that background is the same.
You are excited to experience “real” food
You are absolutely thrilled that by dating someone of a different culture, you get an exclusive invite for a seat at the best local restaurants. That is, the home of his/her mother and grandmother!
Extra bonus points if your new partner can cook traditional foods themselves! Who wouldn’t want a Greek partner that can rustle up sumptuous homemade Greek foods?
This way you know for sure that you are eating the “real” food that the locals love. When you visit restaurants, you start to attest to the fact that the food there tastes nothing like the authentic version his/her mum cooks. You think you are so informed and knowledgeable now but you probably just sound pretentious…
You are fascinated by sexual stereotypes
If their culture is known for its sexual prowess, you are intrigued to discover if they measure up to the stereotypes. Are Italian men really stallions?
Are the Greeks really Gods? There is only one way to find out…
It’s strange that you grew up with different pop culture
When you date someone outside your culture, it can feel strange that they don’t understand references to the movies and TV shows that you grew up with.
You quote Chandler Bing’s “Could I BE wearing any more clothes?” while layered up to infinity and beyond ready to go hiking in Greece. However, your foreign beau just frowns at you perplexed, and scratches his head.
How did he not grow up watching Friends? At least he’s good in bed.
You are exposed to different views of traditional relationships
Many western parents today are becoming more laid back about their children’s approach to marriage, kids and responsibilities. However, older generations from other countries however may not be so relaxed about this.
Some parents and grandparents like to remind you that the biological clock is ticking. So when his Mom asks you if you plan to have kids any time soon since, after all, you only have so many good years left you have no answer…
“Wait! I think I can hear the fire alarm ringing in my apartment… 17 blocks away! *runs*”
You wonder about how different your relationship would be if you shared a common first language
Hey, you’ve made it this far! At least one of you has a pretty good grasp of the other’s language!
However although things are mostly well and good, you still realise that you have a limited selection of vocabulary to use with each other. Sometimes you may feel sad to think that there are people that can communicate with your love much better than you can.
You gain a new appreciation for your own culture
When you are dating outside your culture, learning about the other person’s customs and traditions is only part of the fun. It can also be wonderful to share the things that you love about your own culture.
Sometimes we take a lot of things for granted. Be it the foods we have grown up with, the silly games we play with family at Christmas, and the cupcake recipe that has been passed down from our grandma. Seeing these things from an outside perspective and showing them to someone that we love can help us gain a new appreciation for our own culture.
Have you ever dated outside of your race or culture? Have you had a travel romance?
Can you relate to these thoughts or is there anything else that you would add here? Safe travels around the world! Melissa xo