YEP Crew Blog Post – Fatema Shalemie: Dating from a Different Culture

So, you’re seeing this person and you seem to be hitting it off really well. You have so much in common except for one slight variance between you. Their last name is unpronounceable. You may be telling yourself that they will probably change it if you ever get married. I mean it’s nice that you’re being optimistic (sort of), but it’s not exactly something you can avoid. Never fear, for I have some tips to help you navigate your relationship more accurately than Google Maps ever could.

You might be comfortable expressing your affection for your pumpkin spice behind closed doors (not necessarily sexually) and they might also be comfortable with reciprocating it, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are ok with public displays of affection. Sure, holding hands, smooching under the stars or even running your hands through their hair as you sing One Direction songs to them while pretending you came up with the lyrics might be your way of showing them how much they mean to you, but their culture may just frown upon that. Or for that matter, showing affection in general. It could stem from their own parents not expressing their love in front of them or showing it in a different way. Or that could just be their own personality and individual to them.

You may feel that withholding affection is an outdated behaviour, but in many parts of the world, that is the norm. A good guide to avoiding unwarranted PDA is to avoid touching, and to be on the safer side, keep a 10-metre distance away from them and avoid eye contact. They’re not paranoid in thinking they might get caught with you. It’s often the case that their relatives have many connections. You might think, ‘well then what’s the point of even being in a relationship?!’ but by doing otherwise, you might jeopardise what you have with them.

Don’t be offended if your caramel slice avoids introducing you to their parents. That doesn’t mean they don’t take the relationship seriously. Alternatively, don’t be alarmed if after your third date, they’ve already started planning the floral arrangement for your wedding. You should be surprised that they didn’t start sooner! In some cultures, introducing a partner to the parents means they’re seeking approval to get married. Parents may otherwise see dating as a waste of time if marriage is not the end goal (or more than likely, the immediate goal). Dating in general might not be considered acceptable.

If you happen to meet their parents try not to be nervous, but honoured instead. It can be a big deal for them, especially if you’re the first partner their parents are meeting. Upon visiting, ask your angel cake about the type of etiquette you should show and be open to learning about their customs. It can serve as good conversation material, but be careful not to come off as patronising. A good indicator for this is if you start sounding like you know more about their traditions than them. It can be hard not to overthink it, but remember you can’t control the outcome. You can only go in with good intentions and show that you care for their concerns.

You’ll probably find that so-called “mundane” tendencies you have, such as walking around the house with your shoes on, might be a big deal in your darling’s culture. Avoid playing the wrong move by expressing to them that they’re abnormal. It’s important that you respect your differences as opposed to them feeling that you think they’re inferior. It might not even reflect their culture but instead be an individual characteristic. Be careful not to generalise their attitudes as mirroring what they were brought up with. On that note, their parent’s culture might not even influence them a great deal and this whole post might not even be 100% relevant to you.

If you think about it, your love bug might also dealing with a culture clash. You are not alone in this and the best way to avoid being on the wrong plane is to communicate your differences and learn together. No two people are the same and it comes with its rewards. I mean, think of all the different food you can eat together!

 

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Jesse Altham

Hey! My name is Jesse and I’m a 23 year old from Fremantle, WA. I’m finishing up my Diploma of Youth Work with North Metro TAFE, completing my last practical placement here with the YEP crew. I am extremely passionate about politics, advocacy and education and I’m so fortunate to be working with YEP in the space of peer education.

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