Dating Someone From Another Culture
As travel between countries becomes easier and more common with every passing year, it is increasingly likely that you will find yourself dating someone of a different culture than you. This is particularly true if you use internet dating to find that special someone. Dating a person from a different culture can be a wonderful experience, introducing you to new traditions and activities. It can also be a complete disaster if cultural clashes ruin your dates. In order to avoid the latter and enjoy the former, follow these tips for dating someone from another culture.
Research Dating Expectations
Unless you happen to have a degree in anthropology, nobody is going to expect you to know everything about a foreign culture, but it is only polite to learn a little in advance. In particular, you should find out about standard dating expectations for the culture of your date.
Dating is slightly different in every single culture. For example, in Polish dating, it is generally expected that men will open doors on a date or pull out a date's seat before a meal. Alternatively, in Dutch dating, eye contact is considered incredibly important throughout the date. Understanding these rules of dating and obeying them shows your date that you respect their culture even if you don't really know it.
There is Such a Thing as Too Much Knowledge
Ever had that awkward date where you showed up in a casual outfit and your date was dressed like they were going to a royal ball? If you have, the odds are that you never went a second date with that person. When somebody goes overboard for a date, it usually makes you feel quite uncomfortable.
This truth applies to dating someone of a different culture, too. It is good to know a little about their customs, especially dating customs, but you shouldn't go out of your way to learn everything about their culture in advance, for multiple reasons.
For starters, this isn't a research paper. If you know more about their culture than even they do, it will make your date feel uncomfortable during conversations or other interactions. Just as important, though, by doing all this research, you have removed a conversation topic and a way for you to get to better know your date. Learning about your cultural differences is an obvious and useful way to spend time in idle conversation.
Never Assume Culture is Important to Your Date
The first rule of dating for everyone: Movies give lousy dating advice.
How does this apply here? Simple. If you have ever watched people of different cultures date in movies, both people always make a big deal of their particular culture. If a Japanese woman is dating a British man, you can be certain that there will be a scene that focuses on the exact way each one prefers to drink tea.
The dangerous thing about this mindset is that people often think it applies to real life and that simply isn't true. Just because you are dating an Italian woman, that doesn't mean she is stereotypically Italian or cares deeply about her cultural traditions or customs.
Never make the mistake of assuming culture is important to your date. Instead, allow that conversation to come up in natural conversation. If it is important, be sure that it will come up during the first date, or maybe even before. If it isn't, then you have avoided potentially insulting your date by assuming importance where none existed.
The Inevitable SNAFU
When dating someone from a different culture, inevitably, you or your date will make a big mistake due to cultural differences. Like any other mistake in dating, this can end a relationship almost before it begins.
This type of mistake is a little different than your average mistake, though. First, cultural mistakes are usually made because of differing expectations and cultural ignorance, not due to personality conflicts. Second, because culture is often ingrained into people from upbringing, it is more likely that you or your date will feel particularly offended or disappointed when such a mistake occurs.
This is a very difficult situation to deal with. Open communication is critical. It is best if you steel yourself in advance to such a mistake and be honest with your partner if you feel slighted culturally. Similarly, you need to be ready to explain why you made the mistake and make appropriate reparations quickly, if you are the culprit.
Knowing that cultural differences might cause a major problem and being ready, as a couple, to tackle that problem immediately and jointly, is the best way to ensure that a misunderstanding doesn't end a good thing.