Navigating the dynamics of dating outside your culture

by Boitumelo Makobosheane


South Africa has diverse, multiple and dynamic cultures.

We experience intersectional issues of ethnicity and cultural beliefs. Cross-cultural dating has always been challenging especially in the wake of segregationist apartheid policies which attempted to divide and conquer the majority of the population in this country and this was done by emphasising on the ontological immiscibility of different races.

Our diversity doesn’t, however, restrict cross-cultural dating. What causes challenges is the culture itself but this also varies. In the African culture, the level of commitment in the relationship is what often determines and initiates the cultural talk and what is expected of you when meeting the family. 6 out 10 times a woman crosses over and she converts to the man’s cultural beliefs, so the talk often becomes a one-sided conversation.

To have this talk the couple needs to be on the same page with common goals:

  • Get a goal

Before you even broach the difficult subject of culture, you must first contemplate where the relationship is going. “A big mistake couples make is not knowing what their expectations are”, says Sharyn Wolf, an author of Guerrilla dating tactics. It doesn’t make sense to sit down and discuss every culture expectation with every man you date.

  • Pick the right setting

Culture and religion are very sensitive topics so the atmosphere and time can be a major factor in how your partner responds. Situations to avoid are in a car or during a romantic dinner- chances are they will feel like it’s a ploy. This kind of topic requires a lot of privacy and the ability to agree or disagree, for instance, language issues- as a couple that would love to have kids, you need to decide on the home language. Be sure to keep friends and family out of this talk as you don’t want your partner to feel ambushed. The right time would be the time when you’re super connected.  Jane Greer, “He’ll be more receptive to discussing the relationship if he is feeling close to you”.

  • Choose your words wisely

Things can go south real quick by just a slip of the tongue. Avoid cliché ’ openings like “we need to talk”, rather start with positive statements such as  “I have observed a few things I love about your culture”… The best tactic is to frame your wish list around a phrase that will ease him into the conversation. Be direct, a goal-orientated guy likes a direct person.

The opportunity to learn and be part of a new culture is exciting the change is frightening but once you have adapted to it, it’s nothing short of beautiful.

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