My boyfriend and I have been together for one year. In that time, we have done all of the things that couples do; we go to the movies, we finish bottles of wine, we get in fights and get over it. We have gone camping together and to the beach and done lunch during the work week. We have learned a lot about each other throughout it all.
I’ve learned that he can’t stand it when I leave my purse on the floor. He can’t park a car without unbuckling his seatbelt. He wears Calvin Klein cologne and uses Redken shampoo.
I have also learned that in Iran, you eat rice with a spoon. Iranian men will always, always hold the door for a woman. They will also likely be late for everything; Iranian culture approaches time differently than the American world does. Also, Iranians call themselves “Persian.” And there is a word in Farsi that means “my liver,” but when it is spoken to someone you love, it means more. It translates to “I can’t live without you,” because a person cannot live without their liver.
I have learned all of these things because I am American, and my boyfriend is Persian and American. He moved to the United States when he was 17 and is now a dual citizen. Dating him has been overwhelming, right from the first time I had to take an extra minute to figure out what he was saying because I couldn’t understand his accent.
In the United States, it is not uncommon to date someone from another country. That is the point of a “melting pot,” after all. Intercultural dating is a beautiful, transformative modern norm. I was thrown into it headfirst when I fell for someone that didn’t grow up with white privilege and an American passport.
There are a lot of things to expect when entering a relationship like this. In fact, there are far too many for just one article. I was unprepared for every single challenge that comes with intercultural dating.
For all the women out there who are a with a partner from another world, I have picked what I feel are important expectations you should have.
What to Expect When Dating Someone from Another Culture:
1. People will make rude jokes. In my case, they are about me being one of numerous girlfriends and/or wives and also that he is a terrorist. Stereotypes are untrue, frustrating, and in poor taste. Don’t let them take you down; use this as an opportunity to support each other and prove people wrong. Only by educating will the world eliminate ignorance.
2. You might not be able to pronounce their name. Thankfully, my boyfriend’s name is one that my accent can handle. But there are plenty of Persian names that I cannot pronounce. Just be ready to practice and understand that you will never say it the way that the native speakers say it, no matter what language they speak.
3. Your partner will have different values. The example I will use for this one is the Persian perception of time. If a Persian dinner party starts at 7:00pm, no one will be there until at least 8:00pm. In fact, they probably won’t start getting ready until 7:00pm. Because of this, I consider my boyfriend to be chronically late. He considers me to be chronically early.
A lot of my friends and family tell me that when he is late, it is a sign he doesn’t care about me. That isn’t true; he just values time a little differently. Of course, it is important to meet halfway with these things. But always remember that something that means a lot to your culture might not mean much to another one.
4. You might start to feel like the foreigner. Part of being in a relationship is going all in. I have been to parties where people approach me speaking Farsi, and I have to respond awkwardly and in English. I still eat rice with a fork, an American habit I will never break, and I am often the only one at the table doing that.
One time my boyfriend gave me half of his sandwich. I ate it and thought it was chicken, only to discover that it was sheep brain. Okay, I will admit I did not respond well to that one. But the point is to respond. Get involved with the other person’s beliefs and culture. Eating sheep brain isn’t weird; it is just different. Remember that, and you will have no problem finding the unique joys that come with intercultural dating.
When I started dating a person who does not share all of my cultural values, I discovered that my customs are not the only ones that I want to have in my life.
There are some things about being an American that I don’t like, and some things about Persian traditions that I could do without. But a simple date to the movies can become educational when you are with someone that doesn’t agree with you on everything.
Suddenly, the relationship is teaching you about a whole lot more than little things about the person you are with; you are becoming globally educated.
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Are you dating someone from another culture? What has it taught you?