Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you are all having a great weekend. My post today is a little different from the topics I usually write about. This topic is a lot more personal but still discusses important cultural and racial considerations. When I was growing up, it was encouraged that a good move would be to marry a foreigner. This is mainly due to a lot of colonial perceptions of importance which I have discussed in previous posts. Foreigners, white foreigners to be specific are portrayed as superior, in intellect and class and generally every facet you can think of. So it was indoctrinated in what seems to be my entire generation that marrying a (Western) foreigner meant you made a good choice in life.
So here I was, staring my first year of uni, expecting to get along with foreigners like a house on fire and potentially meeting my future husband. Now see, a huge naivety I had, (along with many other Zimbabweans) was undermining the significance of cultural differences. I have dated two people from this part of the world in my time at university, both of which I got along with really well. However, when I thought of taking them back home, I was filled with bucketloads of anxiety about how they would be received by my family and friends and what my partner would think about my family and friends. Being in the middle and considering both, I knew that each side would find the other somewhat weird.
However, this is is normal in all relationships; meeting someone’s family opens you up to an entirely different side of the person you are dating. But see, when you then come from entirely different cultures, these differences are exacerbated enormously.
The moment I realised this issue is a little bigger than I thought might seem like a very trivial moment but it was significant to me and my friend (who actually has always said she is marrying a Zimbabwean for these exact reasons). We were reminiscing on the last time we had been to a Zimbabwean wedding and through the nostalgia we ended up curating a wedding playlist. If you are Zimbabwean, or coloured, rather, you will recognise these songs as being the necessity of all good weddings. But if you are not, these songs will have zero significance to you and they may actually sound like quite bad songs to play at a wedding. This is when I started to realise that I would be deeply upset if my significant other did not understand the importance of these songs to my community. I mean sure, I could teach them and force feed them African music but what about the food and the colloquial language and the style and socialisation and the cultural norms? Truthfully, I know I do not have the patience to teach someone all of these things.
While I have an extremely loving and supportive family who would most likely embrace whoever I was dating, it is likely that they would feel the same barrier that I do. I imagine this person sitting at gathering surrounded by my somewhat loud family or friends who speak more-or-less English albeit with some unintelligible words such as “oan,” “it’s chando,” “Mensa” “Jorl,” “let’s go cabin,” “we’re cutting/landing.” In all of this, I would either have to be explaining each word as it came up or leaving this person to try and make sense of what was being said around them. Moreover, behaviour in general would make me feel very nervous. My partner would not understand the crass jokes being made. Nor would my family understand a lot of my partners culturally influenced behaviours like “going Dutch.”
Clearly the themes of culture and race in Zimbabwe are interwoven with themes of cultural significance, historical considerations and economic security. Our countries and people in them have struggled with economic stability for years and looking on countries where it seems like people are doing better in this aspect, it is assumed that life with a foreign partner would be more stable. Additionally, as I have explained in a previous post “get your passport out of here,” because Zimbabweans (and other ex-colonial countries) have been taught to see themselves as less and that everything in the West seems better; including the people. However, when I reflected on how much my culture is ingrained in me, I realised that I would never want to water it down. It is extraordinarily unique and I question why I ever looked down on it.
It isn’t new news that dating inter-culturally is difficult, without even considering long-term issues such as how each of you would want to raise your children. But my question is, why it is so encouraged to date outside of the community for superficial reasons or the the illusion of obtaining a better life with someone who was born in a ‘rich’ country. My point of all of this is that the reasons we have for forsaking each other as good matches really don’t make sense when you think about it. This is not to say that dating inter-culturally is impossible or that we (or I) shouldn’t do it, it is simply to highlight the fact that you already have a solid ground of understanding with the person you grew up next to and venturing out to search for “greener grass” is not always the best thing to do.
3 thoughts on “Cultural differences and dating”
Thought- provoking piece
Wow I enjoyed reading this.
Interesting perspective on interracial dating.. I am in an interracial marriage but for us it works bc neither of us are (sadly) very enmeshed in our own cultures… We’re very much Canadian… Although my family have their own ways of communicating that are culturally F specific (ie, language, nonverbal communication, gestures etc) and my husband doesn’t always understand but it’s never been a barrier ☺️