I published this article several months ago on Pink Pangea, but was reluctant to share it on my personal and professional Facebook pages. Why? Because some of the people quoted in the article are personal friends and acquaintances, and yes, many of them are my Facebook friends. I know I shouldn’t have been so shy. The article did very well, and got a lot of supportive comments from other women (and men) who had had a similar experience. But I still didn’t share it in my own personal networks.
I decided it was time to share it now. If you are one of the people who made one of these comments and recognise yourself, then don’t worry–I’m not angry or upset. I just think you need to check your prejudices. Those in cross-cultural relationships get used to fielding stupid, ignorant and poorly thought through comments, and it’s necessary to recognise them as that.
I’m really sharing this now because there is so much idiotic and ignorant hatred being spewed in the world at the moment, and judgement about others’ cross-cultural relationships is not OK. Like anyone, I have been, and can be, judgemental at times. But I don’t think I’ve ever been hostile or rude about cross-cultural relationships. I hope this article will give you a good laugh, a shake of the head, or reason to pause.
An extract is reproduced below, or read the full article on Pink Pangea.
14 Things You’ll Hear When Dating a Man from a Third-World Country
As a white New Zealander living in Nepal and seeing a Nepali man, I’ve received a lot of understanding and encouragement, but also some pretty offensive assumptions from friends and strangers alike. Here are some things that I keep hearing, over and over again, and that I know other Western women with Nepali partners face. I believe a lot of these comments are also applicable to women dating men from other non-Western, developing countries.
1. Don’t men from (insert name of country) just expect women to cook and clean?
Sometimes. But I guarantee that a proportion of men from every country are guilty of this. Patriarchy and misogyny are pretty borderless. My dad in New Zealand was justifiably offended when, after my mum’s death, his colleagues implied that he would be incapable of feeding himself without resorting to takeaways. I mean, with my mum gone, who was going to take care of the domestic stuff?! I’ll judge men on how they behave, not how others expect them to behave. (For the record, my Nepali boyfriend is an exceptionally good cook, he prepares multi-dish feasts with whatever happens to be in the fridge, and always cleans up after himself).
2. You’ll encounter cultural problems.
This is a very vague way of saying that we might do things differently. Well, I know people from my own country who do things differently to me, too. Some of which I don’t like, some of which I could learn from. This issue isn’t unique to people from different cultures. When I asked my Nepali boyfriend if there was anything I needed to know about how to behave in his village, he thought for a few moments. “Just don’t wear a bikini. Village people don’t understand.” That seems easy enough to me! Cultural differences don’t always translate into cultural problems, and if they do, I’ll face them when they occur rather than be put off from the beginning.
3. What class/caste/religious background does he come from?
An Indian friend warned me that my Nepali boyfriend may not be from the ‘right’ caste. How many f***s do I give about caste? Zero. It’s not a component of society where I come from, and even if it was, I’m certain I’d disapprove of it. When it comes to religion, as long as he isn’t fanatical and doesn’t try to impose anything on me, he can get on with it.
4. I’ve always wanted to do that.
Then what’s stopping you? ‘That’, I presume, is taking the risk of being with someone from a different culture, with all the difficulties and rewards that go along with it. What gets lost in the excitement here is that relationships still come down to individuals with unique personalities and values, and just adding ‘dating a local’ to the bucket list could lead to disappointment if such relationships aren’t entered for the right reasons.