Media representations of couples from different cultures are becoming more common in today’s society and the majority of us no longer give it a second thought. Like most situations however, it’s not until you experience it first-hand that you’ll get a true insight into the reality of dating outside your culture or ethnic background.  Here we give you some points to consider and the lowdown on what you should and shouldn’t do.

Is this really alien territory to you?

So dating outside of your culture isn’t necessarily going to be an easy thing to do, for a whole multitude of reasons, but how different is it really from other experiences that you’ve had?  The same sort of learning curve will happen as when you dated that woman who was younger, or the man who had an ex-partner and five children.  We will always need a little help to navigate people who are different or who offer us unfamiliar experiences, but try to keep it in perspective.

Do you know for certain what your differences are?

When you meet someone that you like who is from a different background, the first thing you need to do is get really comfortable with your own ignorance.  We tend to assume facts about what’s significant, or the norm for cultures that we’ve heard or read about.  The media has a lot to do with this and we shouldn’t be so easily influenced.

Whilst we may have a loose understanding of people from different places, we need to keep in mind that the individuals we choose to date are just that, individuals.  Avoid making assumptions about traditions, family expectations, dietary preferences, social etiquette or anything else.  Instead, ask questions and take the time to get to know them.

Forget differences, what do you have in common?

Healthy debates about a range of topics is good for any relationship that seeks to last the test of time.  The ability to communicate about things you agree and disagree on will only help strengthen bonds and a mutual understanding of one another.   Take this time to find out what the two of you have in common, and all differences aside, learn to enjoy and appreciate those things.  Avoid trying to change or convince someone into agreeing with your viewpoints or cultural practices if they’re uncomfortable with them.  Be clear about what you require from a partnership but be respectful that it is as valid as any opposing needs.

What’s the real vs. imagined impact of your cultures coming together?

There are times when a person from a particular culture will have a deep respect for their customs or traditions, but not necessarily hold them as a high priority in their own personal lives.  For example, your new potential partner may come from a background that believes women should primarily be homemakers and not have careers. Whilst she respects this view, she may very well have a different plan for her own life.  Likewise, a man’s family may expect him to marry someone of his own faith.  So how would you feel about converting or has he already said he will break tradition if necessary?

As in all relationships there will be things that matter to each of you to varying degrees.  Only when specific conversations happen can you know where you both stand, so don’t waste time imagining the worst.

Have you let down your guard?

Don’t be afraid to let down your guard a little when you’re getting close to someone.  When we’ve grown up with a certain mindset or way of looking at the world, letting go or even loosening the reigns can make us feel vulnerable.  Don’t let this restrict you from experimenting with new cuisines, travelling to far-flung destinations or dressing according to different customs.  Nothing need be set in stone and you’re free to stop at any time you want.  It is possible to meet people in the middle, without sacrificing too much of what is dear to you.

Have you tried looking for positive examples?

Too often our thoughts are plagued with reasons and examples of why it won’t or can’t work.  These are easy enough to come by in almost any circumstance where the odds appear stacked against you.  In these instances you need to make a concerted effort to seek affirmations that your kind of union can be successful.  And if on the slim chance you don’t find any, aim to be the first example for someone else in similar shoes.

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