Tag Archives: international dating

Is it racist to only date people of your own race?

Me being all contemplative...

Is it racist to only date people of your own race?

Last weekend I ran into one of my ‘aunties’, a friend of the family from way back in the 80s when my family lived in Hong Kong. We were both surprised to be meeting the other over 20 years later in Bangkok.

She is Malaysian and was amused when I introduced her to my wife, Jammie who is Filipina American. “You know, a lot of you Western kids that grew up in Asia married Asians and my daughter married a white guy!”

The chance meeting and our conversation got me thinking about how common interracial dating and marriage is nowadays.  Whether it is as a result of online dating sites or in person meetings, interracial couples have never been more common.

In some circles it is so common to date across ethnic lines that those who refuse to do so are regarded suspiciously.

The question in the title of this post gets asked in different ways: “What’s up with that girl? Is she racist or something? How come she’ll only date her own kind?”

To automatically jump to this conclusion is obviously stupid. This is fundamentally flawed thinking and people that think this way are revealing their own stunted growth when it comes to race relations.  You would be foolish to take their dating advice.

Everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Those that push back on such “easy” conclusions argue that, “Sure, there are prejudiced reasons to only date people on your race, just as there are prejudiced reasons to not date those of your own race or to date exclusively white girls, say. But the mere fact that you prefer your own race shouldn’t mean something is wrong.”

Where prejudice creeps in…

So far, I agree. Fair enough. But here’s where it gets dicey:

Dating only your own race is often explained as a matter of taste: “I’m just not attracted to any other race.”  But often this betrays deeper prejudice.

Like a distrust of those of another race that doesn’t allow for the attraction in the first place. This is prejudiced. Don’t blame taste when the underlying problem is your own narrow-mindedness.

Prejudiced parents

Similarly, often racism in your family’s cultural tradition leads to racist dating decisions in your own. “My parents would flip if I brought home someone of another race.”

I’ve heard it so many times. And yes, that is a legit concern. You generally want your parents blessing, right?  Sure, it is generally a good thing to listen to dating advice from your parents. But are you going to allow their prejudice to decide your future?

Are you going to let the outdated dictates of former generations decide how you impact the world? Don’t just opt for convenience. I’m not advocating a casual disregard for sincere parental dating advice. But somewhere the line will need to be drawn. Somewhere you must become your own person.

Love isn’t a political statement

On the flip side, dating and marriage is not about making social or political statements. Don’t just date cross culturally because it is trendy.  Love is unpredictable and irrational.  Be brave enough to accept this and not fret too much about racial close-mindedness.

I will say this from personal experience (and I’ve heard very similar things from other mixed couples): Taking a careful look at why we date like we do and being open to some adventure is something we all owe to ourselves.

Interracial dating and marriage can be one of the most fulfilling, meaningful life decisions we make.

So go forth and mix it up!

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Bjorn Karlman Bangkok, Thailand

Four Sure-Fire Fight Starters in International Romance

Could the principles of this post apply to any romantic relationship?  Of course.  But I am especially writing it for my friends in international dating relationships.  If you are dating someone of a different nationality or a different culture there are some things that are sure-fire fight starters.  I’m going to outline four of the biggies.  They aren’t complicated or that hard to avoid necessarily but they DO make a difference and if you indulge in them too much you can expect a lot of drama and some lonely nights at the every least.  The upside is that, if you avoid these international relationship faux pas, you can navigate some exceptionally delicate territory and enjoy the diversity and fun that can especially be found in love of the borderless variety…

Think that just because your beau/belle jokes about her culture, you can too

Just like with jokes about family members, you have to leave this kind of humor to “insiders”.  If your boyfriend jokes about his mom’s quirky conversational style for example, common sense dictates that while he can do that because he is her son, you should shut your mouth the moment you are tempted to fire off some cracks about the woman.  You aren’t a bloodline family member and thus you don’t have the right to comment.  That’s exactly how it works with cultures and countries.   She may think that her exaggerated imitation of her country peoples’ handling of the English Language is hilarious but beware of coming up with your own version.  This may sound like common sense but in the moment, when everyone is laughing with your hilarious girlfriend, it may be tempting to strut your stuff with a few of your own choice lines at the family New Year’s get together.  DON’T.

Get too complacent about leaving all the “cultural” stuff to your significant other

This one is also tempting.  Your boyfriend’s culture has so many complicated rules and nuances that you decide to leave all that complicated “cultural stuff” to him.  Why learn all the rules when you can just copy him, right?  WRONG.  Family members (ESPECIALLY those in the 55+ age category) are great at sniffing out this kind of complacency.  They can tell if you are bluffing.  They know if you haven’t done your homework.  They know what you think of their culture and are better judges than you of your own efforts to discover their culture.  If you slack off, be prepared for a very unimpressed reception at family gatherings.  You will quickly be relegated to the “girl he’s seeing now” category and will have to work twice as hard to win their approval.

A quick word about the positive flip side:  If you make an effort to learn some customs and some of the native tongue they will think you are ADORABLE.  Instead of being obstacles family members will often fall over themselves advocating for you.  All kinds of goodwill is generated by a little effort.  So be smart.

Be a cultural crusader

There is something weird about culture, language and tradition.  It is so close to our hearts and our natural rhythms that we often overreact to the slightest disruptions.  Is your Brazilian girlfriend getting a little too boisterous around your elderly anglo relatives?  Has your Asian boyfriend said something about “giving kids a good spanking” as your over-sensitive Scandinavian family collectively prays that you will never have children?  Has your All-American girlfriend just turned up in jeggings to your ultra-conservative church service?  Stuff like this can flip the switch and, under enough pressure, very regrettable things can be said.  You may be tempted to launch into a hysterical lecture:  “What were you thinking?  Are you really that clueless?  How do you EVER expect to be accepted if you behave like a total moron?!”

Patience goes a long way in times like these.  Decide AHEAD of time that when these things happen (because they for sure will), you will calmly work to resolve the situation.  Often some humor and and subtle maneuvering defuses the tension.  Explain that your anglo grandparents only understand “library voices”, that talk of spanking kids gives Swedes ulcers or that, it’s your fault for not prepping her and that its OK to change and come a little late to church today instead of having to endure angry looks from elderly parishioners whose pacemakers have been sent into overdrive by your girl’s wardrobe.

Get a big head about your progress

As soon as you make a little progress it is easy to pat yourself on the back.  Beware of doing this to excess.  There’s a fine balance between gaining the respect of your girlfriend’s fellow nationals by being culturally sensitive and acting like the know-it-all.  Everyone likes someone that shows some effort but you can definitely go too far.  I think of this German guy that I once heard speak to a large crowd.  He had married a West Indian girl and somehow now felt that he was a black preacher.   MAN it backfired.  Don’t get me wrong.  People enjoyed it.  But for all the wrong reasons.  Something about Wolfgang trying to be the Jamaican Jesse Jackson had everyone smiling a little too broadly.

Summing it up

Everyone screws up while dating.  There’s no avoiding it.  ESPECIALLY not when different cultures are a factor.  But being self-aware and cognizant of some of the more common traps gives us a good head start.  Good luck everyone.

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Bjorn Karlman


Long Distance Love II

In my last post I tried to articulate the pain.  I tried to identify some of what makes long distance romance so incredibly tough.  These were the reasons that a lot of people don’t even attempt to date long distance.  The reasons they think it will be too hard or too risky.  They are very real problems and this post is not intended to laugh them off.  But I AM saying that most of the difficulties that come up in long distance relationships CAN be faced and defeated.  You CAN make it work.  Here’s what worked for Jammie and I:

1) Be Consistent – Jammie and I LOVED to talk.  Whether on Skype, on the phone or via email, we talked and talked and talked.  Hardly a day passed in which we did not at least have a conversation.  Often the conversations were at least an hour long.  For us this was essential.  This may be too much for some but I am pretty convinced that anything less would have eventually led to the relationship fizzling.  You can’t keep a relationship going by sheer force of will unless you are very intentional about communicating.  This meant Jammie begging to borrow friends’ laptops so we could Skype and me leaving things early so I could be available at the time that she could talk in between her English teaching when she was in Korea.  Whatever it took we tried hard to be very consistent about staying in contact.  This may seem like an obvious point but it is not at all easy to put into practice.

2) FOCUS -  We talked in the last post about the myriad of things that come in as distractions when you are trying to make a long distance relationship work.  You have GOT to stay focused.  Your thoughts can make or break you in a relationship and never is this more true than when you are in a long distance relationship.  Focus on the the positive qualities of the other person and how much they mean to you.  Everyone has got a whole mess of negative things about them.  Your boyfriend does, you do, I do – no point spending too much time focusing on them.  ESPECIALLY when you are dating long distance.. if you focus on them, these negative traits will only swell in your imagination.  Also, refuse to get distracted by other people or by a busy schedule.  Eyes on the prize!  Which brings me on to my next point…

Sometimes you just have to hang in there and make things work even if you are tired, irritated or feel like giving up.  Think back to good times.  Think ahead to what you are dreaming of.  Realize that tough times come and go and that you just have to stay with the relationship even if you are discouraged or feel that you have hit a dry patch.  If you stay with it and refuse to give up, chances are you will be able to weather most relational storms.  Decide to fight for what you’ve got – come what may.  It is worth it.

3) Be Brave and Set Some Parameters!! - Long distance cannot go on forever without some kind of a timetable.  It is unfair to both of you.  If it isn’t going to work and you have no intention of making it work long term then drop it right away.  On the other hand, if you see yourself with this person long term, put some limits around how long you are going to do long distance for.  Do not be afraid of some commitment.  It was actually through long distance that Jammie and I realized that we wanted to get married.  That realization and some general talk about what we both felt sounded reasonable as a timeline, really helped us stay focused and motivated to make it all work.  It takes courage to keep taking steps towards a permanent relationship but each step is rewarding and worth it.  Be brave and go forward!

4)  Forgiveness and Generosity – Having a forgiving spirit is pretty fundamental in any relationship but it takes on stratospheric importance when it comes to long distance relationships.  If you hold grudges, insist on being petty and are not giving, you are going to hurt yourself and the person you are with.  Be generous, give the benefit of the doubt even when it is hard.  Resist the temptation to blow off steam.  Ask yourself “Will this matter three years from now?”  If not, don’t make a scene about it.  Long distance is hard enough without the stamping of little feet.  Set the other person up for success by thinking the best of him or her.   Long distance takes a unique measure of faith and positivity, make it a point not to lack in either department.

5) Travel – The beauty of living in the 21st century is that travel has never been easier.  You may live far from your boyfriend or girlfriend but flying over to see them can help immensely.  It is something to look forward to and a reunion after a long time apart can be just the spark and source of energy that you need to power you through to when you can live in the same place.  I am really glad Jammie and I made the trips to see each other – whether it meant crisscrossing California or flying overseas.  Trips were part of what made the difference and they helped us see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Of course, this will cost you time and money but few investments are more important than your relational well being so this is not one that you need to over-think.  Do it!

Finally, remember that there are advantages to temporary long distance relationships.  A lot of good reflection that would probably not happen if you were together, can take place when you are alone and get some time to think.  It is good to have a clear head and pursue a relationship with your eyes open rather than running on infatuation alone.  Take advantage of your long distance relationship to strengthen your communication, to reflect on the relationship and to grow into the person that you want to be for the other person.  Good luck guys.  Some day this will be three years ago!

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