A few tips on how to navigate the world of dating and sharing my South African culture with non-South Africans.
While some South Africans happen to only mix with fellow South Africans, and end up meeting and falling in love with another South African, some of us chance upon a significant other from another country and culture.
If you immigrate while you are single, or when you are a young girl like I was, chances are you are going to find yourself a significant other who is native to the country you are now living in.
I think it’s a beautiful thing to meet someone from another culture and be able to share your culture with this person and vice versa.
Here’s how I navigated the world of dating and sharing my South African culture with American men.
Don’t try to assimilate into their culture. Appreciate their culture but never forget or try to hide your own. The South African culture is warm, lively and intoxicating so give them a chance to drink it up and learn some South African ways.
My significant other has been exposed to biltong, boerworse, pap, melk tart, peri-peri chicken liver and all kinds of South African food.
The first time my father offered him some biltong I cringed, as we all know it’s not the most attractive looking food, but then I thought about it and I thought, why am I cringing? I grew up munching on this protein-filled snack and absolutely loved it!
Also, I do have to point out that biltong is a million times better than the American biltong rip-off they call jerky.
Much like a job interview, where you would do your research on the company before meeting with your potential new employer, don’t set your significant other up for failure.
Fortunately for me, my significant other is very worldly and knew quite a bit about South Africa but there were certain words I had to explain to him beforehand.
The South African culture happens to be very close to the American culture but perhaps if your significant other’s culture is very different to that of the South African culture, you may want to spend some more time on this and you can use this as a bonding experience.
When you are blending cultures, don’t accentuate and point out the differences, rather focus on the similarities in both of your cultures.
There are many similarities between South African and American cultures so this was not hard for me to do.
Educate your significant other about South Africa. If they are around your family or your South African friends and one of them says something that your significant other doesn’t understand, the worst thing you can do is to say “never mind it’s a South African thing.”
Rather take the opportunity to enrich their understanding of your culture.
Side note: South African humour may be difficult to pick up at first,so if there is a joke they don’t understand, be patient with them as you may be in a similar siutation with their friends and family.
Don’t use their nationality for or against them during a disagreement. Saying things like, “Well of course you would say that because you’re an American” is an immature thing to do and is not going to work out well for you. Again focus on your similarities, not your differences.
Understand that the ways you look at the world are going to be culturally different. Politics and current affairs may be touchy subjects, especially if your significant other has not travelled much, so make sure the two of you are comfortable enough with each other to be able to agree to disagree.
Remember, although it may seem easier to date another South African, the two of you fell in love for some beautiful reason so focus on that. Encourage their cultural beliefs and they will encourage yours. Embrace their culture and they will embrace yours.
When it comes to culture, two is better than one and it will make you a culturally rich power couple.
They fell in love with you for a reason and your culture is innately within you so be proud and show that culture off. Include them in gatherings and make them feel part of your culture while also embracing their culture.
The Beatles said it best when they said “All you need is love” so focus on the love and not the ‘differences’ that divide you.