“Nice to meet you too! Where are you from?” Sonali answered to a pair of blue eyes keenly looking at her over dinner.
“I’m from Paris, are you from Bombay?” asked Andre. He was a little flushed; the kind of excitement that comes from a few glasses of wine and sitting next to an attractive girl.
“Yeah!” Sonali had been to Paris and was thinking of how she could keep this conversation going a little longer. It didn’t take a lot of effort.
“You are beautiful”, the compliment came fast before Sonali could string anything. Sonali smiled, cast her eyes downwards and moved closer to Andre. As the night progressed, they laughed louder and talked about the trivialities of life. The cultural divide of Paris and Bombay didn’t seem to interfere with their admiration of each other.
Andre asked Sonali out for a lunch date. He reached for her hand and she let him take it. Andre didn’t just have a fetish for Sonali’s dusky body and high cheekbones but found a companion in her. They dated for a long time till Sonali decided to take a job in London.
But for Sonali, the relationship was one of the most special ones she had ever been in. Even though she was quite sceptical of it at the start, things smoothened out as they moved along. What makes intercultural dating so interesting and what does it entail?
Dating an expat, strangely enough, attracts casual denigration and elicits gossip even among the closest circle of friends. The importance of the relationship is reduced to a sex fling or inability to find a mate in one’s homeland. Andre also sensed laughable envy from his friends on having found an Indian girl who will teach him all about Kamasutra. Sonali’s friends would warn her,“He will move back to France and you will be thirty and single.” For Sonali, dismissing the future was easier than working out her own dilemmas. “Was Andre in this relationship because he was just a sexless bored expat, looking to share his life with someone. Or is there more to this relationship than that?” These thoughts occupied her mind at times.
But Joshua, an American living in Bombay says, “Sex is not a problem. We go to a club, meet someone and more often than not wind up in bed. But a relationship means time, emotion and compromise. If I like a girl, I am willing to go for the whole thing.”
The scene for female expats living in Bombay is slightly different, “Men are only interested in a casual relationship with me,” Marium says. The path to romance could be a lonely one for an expat living in Asian countries where men may have very different expectations from their girlfriends. There are religious barriers too. Marium relates her experience, “My being a Muslim could be a possible reason for men’s casual interest in me.”
The interest in intercultural dating can be sized up by the number of websites that offer dating sevices (and not the sleazy kind). There are expat dating forums in India in almost every metro. Why are single Indian men seeking foreign lands? “It’s not about where you come from, but who you are. Her independence and ambition attracted me to her”, says Vineet who has been dating Linda for almost a year and moved in together last month. “It wasn’t about Indian or American but yes Indian girls do have a lot of expectations from their men and somewhere in the process of finding the right man, they lose focus on their careers.”
Does it last forever? “No! But isn’t that the fun of it? I knew Matt would return to Germany in three months but we made the most of it! Ihave no regrets!” beams Kruti who thinks that the temporary nature of this relationship makes it exciting for her. After all, there is a desirable lightness this relationship brings – the lightness of being in the now. Caroline remembers her relationship with Avinash, “I think we saw it all: the differences in our values and upbringing. But we put that aside and dove into it. Soon I moved back to the States and Avinash and I tried long distance for a while. Eventually we broke up. Skype helps but doesn’t replace him.”
Cosmopolitan cities and globetrotting jobs are making it easier to find love across borders. Young people aren’t shying away from it and are relocating across continents. Instead of staying loveless, they want to experiment with the local culture. “I love everything Indian and that includes my men too. It would be a shame not to have a little fun while I’m here,” Erica says.
This experiment can lead to heartbreaks and happiness ever after as well. Happiness is always a matter of chance in any situation. Dating someone from a different country is a maturity lesson when in a relationship. There are so many new things to discover, new emotions to experience and great friends to be made that it is worth trying out. But if you stay away from comparisons, you will gain a lot more on the way. Weed out those doubts and try to have fun. If you are thinking over an intercultural issue, talk about it instead of keeping doubts in your head. And if you are looking for marriage, be clear about it from the start so there is no disappointment later. Are there any downsides? Well, of course, but they do look similar to the ones that come with romance with someone from your own culture. So why not cross the world for love?
Volume 1 Issue 7