To most people, dating someone of a different race isn’t an issue. However, within some families, interracial relationships are frowned upon and in some instances can lead to families being torn apart. It can be difficult to have a good relationship with your family if they disapprove of your partner, but following expert dating advice can provide a way in overcoming some obstacles, which will hopefully lead to your parents displaying a more accepting attitude.
Relationship expert, India Kang, has answered our questions to give you advice on how to tackle the main interracial dating issues. We are looking at both sides of the picture, whether you are struggling to cope with conservative parents of if you are dating someone with conservative parents, as it can be stressful for both of the parties involved.
Tips for Asians dating a non-Asian
1.What’s the best ways to introduce someone to my culture who isn’t Asian?
One key relationship milestone is meeting the family, introducing your partner especially if you’re Asian signifies you are serious about each other. As a dating and relationship coach I am often asked how to navigate ‘meeting the family’ stage. Questions range from ‘how soon should I meet the family? How should I dress? Should I take a gift and if so what? For some it can be mind boggling.
Introducing a partner who is outside your culture is best handled with some care and thought. The best way is to only introduce your partner once you are absolutely sure they are ‘the one’. In fact, it’s better to wait until you are both talking engagement and marriage. Introducing each other too soon may backfire especially if the relationship doesn’t work out.
If you have a large family don’t overwhelm your partner by organising a big family lunch or dinner and don’t take them along to a big family gathering. Yes, this is easier since they get to meet the whole family at the same time, but this may be a little overwhelming for your partner. Introduce them to your family slowly and in small manageable chunks.
2.How do I deal with my conservative parents?
Sometimes you can’t help who you fall in love with right? If your parents are conservative, again, introduce your partner into your family slowly and take your time. There is no rush! Start off by introducing them to the more amenable and less conservative members of your family first. Gather a little support upfront. If you have an aunt, sister or uncle, rope them into assisting with the first initial meeting.
Introduce your partner to your culture but don’t force them to get involved. Don’t make your partner adapt to your culture or try and change them in anyway – your partner won’t appreciate it. Talk highly of your partner in front of your parents, you have my permission to exaggerate a little. This may help to calm your parent’s fears and swing their opinion favourably towards him/her!
You should be able to date who you like but if your family/ culture views are very important to you, it may be best to date within the same culture. Only you will be able to make the judgement call on this.
3.What could I do to win over a disapproving family?
First and foremost while your family are important, your partner comes first. If your family disapprove, don’t let their views and prejudices hold you back from love. Finding love in today’s urban landscape it really tough, and the fact you found your special person regardless of their background should be celebrated.
If met with a disapproving family there’s not much you can do to get them to like your partner. But, it is important to take it easy with your parents, for the most part they are doing what they feel is best for you. They may think your life would be easier with someone within the same culture. If your family continue to disapprove – focus on building a great relationship with your partner. Be prepared they may not attend the wedding. Think long term, hopefully your family love you and with time may soften.
There are also a few things you must never do. Irrespective of whether the family approve or not and despite your own personal feelings; to build a happy relationship never say anything negative about each other’s family. You partner can say whatever they like about their own family but you must zip the lip!
Tips for non-Asians dating an Asian
1.Any tips on best ways to act when meeting the extended family?
Act the same when meeting anyone new for the first time. Manners first, be polite and courteous, smile and don’t forget to wear matching socks! They might ask you to take your shoes off, be prepared, you’ve come this far we don’t want them making a judgement based on your socks…
Do some homework. Get your partner to brief you on the different personalities and characters within the family. For example, in some Asian families it’s tradition to touch the feet of a respected elder. If this is their tradition do it! Don’t make fun or mock any of the traditions. While in their presence do it their way and with a smile on your face. When in Rome!
Take note of any cultural behaviours, for example if the family don’t drink, don’t take wine as a gift. If the family are vegetarian, don’t take food stuff made with animal products. If they take the time to cook for you, remember to thank the host and praise the chef. In fact isn’t it the best Indian food you’ve ever tasted – wink wink!
2.What are the factors to take into account when dating someone from a different ethnicity?
There are a few factors to take into consideration including religious views and levels of observance. Are they strict or more liberal in their views? Are you expected to convert to their religion? Are you expected to move back to their country of origin? After marriage, are you expected to live with the extended family? What religion will your children observe? It’s prudent to check all these factors before agreeing to say “I do”. You may also encounter language barriers, especially if communicating with the elders. Are you prepared to learn anther language or will your own special blend of sign language together with talking very loudly suffice?
Agree and negotiate upfront how you plan to live in harmony while respecting each other’s culture and traditions. Don’t assume love will conquer all. Often the ability to see the other person’s point of view will go a long way in building and strengthening your union.
3.How can I relax before meeting Asian parents for the first time?
Asian parents may sound scary but honestly they’re not. Honest!
Again, it’s no different to meeting anyone new from dating sites for the first time. Sure, there are certain culture behaviours which have to be respected. It’s normal to be a little nervous because you want them to like you, and you’re careful not to say or do anything wrong.
Think positive, breathe a lot and don’t forget to smile. Another little tip is to dress traditionally. I did this when I met my mother-in-law for the first time. I heard later that she really liked and appreciated the effort. These little ‘likes’ sure do stack up.
If you are interested in reading more Asian dating advice, you may like our ‘breaking the stereotype’ article.