As our society becomes more multicultural, ethnicity is thankfully less of a barrier when it comes to dating. Yes, love may be colour-blind but not always culture-blind. Much thought is given to the prospective challenges we may face when entering interracial or interfaith relationships. Sometimes, however, we may need a bit of guidance as black people dating other black people with different backgrounds. As a Passionate Living Coach, many clients timidly raise the topic.
Rather than expecting everyone to just shut up and blend in, it is wonderful to claim your British heritage and the cultural legacy of your family. It’s okay if the melting pot does not melt. There may be foods, music, practices of worship, rituals, rites of passage that your family brought with them to the UK.
As we know, black people have never been a monolith. Amongst black Brits we have cultural differences between British Africans and British Caribbeans. Then black people from the Caribbean may be from countries with French, British, Portuguese, or Spanish influence. Similarly, Africans may be from East Africa or West Africa, Northern or Southern Africa. The Black British date back to before the 16th century so a person can also be “homegrown” of many generations. The black population also includes black Canadian or American émigrés. Then, there are Mixed Race people and recent immigrants, or children of immigrants. This diversity can be simultaneously beautiful and overwhelming.
So, you are a black person dating another black person who is from a culture other than yours? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Be open
We may have been raised with limited ideas about people who may look exactly like us but be of a different background, but it’s time to move forward. Don’t let antiquated concepts, stereotypes, or your family’s fearful stories keep you closed off. What an exciting time where we can be exposed to people of different backgrounds!
We also may have heard anecdotal stories from our friends such as “foreign-born black men wine and dine” or “local-born black men barely know how to date.” Leave prejudices – pre-judgements – at the door. Instead of approaching someone with judgement, be curious to learn more about them. Remember, their culture is only a part of who they are.
2. Be sensitive
As a love coach, I had a client from London who was turned off by a man who launched into a “friendly” Caribbeans vs. Africans diatribe. He told her that she didn’t look at all like the “dance hall queen with gold teeth” that he expected when she said that her parents were West Indian. Another client was on a date with a black British man who felt comfortable enough to go off on an anti-immigrant rant and his negative feelings about her “rasta locks.” Needless to say that neither of these women went out with these gentlemen again.
3. Don’t forget to share about you
Sometimes we can be so intrigued by the newness of someone else’s culture that we forget to share who we are. You want your date to come away from dating experiences with you feeling like you had a heart-to-heart connection and a great conversation. If you’re only firing off questions and not sharing of yourself, it can come off more as an interview, at best, or at worst, an interrogation.
4. Be aware of cultural differences
Black people who have come more recently from certain countries may introduce you to their families quicker or have varying expectations of marriage or commitment. In some cultures, a man will say “I love you” meaning “I like who you are.” This might easily scare you off or come across as aggressive or overbearing if you’re not aware of the differences. Some countries may have patterns of committed relationships without marriage. Be clear about your needs, one way or another.
In other cultures, removing shoes when entering a home may be seen as a sign of respect. Eating shared meals family-style from one dish or with your hands may be expected. It is not insensitive to announce your lack of knowledge about someone’s culture and ask them to gently guide you where you fall short.
5. Do your own research
You certainly don’t need to write a thesis to date another black person of a different culture. Luckily, it takes a few minutes with a search engine to avoid asking a potentially awkward question. For example, both of my parents are black people from Guyana. I have been asked on dates whether we speak English (yes) and whether we celebrate Easter (yes!).
While I welcomed the inquiry, I felt a bit like an ambassador from a strange land. A 10-second query would have told the person that Guyana is a former British colony and thus proudly the only English speaking country in South America and that Easter is a religious holiday that has nothing to do with nationality.
6. Be patient
Be patient with others and with yourself. If someone makes a snafu, be sure that you aren’t over-reacting. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any relationship. See dating for the fun and grand adventure that it is.
Dating is really collecting data to see whether you like the other person or they like you. Don’t add any pressure to the situation, let it be what it is.
7. Be you
“The One” will want you because of who you are, so above all be yourself. Don’t feel a need to play down your own cultural aspects or expect this of anyone else. Despite whatever differences you have, you are much more alike.
Be open-minded in your search for love and remember that everyone has an accent, everyone has a culture, and we’re all our wonderful selves different and the same — beautifully human.