A Guide To Intercultural Dating


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
posted in Times of India

We all know that India is a culturally and ethnically diverse country-but sometimes forget just how different we all are.

India is the birthplace of four of the major religions of the world (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism) and home to plenty others, including Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. People of different faiths are spread across 35 states/union territories, each boasting its own language, customs and way of life. Jobs in big cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore put young men and women from hugely different backgrounds in close contact, and interfaith relationships and marriages have been steadily on the rise. Is it easy to date a woman from a different state/faith/background? We find it can be. Here is how:

Accept: When we first fall in love with someone, we want to ignore any or all differences that could come in the way. As Dr. Samir Parikh, psychiatrist and chief of the mental health department of Max Healthcare in New Delhi, points out, "To make any relationship work, whether the person is from the same background or not, you have to realise that everyone is essentially different. Everyone's social network, peer group, upbringing, influences... have been different. So by the time you meet your partner, you are already two very different personalities. Accepting your partner without feeling the need to change her according to your views -- that is the first step."

Communicate: Falling in love with someone culturally different from you adds an extra layer of differences between your partner and you -- one that often cannot be ignored, especially in the long term. All relationships, romantic or otherwise, take time to build and grow. "The most important way to build on a relationship is via communication - letting people understand you by honestly sharing your thoughts," says Parikh. "Far too often, we keep from our partners what we think may be viewed negatively or judged, but it is important to let them in. Understand that there will often be a difference of opinion, and don't get frightened by it."

If there is a problem, face it. While you may want to leave the heavy discussions about personal beliefs like religion for later, if it comes up, don't ignore it. You'll anyways have to discuss it one day. And tell her what you really think -- your culture, your religion, your values, principles, morals, whatever. Find a way to solve an issue, should one arise, instead of keeping it in. In short, do the dreaded: talk, talk, talk.

Recognise and respect your differences: One way to work on minimising differences is to integrate yourselves into each other's lives. "Be a part of each other's social networks. Don't be imposing, just share her life," advises Parikh. The more time you spend trying to understand where she's coming from culturally, and who the most important people in her life are, the easier it will be for you to find a way to work around things that could potentially come between you and your partner and her family. Says couples' counsellor Neeta Chopra from Mumbai, "Recognise and respect your differences, rather than view them as a barrier. This holds for any relationship -- whether your differences are religious, or whether it had to do simply with your tastes and preferences. Being from culturally different backgrounds can become an issue just like anything else can become an issue in the early stages of a relationship. It's when you move towards marriage that more serious decisions have to be taken -- the kind of ceremony to have, which faith your kids will be brought up with, and so on. It really depends on how important faith is to you or your partner."

Make moments count: Enjoy each other for who you are and who you fell in love with and cherish the good moments you have shared. Dr Parikh says, "both good and bad relationships eventually differ in the good moments. How many good moments you share ends up being the most important. The rest becomes secondary".


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