A two-part Discussion Topic composed by an ISR member speaking from first-hand experience
Look Before You Leap...
If you’re a single international educator, living overseas and thinking about (or are already) dating a host national, you’ll be faced with some heartfelt discussions as you make the leap into a serious, perhaps permanent, relationship.
Dating in a foreign land can and will invite a slew of new issues, especially concerning your differences and how perspectives and cultural norms shape and guide your relationship. This is far more complex than you’ll encounter dating back home where both partners subscribe to the same cultural history with an intrinsic understanding of basic expectations. Not necessarily so between couples from two distinctly different cultures.
From birth, we’re bound by the norms of our culture. As mentioned, bi-cultural, bilingual partnerships are inevitably faced with some tough decisions: Will you marry? If so, where? Back home (for you) or where you met? Where will you settle? Whose family will be seeing you more often? Whose aging parents and family will benefit from you living close? Who will make the sacrifices regarding family/friends living a long flight away? Will both partners work? How about home and property purchases? And most importantly and consequential, what about starting a family?
With effort and mutual understanding, partners can overcome obstacles, discovering that love is love and we’re all human, regardless of customs and habits. Still, there are so many variables that make for a challenging course, it’s wise to consider what you are/are not willing to do for love before you get in over your head and your judgement becomes blurred.
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(ISR NOTE: Stay tuned for Part 2 next week: After the Leap — The consequences of an overseas relationship that doesn’t work out
10 thoughts on “Where Will Love Take…or Leave You? (part 1)”
To all Western women going to the Middle East…just don’t. Yes, they are handsome and charming, and they will tell you anything you want to hear. At the very least, you will get your heart broken. I had to walk away from a position because of this man’s mind-games and mental abuse. An educated woman is supposed to know better. I was incredibly foolish, and still recovering emotionally and professionally.
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I’m in the Middle East now; so many of my single coworkers are about the “meantime” and have lost their minds because of the money, status, charm, etc…
This is a toxic place and is NOT a good environment for a healthy relationship.
Having lived in Asia for the best part of 10 years and Africa previously, I can’t help but notice a certain type of western male who takes advantage of their position. One has to question the character of a person who chooses to marry a person from a 3rd world country, often poorly educated, who is half their age and from a culture where women are more submissive. I understand love has no boundaries, but can’t fail to notice certain similarities in this group and wonder why they don’t marry someone that could be considered their equal?
I don’t know if you meant to come across as so judgmental, but this post does not allow you to come across as warm and open minded. I’m sure you are, so perhaps you might want to consider whether “One has to question the character” of a person you do not know other than for their choice of spouse. I would hope that someone would get to know more about that person before feeling you have enough knowledge to decide upon whether or not they are a good person. People marry for many reasons. I have met many women that have married men from 3rd world countries. Should we also question their character? You also say “you can’t fail to notice” but that comes across as dripping with insincerity and disingenuousness. You can fail to notice, except you want to notice and to judge. If one knows the character of a person, then perhaps one can judge, but even then it is better to give a colleague a decent chance to exhibit the kind of person they are.
As educators, we teach our students not to stereotype others or negatively judge people without evidence. It would be nice if we attempted to be role models for them in such a regard. Not that it’s relevant but I’m a western female. I’m not caucasian but my spouse is. I have also been subject to the kind of prejudice exhibited within your post and, for me, I don’t believe that kind of precipitate appraisal to be acceptable. It might be for you and your values, but it’s not for me. You are of course fully entitled to your views, but I also wanted to share mine.
Warned teachers not to get too involved with Egyptian men but the heart was pumping more than the brain was flowing with common sense. Left a number of teachers earning the crust, one loosing her children and one seeing him leave her as soon as they moved home to her western country. The cultural divide too wide.
Hoping to share this blog entry I’d done a few months ago, having sent this topic in, too, to ISR. Hope I can share this blog, here:
While living in Taiwan I married a girl from Cambodia who couldn’t speak a word of English. We lived in Taiwan for 3 years before moving to the US. Been married for 8 years now. She speaks English and has a job. She is really good at giving me that Honey Do list every week. We had challenges at first, but who doesn’t. I am 61 and she is 37. Worked great for us. Accepting her culture was never a problem. I would never marry an American girl. That was never in my plan. We now have a house in Cambodia. Life is great. The cool thing is, when she gets mad at me she yells at me in 2 languages. Gotta love it.
I didn’t marry a host national while living overseas, but I did marry someone from a different culture. It didn’t work out but that’s a long story. Cultural differences were involved but it was more of an issue of individual differences that made it impossible in the end.
However, I will say that I read in a book about cross-cultural relationships that they are much less contentious when the male comes from a culture where women are conventionally more assertive or when the female comes from a culture where women are conventionally less assertive.
The most contentious relationships are when the male comes from a culture where women are conventionally less assertive but the female comes from one where they are more assertive. This makes a lot of sense and is something to keep in mind as you try to navigate through the rough patches.
It’s not an excuse nor is it a reason to avoid the relationship, but it is important to be realistic as well as aware of the sorts of cultural misunderstandings that might cause hurt or frustration.
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Yes, completely agree with that assessment!
That is one of the main reasons that foreign women in Thailand rarely marry a Thai man, but foreign men marry Thai women all the time.
The few marriages I knew of between a western woman and a Thai man failed very quickly!
This is an interesting subject. I have friends who married overseas and are very happy. It should be known that they had no intention of ever returning to the US to live, and they have not. On the other hand I have a friend who married overseas and his bride moved back to the States with him. She eventually attended University and earned a master degree. During the process she came to realize that the role of women in her society was something from her past, a past she wanted to break with. This caused tremendous friction between her and her husband who tried to keep her in a rather subservient position. She has since returned home with the kids. That’s my two cents.