You say tomato and I say tomato, let’s call the whole thing off. So goes the wonderful song composed by George & Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film “Shall We Dance” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who famously once said “I did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels”. The pronunciation of Tomato which sounds like Tomahto in English and Tomayto in American became the hook in the song for a difference in speech that could be a reason to end a relationship. The joke resonates with transatlantic travelers today who’ve taken this a step further to “You say Potato, I say Vodka”.
Just how engrained are we in our own culture, vocabulary, tastes, and lifestyle that makes us stand out? Is it possible to cross the cultural divide and make a relationship work? Before you even get to a relationship, what is the cultural norm for dating? In Italy and Russia it is expected that the man will pay for dinner with zero expectation. In the USA, men in general tend to dress like clones, but this won’t work in Italy where style is everything and an Italian woman will be checking out your shoes. Germans are about precision so being late for a date is completely unacceptable. In Korea, men are expected to initiate hand holding and kissing. Ghosting, which means suddenly not texting or returning calls will not happen in France. The men in Paris and Marseilles will dish out the compliments and they will also tell women up front that they are not interested.
Of course all of this is generalization but there is no getting past the fact that certain nationalities behave in certain ways. Then there is religion, remember all the trouble Charlotte went to in Sex in the City to become Jewish to win her man? If anything, there is a major positive about dating people from other cultures – the learning experience. What’s not to love about experiencing new food? If you haven’t had matzo ball soup then you’re missing out. Have you grown up on meat and two vegetables and not experienced real pasta? Is your only experience of Indian food a sloppy take away? And was the last time you had great Asian food on your trip to Bali and Thailand?
As you venture across cultural boundaries, it’s the best education you can get in life, just like travelling. Suddenly you have a VIP access pass to seeing and experiencing traditions and values up close by personal invitation. The payoff for you may not just be knowledge, but developing your own sense of patience and understanding. Anyone who has travelled extensively will tell you, wherever you go and into whatever culture, ultimately people are people. Fundamentally they all want to laugh and be loved. So when you get past all of your hidden prejudices and pre-conceived ideas, you discover that all humans need and want the same things, they just have a slightly different story line.
So if your experienced matchmaker proposes a date for you with someone whose shade of skin, or national background is not on your check list, what are you going to do? Could you possibly engage your spirit of adventure and jump of the edge? What have you got to lose? Could it possibly even be a romantic voyage of discovery? Remember the first time you tried avocado or an oyster? Did you go….er yuck no I don’t want that? Or did you with an open mind and expectant taste buds say ok let’s give this a go. If we didn’t embrace our spirit of adventure, would we ever travel, taste caviar for the first time, or swoon at the first spoonful of banoffi pie?
There are many soaring romance stories of discovering love in a foreign country, who knows what exotic and heady love scenes may unfold in your life? Your Indian Princess may be just around the corner. Your African Prince is waiting at the restaurant with champagne on ice. Your American country girl is waiting to be introduced to your tartan clad folks at your country house in Scotland. Is it an easy path to walk? Not always, it requires an open mind and willingness to co-operate and experiment. Partners need to respect and embrace both cultures and points of view. What will you keep and what will you give up? Do you need to give up anything at all? That’s entirely up to you. But one thing’s for sure, don’t allow a closed mind to preclude your entry into the romancing culture club. Cross those national borders and grab love wherever you can find it!