When I first moved to Johannesburg, as a Xhosa woman, a friend suggested that I date a Tswana man, she said it was the easiest way to learn the language and get a better understanding of the city. 8 years, and one Tswana guy later, my Tswana is still as bad as it used to be but the experience was memorable. That is when I realised the joys of dating outside my own culture.
She said it was the easiest way to learn the language...
While travelling may be expensive, it's now clear to me that dating outside my culture is a more cost-effective and fulfilling way to see the world.
Through my lovers, I've been able to explore the continent and get a better perspective of the world in a more nuanced way than any 5 - 10-day holiday could ever offer me. Through my partners, I have been able to understand and see a world that is different from mine. Each was a different experience... I have written a review of a few of my “travel” experiences. The food, the people and some things I learnt.
The first time I saw him was under the dim lights of a Joburg nightclub. He was tall and light-skinned with an impressive beard and could easily be mistaken for a basketball player. We stared at each other from across the room and I, in all my modern feminist courage, was the first one to greet. He greeted back in the thickest African-American accent. That was the beginning of a situation that would last many years. He was my in-between guy. I was his. We would spend weekends together, watching movies, cuddling and eating. Lots of eating. He made the best burgers and really good breakfast too - the bacon was always perfectly crispy. As I said, he was American. On his couch we would spend many hours binge-watching movies, fighting over what to watch next. He had his section of the couch and I had mine if anyone crossed the line, that was another fight. Stubborn. Dominant. We each tried to show our dominance in every little moment. I don't know if this was his Zulu or American side rearing its ugly head. He was the epitome of conspicuous consumerism, like the true American that he is. He drove a massive German SUV. Every item of clothing he wore was branded. A few mall visits in Sandton were spent inside the Gucci store where he bought an item or two. His favourite hobby was poker, he spent long nights winning or losing thousands at a time. He once came to my place with R24 000 in his wallet. He had won it the previous night and hadn’t the time to deposit it. While this guy identified as Zulu because of his father's heritage, I had never seen anyone more American than him.
“If you want a child, let me know, we can work something out,” my Nigerian man said after we had sex the first time. A very odd statement considering we were not even dating. After another breakup, my Nigerian guy was my break from the disappointing world of dating. I didn't want anything special. I just wanted to have a non-committal thing. He was a PhD candidate who was too busy with academics to date, so we were on the same page. Our days were spent chatting about politics, family and our goals. We would listen to Nigerian music and discuss the frustrating relationship Nigeria and South Africa have that has made travelling between the two countries frustrating. Let us not mention the embarrassing Xenophobic attacks. He carried his passport everywhere, just in case he was targeted by the police. It became clear in our interactions that being a Nigerian in South Africa was not easy. From the derogatory terms to the constant fear of attacks. Despite these challenges, he was focused on completing his PhD, so these were the sacrifices that he had to make.
He carried his passport everywhere...
Taxi driver and violence, those are the two stereotypes you will hear when people talk about Zulu men. He was the furthest thing from the stereotype. My Zulu man, he was sweet, kind and 4 years younger. His age was not a reflection of his maturity. He was incredibly intelligent and accomplished, in fact, he earned a lot more than me (But let us blame the gender pay gap for that). In a world of fragile masculinity that is scared to cry or show emotions, he had a great awareness of his feelings and was able to express his emotions with precision. It was refreshing to date someone who was not afraid to be sensitive. He was sweet and kind and I learnt a year after we broke up that he had been cheating on me the entire time. Asshole. A kind and sweet asshole.
What can be said...
The search for a long-term partner has been littered with many hits and memorable misses. Overall, dating outside your culture is definitely an experience I would recommend.