“Michael, did you date me just to say you could ‘be’ with a Mexican girl?“, questioned a gal I was saying farewell to (because I was going back to the States after three months in a Spanish-language program, the final month of which we spent together).
Why on earth would thatbe my objective? I dated her because she was funny, personable, attractive and bright, not to put a cultural notch in the headboard.
“The German girls who date the American GIs here are usually sluts,” opined a close, English-speaking female German friend, chatting over a cup o’ Joe in a local, bohemian coffee house in Bamberg, Germany in 1998 (which was somewhat ironically stated, for just a few short weeks later, we started dating, a relationship that lasted for over a year before I shipped off to Kosovo).
But wasn’t that just a bit presumptuous ’bout an entire category of women?
“All you guys here are just after Japanese chicks,” exclaimed a Brit, Catherine, at a party, a gathering of expats working there in the JET Programme in 2001. Her comments came during a discussion about how we’d all settled into our routines and lives (or not) in the boondocks of Aomori prefecture, after about two months there.
“You’re just anotherdude living here who loves Asian chicks,” cynically commented a North American woman, whom I’d chatted with at a cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the mid-to-late Aughts, after I told her I was engaged to marry a local gal I’d been dating for two-plus years prior.
“No wonder teachers here hook up with each other; no local Swiss are dating teachers like us,” joked a bloke from the USA at an American school employee cocktail gathering in 2011. He wasn’t fully kidding, for at least that particular year, no teachers were dating local folks, as far as we could tell or anyone admitted to.
“I cannot wait to move to Europe, where I can finally find a date,” rejoiced Paula, a bubbly South African gal who’d been working at an international school in Taiwan for the previous three years. In 2014, she was hoping to find a more interesting lifestyle awaiting her in Amsterdam. Three years in Taiwan were a tormenting drought apparently, and another departing American colleague mirrored similar sentiments at the same going away staff gathering that day.
“Why are you on Tinder? You’re an expat here, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting dates just with women passing by,” stated a recently-met-through-Tinder Taiwanese woman, sharing stories over a beer at a Taipei bar in the early summer of 2017.
“Latinas love the expat guys here, but, then again, so do the Latinos love us expat women. It is so easy to meet locals on dating apps if you’re a foreigner, too,” giddily celebrated a new female Canadian colleague, both expounding on how we’d met someone local rather soon after moving to Central America.
– Dating Abroad, The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs –
As one can see above, it seems like a trend has occurred over my years of living abroad, a total of 16-plus of the last 18 years of my life, and even dating back to studying Spanish in Mexico some 24 years ago. No, the above quotes are notprecisely recorded evidence of such ongoing occurrences, but because I’ve had similar conversations over the years with others choosing the same lifestyle as me, I’ve surely gotten them down accurately enough to not misquote, yet with a change of names thrown in, to boot.
The reality of the aforementioned, from-real-life-discourse excerpts and the context from which they stemmed is that they’re not, obviously, mere one-offs for one particular guy (moi), nor are they the only notably pertinent comments made during my 16-plus years spent partially around the world.
Honestly, my ears have been privy to countless quotable comments, periodically, over what increasingly seems to be eons of international living.
Furthermore, to fully understand the frequency with which such topics are broached by those of us dwelling overseas, one must multiply, exponentially, the frequency of said oral observations, because, surely, anyone who has spent time living in a foreign land has been on the receiving end of related questions or perhaps even uttered such statements themselves.
Additionally, those of us who have discussed these matters undoubtedly are not the only ones to have ever born witness, over the course of humanity, to these dialogues–and that’s going back to centuries ago when travelers, merchants, conquerors and explorers started spanning the globe.
Sprouting from such endeavors, commonly, is the intermingling of cultures. Therefore, complaints or judgments have transpired in equal measure ever since such mixing began.
One can easily imagine how a brother’s feathers got ruffled because his 20-something sister in Rome hooked up with an Egyptian merchant peddling wares some 1,900 years back, or how some New World village chieftain raged on about a budding romance between a nearby foreign settler and his ready-to-wed daughter some 500 years ago, or how a Sicilian mother lambasted her lascivious teenager for bringing home a Scandinavian tourist after meeting on a sunburnt beach back in the 1960s, and so on and so on and so on.
[No, dear trolls and naysayers, this isn’t a historical commentary, and, no, this isn’t to serve as a breakdown of the horrid atrocities that have occurred over the history of mankind. I’m not unfairly alluding to the pillaging, marauding hordes sacking villages, torturing and raping the indigenous folks in each conquered territory, with women screaming and kicking as they were carried off to homelands far away, though perhaps some expats who’ve married a local have had similar reactions when he/she asked their spouse to move back to ______________. I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blank of some horrendously boring city; I’d written Cleveland, as an example, but I didn’t want to offend anyone from there. It’s really a city on the rebound!]
Intercultural dating and the choice to do so,the point is, has been happening for time immemorial–and some folks either don’t get it or don’t accept it.
For a handful of others (for the hundreds of thousands, or more, like me), it is the norm simply because we opt to exist outside of our homelands. Thankfully, there are others who do not question things, accepting it as one would accept any other’s business as being none of their business.
I’m simply using the aforementioned examples to say that this is, without question, nota new dialogue to be had, but rather an ongoing set of occurrences in this one individual’s journeys abroad–and how they relate to what countless others who’ve chosen to work globally have experienced.
Yet why do I write this now, today? The reason: the topic keeps popping up in different contexts.
With that out of the way, the relevant dialogues about the choices one makes while dating in foreign lands, which I’ve found most irksome, are the one’s that entail and venture into veiled-to-outright accusations that one is specifically seeking out locals only, as if one is clandestinely racially motivated to do so, as if we’re collecting postage stamps from each country visited or setting out heat seeking missiles on one particular ethnic target, only.
Such cynical conversations also oft include subsequent, direct or indirect allegations that those of us who date locally are somehow consequently dismissing expats of the opposite gender (or of the same, if that’s where you lie) who may find themselves in coinciding situations, i.e., being single, hoping to find another to share our lives with while away from ‘home’ (wherever and whatever that means), not wanting to go out to eat beef chow mien solo, for example.
Disparaging remarks such as “you’re just into Asian chicks,” or “you guys only want to date local women” are, at least in my opinion, by and large, unfair and illogical, though there are people in this world who may be so closed-minded as to be discriminatory or selective in this regard, sadly.
In fact, last year I learned through a female coworker who was hired by a school in Thailand–as was relayed to her during the hiring process–that many international educational institutions in Bangkok tend to hire married couples and single women to help weed out dudes who are just looking to live in Thailand for ‘selfish’ reasons.
Opens your eyes a trifle, doesn’t it?
Though I’d like to believe in the goodness of all in choosing to seek employment in other countries for altruisticreasons, to partake in adventuresome living, to engage in learning new languages, and to absorb cultural happenings for one’s own personal development (and of course to make a living), I have to dismount from my high horse to accept that there are a minority who want to intentionally indulge themselves in other aspects of internationalization.
I suppose the unwritten rules of Thai schools to not hire as many single western males proves that point.
Perhaps that’s why I take a stance against such tactics and defend my choices earnestly.
When faced with scrutinizing sarcasm about my dating life during these past 16 years, when bombarded with questions of, “Why are you only looking for local gals to date?”, I have often retorted that my dating endeavors in becoming acquainted with someone new, i.e., looking for a partner, are NOT exclusively reserved to one group or one ethnicity, adding that because, when one is living in a particular country, such as Taiwan or Japan (13 years of my life, hitherto), one is prone to most easily meeting a local from that country and not other expats!
Of course there are variations or degrees in how accurate that statement is based on location, location, location.
To illustrate my point, while living in Japan in 2001-2002, working in public schools there through the JET Programme (before returning to do an MEd and licensure program so I could get a certified teaching job at accredited international/American schools elsewhere), I was, as far as I could tell, the ONLY expatliving in a quaint town of 10,000 Japanese, way up in the northernmost prefecture of the main island of Honshu.
In my time there, I never once met another foreigner living in the sametownship. Of course I wasn’t easily–if ever–going to meet another foreigner in that town.
Thus, wasn’t it clear, my eyes open to meeting someone, I was bound to only meet a local (this was a pre-smartphone apps era, peeps, and dating opps via the internet were not yet a thing).
Thus, when I once was invited to a food fair by a 65-to-70-year-old adult student from my once-a-week evening English conversation class at the community center near my home, and was consequently introduced to her younger acquaintance, it was not because I was somehow selectively honed in to target local women.
Undoubtedly, I wasn’t ready to drop my payload on one specific bulls-eye pettily based only on race. That night, after returning home, I was giddy about meeting a woman, NOT about meeting a Japanesewoman! Not once did I think, “Cool, I met a Japanesegal.”
I merely met awoman.
To have done so was because I was in the right place at the right time, which, if you come to think about it, would have been exactly the same process (pure happenstance) as if I had been attending a food fair in Ames, Iowa (in the middle of nowhere USA; no offense to Ames, it’s a charming place!).
Nobody would have labeled me as a “looking-for-an-Asian-persuasion” type of guy (I despise that judgmental concept and equally judgmental term) if I had met some local white American in the middle of Iowa under those same circumstances.
People would have matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, you’ve met someone,” if I’d merely been acquainted with a white woman in Ames or in Japan, for that matter.
Yet, throwing a racially-generated label on me was exactlywhat some female expat teachers did at a JET participant gathering when they learned I was hanging out with someone.
I’d met a woman, by only being introduced to her, yet I was somehow to blame for being “a falconer” because she just happened to be Asian.
Such expressions are akin to the equivalently idiotic “once you go black…” comments someone once made to me when I met an African America girl at a party in high school. Literally, at 17 years of age, I wasn’t learned nor confident enough to counter their narrow-mindedness back then, but I’ve certainly grown tired of it over the years, wanting to shed light on it now.
Why are many people so quick to judge and assume?
Accusing a dude (or gal) of being “oriented” (or “horny for”, as some have superficially chimed in during such discussions) only to a specific racial group simply because one temporarily lives amongst the people of that particular society is NOT fair nor level-headed thinking.
When you’re living abroad and you’re surrounded by and immersed in the culture and the people, and you just happen to meet someone, others need to cease automatically degrading it and classifying such relationships as something somehow ‘wrong’.
On that note, if an international teacher, such as myself, meets another international teacher and they date while they’re living in Morocco, for example, nobody turns around and labels the relationship (or the reason for entering into it) as stemming from some misguided incentives or flawed dating patterns.
For me, the gal that I met and started to date in Japan was attractive for a few reasons, for her pleasant personality, her smile at first sight, her sense of humor. To mislabel an initial attraction and subsequent outings as being racially motivated is shallow. I once dated a white woman in college whom I had been attracted to immediately, yet nobody characterized the experience as being for similarly trivial reasons.
The only difference? The judgements that folks made in Japan were far different because of assumptions and narrow-mindedness merely based on her ethnicity.
In reality, nobody should have brought up anything about race or ethnicity at that party, just as how I shouldn’t even be compelled to write this blog about the topic–for such distinctions should, ideally, never be made in the first place and no discussion about said themes should need to be had.
However, we’re human. It happens. I get it.
Furthermore, those same expat women complained at the party (a gathering of teachers who had to drive anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes because our rural residences were so far apart) that it was “not fair” that we (men) could date locals but they “could not”, which brings up a whole new set of complex issues and an entirely debatable set of understandings about why they felt they couldn’t play the field, if they’d wanted to.
At that same expat party was a 20-something British bloke who was also accused of “being into Asian chicks”.
He had told me at our orientation in Tokyo earlier that school year–or was it on the plane from the capital to Aomori prefecture–that he had studied language in a Japanese studies proram in uni and that he was hoping to really immerse himself in the culture of rural society, away from the main urban centers of central Japan.
Yet because he’d already met a young gal there by the time of the party (two months into our stay), the American and British females sitting around the living room tagged him as also being a falconer, hunting for easy prey, somewhat tainting his otherwise wholesome attitude about life there.
After the party, a bit perturbed by the conversation about his alleged discriminatory dating choices, he remarked to me that it was bullshit that the gals had said such things, chalking it up to “bitterness, because theycouldn’t find anyone,” and even labelling them in reverse with even more closed-minded comments than they’d delivered about our dating “preferences”.
Naturally, I understood his being appalled at the judgements that had been made, with both of us on the receiving end of blatant negativity during the hotly discussed exchange, but I also tried to see the side of the women who’d expressed their frustrations.
If I quickly dismissed their complaints as being based on what hesuggested, then I also would not have tried to truly accept or understand why they felt the way they did.
Much of this could boil down to perspective, to some degree, and perception. Or could it?
Working to understand both sides of an argument at least goes a long way.
A handful of the females, whom, like most of us, had been placed into rural public schools around the prefecture, bemoaned that they were not able to meet “eligible men”, and, unfortunately, in their opinions, that meant Japanesemen (unhesitatingly encapsulating allas unsuitable suitors).
Some stated, quite openly, that they felt they were “intimidating to local men”, that they were “too outspoken” or loud, coinciding with a stereotypical notion that “guys in Japan like quieter, more passive, subservient women” (though that’s surely not true of an entire nation, and generationally there are changes already to those cultural norms–and there are always exceptions to the rule, anyway).
Some even described how their European or North American frames were physically much larger than dudes they could meet, precluding them from having relationships because they feared men would not be attracted to them or, conversely, that they weren’t interested in men of such small physical stature, either. Some even joked of towering over potential dates.
Of course, other stereotypical wisecracks about size sproutedforth during the discussion, pardon the pun.
Entering into the conversation were comments, too, of how men there, especially in more rural communities and smaller townships, were more traditional in their thinking, that they expected a woman to be less career driven and more bound to the home. Women who have stronger opinions or who more openly express themselves may be taken as a turn off, they expounded.
All sorts of topics were broached, none of which were necessarily right or wrong because–in reality–much of it boils down to perspective and how one perceives such inputs.
Still it remains quite questionable, however, if any of those women were right in their assumptions. Couldn’t they have all just simply dismissed stereotypes and tried to find someone? Wasn’t there someoneavailable for them, or did they just blindly banish all local men for being non-date-worthy?
Wouldn’t going out on a few dates have possibly opened up their eyes or mindsets a bit more (perhaps even opening other attributes), to potentially set aside some of the obvious cultural differences or norm-based dating expectations, in order to then be able to search out the more positive characteristics of local chaps?
Who knows, then some bonehead could have coined the term, “Once you go small, your emotional state never will fall!” (Hey, now now, we’re talking STATUREfolks! Don’t read between the lines!)
On a serious note, if one of them wound up dating a Japanese, it can most assuredly be said that the expat blokes would not have ridiculed them with converse “Asian persuasion” criticisms. Sadly, that expression doesn’t appear to exist in reverse and appears to be uni-gender, uni-directional in its usage.
I’ve never heard of someone teasing a woman who’s dating an Asian man with that same “persuasion” quip. Odd, isn’t it? It’s alwaysdirected at guys.
Even for me, dating my girlfriend there, I had to accept certain aspects of her culture that seeped into the relationship, aspects of Japanese society that I didn’t fully accept, in order to focus on the positives that she offered as a human being, as someone I cared about.
For example, I was initially flabbergasted by the curfew she had had, with her parents demanding she come home before 11pm Sunday through Thursday, and by midnight on the weekends.
Though I was around 31 and she was 27, we still had to abide by the obligatory scheduling her parents had set. There was no way around it lest she truly rock the cultural boat, but for many yet-to-be-married women there, familial expectations and cultural norms are often that they still live at home and abide by parental rules until they’re married (many women in the department of education in my town were 40-somethings and still living under their parents’ roofs).
[In fact, I had to pick her up and drop her off just down the road from her folks’ place, for she feared they would complain that she was dating a foreigner. Doing so, I frequently wondered what I was getting into, but overall, I accepted such aspects of dating locally.]
If female expats there put aside some aspects of the traditional Japanese cultural leanings, couldn’t they have settled into longer relationships, too?
One could even go into the topic of the comments made by some British and American gals then that “Japanese men aren’t that attractive,” but that would be opening up a whole other can of judgmental worms.
Yet this isn’t just a living-in-Japan phenomenon.
Until this day (at least up until departing the country in 2017), female expat colleagues in Taiwan also often grumbled about “not being able to find a date”–and regularly definitely emphasized that it was “much easier” for expat men, naturally adding that we men were somehow miscalculated in doing so.
Colleagues and acquaintances there in Taiwan revealed that they’d periodically hook up with other North American, South African or European overseas workers (teachers, engineers, etc.), but by and large, the majority would lament they were forced to spend immeasurably more time with girlfriends going out or hanging at home, compared to back in their homelands especially.
They bemoaned the (perceived) lack of desirable local men, though in reality the city we lived in was of a population of well over a million (one would hope some of whom were eligible) inhabitants.
Indeed, mixed-culture and mix-ethnicity dating in Taiwan was a lopsided affair.
Once, after my marriage to a Taiwanese, I commented to her at an outdoor birthday gathering that not only were all of the couples present then mixed-race, which is NOT a bad thing, of course, but also that, oddly, there were onlywestern men and their Taiwanese spouses present.
There were at least a dozen couples with kids running about, yet it was as if some unwritten rule had permitted only such pairings to attend the party, ruling out local men with foreign wives or even Taiwanese couples or strictly expat pairings.
The fact of the matter was that for my 12 years of living in Taiwan, I personally knew of only one married partnership between an Aussie woman and her Taiwanese spouse (whom a few expats seemingly needed to label as “cool” and “more western” in his thinking).
Why is that?
What drove expat gals in Taiwan (and Japan) to dismiss so many single nearby men?
Why the one-sided pairings?
On that note, the latest trigger to finally prompt me to broach this topic in such a format (after quite some time pondering how it would come out or be received) happened just this weekend (Feb 3-4, 2018).
I had noticed that in an overseas school-related FB exchange group posting that a female teacher had listed out her top choices of employment after attending a hiring fair. Surely, important aspects of living abroad were noted as what needs to be weighed in accepting an offer of employ in a foreign land, yet it was more notable that one attribute of making the best decision was the availability of dating options.
Not that she focused too much on it (for it is just one facet she’d dwelled on, apparently), but rather that a few posters in the thread subsequently highlighted it as potentially concerning, addressing specifically China and working there.
Moreover, as I read through the threads, questions naturally arose as to why China, as a whole, would be rejected as a teaching location or categorized as not having enough dating options for an expat woman.
With a population of well over 1.3 billion, with some 98% being male, one would think that there just has to be someChinese men worthy of dating, right?
In no wayis my mentioning her carefulness and wariness demeaning, for quite a few female members alluded to similar concerns, but I admittedly, automatically wondered if I would specify “dating possibilities” as a factor in selecting a job in a foreign country. That mindset is not based on my gender, I don’t believe, but in my opinion, the opportunity to live in a new culture entails so much more than that.
Thus, how much of a factor, overall, should it be (of course it boils down to perspective)?
With that said, if I couldn’t date, get laid from time to time, or fall in love during the whole 2-3-or-4 years of living in a new country because the local community is somehow closed off to that, making the potentiality of dating limited, rare, or impossible, I’d hesitate if such forethought allowed that knowledge beforemoving to a new overseas locale.
However, I don’t believe I’d completely scratch a place off my pros and cons charted alternatives for one reason.
Or would I?
Who is to blame in this regard? Or is no one to blameand this is somewhat a fact of life for those living overseas? Do such occurrences just come with the territory, depending on the territory?
Are expat women being too picky? Judgmental? Intolerant? Simply expressing dating preferences? Are their dude-ly counterparts somehow wrong in going out as they do, as accusations sometimes allude to (or blatantly attempt to highlight)?
Are there really barriers that exist in the opposite direction, in that “Asian” men (quite the generalization since Asia is humongous) won’t accept a western or expat girl while abroad? Or are these sweeping rationalizations merited?
All I know at this point is that these in-my-face debates about eligible locals, etc., no longer appear to exist (or at least haven’t yet transpired), for I relocated to Central America six months ago, now enjoying a lifestyle without a lopsided blame.
Here, from my experiences so far, based on what colleagues have admitted to, explained, and hinted at, both expat men and woman are activelydating locals, without the members of one gender group self-sabatoging one’s own dating options while here.
Apparently, however, I’ve been told to be on the lookout for “visa hunters”, which is a term I’ve only just learned of since moving here six months ago.
There seems no escape from such related-to-dating topics, even when escaping the beaten path by choosing to lead life abroad.
[Whether the notion of “visa hunters” is accurate or not, or the reasons why an expat may be “more sought after”, can easily be another blog entry.]
Regardless, Twain was correct in saying, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, all foes to try understanding.” Yet that notion doesn’t apply to conversations about dating during such travels, apparently.
I wish he’d also concluded that travel should befatal to the debates about why one would date abroad and with whom one would choose to partner with while overseas.
If it isn’t so common to question another’s dating preferences back home, one would expect that the open-mindedness that traveling allegedly permits would make such deliberations obsolete.
So the next time you see someone dating a local, internationally, let it slide without judgment. Perhaps those living around the world can even promote dating overseas as a way to break down erstwhile barriers and to bridge unfounded cultural differences. No, that’s not a promotion of seeking out someone intentionallymerely based on race or ethnicity (for then those accusations of selectively targeting a particular type would be validated), but if it happens more often and naturally that we intermingle, or at least be open to it, we’ll all be better off with greater worldwide diversity and less prone to judgment.