14 Things You’ll Hear When Dating a Man from a Third-World Country

June 22, 2016
14 Things a Western Woman Will Hear When Dating a Man from a Third-World Country

As a white New Zealander living in Nepal and seeing a Nepali man, I’ve received a lot of understanding and encouragement, but also some pretty offensive assumptions from friends and strangers alike. Here are some things that I keep hearing, over and over again, and that I know other Western women with Nepali partners face. I believe a lot of these comments are also applicable to women dating men from other non-Western, developing countries.

1. Don’t men from (insert name of country) just expect women to cook and clean?

Sometimes. But I guarantee that a proportion of men from every country are guilty of this. Patriarchy and misogyny are pretty borderless. My dad in New Zealand was justifiably offended when, after my mum’s death, his colleagues implied that he would be incapable of feeding himself without resorting to takeaways. I mean, with my mum gone, who was going to take care of the domestic stuff?! I’ll judge men on how they behave, not how others expect them to behave. (For the record, my Nepali boyfriend is an exceptionally good cook, he prepares multi-dish feasts with whatever happens to be in the fridge, and always cleans up after himself).

2. You’ll encounter cultural problems.

This is a very vague way of saying that we might do things differently. Well, I know people from my own country who do things differently to me, too. Some of which I don’t like, some of which I could learn from. This issue isn’t unique to people from different cultures. When I asked my Nepali boyfriend if there was anything I needed to know about how to behave in his village, he thought for a few moments. “Just don’t wear a bikini. Village people don’t understand.” That seems easy enough to me! Cultural differences don’t always translate into cultural problems, and if they do, I’ll face them when they occur rather than be put off from the beginning.

3. What class/caste/religious background does he come from?

An Indian friend warned me that my Nepali boyfriend may not be from the ‘right’ caste. How many f***s do I give about caste? Zero. It’s not a component of society where I come from, and even if it was, I’m certain I’d disapprove of it. When it comes to religion, as long as he isn’t fanatical and doesn’t try to impose anything on me, he can get on with it.

4. I’ve always wanted to do that.

Then what’s stopping you? ‘That’, I presume, is taking the risk of being with someone from a different culture, with all the difficulties and rewards that go along with it. What gets lost in the excitement here is that relationships still come down to individuals with unique personalities and values, and just adding ‘dating a local’ to the bucket list could lead to disappointment if such relationships aren’t entered for the right reasons.

5. Your (insert foreign language) will really improve.

I hope so. My boyfriend is very encouraging of my attempts to learn Nepali, and is happy to practice my currently extremely banal and limited sentence structures with me, ad nauseum. And while he may be rather optimistic in predicting that I’ll be fluent in two months (he said that two months ago, too!), there is no better way to practice and learn new words quickly than making the effort to learn his language.

6. You won’t be accepted by his family.

This isn’t a problem restricted to cross-cultural relationships. Anyone’s family has the potential to be difficult, even if you are from the same culture or country. Certainly, cultural and language differences can compound problems and lead to misunderstandings, but they don’t always. Many families are simply happy that their son/daughter has found a good person whom they care about. As it should be.

7. He might just be interested in your passport.

Clearly, this is offensive. Yes, there are unscrupulous people out there who see marriage as a path to living in a different, often more-developed, country. But firstly, this is assuming that all relationships have an end-goal of marriage, which isn’t true. Secondly, it’s not giving me a lot of credit as a mature, intelligent woman who can judge character for herself. And thirdly—and this is something that a lot of Westerners struggle to understand—many people from less-developed countries don’t want to leave everything they know to pursue a life of increased material wealth. Life in an economically poor country may come with specific challenges, but not everyone actually wants to leave permanently. It’s home.

8. It’s just a holiday fling.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. That’s not for someone else to decide.

9. I don’t get what you see in them.

Them?! Last time I checked, my boyfriend was only one person. Attraction is somewhat random and very individual, related to personality, values, behaviour and appearance. It’s not like I decided that I wanted to be with someone from Nepal regardless of these very important factors.

10. Long-distance relationships don’t last.

Who says there has to be any physical distance? With increasing opportunities for location independent work, coming from different countries doesn’t mean we have to be in different countries. Both my boyfriend and I have careers that enable a lot of travel—me as a freelance writer and editor, he as an outdoor adventure sport guide—so if we decide we want to be together long-term, the potential to travel together, or divide our time between our home countries, is on the cards.

11. A lot of Western women hook up with men from (insert country).

Often, the implication here is that I am a ‘type’ and my boyfriend is a ‘type’, rather than two people who like each other. It’s true that there are many cross-cultural relationships in Nepal, often involving Western women and Nepali men (more so than the other way around). I see that as a sign that open-mindedness is abundant here, and the potential for compatability, understanding and respect between Nepalis and Westerners is high.

12. What do you talk about?

What does anyone ever talk about!? Life. TV shows. What’s for dinner. Weekend plans. Childhood memories. Favourite travel destinations. Work highs and lows. How to time a hot shower around the power-cut schedule. (OK, that one’s a special highlight of life in Nepal!) We’re not fluent in each others’ languages, but that doesn’t restrict what we can talk about—just the speed at which we can do it!

13. You’re just exoticising each other/it’s a novelty.

Maybe some people exoticise their partners, but I see this as akin to being attracted to someone just because of their looks. It may be one small component, the cause of an initial spark, but unless there’s something more, it’s unlikely to lead to a deeper relationship. So I treat this response much the same as I would if someone said “You only like him for his looks.” It’s rather insulting and doesn’t give either of us much credit.

14. You’re so brave.

At the end of the day, I have faith that most people in this world are good and wish others no harm. I may be brave for many reasons, and I’ll welcome any compliments sent my way. But I don’t believe that being in a relationship with a man from a different country and culture—an economically less-developed country than my own, even—makes me especially brave.

About Elen Turner

AvatarElen Turner is a travel writer and editor based in the South Island of New Zealand. Her writing on New Zealand, Nepal, and India has appeared in a variety of places, including The Best Women’s Travel Writing Vol. 11, Lonely Planet, Architectural Digest, TripSavvy, The New Zealand Herald, and more. She is a developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specialises in helping women authors express themselves through non-fiction and fiction.
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35 thoughts on “14 Things You’ll Hear When Dating a Man from a Third-World Country

  1. Avatar
    Olivia Gilmore
    February 5, 2020
    Reply

    Dear Elen,
    Thank you so much for this post. It really resonated with a lot of things I have heard from family about my relationship with my boyfriend. He is Nepali and we are very in love. I have been living in Kathmandu on and off for the past three years with him and I absolutely love the Kathmandu. We hope to resettle to the USA in the future, but I am always so anxious about the visa process and also about how the attitudes towards immigration and immigrants are in my country…. I have constantly heard the “marriage for a passport” one from family… Also when I try to express the heartbreak of not being able to really plan a vacation with my partner to see my hometown, I don’t always hear very supportive or helpful responses. I was wondering if anyone can offer some support, if you have been in this situation. Thank you so much.

  2. Avatar
    Nichole
    September 26, 2019
    Reply

    As a white American female dating a Nepali man- was so glad to find this and see someone else in my shoes. My personal favorite insulting and ignorant remark came from a family member who said if he comes here and we get married, he has the right to sell me for my organs to be harvested……… Okayyyy thank you
    Because “he only wants money” is too main stream I guess?
    I feel that being white and dating someone from a less privileged ( Yes I said privileged!) country really shows just how people think of women. Oh you are only good for your body, money, or kitchen skills- that’s the only reason someone from such a country would want you right? Not that people are capable of love and that money, class, status, or skin color matter to us- because we don’t even think about these things. Why does everyone complicate the fact that two people just love each other?
    Thank you for reading my rant I may be done now…..

  3. Avatar
    Morgan
    August 20, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this article…..its very helpful to hear that other people have shared the same experiences I’ve had in my relationship with a Nepali man. I am American and met him with the blessings of Shiva at Pashupati temple on Shivaratri 2 years ago. We are married now and live in America. In the beginning of our relationship many of the friends I considered closest to me would say that he was just with me to come to America…..honestly I consider that comment rather racist and it hurts the most coming from people you love. I lived with him in Nepal for a year and people judgements of us there were the worst. No one ever saw him as my husband, just as a tour guide or friend. Even in America people don’t ever think he is my partner, we’ve had every kind of assumption projected on us apart from him being my husband. We are the exact same age, born 7 days apart and we know we are each others soulmates. Thank god our families are accepting and loving towards our relationship….its just a struggle everyday having to prove/justify your relationship to the world. Anyway thanks again for your words….I’m so glad I’m not alone in my experiences around international love!

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