I am from Cameroon; he is from Jamaica. We are both black and in a cross-cultural relationship, and I love it.
Dating someone from another culture is something that can at once be eye-opening, fascinating and exciting, yet come with its fair share of misunderstandings and challenges. In a future post I will write about the important issues and questions you have to discuss and think about if you are in a serious cross-cultural relationship. However, this post will focus on the great moments that come with inter-cultural romance; moments that allow you to learn about and experience another culture, while appreciating one another's similarities and differences.
1. I have intermediate to advanced proficiency in Jamaican Patois.
If you date someone who speaks another language, you're bound to pick up a word or phrase here and there. Well, we both speak English so there is no language barrier. However, he has come to understand certain Cameroonian pidgin "isms" that occasionally reveal themselves, and I think I have become pretty well-versed in Patois vocabulary and sentence structure (advantage: pidgin & patois have many similarities). But don't call me fluent. When I attempt to respond in Patois, it gets extremely awkward. So, um nvm, maybe I'm not so advanced after all.
2. He loves egusi soup and I live for jerk pork and festival.
I had had jerk chicken before in a dingy Jamaican restaurant on my college campus, but there is nothing quite like having it from an authentic jerk spot in the heart of Kingston. Every culture has its signature dishes, and I think I have tried most of the popular Jamaican foods. I'm still naturally biased towards Cameroonian food (it's the absolute best, don't debate me), but jerk pork and festival with a side of escovitch fish and curry goat can give Camer cuisine a decent run of its money. I crave jerk pork and festival at least once a week, and I can eat it all day, everyday. Learning about your partner's culture through cuisine can be amazing. Who knew that the dough-y, almost dessert-like side called festival could ever compete with my beloved fried "dodo" plantains?
3. We appreciate each other's oddities.
Every country and culture has its own superstitions, proverbs and idiosyncrasies. For example, I don't know why people smack their bottles and glasses on tables at parties when a hot song comes on, but it's their norm and I love when it happens. I have just come to appreciate that I won't always get everything that's happening, but once I get familiar with it, I don't mind joining in.
4. I get to discover Jamaica.
It's wonderful to visit each other's respective home countries. I loved having new experiences with someone who was able to offer me genuine exposure to his country and culture. I enjoyed seeing his old childhood stomping grounds and it gave me a chance to be introduced to things I never thought I'd see or do, taste and feel. I wish I could go to Cameroon (and Zimbabwe) often and bring him along with me, but travel to Africa is not in my budget at the moment. However, Jamaica is much closer and getting there is cheaper and easier. It reminds me a lot of home anyhow.
5. Celebrating [new] good times.
I love discovering and celebrating new holidays! One of my fondest memories is celebrating Jamaican emancipation and independence. I enjoyed going away for a fun weekend of debauchery and experiencing the famous Jamaican all-inclusive parties. Bacchanal Jamaica next, yes?
6. Challenging the Stereotypes.
...From everyone -- strangers, family and friends, and sometimes even yourself. You know the stereotypes - as s Jamaican, he's naturally a dreadhead, pot smoker who lives close to the beach and as a Cameroonian, I am poor and diseased, and I live in a hut next to Simba's pride. Ugh. But you get many opportunities to confront the stereotypes about each other, so you can defy them and playfully rib each other about them. Yes, we make fun of each other, but there are teachable moments as well.
7. Supporting two different teams during the Olympics/World Cup/Miss Universe Pageant/every competitive world event.
Luckily, it is rare that Jamaica and Cameroon play against each other in the same sport but on the off chance it happens, he is kind of the enemy...only sort of. I'm just joking...or am I? This applies to basically every world sporting event that exists. Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, right?
8. Seeing him participate in my cultural traditions is fun(ny).
Introducing your world to someone else can be equally as exciting as being introduced to someone else’s! No matter how mature your relationship is, seeing him take the first bite of something unfamiliar, making him watch a classic Camerwood/Nollywood movie, or hearing him take a stab at pronouncing names can be the cutest thing ever.
9. I can discuss local Jamaican issues reasonably well.
After my 3 month stay in Jamaica, I became more invested in local politics, issues and events. So when I came back to the U.S., I added the main Jamaican newspapers to my reading roster. I love to stay engaged in the goings-on so that we can talk about what's happening in his corner of the world, as well as in mine.
10. Taking in some valuable lessons.
Every culture has its traditions and its values. While our cultures more or less intersect in morals and lessons, it’s always interesting to learn new traditions. One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the years is to cultivate greater patience and understanding. When you fall in love with someone from a different culture, the regular way of doing things doesn’t always work. Different cultures bring different norms. You both will have different ways of responding to things and communicating, and you’ll have to both adapt to working with each other. Healthy compromises are critical in any relationship, but particularly in a cross-cultural relationship.
11. The adventure never ends!
And this is truly the best part 💚
If you're in a cross cultural relationship, do you have anything else to add? Leave a comment below!