What if you like someone…but are not sure about their culture?

This is hopefully going to be a very quick post, because, once again, I am writing this late into the night – actually, it is morning now!

So I have just been watching a number of interracial weddings on YouTube. And these weddings were all so beautiful. And I was trying to be truly honest with myself as I was watching them. And watching me led me to ask myself this question: what if you like someone, or you think you like them, you like their character, but you just don’t find their cultural background that exciting?! In a way, perhaps I am the only one who would ask this question.

You see, I have quite an interesting approach to interracial marriages. I am 100% open to marrying a fellow Nigerian, especially someone from my own Nigerian tribe, Yoruba. Yoruba culture seems to have an outsize influence not just in Nigeria itself but across much of Africa. If someone from outside Africa were to think of a stereotypical “African” culture, I may well be biased but I suspect that there is a high likelihood that they would think of Yoruba culture, perhaps second only to the Maasai of East Africa.  We have got the artistic fabric headties, called geles. As Yorubas we have got a very loud, very colourful culture steeped in long rich history and we are extremely proud of it! (The combination of “Yoruba” and “Christian” is wow – chef’s kiss!)  I’ve recently learned that the Yoruba are not even just a single tribe but rather a collection of different peoples, united by a common language. OK then…
So on one hand I am more than happy to marry a fellow Yoruba person, or failing that a fellow Nigerian, or a fellow African.

However, true to my Yoruba heritage I also have a deep sense of geographical adventure (Yorubas are famously to be found literally everywhere there are people on this earth!) so I am also very very open to a mixed culture marriage, so much so that I have often sat and pondered which cultures I might best like to marry into. On balance, I would far prefer an interracial marriage because to me it seems a little more exciting!

Not everything about Yoruba culture is amazing; as Yorubas we can be extremely materialistic and status-driven. Big confession: despite being a self-professed social justice warrior I too have a strong materialistic bent so I express that in reading and writing opulent fairytales, while opting for a simple lifestyle in real life. The parts of Yoruba culture which I do love are the colour, the vibrancy, the loud rhythmic music,  the focus on family and community.  And I have realised that these are the things that I would also value in any culture that I would be marrying into. And there are some cultures which I naturally gravitate towards, that I already strongly admire.

Now here is the thing: my criteria for men are completely different from this and do not take any of this into consideration. It is extremely hard for me to meet men who tick all the character criteria. So what happens then if you come across someone who seems to score quite highly on the husband thing, but you are not so sure that you could truly fall in love with his culture?  Remembering that it is very, very hard to meet such a man…

The truth is that I am quite open-minded and I am very willing to give myself a chance to fall in love with any culture. However, in the spirit of honesty, should I admit to someone that the thought of his culture does not naturally spark feelings of excitement within me?  But who knows, perhaps he “secretly” feels the same about my culture too! I quietly ask myself “Who could fail to love Yoruba culture?!” However, someone could be thinking “But Tosin, it is so loud!” To which I would respond “Yeah, that is what makes it amazing!!!!”

Part of me is thinking that I might just be working off fear, perhaps if I got a chance to truly experience the culture I might be reassured….Actually, as I have been writing this I have just had a sobering thought. I have always thought that people are people are people all over the world, so fundamentally we all share similar characteristics, even though some cultures might naturally be quieter than others. Perhaps the reason some cultures seem almost lifeless compared to others is because in recent history those cultures were aggressively suppressed. That said, I would include certain Western cultures (cough – British) among less exciting cultures and they have not been recently suppressed as far as I know.

So what happens then if I were to give myself a chance to get to know someone’s culture, and it just did not “grow” on me (pun intended!)?

In the interest of honesty I would want to be honest with him, as someone who comes from an exciting culture myself I can’t help but notice. On one hand I would want to make it clear to him that regardless of his culture, he himself gets my vote. On the other hand, I would also be worried about growing bored with that quiet life over the long term. Yes I could always go to Nigerian parties but if I am honest to experience the excitement of a new culture is a big part of the attraction of an interracial marriage in the first place!

Sleep on it?  This is literally a thought that just occurred to me after watching those YouTube videos.  So it is not a thought that I have pondered on long and deep, it is not a thought that has had a chance to truly take root in my consciousness. I must admit that I have a particular culture in mind. If someone is out there from that culture, he might want me to be totally honest with myself about whether or not I could commit for the long term not only to him, but also to his culture. I appreciate how important this question is so I would want to be completely honest with him and with myself. What I have expressed here in this post is the spontaneous thought that occurs to me just now. I might be thinking differently after getting some sleep so I will see how I feel then…

PS, now that I have had a chance to “sleep on it”, I have many thoughts.

In short, I now feel that I understand so much about…issues potentially involved in interracial, and international marriages. It occurred to me for the first time that an international marriage is as much risk for the person whose culture and country are being married into, as it is for the person embracing the new culture.  It might be that someone would want me to show unconditional commitment to his culture and his country before he allows himself to express any kind of romantic interest in me, and to be fair I would not blame him. Especially if he has previously watched other people struggle in interracial marriages. I guess no man wants to live with the prospect of his  wife returning to her own country constantly dangling over his head, as a constant unspoken threat, and surely no man wants to entertain the possibility of his children being taken abroad, away from him, if the marriage were to break down.

Furthermore, it occurred to me that while there are cultures that I find exciting, I would not actually want to live in those countries, any more than I would like to live in my own home country of Nigeria. This is because these other countries are riddled with problems which make everyday life challenging, and pose great insecurity to life – as surely as Nigeria too is similarly riddled with similar problems. Finally, even as I was writing the post above, I was thinking that I would be the first person to advise people to avoid marrying someone just because they seem “exciting”. If this is true of individual people, then might it not also be true of cultures?!

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