I was 14 and had my first kiss in the rain. In Slovakia. With a boy from there. He looked different from the blonde, blue-eyed German boys that I was used to. He dressed differently. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but that’s exactly what made him so intriguing. My so-called “sister” had to translate all the cute pubescent lovey-dovey things we wanted each other to know. He was so hard to reach and impossible to keep. I fell hard for him, but my teenage love wasn’t returned.
The guy whom I called my first “boyfriend” was German, but I only wanted to have a boyfriend because I was 17 and jealous of others’ relationships. I was bored soon, so I broke up with him after meeting the guy who turned out to be my first serious relationship — a Muslim with African roots from Oman. Can it get any more complicated than that? Thousands of kilometers between us, his parents couldn’t know, both of us didn’t want to give up the lives we had known back then — life in Germany and life in Oman with their respective religions. Despite love and enormous mutual respect, we knew that we had to break up after 9 months because we were still teenagers, neither of us was ready to make a move to a different country with a different culture.
Since then, every man in my life has been from a different descent than me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way… I’ve always felt attracted to guys from a different background — ethnically, socio-economically, educationally, and physically.
I’m not the only one who feels that way. Mixed marriages or intermarriages, which can both be intercultural and/or interacial, are on the rise in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, Korea, and Germany — just to name a few. The numbers of intermarriages are below 8 percent of all marriages in the respective countries, but have seen a 3-6 percent increase within the past years, their data shows. These couples are usually young and live in metropolitan areas, research finds.
In the US, interracial marriage was banned until 1967. Also, the majority of sources from Canada and the United States call such unions solely interracial, not “inter” or intercultural. They fail to recognize the cultural differences between a Black person born and raised in the US and a black person from Africa or the Caribbean, for example, and an Asian born and raised in the US and an Asian from, let’s say, Singapore.
But hey — according to Gallup, we’ve come a long way from only 4% of Americans approving of “marriages between white and colored people” in 1958 versus 87% of American approving of “marriages between blacks and whites” in 2013. Older Americans are still likely to frown upon love between two different races. Pew Research Center and Paul Taylor et. al found that Asians and American Indians are most likely to marry outside their race, followed by Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites.
For those of you who plan to have mixed kids, here’s good news: A study by the University of Edinburgh found that interracial are likely to be taller and more intelligent. Other than previously thought, genetic diversity is not linked to blood pressure or cholesterol. And do I really have to tell you all the benefits of raising your children bi- or even multilingual? Not only are they smarter than their peers, according to various research, but they will have a much broader choice in employment. I will certainly not think twice about this.
So here are my other reasons why I would never date or marry someone from the same culture as me:
I love it when someone speaks to me in a different language that I can’t understand. I love it when they speak to me about things that I don’t know. How it was growing up in a country that I didn’t grow up in, with a family and traditions that I don’t know much about. How they learned things from their culture that I might have seen as a bad trait coming from my culture, but that I now see as just different. I love it when I can learn things from them that I never knew existed, that I never thought I would learn.
I love it how I, in return, can show them my culture, tell them about my upbringing, the books, shows, and movies I grew up with, the songs that I sang as a kid. I love the completely puzzled look on his face simply because I can actually pronounce words such as “Streichholzschaechtelchen” and others that are so foreign to him. I love hearing “say this again” or “teach me how to say that” just as much as I love saying these sentences myself.
Someone from a different culture doesn’t only teach me things I don’t know, they introduce me to different ways of life, different cuisines, different languages, and so on. They make me feel grateful for the things that I had/have and forget about things I thought I needed. They make me more open-minded, more tolerant, more accepting of others. Most of all, they teache me about myself. How much I didn’t know. How much more there is to know. How and why I react to situations in a certain way and how and why others react differently.
Finally, we, as a couple, and every other intercultural/interracial couple in the world may have a small impact on the conservative belief of some that you should stick to a partner within your own culture or race. Challenging this old-fashioned perception has become part of my identity. I want to prove that no matter your language, traditions, color of skin, we can all love one another for who we are and respect the differences as just what they are: differences.
So dear future husband of mine — thank you for all the things I will get to learn about your culture, but be warned, you’ll have to learn how to pronounce “Ich liebe Dich,” “Scheisse,” and perhaps even “Streichholzschaechtelchen.” Oh, and thank you for our cute, intelligent children!
This story first appeared at Discovering Legacies and is republished here with permission.