The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Telling an American You Love Them is a Turn Off

By: Meisha

So against my better judgment I decided to enter (well tiptoe) into the world of dating in South Africa.*  I arrived in South Africa with the intention of not dating anyone during my time here and using this as a period to “cleanse.” Repeated conversations with South African women about the infidelity of South African men, coupled with the fact that the average marrying age here is (I am guessing) 25 so there is a lack of eligible bachelors over 30 and the popularity of beer being apparent in the vast array of male protruding bellies, all served as a confirmation for me to stay far away from dating.  However, after repeated prodding from my coworkers to be more open minded I decided to at least give one of my would be suitors a chance.

I actually enjoyed myself on both of the dates I went on and thoroughly appreciated how chivalrous they both were.  It’s the aftermath of those dates that has me retreating for the hills.  One of my dates, repeatedly told me how much he loved me and was going to marry me at the end of our date. Following my other date, my would be suitor emailed me once, SMS me three times, and called me 5 times all in the next day. 

I did speak to my “I love you” date and tried to explain to him that he doesn’t know me so he can’t possibly love me.  He is francophone and explained that in French there isn’t a word for “like” just “love.” That there are varying degrees of love and his love for me was small but growing every second.  Needless to say this didn’t change my perspective. 

So being the cultural ambassador that I am, I then proceeded to try and explain my culture, particularly in regards to dating, to him. One of the great things about living in another culture is it gives you the unique opportunity to externally view your own culture. I was quite taking aback as I listened to my description of dating in America.  Here is some of what I shared:

  • Telling an American when you first meet them and don’t know them that you love them is a turn off. 
  • Americans are naturally distrustful.  We believe that trust is earned not given.  As such, we are guarded in our interactions and relationships until we feel that someone is trustworthy.  In dating, this also manifests itself by not initially divulging your feelings, and most of the times not fully sharing your feelings until you know that the other person shares similar feelings.
  • We are an individualistic society so we like personal space figuratively and literally.
  • Dating in the U.S. is a game.  Sort of like “cat and mouse.”

I discussed my dating predicament with a stateside friend.  We both agreed that first and foremost stalking isn’t sexy! Secondly, though we both had to admit that as much as say we are over the games, we actually somewhat like and need some game.  It’s boring to have everything so easily accessible--nothing to work for.  I want to be chased or courted. I need a little swag.  Telling me to take your number after only saying hi and you want to be my friend is not appealing. I don’t need to know everything you are thinking.  Leave some things to the imagination or for me to guess or at least learn over time.

I also further reflected and realized that I am a Northeast Black American female and I like a well-groomed man that keeps a brush in his car and has a perfect hairline.  Someone who spent time picking out his wardrobe, that can wear a suit and owns multiple suits, and that has a collection of nice smelling colognes, but a signature scent that is all his own.  I also appreciate a scholared (yeah I know its not a real word but just go with it) dude that I can discuss everything from politics to pop culture with.

All in all I realized that I am pretty brainwashed and screwed up in the head. Also, since neither of the guys I went out with were South African, I asked around and found that my experiences are not necessarily indicative of South African men, but I still think I am good on dating in South Africa or at least in my “developed village.” 

Ladies let me know though if I am way off base, just plain crazy or if you have had similar experiences.

* Disclaimer: I am hoping and believing that dating in a city, like Joburg, would be closer to my experiences in the States but alas I live in a rural village/town.  Also, I should divulge that both of the dates I went on were with non-South African men, so maybe my experiences were more reflective of the continent then this country!


  1. Lol you're not off at all...I've had this issue dating non-Americans, mostly Africans(I'm African myself but grew up in the heartland of America). I actually had one Moroccan guy tell me "We don't have complicated relationships. I like you, you like me, I've seen you twice, you are my girlfriend." It took everything not to laugh at how simple and easy it all seemed. Very elementary school...if only it were that simple.

    1. WHEW I am so glad to learn its just not me. Thats an awesomely hilarious story!


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  2. Hahahahaha, yes, I have had the same experiences with Moroccan and Congolese men. The Moroccan told me he loved me after date 2 and The Congolese brotha told me after 5 or 6 hours. I definitely agree we have strange practices with dating in the States but I just don't understand the dating game outside of it. Maybe it's just me.

  3. It might be the same thing almost anywhere except for the "Western" countries. Here in Korea my friend told me you decide if you like each other after the third date. Then you are a couple. As someone who dates many people for months before I decide if I even remotely like them, I was taken aback that you can decide that much in 3 dates.

    1. Per Brave New Teacher's story, so maybe we overly complicate things. :0)

  4. This succinctly summarizes how I feel as a Black American woman dating/socializing with men in other cultures. When I was in Paris, I was proposed and sexually propositioned *in the Louvre* after 10-15 minutes of conversation. I had just been being polite via menial conversation but was too dense to realize the strong aggressive come-on. An Italian man sneakily kissed me outside a Parisian coffee shop and begged me to come to Italy to visit him and his family...after 1 hour of conversation. His reasoning as others have mentioned: "I like you. You like me. Let us be together. Don't think, just feel." In Korea, I've had a South African man (Nigerian descent) basically stalk and harass me for 2 weeks after I politely showed him around the small little town in Korea. I was mortified and had to avoid him. I'm starting to think that my independence is actually ATTRACTING men more :(

    I guess I'm brainwashed too but luckily seems like others are too ;)

  5. Reading this post and all of the comments makes me realize that we do complicate things. I'm a New Yorker and the concept of "I like you, you like me, let's be together" after mere hours of knowing each other just seems crazy. But reading this really made me question whether or not we complicate things a bit too much. Why should it be so difficult to feel. Yes, you can get hurt, but why hold on to it? We absentmindedly cross streets even though we know that a car could hit us.... so why not just feel and deal with the hurt if it happens? Most people recover from car accidents. They heal and move on. I wonder why it's so hard to think that way when it comes to relationships.

    1. HHHHHmmmm I am going to think about that a bit more!

    2. Because folks are crazy these days

  6. My ex-husband is francophone African and I have dated African men from various countries in the past. He is right, Je t'aime means I like you and it also means I love you. However, Je t'aime directly translated means I love you, when using an 'official' translating device. Culturally, I've noticed that African men don't have the 'defenses' that we do, so if they have a strong feeling, it is expressed. Of course, it is not love, but it is a feeling that is difficult to express.

    Also, note that the woman that they are dating in their own culture could possibly like the idea of a man calling and texting many times. To us it is stalking, to them it is showing you how much he really likes you. If the women in his culture like it and he doesn't fully understand our culture, this mistake can easily be made. You did the right thing explaining to him your cultural beliefs about dating.

    Now I am 'dating' an Indian man and in India there is no 'dating' per se, people just choose who they like and marry them or the parents choose the mate for them (dang, I sound like a 'dating machine' lol). This means our dating experience will not mirror what I experience with any Black American man.

    I think because of the limited Black male dating options for Black American professional women, we have allowed the 'game playing' to seem like a natural dating method. If a man loves you (definitely not after two dates) why can't he express that? Is is because 'their' game tells us that we are not supposed to hear it until after a certain time, if ever?

    Remember also, some cultures are not 'dating' cultures, some are marrying cultures. This means that they date for the purposes of getting married. This is a new phenomenon for woman who have dealt with men 'playing the game' and who are only interested in dating for long periods of time without committing to a long term relationship. Now that I desire marriage, I have to focus on people who are seriously considering marriage as a goal. That doesn't mean the person and I have to 'rush', but it means that feelings must be transparent. I am too old for the 'cat and mouse games'.

    Some of the qualities that you speak of are inherent in American men, specifically Black Professional Men. Keeping a brush in the car, a 'tight' hairline, wearing suits/owning multiple suits, etc. are not necessarily important to men from particular cultures. Where I am, I rarely see a man in a full suit because it is too hot. A shirt and tie usually suffices. Be careful sis with placing our American standards on men who are not American. In order to date internationally, you must begin to understand that there are certain characteristics of the man that will be naturally different.

    1. Sunnei you make a really good observation regarding dating vs. marriage cultures. Thanks also for your warning of applying American standards to non Americans. I am pretty conscious of trying not to impose my culture, but I also realize that I am a product of my culture. Living in South Africa is somewhat difficult in that regard because there is such a strong American influence here. Overall, if I am honest with myself I prefer American men (or have not met the right international man yet). And I am ok with that and what that results in--being single overseas.

  7. It just goes to show... we say we want a good man who reciprocates our feelings, but truth is WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WE WANT?! Lmao... if he looked like Idris Elba, would you have ran to the hills?! I have been broken hearted by African Men and Black Men from the USA, but at least I knew where I stood with the African Men... No Games. With the American Black Men to this day they still can't tell me how they really and/or truly felt in our relationship (I guess for fear they will lose me as a friend). Little do they know, they had lost me years ago... but I digress. Whatever energy you give is what you will get... if that is energy of romantic confusion, expect to get someone confused romantically!!! Enjoy the fact that the men you are dealing with now are willing to be open about how they feel and you can then make an educated choice versus a wild guess that usually ends up being wrong!!! HAPPY DATING!!! ;o)

    1. A few days ago I conversed with a friend about how complicated we "Americans" make relationships. Your post has provided confirmation. When you surpass the ripe old age of 42 you await the day to be admired, loved, stalked or whatever you want to call it. As one who has steered clear of primarily African suitors here in America because they hit me with the "L" bomb too soon I'm experiencing a bit a regret. Maybe, just maybe, if I had just rolled with it I might not be single today.

  8. I have had a very positive experience in online dating, so I highly recommend globogirls.com to all my friends. I started online dating a year ago, and have had many funs, interesting dates, one 6-month relationship that just didn’t work out, and now am in a relationship with a wonderful man who treats me like a queen.
    Maybe I’m the exception rather than the rule, but by following the advice I’ve got from my friends who use globogirls.com, I haven’t had any nightmare dates, and all the men I went out with were just what they said they were online.

  9. The American way of doing things is NOT thé way! It would do you girls a lot of good to familiarise yourselves with other cultures with a sincerely open mind. Oh, whilst at it, do not merely scratch the surface (really delve into the fundamentals), and then go around professing to know it all. Average age of marrying in South Africa = 25? Maybe 20 years ago, it was.

    From an unashamedly South African woman.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. i am a south african woman and i want to know exactly where i stand with someone. im married to a cote de voir man, we met online and got married after five months of dating. we are happily married with a beautiful baby girl. its very simple you either like each other or not, if we are both adults why play games with each other. and about the Love You issue, i love you in most of our native languages means i like you. so most of the times when someone says i love you he actually means i like you.

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  14. This is only indicative of the countries that these men are from. Same way that any woman can go and date a man from Cuba then go and generalize that 'all American men' act like he does.

    There are many men who are like you describe you'd prefer your ideal man to be like. And there are many eligible men who live and work in more metropolitan areas. They are definitely not married off by the age of 25 either.

    South Africa is a normal, developing country just like any other. We have all kinds of people in this beautiful country and the social and economical dynamics are probably more similar to your own country than you'd imagine.

  15. I really loved your experience. I am not a woman but I can relate with your issues. Great blog you've got.


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