Dating Paradigms – African vs Western

I have several reasons for starting this blog. It wasn’t just to motivate me to travel and chronicle my travels, it was also to make sense of the world I live in by writing. Prior to this blog, I had never actually written outside the required essay for school or the structured business case required to justify a project. Nonetheless, the intent of this blog is to write my thoughts out and hopefully elicit responses from other people in the world on how they see what I see.

As a woman in her thirties whose astral follicles are steadily decreasing every month, having a plan for long term companionship and family is essential (I mostly mean marriage and children). I realize that some individuals might prefer living and dying single, but my assumption is that majority of us want to find someone to “do” life with.

As an immigrant woman who wants to find a solid long term relationship, dating in the western world/Canada has been quite the experience. It is expected that dating practices would be as different as the cultures or countries are, but I don’t think I was prepared for the disparity/difference.

This post is really just me articulating the difference in paradigms that I have noticed since I moved here, my personal biases shaped by my background and unearthing double standards that can likely be argued to infinity (relating to gender roles), but as I mentioned this is primarily using my immigrant culture lens vs a more westernized approach.

Ownership for initiating the process

Back in the day and largely back home, when a family or guy identified a lady he liked, he would go to the lady’s family and kick start the courtship process. But the onus was largely on the man to make the move. Or in some cases, either family might drive the process. There was clear ownership of this process and this deliberateness belonged with the man.

Some admittedly archaic examples to buttress this point would be the Fulanis of Nigeria whose men get flogged to show that he is strong enough for the lady or the Hamar people of Ethiopia with marriage rites where the men jump bulls and the women get flogged. Even without these extreme examples, the men had clear ownership.

Fast forward to present day, it is not clear who chases whom, or what is going on. There is so much rigmarole before people (Men) make themselves clear). The only thing that has largely remained is that most men still initiate the proposal (even that is changing). There is no clear ownership.

My struggle: Both culturally and also largely religiously, having the man seek me out is my expectation. Although since moving to Canada, I have tried to intentionally “set” the stage for my expectation ( by online dating). Just to give “them” a little nudge in the right direction. But for me, the man has to take ownership. I am currently not wired to chase a man, or ask him out. He has to do that. Will it work out the way I hope? I really don’t know but I hope so.

Intent for the process

There was also a clear and communicated “intent”, which was MARRIAGE. Not date you, not hookup or hangout. This was the case back home and also largely the case in the UK (Victorian era) as per the numerous historical romance novels I have consumed (don’t judge me).

The influx of all things western including dating practices has largely influenced Africa. Now relationships are often western style “lets see what happens”. No clear intent. We do not do life, careers and business with such nonchalance, so why should we do that with a core area of our lives? Why waste time “trying out/dating” several people if you are not clear what the intent is?

I think the South Koreans are one of the cultures that largely still date with this clear intent of marriage. From the first date, you know if you are willing to marry this person or not (evidence from the inordinate amount of south Korean dramas).

My Struggle: I am unable to commit myself when the intent is undefined, ambiguous or not communicated. I cannot just “date” and see where things end up. I need to know what the intent of a man is when he meets me. What does he want? Is that what I want? And if it doesn’t work out in the long run then fine as long as you started off with the right intention.

I am not saying get married the second or even 10th meeting/date, but the guy needs “know” what he actually wants. I have come across a number of men who say they want one thing but the underlying true intent is different. So yes, I question the intent quite clinically to ensure we are on the same page.

The Process of meeting

The way we connect has undergone the most radical change. Where it used to be in person, we are now virtual. Thousands of single profiles in a sea with brief interactions based on profiles that are not accurate (tangible) representations/descriptions of who we are as people.

There is a shift from getting to know one person to brief interactions with thousands of people.

Back home in Nigeria there is no dating platform that works to its full functionality. This process of meeting people is still largely an in person connection. But dating practices in my home country is steadily inching towards the more westernized approach (after all, we think it’s progressive) and it has become commonplace that there is no ownership of the process, definition of the intent and a marked lack of human connection in the process.

My Struggle: I do not really have a problem with the process (online method), after all technology is supposed to aid us in life. What I have a problem with is the fact that, this has largely obliterated the need for people to connect organically and the ownership and the intent of the process has somehow been lost in the online world that bothers me.

My reality

In order to adapt to the current way of dating and to also avoid being alone until Jesus comes, I have put myself out there. And by that I mean online dating sites. I see it as a tool for this new times, but the navigation needs to be worked on, so that the unintended consequences (loneliness in a pool of thousands of profiles) do not become more dire that what it seeks to solve. I just have to figure a way of setting my expectations. I will be sharing my experiences on these dates and I also invite you to share.

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