Friday, December 28, 2012

Email about online dating and cross cultural relationships

A few months ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I have finally decided to join the queue of those seeking your opinion and that of your readers. I am not sure what my main point is, but having come out to myself (because others could see it much earlier!) quite later in life at the age of 27 a lot of the aspects of life as a sexually active gay man are still new and sometimes puzzling to me. I suppose it all has to do with a certain anxiety of what is going to happen in the future, instead of just enjoying life as it comes which I ought to combat in myself.

I am a 32 year old Greek guy, doing a PhD in the UK. I have been living in London on and off for the past 10 years. I am a total rice queen, a term I learned from you first. I did not use to be, but after my first experience with what the English call ‘orientals’ I somehow got stuck in seeking guys from the Far East. I cannot pinpoint what exactly it is that attracts me, perhaps a combination of looks and the exotic culture. Well, after I started losing my hardon during sex with guys of other ethnic backgrounds, I realised it was time I concentrated on dating mostly Asians!

So far I have been in relationships with a Korean guy and then a Japanese guy, and have dated a few Chinese and others for various amounts of time. It has all been done via grindr, jack’d and other websites. When I go to clubs in Soho I have been lucky to attract the attention of guys I also like, but nothing more than that. I guess my first question has to do with dating. As I have to study a lot and spend more time than I prefer with my laptop, going online and finding someone comes easier, almost natural, to chatting up guys at bars or at uni. I might be posing questions you have already discussed, but can one really build a meaningful relationship with someone one has met online? It is so disheartening to see guys you’ve been dating for some time go back to grindr, or even finding myself craving it after some weeks of ‘electronic abstinence’. Lots of people just dismiss the idea of finding someone for more than sex online. My first relationship lasted 3 years but it started as an online sex date and with sex being perfect, feelings developed and we ended up together. What eventually killed it was turning it into a long distance affair because of my study.

With my second question I would like to turn the spotlight of the blog back to you (and the good old days when you were describing your life experiences) and ask you what, if any, have been the cultural barriers, differences and challenges you faced in your relationship with your latest partner who is Asian. Trying not to stereotype, I have found, for example, the Japanese in particular to be very much attached to their own culture, even after more than a decade of living in London. Understandably, it is difficult to ‘read’ people especially when they come from conservative or introvert cultures. Did you or the readers ever have this problem, and how did you deal with it? I get cross when sometimes friends tell me “ah, you shouldn’t date guys from such different cultures to yours, it is always going to be difficult”.

Have a great weekend.

All best wishes,

The reader who sent me this email also attached a picture of himself to the email, which was a nice gesture. I think it helps me write these responses if I know what the person looks like, because I think it's possible to get a useful impression of someone just by looking at them.

When I first received this email, I sent back an immediate response in which I gave the following short answer to his queries:
I think the brief answers are "Yes" one can build meaningful relationships with someone that one has met online, and that cross cultural relationships can be more rewarding precisely because of the cultural differences!
There's certainly no doubt in my mind that it's possible to find long-term boyfriends online. In my case, I met all my recent boyfriends online! It was almost 4 years ago that I met boyfriend T online. We then became boyfriends about 3.5 years ago, and we're still together :-).

However, I think that some web sites are more sex oriented than others. I haven't done any online cruising myself for 3.5 years, so I'm not the best person to advise on which the best web sites are for relationships rather than sex. I found my boyfriends on gaydar and, and when I used to use those web sites I recall that manhunt was well known for being sex rather than relationship oriented. Back in 2009 I wasn't aware of either grindr and jack'd, because at that time they were only just starting to become popular. Perhaps a few readers could leave some comments on which web sites are best for sex hook-ups, and which are better for finding guys who want a relationship.

In any case, looking at the reader's email again, I think that he partly answered his own question because his first relationship was with a guy that he met online, and it sounds like the relationship was a success. It didn't end because either of them craved online *fun* with other guys, instead it ended because it turned into a long distance relationship. My relationship with ex-boyfriend P was a long distance relationship so I have some experience in that area. Long distance relationships are always bound to be difficult.

The reader says that it's disheartening to see guys you’ve been dating for some time go back online, but I'm not sure that I agree. In my case, after I first met boyfriend T online, I still carried on looking online for other guys. After all, we weren't boyfriends at that point. But I grew to love him more and more, so after around 6 months I asked him to be my boyfriend :-). Judging from the reader's email, perhaps he expects too much too soon from the guys that he meets. I reckon that one of the golden rules of dating is to take things very slowly, and don't expect any loyalty unless you've discussed whether your friendship has a future as a relationship. A long time ago, a reader left a comment on this blog (or sent me a private email, I can't remember which) in which he said that one shouldn't discuss "the future" with a guy until you'd known him for 2 years or more. I agree with the sentiment, but not the length of time! I think that you can start to discuss that kind of thing after a few months :-).

Regarding the reader's other question, I think it's good if there's some kind of complementarity between the two guys in a gay relationship. With straight couples, the fact that one of them is male and the other is female immediately provides a lot of complementarity, because men and women often have quite different perspectives on things. Similarly, if a guy's boyfriend is from a different culture, then that too provides complementarity :-). So I think that cross cultural relationships are good, and learning how to 'read' the views, moods etc of one's boyfriend is one of the things that makes the relationship more interesting.

My own experience is that after the initial honeymoon period when everything was perfect, as it always is during the very early stages of a relationship, boyfriend T and me did sometimes argue a bit. Looking back, I can see that it's precisely because of what the reader alludes to, namely that we didn't understand each other properly. But in fact, as time has passed, we have learned how to live and get along with each other. These days, arguments are much rarer :-). We didn't consciously think about why we used to argue, but somehow we muddled through. So if you're aware of this issue in advance, it's even more likely that you'll be able to make a success of a cross cultural relationship.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these issues?


Wim said...

I've been on for some time now, and it's definitely more relationship-oriented than places such as grindr or manhunt (guess you can tell from their respective names). I've met a good amount of close friends there, some of which I don't even have sex with.

That in mind, I'm convinced one can find a lasting relationship online. Gayromeo recently released a video with pictures of dozens of couples still together that formed over the past few years.

As far as culture is concerned, it can come with some complications depending on the size of cultural differences, but overall I think cross-cultural relationships are wonderful -- I know some guys who are dating men with a different ethnicity or who don't even speak our native language (Dutch), and they're the sweetest couples ever.

Guaranteed, it takes some luck and good will. But to get clarity on any situation, in a lot of cases it requires mostly good communication from both sides . So talk a lot, explain carefully, and discuss things in a mature way so both of you can understand what each expects from the friendship.

Bruce said...

So, I'm probably not the best example since I'm a cheater (and so is my partner, I'm sure... It's sorta a dont ask, don't tell arrangement), but we've been together for 12 years and we met online through yahoo personals (before We are also mixed race (Asian and white), but I'm pretty whitewashed so I don't think there have been many cultural differences. We do come from different points of view sometimes, but that's just me being a far-left liberal. So I guess I'm saying being attracted to Asians doesn't necessarily mean jarring cultural differences. I mean, I see barflys totally clash with homebodies and they don't think it's a culture-clash, but it sorta is. I'm just wondering if it's the physical or the cultural that's attractive (or both)

Anonymous said...

I am bisexual and I like women of any race with a preference of europeans but on the other hand I like mainly asian men! I think this is due to the fact that my first relationship with a man was with an asian and that's how I got this thing. It seems more like a cultural thing for me. For example I found myself not attracted to Americanised Chinese when I was in America. Having said all these, I also found it a bit creepy when people like the person that sent the email and who are only attracted to Asian men and nothing else! Does anyone else think so as well?

Andy@Texas said...

Hello GB and the writer of the e-mail post,

I am a 35+ Japanese guy living in the states for 5 years. I found this blog when I searched information about the bar "GB" in Tokyo. My boyfriend "S" and I visited there during this winter vacation and we had a good time with other gays from all over the world.

Anyway, back to the topic, especially, Asians to be very much attached to their own culture,,, it is difficult to read people especially when they come from conservative or introvert cultures.

Regarding the statement, if Asians are attached to own culture,,,I think it really depends on person. For example, I don't need to eat rice everyday, I don't watch Japanese TV show, I don't have any connection to local japanese community here.

Regarding how you read mind..Before I met my boyfriend S, I was living with another American guy. He was a big time rice queen. He often told me that same thing - it was hard for him to guess what I was thinking angry or happy or sad?? I really did not understand why I had to show emotion or explain the feeling because that's my personal thing. Often, he asked if I was upset when I was happy! Eventually we broke up.

Now I am with S who I trust that he is my Mr. Right, he never asks such question, for example, if I am tired and less word, he is just quiet as well. And I really don't even feel he is an American and I am Japanese,,but feel we are "we"..not so sure if I could explain well. I saw him as a man before he is an American. What I want to say is it is so natural to be with S as if I have known him for long long time. With that regard, I personally feel that if you find a Mr. Right, calture different does not really matter.

Hope this helps a bit...

Jay said...

GB can you write more things about your life; since it is your blog and maybe less 'Dear I need help coming out and have issues?'

I want to know, how YOU are? What have YOU been doing? What are YOUR thoughts What cool place YOU hang out in London? Please write more on your blog. Your readers miss you now? Where are YOU? LOL

GB said...

Thanks Jay, I'll try to become a better blogger in 2013 :-). Happy New Year! GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm a full-fledged Asian (born and bred, educated entirely in Asia), from one of the more progressive Asian countries. I am blessed to be able to have English as my native tongue, and I must say, that has helped me alot in interacting with people from other cultures (especially the western ones). Sometimes it's easy to forget that you actually come from different cultures and backgrounds once you havebeen together with someone for a long enough time.
My two experiences with Dutchies were great learning ones, and I felt lik I could relate so much better once the language barrier is solved.

edo said...

I am living in Japan, and I am from south america. I think that meeting people online can happen, but as explained, you dont have to expect the other person to quit searching right away... Since most of the apps are sex oriented, no one is expecting to find a couple right away.

Regarding asian culture, I really find it difficult to understand and it requires a lot of work to have a relationship, I personally quitted, since it was so frustrating that it was making me a lot dramas. I really think is hard, particularly japanese and Chinese.

And I think is not only me, about 30% of japanese kids are not interested in sex anymore, I think because of the cumbersome efforts it requires and the horrible sex you get. To be more precise, i feel like kissing a bag of air; when they hug is like they don't convey emotions, it is everything empty and boring... but if you like them, or if you had better luck than me! go forward,

But in my experience, don't expect them to show happiness or emotions (which is horrible, because that is what you want to see in your couple when you do or say something nice, not just politeness real emotions). Don't expect them to tell you what they want, they expect them you to read their minds, and don't even try to ask, that doesn't make it any better.

With no more things to say!

Good luck on your quest