Dating in a foreign land

Dating Indian men as a western woman in India is not easy.

Friends ask me why I don’t go for an expat, but the problem is finding one from my country, single, of a similar age with similar interests is hard as the pool of expats is so small.

The next best option is an Indian. But dating an Indian man appears to be nigh impossible. Everyone I had met in the year and a half I had been here until recently just wanted to be friends. But now I’m question whether my understanding of the word dating and friends and theirs are the same.

Recently, I went round to see my neighbour, a TV producer, who lives in the flat next to mine. We are both singles looking for love in this city. We had met weeks earlier when my cat ran into his flat at 2.30am and we spent two hours searching for her under his bed.

Sipping a glass of wine I asked him how he was. “Oh I’ve been dating several woman.” “Dating!?” I said excited. Realising this was my one chance to understand the Indian male psyche, I asked him what dating was.

“I’m meeting several women,” he explained

“So, have you made a move on them?” “No,” he said. “We meet up once or twice for dinner, and then I don’t meet them again because I don’t like them.” “You are saying you are dating them even though its non physical?” “Yes,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect to kiss them for four to five months.” But that isn’t that friendship, I thought.

“That’s the way we do it in India. We get to know the person. I’m looking for maturity, compassion and understanding and I’m not finding it.

“You mean chemistry, appearance and the physical side of the relationship are not important?” “No,” he said. “I’m looking for someone I want to marry, so if I went for physical appearance there would be no point as they would only get wrinkles. I’m looking for someone who cares for me, with whom I have an emotional connection and a deep friendship.”

The UK is different. The physical side of the relationship is crucial to defining ‘it’ as a relationship, otherwise it is a friendship. You don’t have to wait months for the relationship to start physically. In fact if you are friends first, it is unlikely to move into a relationship. Normally it is a relationship from the outset, on an emotional and physical level and you find each other physically attractive.

Until you marry you date lots of people, many don’t work out, and then you date someone else. It’s perfectly acceptable to introduce them to your parents and if the relationship ends, you move on. If you are lucky you will eventually marry one of these dates but you don’t judge them based on whether they are marriage material at the outset. That comes much later. This is the system we have developed I guess as we don’t have an arranged marriage system. I’m in no way advocating it, but it is the only system we have. And dating is a very important part of young people’s lives in the UK. However, expats trying to date Indians are mostly unsuccessful.

One of my British male friends in Mumbai is just one example. He is very frustrated as he can’t date any Indian women. He says they all only want to be friends. But now I’m wondering if in their minds they are dating him, if according to my neighbour, a non physical relationship is dating. Or is dating per se culturally unacceptable here?

This spurred me to meet Prit, the Indian man, who I had dumped after he changed his status on Facebook to single, while we were, in my view, dating. Read about that here.

He had claimed we were not dating and therefore there was nothing wrong with updating his status.

I was curious to know what he had thought had been going on between us.

So, in the café we met in, I put the options to him as to what we had been doing. We had either:

A) been in a casual relationship.

B) been seeing each other.

C) been dating.

D) Having a relationship.

E) Been friends.

I finished my Americano and waited for a response. Silence followed.

“Somewhere between casual and seeing,” he replied confidently. I was astounded.

I spoke to  an old friend this morning who asked me why I had not met him for such a long time. “I’ve kind of been seeing someone (referring to Prit),” I said although aware Prit had not been seeing me, added: ” It’s complicated.”

“I guess we can’t meet then.”  We had had dinner a few times, we have never had any physical relationship, but he phoned and texted me a lot. To my knowledge him and I had been friends. So, why couldn’t we meet? Did he think we had been dating?

I am so confused.  If you are meeting up with someone, going to the cinema, and spending lots of time together, and there is a romantic side. Is that not dating? Meeting occasionally in a non physical relationship is friendship is it not? Or is this all a problem of semantics?

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