Interviews with Binational Couples: Jennifer and Cody
(Cody’s responses are italicized. Jennifer’s are not.)
Cody’s Birthplace: Hawaii, USA
Jennifer’s Birthplace: Haiti
We met in Gainesville, Florida.
1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)
Cody isn’t the first foreigner I’ve dated so I didn’t really have any preconceptions or doubts about the relationship. I had seen him in class and around campus and just thought he was nice, intelligent, talkative guy. I never really thought about his race or ethnicity and still don’t.
I asked her out with an open mind. We were in the same major so we had a lot of connection in that regard and race and ethnicity didn’t play a role in our attraction. Sure it was novel for me but it seemed right for so many other reasons.
2. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?
Since I was born in Haiti and grew up in Miami I was exposed to people from all over the world. However, moving to Gainesville was quite a culture shock since it was the first time I was exposed to that many “white” Americans and to the rural south. Since I was in the wildlife program I encountered a lot of hunters and people who enjoyed being out in nature and going hiking. Not many people in my culture do that. I don’t think there were any stereotypes or expectations when he first asked me out, I just thought of him as the cute guy in class that wouldn’t stop talking about herpetology.
When I first met her I was not aware that she was Haitian. I thought she was an American Black girl. Her English is exceptional so it wasn’t until she told me where she was from that I knew I was dating a foreigner. I knew most Caribbean girls are very tight with family so when we started dating I knew I would be meeting the large family.
3. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?
Haitians are very loud people and my family especially when we all get together is loud and everyone talks at the same time in several languages. That is definitely something Cody has had to get used to. I do find it awkward at times when meeting his friends because I never know what to do. In Haiti you always kiss people when you meet them in a social event, however, Americans sometimes get weirded out by that. Cody always has these weird sayings (which I still think he makes up) that are always going over my head.
Humor and sarcasm are commonly over her head.
4. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?
I’m not sure if this is cultural but Cody is always putting his clothes in the dryer to “de-wrinkle” them, which I just don’t understand. If he folded his clothes nicely or hung them up he wouldn’t have to do that! Cody also treats his animals as if they are part of the family. That isn’t very common in Haiti and we sometimes argue about whether or not our dog will get to sleep on our bed or come into the kitchen if we end up living together in the future. Also, Cody is obsessed with Halloween; I still don’t get it.
Fear of Frogs. As a herpetologist this is unbelievable. Most Frogs are harmless but a lot of Haitians are terrified of frogs.
5. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?
Cody and I speak to each other in English. He does not speak French very well and I admit I am not doing a great job at teaching him. Down the line I would love for him to speak French because if we end up starting a family I plan on speaking to my kids in French. Also, I would love for him to be able to speak to my parents in our native language since their English isn’t very good.
We communicate in English but we speak French occasionally and playfully. I’m trying to learn French so I can connect with the family. The family speaks some English, French and Haitian Creole.
6. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)
Cody and I don’t live together but we do spend a lot of time at each other’s places. I am definitely much more of a neat freak and will often fold and put away his laundry. We both cook together which is nice, although we would both prefer a bigger kitchen to work in.
We don’t live together but we cook and clean together often. We both enjoy the kitchen and enjoy food and wine.
7. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?
My family has certainly welcomed Cody with open arms. The fact that Cody is so open-minded and outgoing has made them getting to know him so much easier. Since I am mixed race, many of my family members are white, so being with a white guy isn’t much of a shock. However, living in the “south” we’ve encountered some not so accepting individuals that look at us in disgust just because we are holding hands. Thankfully, the people who matter don’t have an issue. There was this one instance where I was eating at a restaurant alone and a black American came up to me checking me out. Once I told him I had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested (and showed him a picture of Cody and I because he wouldn’t leave me alone) he told me I should be ashamed of myself for not dating a black man. Unfortunately there are people from all races that think you should only be with someone of the same race, I think it’s ridiculous and people should stop looking at what’s on the outside and focus on the person.
Living in the south in America can be challenging. While my Family and friends love her to death, we see stares typically from people in more rural areas where interracial relations are still frowned upon or taboo. I remember walking into a gas station in rural Florida and just about seeing this old woman’s eyes cross when we were holding hands.
8. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?
Since Cody’s parents live only 30 minutes away, I’ve spent plenty of time with them and have no issues communicating with them. They have been so welcoming and accepting to me.
Yes and I love them. Very warm-hearted caring people. They speak English which helps and I listen in when they speak French and try to follow the conversation.
9. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?
Patience and acceptance. It’s ok if your partner does things differently or doesn’t share your same beliefs or viewpoint, as long as you can reach a compromise. Since we live in such a globalize world interracial relationships are no longer an oddity. I’ve learned so much about American culture by dating Cody. Even though I’ve lived in the US most of my life I was raised in a Haitian household and wasn’t exposed to certain things. Also, I love the fact that Cody was excited to travel to my home country and appreciate my culture, it meant the world to me.
When we started dating it was very novel being an interracial couple. Now it’s like oh yea I’m dating a beautiful black women. For us the relationship is so much more than race, that’s a topical thing. We have such great chemistry and try to support each other and foster a healthy relationship. For anyone interested don’t rule it out. I got to travel to Haiti and see a side I never would have had I not asked out my Haitian Sensation.