Respect for people and their cultures were what students said they learned is most important in making intercultural dating and relationships work well at a panel discussion event on Jan. 15, organized by the BYU-Hawaii Residential Life commitee. The multicultural dating panel included student representatives from Polynesian countries, Asia, Africa, and the United States, who shared their dating cultures and discussed with audience members.
Viliami Tukuafu, an intern for Residential Life, first had the idea to hold a multicultural dating panel. He and the Residential Life team worked together to host not only the dating panel, but three other events throughout the month.
Discussions ranged from the purpose of a date to holding hands and were shared as the room filled with students from different cultures laughed and participated together. More than 50 participants gathered at the lounge of Hale 2 for the event.
Since there are students on campus who don’t understand how other cultures view relationships, the purpose of the activity was to educate students on that topic, according to Sister Jane Beuhring, a senior missionary serving in the Title IX office.
“The other cultures need to recognize when a behavior isn’t desired on the part of the other person, they need to stop immediately,” said Beuhring.
At the beginning of the activity, each representative had three minutes to share the proper behaviors and attitudes for dating in their cultures, sharing what to do and what not to do on the first date and how their definitions for dating are different from the American culture.
The Residential Life staff members shared their recent efforts to increase students’ awareness of sexual harassment on campus, and physical contact during dating was one of the main topics discussed that night.
“Never try to kiss a Tahitian girl [on] the first date,” said the representative from Tahiti, Florentine Pedron, a senior studying hospitality and tourism management.
Different from some Americans and Asians, representatives from Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji said people in their countries normally do not hold hands in public.
Michael King, a senior from Utah studying exercise and sport science, served a mission in Tonga and married a Tongan. He shared, “If [Tongan girls] don’t hold hands with you, it's not because they're not interested in you. It's just not in their culture.”
However, the representative from Tahiti emphasized how Tahitians are different with Tongans and Samoans in that way. “We do hold hands in public,” Pedron said. “It is to show, ‘This [person] is mine, not yours.’”
The representatives from Polynesia described themselves as conservative people in dating. They shared how dating cannot happen only for entertainment in their culture, but it is supposed to be treated seriously as a prelude to marriage.
Melissa Mamea, the representative from Samoa and an alumna who majored in social work, shared, “Asking a girl to date is like progressing to marriage. Dating is serious. It’s not something that everyone does.”
The representative of Fiji, Sukannika Nawahine, an alumnus who majored in political science, said to “expect the families from both parties to be involved from the beginning.”
The representative from Taiwan, Okalani Cheng a senior majoring in social work, said Chinese culture is “surprisingly similar to Polynesian culture in that way. If you formally ask a [Taiwanese girl] to be in a relationship, they’d assume you're working toward marriage.”
After all the representatives shared, a disscussion was held for the audience members to ask further questions to the representatives.
Ho Yin Li, an audience member and a junior from Hong Kong majoring in business management, asked, “Which person pays on the date?”
The representative from Vanuatu replied, “In Vanuatu, it depends on who asks. If the girl asks the boy out, the girl pays,” causing laughter from the representatives and the audience members.