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Romancing the Globe: Dating Cultures Explored

  • Heather Murdock

Journalist Matthew Stein scouts a location for a video shoot about datingcultures.com, a website that promotes cultural understanding by talking about how to date around the world, in Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2015. (Steve Terrill/VOA)

Journalist Matthew Stein scouts a location for a video shoot about datingcultures.com, a website that promotes cultural understanding by talking about how to date around the world, in Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2015. (Steve Terrill/VOA)

Third question for 10,000 shillings: What would make somebody unacceptable for a first date in Uganda? 1) They’re poor. 2) They’re ugly. Or, 3) They’re a smoker.

Answer: C, they’re a smoker. At least that's the answer given on a video about dating in the African country, although some shopkeepers in the video disagree, saying poverty is a much bigger problem on the dating scene.

This contest, “Sexbushed,” is part of a video series on datingcultures.com, a website that explores dating culture around the world, with other titles like “Street Flirting in Yangon” and “Rwanda’s Wet and Wild Tradition.”

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Romance and culture

The site uses humor and a universal interest in romance to expand users' knowledge of faraway cultures. It also draws attention to related issues that people may otherwise not think about, according to publisher Matthew Stein, a Canadian journalist in Uganda and the mastermind behind the site.

“If I were to publish an article about Ugandan politics - that would only appeal to so many people,” he said. “But, if I use dating… they will be exposed to other issues in that country that they wouldn’t normally see in a two-minute news report.”

For example, while the "Sexbushed" video addresses mainstream dating issues, other articles on his website talk about abuses toward gay and transgendered people, and women’s rights in East Africa.

Matthew Stein films a traditional Ugandan engagement ceremony in Kampala, Uganda, May 1, 2015. (Photo: S. Terrill for VOA)

Matthew Stein films a traditional Ugandan engagement ceremony in Kampala, Uganda, May 1, 2015. (Photo: S. Terrill for VOA)

In another video, filmed in Myanmar, Stein asks out women on the street and is mostly turned away. Some women say their boyfriends or parents would object. Others just say, “No, sorry.”

“Young ladies are expected to be home by dark, and sex before marriage is taboo,” Stein concludes in an article on his website.

'Erotic routes'

Dating Cultures videos have been filmed in roughly a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Originally called “Erotic Routes,” creators recently abandoned the old name because of worries the risqué-sounding title discouraged users from sharing their material.

Talking about sex often is considered taboo in many of the countries he works in, Stein said. He said he hopes the lighthearted nature of his approach will also help quell local fears.

“I think it’s a very important thing to talk about,” he says. “In countries where people are not able to talk about sex and their sex life, there’s a whole bunch of problems that manifest themselves from STD’s to teenage pregnancies.”

While these are serious consequences, he and his team hope to chip away at these taboos with jokes, like a fictional “international sex reporter” featured in upcoming videos that push boundaries, while remaining silly enough not to offend, according to Stein.

Articles, videos and international guides in the works also seek to encourage cross-cultural dating, Stein added, and could prepare future daters by teaching them about unusual customs or unexpected quirks abroad.

“It’s quite amazing how easy and wonderful it is," he said. "You just have to be a little friendly and outgoing."

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