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The issue to be analyzed in the paper is the dating process. It may be true that this is an extremely personal issue and may differ from person to person, however, there is still no doubt that certain similarities are synonymous to the British culture and these serve to reinforce both gender values and societal identities.
The dating process is a complex process because it often involves a series of settings, interactions and occurrences. Dating usually starts with that first contact between couples. In the UK, this may occur in college, a sports arena or even a pub. In fact, many individuals now consider a bar as a usual place to get a potential date. After two people have met and exchanged phone numbers, one of the parties will usually ask the other for a date.
In previous decades, this task was a considered a preserve for males in relationships but this is no longer the case. Both men and women have the option of asking the other party out; this is usually done over the phone. After the arrangement has been made, most couples will often select ambient locations for that perfect date. However, bars and other social scenes such as music concerts, movie theatres are still alright. The last two locations are usually appropriate for people who have already met for the first date (Trotta, 2006).
Most people will be excited about the idea of dating a new person and will usually introduce that individual to their peers as soon as possible. When on a date, couples will often carry on conversations that depend on how long they have known each other. If it is their first time then most people will avoid heavy conversations. Many will also keep away from excessive alcohol as it is generally considered repulsing to get too drunk on the first date.
Nonetheless, as couples get to know one another, they can often let loose and be themselves. During those dates, both individuals may choose to split the bill. Flirting is something that generally occurs during the dating process. Also, a couple will walk side by side and often hold hands. British men tend not to open doors or pull seats for their dates as they are more casual in their approach.
People who date in this culture are also rather open about public displays of affection. Hugging and kissing in public can often be observed in parks, restaurants, theatres and the like. In bars and late dates, these displays may get more intense. As couples get to know each other, most will start having sex. Sometimes this may occur sooner rather than later depending on the prerogative of the said individuals.
Some may get intimate on the first or second date while others may opt to hold on a little longer. In fact, no strings sexual relations are quite rampant in the dating scene. Certain individuals may date exclusively for that purpose. Others may simply be looking for someone to keep them company without necessarily having intentions to marry their dates in the future. In fact, when some people start dating, marriage may be the last thing on their minds (Trotta, 2006).
As mentioned earlier, British dates are characterised by public displays of affection. Many may touch each other and others may kiss. Some will express their love by looking deep into their dates’ eyes. This is a distinct aspect of western cultures as many individuals in other countries such as the US often do the same.
Regan, et. al (1999) claim that touching behaviour is directly related to one’s ethnicity or one’s race. Public displays of affection during most British dates are synonymous to the western culture. This nation is a high contact culture where touching one another in public is something that is acceptable among heterosexual couples. This aspect therefore gives away the fact that the country is quite typical of many other European interactions between individuals.
What is even more interesting is that the country has witnessed a continual rise of dating experts and advice columnists in magazines and online forums. Psychologists and sociologists have also taken a keen interest on this dating scene. Many have done researches around it while others target those who are already involved in dating to give them relationship advice.
It is debatable whether these so called advisers are helping or harming relationships. Some have no experience whatsoever and may purport to know what they are talking about. Alternatively, some may continue perpetuating the off handed approach to dating by making it seem okay to do what people who date do.
The dating scene is indicative of gender roles that society generally accepts. In certain parts of the country, the public would be offended by two men kissing each other. This indicates that heterosexual relationships are still in the mainstream and that men and women are expected to go out with members of the opposite sex. It should be noted that these opinions actually apply to public displays of affection and not the right to date one another.
On the flipside of this issue is the degree of emancipation that British women possess (Kass, 1997). The fact that they can participate in payment of the bill illustrates that they are indeed economically empowered or they are at a place where they do not wish to be dependent on men. British men will not feel the need to open doors or pull chairs for their dates because they may also be aware of the level of independence inherent in their ladies.
Certain feminists find it offensive for a man to do these things for them on dates. They claim that this is dominating and may actually illustrate that women are the weaker sex. Indeed one only needs to look at occurrences in other cultures around the world to realize how extreme situations are in the UK. In China, sex is something that is exclusive to married couples and dating couples simply do not have that luxury.
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A certain level of cynicism has crept into the dating scene. Many men are not as respectful of their dates as their fathers or older relatives. A number of them actually have the intention of getting into a physical relationship with the concerned dates and after achieving this, they will often terminate that relationship and move onto the next one. One of the reasons for this observation could lie in the fast culture. Many individuals are currently constrained by day to day challenges especially at their workplaces.
Consequently, most do not have time and patience to date someone for a long time before they can get intimate with that individual. Indeed this casual dating behaviour and lack of respect for females illustrates an underlying British problem where people have grown restless or are now used to instant gratification. Anything that proves to be too hard for them will cause them to look for other options.
Without a doubt, dating has changed tremendously over the years thus denoting the fact that it has now become a multi-layered structure. This change took place during the 1930s with the advent of movie theatres.
Prior to creation of these structures, dating was considered a public act that took place in the confines of people’s private homes under the heavy scrutiny of older family members such as parents. However, after the social scene changed in the 1930s, dating started becoming a private event that took place in the public. Now dating could become more exciting by dancing, going to the movies or just enjoying an interesting time at the park (Burzumuto, 2007).
This trend has been perpetuated into modern times although the main difference between then now is that most people have different intentions when dating. While some do it with the objective of marrying their dates, most will rarely think of going that far. In fact, this is symptomatic of what eventually goes on in subsequent phases of people’s lives.
The casual approach that starts during dates is often carried forward into the marriage setting. Cases of promiscuity prior to marriage have become more common today than they were before. Furthermore, infidelity, illegitimate children and high divorce rates are a rampant problem. Dating sets a precedent for what goes on in later life and these statistics actually indicate that there could be something wrong with the manner in which courtship takes place in the British setting.
The lack of some sort of cultural script for dating and courtship could be what is causing these issues. Educated, middle class Britons are getting married at a later date than couples in previous generations and at less frequent rates with more hesitation than their forefathers. These results could be due to the fact that dating has become an unscripted affair that basically allows anyone to decide what goal they want to achieve.
Britain is an individualistic society and this can be seen in the way people consume, they way they walk, interact and also the way they date. A number of things in the typical date do testify to this assertion. First of all, public displays of affection may make certain people uncomfortable (Remland et al, 1995).
This is especially true if the setting is not suited for such deeds. For instance dating couples that fondle deeply in a train would offend a number of elderly people. Consequently, couples who do that are displaying individualistic behaviour because they do not care about what other people think of them. When British culture is compared to certain collectivist cultures like Asian cultures, it is easy to see the difference in dating behaviour.
Koreans and the Chinese tend to shun public displays of affection because they have a high degree of conflict avoidance. They care so much about what other people think about them so they would not want to cause any sort of friction. It is therefore interesting to note how a simple act in the dating scene is actually indicative of an ingrained individualistic mode of living (Kass, 1997).
In centuries past, courtship was a crucial component of preparation to marriage. However, this term has now been replaced with the term dating because most people regard courtship as archaic. Dating clearly has fewer rules and may represent the complacency that most Britons are looking for.
People in this country tend to look for things that simplify their lives. Therefore, if they stumble upon something that requires too much of their time and energy then they will simply discard it and replace it with something easier. Indeed western nations are paying the price for this disposableness by facing greater irregularities in marriage (Kass, 1997).
Irrespective of this laid-back manner in dating, there are still certain rules that apply in the process. For example, it is still preferable for people to drink less in dates. Furthermore, some couples prefer waiting before they can indulge in sex. They want to get to know each other first before they can take things further.
Also, open affection among gays is not welcome in certain parts. Consequently, these issues still illustrate that there are some values that govern the British dating. These aspects make the society what it is and often cause some foreigners discomfort if they are unaware of them and get into the country.
Dating practices in the British setting serve to integrate Britons into the wider western culture because most practices in that part of the world are more casual than serious. Notions of independence and feminine empowerment espoused in the dating scenario are indicative of other goings on in the western world.
Women are considered empowered and they need to reveal this in terms of dating behaviour. On the other hand, when western culture is compared to most other world cultures then dating processes only serve to isolate the British case. Many cultures in the Middle East, Asia and Africa treat dating very seriously.
These couples will follow very strict dating rules and will normally do so with the intention of marrying or getting married to their dates in the future. Consequently, the world often frowns at this casual approach in dating since most other cultures take dating seriously. The issue of physical intimacy cannot even be discussed during dates as it is a reserve for the married ones. Furthermore the degree of respectfulness is much higher in these non western cultures than it is within the British setting.
The dating process is indicative of an open minded and laid back approach to marriage. In this regard, it testifies to the individualistic culture synonymous to many western societies. Furthermore, it is indicative of gender roles in the country as most dates will portray an emancipated and independent woman. Dating processes also explain the values and norms that society holds about heterosexual relationships and this serves to integrate Britons into the western culture but isolates them from other cultures of the world.
Remland M., Jones T. & Brinkman H. (1995). Interpersonal distance, body orientation, and touch: Effects of culture, gender, and age. The Journal of Social Psychology 135(3):281–288.
Regan P., Jerry, D., Narvaez M, & Johnson, D. (1999). Public displays of affection among Asian and Latino heterosexual couples. Psychological Reports. 1999;84:1201–1202
Trotta, J. (2006). British and American Dating habits. NY: WordPress
Burzumuto, R. (2007). A brief history of Courtship and Dating in America. Boundless Magazine, March, 1
Kass, L. (1997). The end of courtship. National affairs 126