When Khaled and Ee-Anne first met in class during their time at Sauder(UBC’s business school), they didn’t immediately see each other as potential “partner material”. But with a mutual friend’s urging at a frozen yogurt shop, they eventually went out on a date.
Fast forward several months and they have become the charming couple that I recently had the privilege of meeting. While they are, in some ways, similar to many other couples on a university campus, their relationship stands out unique because of their diverse ethnic backgrounds. Khaled and Ee-Anne don’t fit the frequently visualized paradigm of white and Asian mixed-race relationships in Vancouver.
According to The Source, Vancouver has one of the highest rates in Canada of mixed-race couples in which both halves are visible minorities. Khaled was raised mostly in Canada although both his parents come from Jordan, with his father being Russian and his mother being Arab. Ee-Anne is Chinese-Malaysian and only recently came to Vancouver to study. With such a variety of cultures coming into play in their relationship, I was curious as to what kind of reactions they’ve received about their specific ethnic super-mix.
“At the start, a lot of my friends found the relationship a bit strange,” Ee-Anne says, “ I guess none of us ever thought that I’d date a Middle Eastern guy.”
Khaled’s friends, on the other hand, were completely unfazed by his news about his Chinese-Malyasian girlfriend – possibly owing to Vancouver’s significant Asian population. Rather, it is his parents, who have yet to meet Ee-Anne, who he believes will be uneasy with the relationship.
“My dad tends to be more open-minded about relationships since he’s spent more time in Canada,” he explains, “but my mom would definitely prefer the girl I’m dating to be Arab and part of the Islamic faith since my dad converted to Islam for her. She might be worried that I’ll lose touch with my culture if I date someone outside of it.”
Ee-Anne’s mother is also the one who the couple predicts will have some trouble accepting Khaled. She assumes that if her daughter dates someone of the Islamic faith, she will be subject to certain restrictions such as abstaining from pork. Even so, Ee-Anne is hopeful that her mother will be able to see that this is not the case for everyone who dates a Muslim.
“She’s slowly beginning to come around,” she says, “I’ve never limited myself to other Chinese as she would prefer and she’s starting to see that that’s not a bad thing. As long as I make it clear that my relationship with Khaled won’t change who I am, I think she’ll be much more understanding.”
Khaled’s parents might be a little more difficult to bring around but he knows that they trust him and the decisions he makes. The time they’ve spent in Canada has helped open their eyes to a more multicultural landscape than what they were used to in Jordan. Despite being from different cultures, the parents for each half of this couple still have their own preferences that tend towards cultures that are familiar to themselves. For many mixed-ethnic couples, their families’ acceptance can be one of the biggest barriers to the relationship. Khaled and Ee-Anne have the beginnings of a story similar to this one The Province reported on, in which the mixed-ethnic couple, Raj and Ashley Brar, were able to overcome their familial differences to be together. Similarly to both Khaled and Ee-Anne’s parents, Raj’s family was afraid that marrying someone who wasn’t Indo-Canadian would distance Raj from his roots. However, once they became more comfortable with Ashley, who is a fourth-generation Canadian with Irish and Scottish origins, and realized that their son wasn’t going to forget his heritage, Raj’s parents gave the couple their blessing.
In an environment as multicultural as Canada, relationships that mix cultures should be easier to accept. However, Khaled and Ee-Anne’s relationship prove that this isn’t necessarily the case. All this extra diversity actually leads to more complexity which, if navigated correctly, can lead to a culturally rich experience for the couple. On the other hand, it takes much more effort for a mixed-ethnic couple to reconcile their differences, especially between their families. Khaled and Ee-Anne are willing to make this extra effort to be together and I wish them all the best.