I enjoy dating guys when I’m abroad. When I’m home, in the US, I’m seldom in a relationship or go on dates. Not that there is something wrong with American boys, I just prefer to date abroad for many reasons.
My current boyfriend is Danish, we live in Copenhagen, and we met in Mexico. Before him my last boyfriend was Peruvian and we met in Spain. My first boyfriend abroad was someone I met in India while I was studying abroad. Each relationship taught me something new about cross-cultural relationships. Although I do think it’s fun, it isn’t without its own set of challenges. Below are some pros and cons that I’ve come across while dating.
Pro #1: Your family is far away
This makes dating so much easier. When your family is nearby, there is a higher chance of them getting in your business. When it comes to boys, I never share details about them to my family until we are in a relationship or at least spending a considerable amount of time together. Also, introducing your partner to your family is “the next step” in my opinion. Having your family far means that your partner isn’t meeting your family any time soon and you can enjoy the beginning stage of a relationship without worrying about it getting serious too soon.
Even more important, your family is far enough that they can’t embarrass you in front of your partner. My current boyfriend is the only one that has met my mom and sister. They both managed to embarrass me in front of him. While we were eating lunch my younger sister kept making jokes and dissing me. I didn’t tell her to stop because she was on fire with her jokes, and even though they were about me, I still enjoy a good joke. But that meant the car ride home was a soundtrack of jokes on me. Even worse was my mom who mortified me with one simple question. She asked him what his family’s religion was and when he answered, she was so pleased that she did a little victory dance. I was beyond mortified because I knew that in that moment my mother was beginning to plan our wedding and married life together. Something I avoid thinking about.
Pro #2: It’s an opportunity to learn about a different culture
From my experience, boyfriends are excited to share their culture. I think they learn a lot about their own culture too because they watch how a foreigner interacts or reacts with something they are accustomed to. They might be surprised to see what kinds of things are notable to a foreigner. For example, my boyfriend told me that Danish toddlers give up their pacifiers to a tree. Parents collect them and have their child help them tie it to the tree. Afterwards the toddler is considered a “big kid” and doesn’t need a pacifier anymore. I was awed by the tradition because it encourages kids to think outside themselves and realize that all kids go through the same difficulties. Also, that their beloved pacifiers aren’t theirs anymore because it then belongs to the tree. My boyfriend was surprised at how interested I was with the tradition and told me that he had never stopped to contemplate it.
Pro #3: Higher chances of having a cool “How we met” story
I’ve only had one boyfriend in the US and we met in a very lame way; at a club. The ways I’ve met my boyfriends abroad have been much cooler. I met my Indian ex on a rooftop flying kites to celebrate Sankranti, an Indian holiday. My Spanish ex was the first person I met in Spain and was my Couchsurfing host. I met my current boyfriend through Tinder but first met at a plaza in Coyoacan (the most charming neighborhood in Mexico City in my opinion) and ate quesadillas at a mercado. Even though the “how we met” story isn’t too important in the grand scheme of a relationship, I find pleasure in having a good story.
Pro #4: Practice language skills
Danish is an incredibly difficult language because of its pronunciation. Living with a Dane has helped a lot because he corrects my homework and I get to practice it whenever I want. He has told me that he likes speaking English and I’ve noticed that his English has improved, although he was already fluent when I met him.
Pro #5: Higher chances of an easier break-up
The break-up with my Indian and Spanish exes was the same. My time abroad was up and we didn’t imagine living our lives together so we said our goodbyes. The distance helped. I never had to run into them or their friends. I never went to a place that reminded me of them. Also, knowing that my time there was short, we expected our last day and could enjoy our time together in the meantime. The downside of this is that from their perspective, this is difficult. My ex in Spain had a hard time because he continued his daily routine but felt like I was missing. I had walked into his life and walked out. It was harsh for him then but now we are good friends.
There are never any benefits without negatives.
Con #1: There can be cultural misunderstandings
My ex in Spain would do thoughtful things for me all the time because he thought it was cute. For example, he would always walk me to a bus stop a few blocks down when I had to go to work. This annoyed me terribly because I thought he was being sexist. I believed that he didn’t think I could do things on my own. One day I snapped and told him that I could take care of myself. He explained that he knew I was capable of that and much more, but that he liked to do things for me. He enjoyed those 10 minutes we spent walking and talking to the bus stop. I felt like a cold-hearted fool and apologized. I learned to not politicize everything in a relationship and to have a conversation instead. Also, he would always say I was too American whenever I was angry and that would annoy me terribly.
Con #2: Cultural competition
Sometimes it’s fun to compete with your partner about cultural things. Usually it’s small things like whether the American Milky Way is better than the Danish Milky Way. However, sometimes you can get your feelings hurt. In Denmark there are traditional Christmas shows that are on every year. I thought they were scary looking and not Christmassy so I told my boyfriend that we should watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the 1964 classic. I watch it every year and wanted to share it with him. He said it looked like it was for 5 year-olds. I was surprisingly hurt by this comment. We happened to watch it on Christmas Eve and he said it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. I consider it a victory.
Con #3: Language barrier
Sometimes it’s difficult to get your point across when they can’t understand specific expressions or phrases and vice versa. I don’t encounter this issue often with my current boyfriend but sometimes I worry that he gets exhausted of speaking English all the time.
Although difficulties surface while dating someone abroad, overall I prefer it. Sometimes I make a cultural faux pas, but I usually laugh about it. Also, I’ve been very fortunate to date people who are open-minded and have open-minded families who don’t disagree with dating outside one’s own race, nationality, or religion. But I do wonder; what is it like to date someone abroad of your same gender, or who doesn’t identify with male or female? Or how about long-distance relationships? There are lots of different kinds of relationships out there and it’s easier now more than ever to date people outside of your country. If you have dated someone abroad, how did it go? Add any comments below!