Where do I begin here? It’s one thing to be in a foreign country and not speak the language. Even if you meet people that do speak English (and anyone who travels much will speak some), you forget the idiosincracies of American English. I purposely try not to use much slang unless I am speaking to another American. But that doesn’t happen often. So any relationships you might be interested in pursuing can make for some interesting translations.
Ok, let’s start off by acknowledging that I am uncomfortable calling anyone my “boyfriend” since I am well beyond the age of hanging out with boys. But since we all know that they don’t mature much after their teen years anyway, I guess I’ll go with it. (And that IS universal…) If you’re curious about where to meet men in Europe, it is similar to the way you do in the States, at events, in line somewhere, or yes, online. There are websites that are European versions of ones you might be familiar with at home, like POF or Match. There are even some strictly for expats, which I guess is due to the language factor. Like at home, the safest way is to meet them through a friend or acquaintance. But sometimes, since you may not know anyone here that well, you need to be careful no matter how you meet. Use common sense and meet in public places at first, don’t give your address away for a while and google the h$!! out of his name. If he’s a decent guy, he will understand your hesitancy and give you his work information and some background on him that you can research to verify.
Interestingly, I did not really meet a Spanish guy when I was in Spain. I did, however, find a Swedish guy that was a great introduction to European guys. While not my usual type, it’s hard not to fall for the accent and beautiful blue eyes. He helped me to expand my horizons and loosen up. I took the first motorcycle rides of my life and my first scuba lesson with his urging! Northern Europeans are avid outdoorsmen and he was no exception. I was used to being the active one in a relationship, but I struggled to keep up with him. I think he might have been a tad more adrenaline-addicted than some. At our age, I don’t feel like risking life and limb for the fun of it. (While this might have disappointed him, I didn’t have to have a metal rod surgically inserted into my leg, as he did, after one ill-advised stunt).
He definitely was a breath of fresh air and much more relaxed in temperment than most Americans. I loved that he enjoyed his work and intended to do it indefinitely. But he also had a great work/life balance that most Americans don’t. It fit right in with my new life outlook.
Another great benefit was the cooking and cleaning! It seems most European countries have at least a one year manditory stint in the service, so most guys I’ve met know how to cook and clean. Halleluia! This has been the best surprise, so far, of meeting foreign guys. They don’t have a stigma associated with it and don’t mind showing off their skills for you. Love. It. I think he thought I was a little odd when I went crazy in a Chinese market when I found Schiracha in the store. But soon, I had him drizzling it on almost as many foods as I did. It was our “go to” condiment. Unfortunately, misunderstandings do occur and may have contributed to our relationship demise. It was hard to know if it was cultural or male/female language differences.
Portuguese guys seem to be a little more conservative than Scandanavian ones. They tend to dress up more often, caring about the impression they are making on you. I think Spanish guys are similar. Definitely, brush up on your world history. All Europeans seem to be very politically aware and expect that any other world citizen (you) would, also. Trust me, they will certainly know what’s going on in the States, so be ready to explain why we voted, and have the policies that we do, as a nation. European men, especially Mediteranean ones, are great at flirting and charming, so be ready for a lot of fun in this department! They know how to make you feel like the only woman in the world, and it’s nice to feel that, even if the relationship might not last. It sure makes you want to hang in there! Along those same lines, they know how to use a glance to say things…lots of things!
Chivalry is not dead, it is alive and well in Europe. Don’t even try to pay or split a bill for a meal for quite some time, as the men actually seem to enjoy pampering you. Some even insist on a trait I thought was long gone, that is, walking on the street side of the sidewalk. While some may scoff, the protective nature of the idea makes me swoon. And what is it about jewelry? I think I’ve received more jewelry from European guys combined, than all the years I was married. Even after just a handful of dates. I’m guessing that also has to do with having more disposable income for men in this life stage…bonus! While I do know of younger expat females having trouble with the tight family bonds Mediteranean men have with their families, older ones seem to have worked out a balance. As you get older, it’s not the parents you have to worry about so much as the children they had before they met you. But they seem to make plenty of time for you if they’re interested.
So, ladies, don’t worry about how you’re going to make friends and possibly meet a significant someone. Just get out there and say hello. Or practice your sultry gazes and get ready for the consequences!
Your Takeaway – Besides all the other concerns you may have about becoming an expat, don’t let the dating scene scare you away. Meeting new people is always fun, and even if you don’t share the same first language, don’t let that get in the way of starting something. You’ll be missing out on fun excursions, lively discussions and seeing life through a fresh perspective. And aren’t those at least some of the reasons why you wanted to travel in the first place?