What happens when a hopeless romantic from the Mediterranean starts dating an English lad who is more used to Netflix and chill than candlelit dinners and bouquets of roses? Lena Angvik speaks to international students about dating across cultures.
Although fancying someone is universal, the rules of dating can be completely different from culture to culture. Someone’s idea of a good place to meet for the first date or what is appropriate to talk about can be like night and day.
Marketing, communications and advertising student Michelle, 23, finds English blokes to be of a more open nature than those in her home country Norway.
“On our first date we talked about everything from sex to his problems with his family,” she says. “I remember being shocked because he gave me the full story of his life on our first date. I wasn’t exactly as open back. We did not go out again although he was a complete gentleman, pulling out the chair for me and paying for dinner.”
Michelle says she finds dating to be a lot easier here in the UK because asking someone out on a date is not a very big deal.
Studies conducted by the dating service Elitesingles show that people from Poland, Austria and Italy are least likely to date someone from another culture than their own, while Spaniards and Swedes are most likely to find love across cultures.
Marriage advisor Lisa Johnsson says that the UK has a unique dating culture because people will go out on dates, but will in general avoid romantic dates like a dinner at a nice restaurant until the relationship is serious.
International relations and psychology student Adele Jacobsson, 21, from Spain, believes that it is not the norm to go out on dates in the UK.
“Guys are a lot less mature here than in Spain. In Spain you go out to dinner and see how the night progresses, but here people mostly go out for drinks and that’s it,” she said. “Men in Spain take dates more seriously. However, people here at university are not necessarily looking for serious relationships, so that might be why,” she says.
International relations student Rebekka Hushovd, 22, agrees that Brits do not take going out for drinks or dinner very seriously.
“In Norway the common way to start dating someone is Netflix and chill – a term I am sure every student knows,” she laughs. “It is not common to go for dinner on the first date, or on the fourth or the fifth for that matter.”
And even if you don’t find eternal love, dating can turn into another kind of relationship as well – a boss and employee one, for instance.
“I dated a Brit for a year and a half and he was incredibly handsome and funny. The first time we met, which was in a nightclub, he actually got pissed and fell asleep on my lap, so I told him he owed me a date. We have stopped seeing each other, but I am actually working for him at the moment, so something good came out of it all anyway,” Rebekka says.
Author Julien S. Bourelle describes dating a Norwegian as trying to befriend a wild cat. No wonder the Norwegian students struggle with understanding British dating culture.
“In most countries around the world, including the UK, you say ‘hi’ when you meet a person you fancy. You might then take them for a date, then maybe another date, and if you are lucky something else might happen,” Bourelle says.
“In Norway you skip the initial dates, go straight to the something else part and if this goes well, you can start dating. Going to dinner in Norway is a result of good socialisation, not a way to get to know people,” he says.
Alice Purton, 21, who is in her third year of film and creative writing, went across the pond for an exchange year in the US and Australia. She says that she met great guys in both countries but chose not to pursue a relationship because of the distance they would be confronted with when she moved back to Kingston. Alice says the way people looked at dating in Australia and the US was quite different from what she was used to from the UK.
“In Australia I found most people to be in relationships by the time they were 18. I think it’s just more of a way of life out there,” she says.
Dating someone native when you move to a new country can be a great way to explore the culture that surrounds you.
“I met a typical American baseball player while I was studying in Michigan. We would go on dates at least three times a week and were in the English definition seeing each other, but for American standards we were just friends. When I confronted him about it he said he wouldn’t be able to manage a relationship across the state, let alone the Atlantic Ocean. So we just stayed friends and he showed me the American culture – we would go on typical American football games together etc.,” Alice says.
So does a relationship across cultures work? Lisa Johnsson says yes, but that you should be prepared to work for it.
“It’s a cliché, but love comes when and where you least expect it,” she says. “There will undoubtedly be challenges to maintaining an intercultural relationship. Holidays and traditions associated with them can be a bit of a jigsaw if you have completely different backgrounds.”
A third year drama student from Peru says that in her experience being from different countries has little to do with how people get along, but that personalities are what matters.
The studies from Elitesingles also show, perhaps not very surprisingly, that people who live in multicultural areas are less likely to exclude someone because of ethnicity. With Kingston University having students from over 150 different countries, chances of finding a lover from another culture should be fairly high.
So good luck avoiding your lad and finding a real gentleman.