3 Lessons I Learned from Dating in a Foreign Language

Most of the fun that comes with traveling arises from the people you meet along the way – whether they be friends or love interests.  Oh and I have tons of experience with each, let me tell you.  But this article is about dating, so we’ll stick to that one. 

So what happens when you meet a cute chico or chica abroad, sparks start flying, but then you quickly realize that you don’t speak the same native language?  Well, probably nothing too crazy initially.  Sorry to be anti-climatic, but love is the universal language.  Hehe.  

Friends in Car
I decided not to resurface back into my exes' lives for photo permission so here's a photo of my amazing friend. We act like a couple when we're together, so that counts?

However, there’s no denying that dating someone in a foreign language is way different from dating someone who comes from the same linguistic and cultural background as you.  I’m telling this a guy who has almost exclusively dated people in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese even though I’m an American (albeit Italian-American).

So… let’s start the drumroll, please.

What is it actually like?

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    Your language skills will improve… like a lot

    Unless you’re like that English and the Portuguese couple “Love Actually” who have absolutely no language in common and are forced to mime the entire relationship, there will typically be one language that dominates.  For both of the actual relationships I was in, it ended up being Portuguese.  This is great because, in addition to being totally in love and all of that, you become more fluent in a foreign language.  I mean let’s think about it, when you’re in a relationship, you tend to spend a pretty large portion of your time socializing with your significant other.  Not to mention they almost always love helping you with your struggles and questions in their language.  Seriously, they’re the best teachers.  

    Even if the language of the relationship is your native language or some third language (like English), you can still learn tons of about the other person’s native tongue.  I swear, like half of the time when I date a guy and we have nothing to talk about, we resort to random language lessons.  Do other people do this?  (Comment below)

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    Miscommunication becomes a daily reality

    You really need to have patience when you’re dating someone in a foreign language because there will be miscommunication.  Here in Italy for example, in many cases raising your voice and getting passionate does not necessarily mean you are angry.  I’ve gotten used to it thanks to my family, but I have friends who are still convinced that that Italian guys have anger management issues.  Not true, I promise.

    On another note, I know of one story where someone’s boyfriend referred to her “Linda” in a text (“beautiful” in Spanish/Portuguese) and she flipped out and wanted to know “Who the f*** is Linda?”  Remember to stay calm and to always assume the best of people! 

    Oh and don’t get me started on how the expression “I love you” changes in every single language and each individual translation has a different gravity of emotion.  You know what, we’ll leave that lesson for another time.

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    You begin to adopt a new culture as your own

    If someone speaks a different native language than you, it’s almost certain they grew up in a different culture than you.  This makes you an automatic guest in their culture, whether you like it or not.  Congrats!

    After dating Brazilians, for example, I started mimicking Brazilian hygiene habits.  Like legit, I started brushing my teeth 3 times per day (instead of 2), taking at least 2 showers a day (instead of one in the morning).  Before long, I knew 99% of the memes and my first boyfriend converted me to his mother’s beans and rice which I still crave until this day.  One of the best things about dating someone from somewhere else is the cultural richness that starts to fill your life.  Not to mention the fact that you are pretty much adopted into another family in a foreign country who can take you around and show you their way of life.  Let’s say you’re dating an Indonesian girl whose family is in Indonesia.  Whenever you head with her to Indonesia, you have another home! 

    Another major cultural difference in the realm of dating involves public displays of affection.  In Latin countries such as Brazil and Italy, people will commonly lock lips and show affection in public – whether in a park or in the middle of a restaurant.  In the United States, this isn’t as common.  In some conservative countries, this can even get you arrested.  

    Let’s also not forget that in some countries, kissing on the first date is totally normal whereas in others it’s absolutely forbidden.  With some nationalities, texting back right away is seen as “needy” while with others it is a normal way to confirm your interest.  Wait – and how do you figure out who pays the bill?  There are NO standard international rules.  You gotta figure out that one on your own.

Santorini Sunset

So as you have seen, dating someone in another language from a different nationality can be an extremely rewarding and positive experience while at the same time complicated as hell.  Now if you want some advice on how to stay safe while dating in a foreign country, pop on over to Chimdi’s article right here. 

 

Anyways, how have your experiences been with dating someone who speaks a different foreign language than you?  Tell us in the comments below! 

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