International dating

Global Dating: Expats Look for Love in All the Foreign Places

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No matter where you go, or which single-and-ready-to-mingle person you talk to, the complaint is always the same: dating is hard.

For expats, dating is even harder, compounded by cultural missteps, the hard partying and commitment-free lifestyle of many expats, and the concept of “expiration dating, ” which assumes that any relationship has a natural end point.

For other expats, it’s the unchangeable parts of themselves – their race or their sexuality – that can make dating harder than it would be in their home country. But one thing is true for every expat in the dating scene: those who are looking for love overseas are bound for adventure.

Barriers and Boundaries

A big issue for expats everywhere is cross-cultural dating. You came to a new country to immerse yourself in all aspects of the culture, so why wouldn’t a relationship be a part of that? Yet despite an increasingly globalized world, cultural rules often remain stubbornly unchanged.

American Christina Petit moved to South Korea to teach English, and fell in love with a local man, even enjoying the barriers created by not speaking the same language. “It made us very slow, calm and careful communicators, ” she says.

However another cultural barrier stood in the way: the very firm belief that many Korean families hold about the role of a daughter-in-law. In many traditional Korean families, the daughter-in-law is expected to care for the groom’s parents, who often move into the newlyweds’ home.

The couple recently broke up, “not due to our love ending but due to family responsibilities on his part. I couldn’t stay in Korea forever and fulfill the wife role that his extended family expects, ” she says.

Party City

An American woman in Hong Kong, a gallery director in her late twenties, has “no regrets” about choosing the expat life, she says. “I’m financially independent and have come further in my career by this age than I ever would have been able to in the U.S.”

However, one thing is lacking. “I’m nearly in my thirties, ” says the woman.

“I would like to have a boyfriend, my parents would definitely like me to have a boyfriend, but it’s hard to find here.” The biggest reason? Expat men in Hong Kong, a city known for its glimmering strips of bars in Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai, have far too much fun as commitment-free singletons to settle down with a career-oriented woman, she says.

The woman was seeing a fellow expat, and it was only after several seemingly serious dates that she saw him walking down the street in SoHo, a popular expat hub, with his arm around another woman.

She chalks it up to the high-intensity lifestyle of expats in the city, with 16-hour workdays and too many fleeting hookups. Young expats in Hong Kong on corporate contracts also often have far more wealth than they would back home.

She describes an encounter with an Asian-American man who possessed the trappings of an older, established businessman: a well-furnished house in the prestigious Mid-Levels neighborhood, a driver and money to spend on nice dinners and travel. Then, after a few dates, she discovered he was only 24, and became concerned that he was too young to settle down.

When she returns home and sees that all of her friends are getting married, she says she feels some pangs of regret, but she says “if that’s what I have to give up at this point for my career, it’s worth it.”

Out But Not Open

A gay American expat in Turkey fell in love with his current partner one night in a park overlooking the Bosporus. They’ve been together for five years. As a gay man in Turkey, he says, he has to maintain a boundary between his personal life and his professional life as a private school teacher.

“I think the majority of parents could handle that their son or daughter is being taught by a gay man. However, the few that might have a problem could potentially make a huge issue out of it. It would break my heart and soul to be forced out of my job and the country because of who I love, ” he says.

He and his boyfriend, a native of Turkey, have had few issues when out in public. While Turkey has very distinctive gender roles, he says, “males are affectionate towards one another.” Because of this, he’s at ease being physically affectionate with his boyfriend in public, to some extent. “There’s always that feeling though. Did we go too far? Could that person understand the love transmitting between us was more than a great friendship?”

Mastering the Adventure of International Dating: Real answers and straight talk for Gen Y-ers, Gen X-ers and Boomers to finding Romance in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia
Book (BookSurge Publishing)
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