Dating abroad can be a dilemma
So, you're living overseas, making some great friends, and learning a new culture! Everything seems to be going to plan until those pangs of loneliness hit - the kind that can only be quelled by romantic affection - a basic human need that will creep up abroad, just as it does back home.
So what's a lonely gal/guy to do? Starting a new romance abroad can be a very sticky situation to navigate. It could just be a fling, or it could open the door to what might become your new life. My experience deals with Taiwan (where I taught English), and I also draw on some of my friend's experiences from other parts of Asia.
Girls vs. Boys
In Taipei, the local girls just loved my Western male counterparts. It seemed that a guy who was just an ordinary Joe back home could clean up like a rock star in Asia. Perplexed by this, I asked my friend (who grew up in Taiwan) why this was the case. He said Western men had a reputation for being great lovers (which any Western girl knows certainly isn't true of the whole bunch). He added that having a free English teacher was certainly a draw as well.
So why was the game so completely different for me as a Western girl in Taiwan? Sure, I stuck out like a sore thumb - at 5'8, I towered over other girls, I had a tan, wore bright colors, and was unapologetically Californian. To put it bluntly, the boys were scared of me. Sometimes if I caught a local looking at me, I'd decide to have some fun and wink at him, or beckon him to come hither. Want to know how many times this was obliged? Once.
I think his name was Sam. We had a celebratory shot of tequila then went our separate ways.
That's not to say that I didn't meet my fair share of date-able guys in Taiwan. It's just a different game, and frankly, it's tougher for girls than it is for boys.
Lost in Translation
Say you are lucky enough to find the perfect lover, then what? Chances are, there will be communication hurdles to navigate. Even if said love interest is fluent in English, is he/she fluent in your sense of humor, slang, and culture?
One of the biggest issues for me was finding someone abroad who spoke the language of sarcasm. I like to joke, and frankly, it was almost impossible with some Taiwanese guys. That's not because they didn't have a great sense of humor, they just didn't "get" mine and, conversely, I didn't "get" theirs. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it can turn into one as companionship becomes more important and replaces the initial lust-phase.
The Living at Home Situation
Most Taiwanese live at home until they get married. This helps to save money and is perfectly acceptable if not expected in Taiwan and South Korea, as well as other countries in Asia. Of course, in the U.S. and most other Western countries, living at home past adulthood is a great way to get labeled a non-ambitious loser.
One big hurdle this presents is the mechanical logistics of love (if you know what I mean..). There are many "love" hotels in cities like Seoul and Taipei to help couples navigate this issue but, to me, this was a gross idea. I couldn't help but think of it more as a brothel and the possibility that the sheets aren't changed hourly was enough to make that a non-option for me.
Then, there's the issue of moving in together. When does it happen? Surely you meet the parents much sooner if your beloved is living with them. How serious do you need to consider a relationship before it goes beyond casual coffee (or sex) and into the realm of meeting the parents (who might not speak English)?
Go Home, or Stay?
Finally, if you've navigated all of the previous issues, the question then becomes, how permanent is this? Plenty of expats living in Asia went there planning on staying for a year or so, and lo and behold, they fell in love and stayed for a decade. So do you stay, or do you leave your love behind? If you're ready to take the plunge and get married, do you bring your spouse home or stay in Asia?
Lastly, what if there's a break up? Do you go back home after all that time away? That was a very real circumstance for many individuals I met in Taipei. Of course there's life after love, but distance and time can complicate things.
In closing, there will always be the desire to find love, regardless of geography. Dating in another country can completely change your life, or it can just be a fun little experiment. So, tell us your story! Comment below or find me on Twitter.