Dating while travelling, or, how to ghost in multiple languages (I’m joking, ghosting is terrible)

*JUMPING ON THE VALENTINE’S DAY BANDWAGON POST ALERT*

So you just moved abroad. Or maybe you’re embarking on a few months’ travel. Either way, you’ve decided it’s time to find someone to get jiggy with.

While choosing the nomadic lifestyle can make dating difficult, technological advancements – combined with cheaper travel – have made international poon/peen-collecting much easier. Dating apps allow you to update your location in real-time, Google Translate means you can navigate a language barrier, and cheap flights home mean you never have to see misguided hookups ever again. It’s the dream really.

When I first settled in my current city, I was in a sort-of relationship with a tattooed hippie guitar player. Due to various factors (mostly related to aforementioned
person’s songwriting skills), things didn’t work out and, after a few weeks of being moderately depressed, I decided to put myself back out there. This was easier said than done and I found that dating in a new country is often an entirely different ball game to back home.

My personal experiences since I left the UK have ranged from the comical (a very brief dalliance with an Italian boy which ultimately failed because neither of us could speak each other’s languages) to the misguided (accidentally-on-purpose getting physical with a friend and ultimately destroying the friendship) to the ridiculous (accidentally falling in love after spending about 35 minutes with an American I met halfway up a mountain in Croatia).

Safe to say none of these worked out, but that’s another story for another day.

So whether you’ve just moved abroad, or you’re bopping round the world on the trip of a lifetime, here are my tips for hitting the dating scene (what is this, the 80s?) in a new country:

FIRST OF ALL, CALM DOWN
It took me 27.3 years to realise that the most important validation you can have comes from yourself, not other people. When you’re in a new place and feeling lonely it can be
tempting to jump straight into cuffing season, even if it’s not official cuffing season. My advice is, don’t rush this.

Take time to get settled into your new habitat first, especially if you’re thinking about seriously dating. As much as it can be a comfort to have someone at this transitional time in your life, ultimately you’ll end up putting this new person first. Get yourself sorted, then you can look to get sorted with someone else.

If you want to utilise various dating apps for non-commital hook-ups only, then it’s a different story – especially if you’re travelling around spending short time periods in new cities. Go nuts! But remember casual is casual – don’t make anything more than what it is.

EMBRACE – BUT ALSO RESPECT – THE DATING CULTURE
A few years ago, a friend of mine was set up with a friend’s cousin while living in a small city in China. While the date was sold to him as a very casual initial meetup, when he arrived, he was introduced not only to the girl in question, but to her parents and various other family members. The ‘date’ consisted of a walk around the local park, followed extremely closely by the girl’s parents. Safe to say he was moderately traumatised and probably did not call her afterwards.

I am by no means an expert on the dating culture in rural China but, needless to say, this particular encounter came as a bit of a shock to my British friend. While the whole world now speaks Tinder and dating standards are universally becoming more similar, it’s important to remember that things will be different in your new country. Treat people with caution and respect and, if in doubt, ask! Also, hold off on the dickpics, just in general. Nobody wanna see that.

DO NOT, REPEAT, DO NOT FETISHISE PEOPLE
Dear fellow white people,

I get it, everyone has a type – mine tends to be a sort of hip-hop-clothed homeless Jesus. Or Rihanna. But if you’re moving to a new country with the sole purpose of pursuing your ‘type’ based on ethnicity or nationality, PLEASE STOP. Don’t assume someone’s personality traits/preferences based on their ethnicity or home country. This is not only incredibly racist, it’s also the kind of logic favoured by British army colonels in the 1860s, but in my experience, it’s still an issue.

IN A SIMILAR VEIN, DON’T FALL FOR TYPICAL TOURIST TRAPS
Yes, they’ve got a nice accent. Yes, their name sounds much more exotic than the Steves and Daves you’re used to back home (no offence Steves and Daves, I’m sure you’re all lovely). No, that doesn’t mean they’re any less of a fuckboy/girl than the people you’ve met back home. Stay woke and stay alert.

I’ve been known to fall in love with otherwise terrible people just because they had a nice accent/presented as something different to what I was used to in the UK. This has never ended well, in the history of ever, unless you count my current partner.

HAVE FUN ON SOLO TRIPS/SHORT BREAKS
Dating apps are a great way to meet people when you’re travelling solo, even if it’s just for a quick drink one evening during a weekend break (or, let’s face it, a quick boink).

I actually didn’t realise just how easy it is to schedule a cheeky vacation date until I met up with a friend in Madrid and he turned up covered in makeup (he doesn’t typically wear it, the aforementioned makeup had transferred from a fellow traveller. From the amount that had transferred to his face, my assumption is that the other party was either from Liverpool, or had just finished a stint on Broadway).

You can fulfil your dreams of being an international lothario in just a few clicks these days, and it can be a great way to meet people and make friends while you’re travelling, but, as always with these things, safety rules apply. Meet in a busy place, tell a friend, have a get out strategy, bring your own condoms.

ANTICIPATE THE POSSIBILITY OF AN LDR
During long-term or slow travel, you’re bound to meet at least one person you really vibe with. I tend to meet at least one person in every country, which can be stressful.

Unfortunately, frequent travel means that if you meet someone you want to build a relationship with, it’s unlikely to last that long. Long distance relationships are very difficult (I should know, literally all my serious relationships have been long distance, but that’s because I hate people), but if you feel the person is worth it, it can also be rewarding.

Again, technology is your best friend here and can make life a lot easier. Just be prepared to put in the work. I’m currently doing the long distance thing for the third time – it wasn’t something I’d planned to do, but the person in question makes me very happy, so I’m giving it another go.

BE MORE OPEN
I’m an advocate of partnership over ownership and as such, I’m also an advocate of open relationships. I’m not a huge fan of monogamy when it comes to my own relationships, and I believe openness can be a huge enhancement, especially in an LDR.

If you travel frequently or you’re currently staring down the barrel of a long distance liaison, introducing an open element can be hugely useful. Make sure you have a clear set of boundaries with your partner, however, and keep the lines of communication open. An open relationship does not mean ‘do whatever you want, with whomever you want’ – it is based on mutual trust, safety and respect. It is not an excuse to be an asshole.

IF IT GETS SERIOUS, LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE/CULTURE

Last summer I took my current partner to a party and got shamed for introducing him to some friends in English (it’s not his first language, but he speaks it better than I do). The comment was innocent enough, but as someone who busted my ass for a year to learn Spanish (coincidentally his first language) with ZERO prior study because I care about educating myself when it comes to other cultures, I took it kinda personally. I was also PMS-ing, but whatever.

My point is, dating someone from another country/culture can be an amazing experience. It’s important to respect the other person’s culture and learn as much as you can. If their first language is different to yours and you’re serious about them, make the effort to learn it, even if it’s comically difficult (I’m looking at you, fellow English speakers). Educate your damn self. You’ll be so happy you did.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!