Alright spill – what have your experiences been dating abroad?
Let’s Unpack That is a travel education series where we process and unpack our baggage of social identities, issues, and travel privileges to understand how they impact our travel experiences. Each week, we focus on a hot topic or social issue to dig deeper and reflect on our travel privilege(s). We will cover everything from culture shock to ethnocentrism. Whether in our own countries or abroad, understanding our impact can help us be more responsible and conscientious travelers.
Unlike past posts of this series, this time we are unpacking a more fun topic: dating abroad and traveling while single! Yes, we are going there. Dating abroad, cross cultural relationships, cross cultural dating, and all of the above are a different kind of hot topic in travel. And something that many people dabble in on their adventures. As we all crave human connection, belonging, and love, cross cultural dating while traveling is one way to find it. And with the rise of dating apps, travel dating has increased due to its accessibility. Yes, “Tinder while traveling” is a thing too.
I don’t think I need to define international dating, so let’s unpack that y’all!
Things to be mindful of in cross cultural relationships
Dating abroad is fun, but there are some helpful things to remember! For the tips below, my traveling friends Nasir and Raphaella contributed their dating while traveling advice. If you want to watch the full video conversation of our experiences, click here. And remember, none of the following may be complete dealbreakers for you. That is your personal preference and we cannot decide that for you! However, there are some things to remember when you put yourself out there. Especially if you end up catching flights and feelings.
How can you get to know someone if you do not know the language? Language barriers are an everyday occurrence in travel, even without the romance. It can impact how you can verbally communicate your interest with someone. Those who have dated abroad have overcome verbal language barriers by using body language or translation apps. Others who went from travel dating to real relationships have learned the language of their partner. It is all about how much you want, and are willing, to invest.
Relationship standards vary
Chivalry may not be dead! But you will not know if you do not try. Relationship standards vary based on a country’s culture, religion, traditions, etc. If you are a casual dater or like to go on relationships, you may find a destination is more flexible than your home country. Some countries prioritize marriage, and others may not. There are cultures that are more romantic or open about PDA that others. It varies and keeping an open mind with your open heart is important.
The politics of passport privilege
There are always social, economic, and political factors that affect us. Dating abroad is no different, especially when discussing passport privilege. Dating someone of a different nationality and/or citizenship can present a challenge due to the politics of passports. Countries in the Global North (aka “Western” countries) have more privilege to travel visa free. This means traveling together can be more complicated due to visas being denied. It is not fair at all and is rooted in racism, neocolonialism, and colonialism.
However, it is not impossible. Even though you met while traveling, you all do not have to always travel. Battling passport privilege is out of anyone’s control (unless you have powerful government connections). But picking destinations that work for the both of you is ideal. Planning, preparing, and pivoting those plans if necessary is key to navigate passport privilege.
Time zone differences
Long-distance signals time zone changes. This may not seem as obvious up front, but it is a factor to consider. Relationships are based on transparent communication and that can be harder balancing time zones. People change every day and in a relationship you do not want to miss key moments. Establishing a routine to accommodate those time zones can be vital to the survival of your relationship. Flexibility and adaptability are also necessary to make it work with cross cultural dating.
Fetishes and hypersexualization
Ahhhh the thin line between curiosities and fetishes. While there is nothing wrong with dating outside your race or ethnicity, it is important to beware of fetishes. Most fetishes come from people’s perceptions a social identity from media that they apply to everyone in that identity. But that does not make them ok. Sexual stereotypes are not compliments and can possibly lead to issues down the line.
Speaking from the perspective of a Black woman, I can tell when someone is fetishizing me. If someone approaches me and said “I’ve always wanted to *enter sexual expletive* a Black girl,” I’m walking away. Or running away. That is a fetish and makes me uncomfortable. Asking about my culture and heritage is curiosity. Instantly sexualizing me, and verbalizing said fetish, is another.
Dating abroad safety tips
Traveling while single is fun, but there are some safety precautions to keep in mind! Though most people are genuine in their intentions, it is important to not let your entire guard down. It is so easy to get comfortable amongst the adrenaline and excitement. These are some dating abroad tips to keep in mind to have a positive experience.
Trust your gut
This seems like a no brainer. Yet, it still needs to be written. We should always balance our “go with the flow” travel attitudes with common sense. Do not go anywhere with anyone by force or persuasion. If you have a bad feeling about a person you met please trust it! While our gut may not be right 100% of the time, we should listen to our instincts. Trust yourself and trust your gut to guide you.
Make it a double date
If you are traveling with friends or are in a study abroad program, this tip is for you. Sometimes having a friend on your date can make it easier to get past any awkwardness. They can also be there as a second opinion to gauge the intentions of your date. You can ask your date to bring a friend too. With your wing-person and their wing-person present, you all both have people present just in case the chemistry is not there. This can also help you avoid being in a precarious situation on your own.
Do not tell your date you are traveling solo
Everyone does not need to know you are solo! No matter how nice and attractive they may be. For those who are dating while traveling solo, use this tip always to protect yourself. Little white lies for your safety can be necessary just in case your gut steers you wrong. It is fine to date and enjoy the beauty of solo travel at the same time. Just remember to not overshare those kinds of details. Do other get-to-know-you questions on your date instead!
And just know if it does not work out, that is ok too
Dating abroad does not have to be a priority. The relationship does not have to become an entire long-distance, cross cultural relationship either. None of that is required. Cross cultural dating can be fun and who knows you may indeed meet your life partner. But there is nothing wrong with being single and enjoying yourself. Traveling for leisure is freeing. Do not get tied down if you do not want to.
As someone who uses the “I’m here for a good time, not a long time,” seeking travel relationships has not been my thing. For others, it is! We all have distinct dating and relationship styles. Take calculated risks and put yourself out there. However, know nothing is wrong with you if you do not find the love of your life. You are still a beautiful, whole person with lots of life to give. It will happen when it is meant to happen. For now, travel, date, and be free.
This is like homework, but better!
You don’t know what you don’t know. But now that you know, learn more! Check out the following resources to learn about dating abroad, cross cultural relationships, and more.
– Bustle: In this piece by Suzannah Weiss, the author recounts 7 things they wish they had known about dating someone abroad. Cross cultural relationships are a lot of work, no matter how much love is between you and your partner(s). Language barriers, technology, making time for each other, and more are other things to think about. It is insightful for those who may fall in love on their travels.
– Oneika Traveller on YouTube: Oneika is one of my favorite Black travel bloggers, the OG of the movement if you will. She has a video on her YouTube channel about dating abroad. She met her husband on her travels as well! So if you’re interested in cross cultural dating, check out Oneika’s video above and connect with her across her other social media platforms too. Her content is amazing!