Dating in your own country can be a minefield in itself, but what happens when it comes to international dating? Well, I’ll tell you: the rules change. Massively. Everything you thought you knew has to be set aside, in order to make way for a different type of dating culture.
Let’s talk about the USA, for example. As well as the country and lifestyle being fundamentally different to ours in little ol’ UK, there are some key differences when it comes to American dating. I know this because I have been dating an American since last July, which almost takes us up to one year now of being together. Heck, we’re even official. (IRL and on Facebook!)
Admittedly, not every rule changes, but it can be difficult to get used to this new US way of doing things when you’re so used to the UK dating scene. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are 5 things you learn when you date an American, through my own experiences as well as what he’s personally divulged to me. (Who says you can’t use your boyfriend for research purposes?)
1. You can date multiple people at once
The general consensus when it comes to dating someone new in the US is that they are allowed to date multiple people at the same time. As in, they could be seeing you for a coffee date at 3pm, then have another prospective date scheduled in for dinner at 7pm. Sure, this is similar to the UK in the sense that we all tend to date multiple people initially, until we find the one we like. And that’s where the similarities end. Because, if you’re dating in the US and find someone you really like, you carry on dating other people anyway. We would rather spend our time with and date that person who we like more than the others, so we can see where it goes. We wouldn’t necessarily carry on seeing multiple people at the same time as the one we have feelings for, unless we were unsure what we wanted. It’s almost like Americans need a backup plan, just in case things turn sour. In the UK, we tend to date to find someone to get into a relationship with, whereas Americans sometimes – not always – seem to date just for the sake of dating. And this process carries on until they decide they want to stop.
2. No “are we official?” conversation
One of the major milestones in the UK dating process is the serious conversation where you and your partner sit down and decide whether or not you’re going to be a couple. This is usually after you’ve been going out together for a month or two on a series of dates. And then you begin acting more like a couple, meeting friends and parents and all the rest of it. This conversation never happens in the US. With my boyfriend and I, we established relatively early on in our dating process (after about a month) that we liked each other and didn’t want to date anyone else. Then we just started acting like, and assuming we were, a couple. There was no official conversation. No “will you be my girlfriend?” or anything like that. According to my boyfriend, that’s quite common in the US. You’ll just start referring to the person you’re dating as your girlfriend or boyfriend naturally as time goes on if it’s obvious that you’re both exclusive. And that’s that.
3. Meet their friends and family straight away
We’re talking, like, almost immediately. (“Like”? You can totally tell I’m in a relationship with an American… “Totally?!” I rest my case.) You can literally go on one or two dates with your American lover, and you’ve already met all of their friends. Then you casually start getting invited to all the family events. In the UK, we tend to set up a specialised “meet the parents” scenario after a few months – when we’re certain that this one’s a keeper – which typically consists of dinner, or a call around to the parents’ house. Not in the US. It’s so much more chilled. You just meet the friends and family when you meet them. If you happen to come across them sooner rather than later, then you meet them sooner rather than later. It’s not considered as a “big” thing like it is in the UK. You’re simply happy to meet everybody whenever.
4. Spend more time together
So this one can also be true of UK relationships, but it’s one thing I’ve majorly noticed more since dating an American. As you meet their friends and family straight away, and it’s all very laid-back and easy, you tend to spend more time together earlier on in your relationship. When you’re dating someone in the UK and have just had “the conversation”, you proceed to see them perhaps two or three times per week and then create separate time for your friends and family. This is not the case at all in the US. Because you know their friends and family very early on, you get invited to all social events involving both parties from that point onwards. So if your other half was doing something with their friends, you’d go along. And if your other half was invited to their cousin’s friend’s baby shower, then you’d also go along. It’s great in the sense that Americans are so lovely and welcoming, but it also makes the relationship rather intense quite early on!
5. A long distance relationship is inevitable
Perhaps the most obvious thing you learn when dating an American is that it’s just not sustainable unless you’re prepared to commit to a long distance relationship. You might try and kid yourself in the beginning (we’ve all been there) telling yourself that you’re not going to catch feelings and it’s all super casual and relaxed. But, as your feelings naturally grow and evolve, it becomes the only viable option if you’re not willing to give them up. I know there was no way on earth that I was going to give up my boyfriend – and he wouldn’t let me anyway. Americans can be incredibly smooth talkers when they want to be! (Plus they have a nice accent, which helps their cause.)
Whether you just after something light-hearted and a bit of fun, or you’re looking for something more serious, approach American dating with caution. Their relaxed rules mean that sometimes the lines can be blurred, and you don’t want to end up getting hurt. Also, when you’re confused about their dating process, try to remember that they live in a different country therefore there are a different set of dating rules. And don’t let yourself get in too deep without considering the possibility that you might have to be in a long distance relationship one day – which is challenging at the best of times. Anyway, regardless of this, Americans are kind and warm-hearted people and always up for a good time, so if you ever decide to get into international dating, you will certainly have an experience to remember!