Making the choice to live overseas & teach English abroad is the first step in an adventure of a lifetime. As an English teacher in Spain, China, Costa Rica, or wherever you decide to teach, you will not just be a tourist passing through, but you will become a member of a new a community - a "local" if you will - which means that forming a social circle, making friends, and yes, DATING!, will likely be part of your life (if you're not already hitched). You’ll meet locals, foreign travelers, and fellow teachers from around the globe that will open up your point of view as you experience their unique cultures.
A huge part of adjusting to a new culture is the ability to understand their norms in love, relationships, and dating. Many English teachers experience successful relationships, and some even find the love of their life (like your's truly!), but especially at first, you may find yourself thrown into a world of love and dating that may seem confusing and difficult to comprehend. Even in your home community figuring out love, dating & relationships can be difficult, so, here are some key tips on how to navigate love and dating while teaching English overseas!
1. Getting to Know People & Learning the Lay of the Land
The best way to navigate love and dating abroad is to build a strong social circle and a support system while you are overseas. Get to know people! Join a volleyball team or soccer team! Join a weekly painting class for ex-pats and English speakers. Yoga is great too! Talk to your local colleagues and get to know the local scoop. Once you get to know the locals all the mysteries of dating and love in that country will begin to fall into place. Here are some great ideas for making friends while teaching abroad: 9 Pro Tips to Help You Make Friends While Teaching English Abroad.
Don't be afraid to ask questions and lots of them! “Is it normal for someone to talk to me within 6 inches of my face?" "What does that mean? Is that just a Russian thing or does she like me?” "What is local protocol for asking somebody out on a first date?" "Is it appropriate for me to ask for somebody's phone # or email address ?" "Can I ask for a date or even break up by texting?" "Will differences in matters like religion be an obstacle in pursuing a relationship?" You’ll see how the pieces fit together the longer you stay abroad.
ITA graduate, Gary McIlvaine (right) met his wife & got married while teaching English in China.
2. Take Note of Differences
Love is a universal language that’s easy to understand, right? NOPE! The differences in how cultures date and “court” are astounding. You may find in the USA it’s perfectly acceptable to move in with your significant other before marriage while you are just dating, but in many Latin American cultures or Middle Eastern societies this is far from an acceptable practice. In the United States it’s also a norm to date around and to not always be “exclusive,” yet many cultures in Northern Europe find this simply confusing. “You mean you have gone on a dozen dates and she has met your parents but she’s not your girlfriend?”
Before you dive head first into the world of love and dating abroad I would suggest asking your new social circle about their idea of normal. Is it appropriate to split the restaurant bill? If you have only gone out on one date with someone are you now considered their partner? Yikes! It’s good to know these things before committing a major faux pas.
Many English teachers date & fall in love while living & traveling abroad
3. The Internet is Universal!
So love is not truly the universal language you thought it was but here’s the good news: online dating is! Sometime, especially when you first arrive in a new city or a new country, the Internet provides a great way not only to meet new friends with similar interests, but also to find opportunities for dating. In many respects online dating is similar abroad to what it is like in the U.S. or Canada. There are universal apps like Tinder and Match that you can use and there are also local apps & sites specific to the country where you teach. Yet again, ask your new social circle how to navigate what you are seeing – “His user name is cutiepie1987 – is he having a laugh or does he really think he is a cutie pie?” Humor abroad, you just never know!
As you can see navigation can be accomplished and love and dating abroad can often be far more interesting and exciting than your prospects at home! So get ready to bring back dating abroad stories that will wow your girlfriends and buddies off their bar stools. Use these key tips and best of luck finding fun, excitement, and maybe love while teaching English abroad!