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5 Things No One Tells You about Falling in Love Abroad

I just discovered Julia’s blog last week when she left me a novel of a comment on my Breaking Up to Travel post. A girl after my own heart, not only has she traveled and lived all around the world at a young age and writing about it on her blog, Nowhere to Go but Everywhere, she has also had to go through dealing with international affairs of the heart. Bonding via email, I begged her to write me a guest post while I am in Turkey. What pinged in my inbox the next day did not disappoint. In this post, Julia explores the little-discussed side of falling in love abroad.

How many travel and expat bloggers out there have wonderfully successful international relationships that they are more than happy to share with the world? As much as I love reading those stories, from my own years spent in Spain I have learned that dating abroad is not all sunshine and fairytales, and it has been idealized online far too often. From her own experiences, Julia breaks it down for all of those starry-eyed youngsters hoping to fall in love while abroad.

Have you ever dated, had a fling or fallen in love abroad? Tell us about it! How did it end?

falling in love abroad

It seems like a dream…you move to a mysterious new land, meet a handsome stranger and fall hopelessly, passionately in love. Soon enough, you’re riding on the back of his Vespa through winding roads to watch the sunset from a spot that only locals know about thinking, is this real life??

That’s exactly what happened to me when I studied abroad in Granada, Spain last spring and, BOY, do I wish I had someone warn me that such a romance isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I wouldn’t trade in my experience for the world, but I want to share some of the darker sides of falling in love abroad that no one talks about.

 First, some upsides to international love. I met a fantastic guy, I became fluent in Spanish from constantly conversing with my novio and his friends and family in their language. I learned colloquial terms and sayings I never would have  known and got an insiders look into lesser-known spots in the city.

Oh, and I got to fall deeply in love in one of the most romantic cities in the world…I guess that’s pretty cool too.

But, just like any relationship, there are some aspects that are extremely difficult and painful. The difficult parts are often exacerbated in a foreign land as you are introduced to new cultural practices, beliefs and values. A language barrier doesn’t help things. So, I’ve put together a list of things that either hindered my relationship directly or have happened to my friends.

This should serve as a caution to starry-eyed girls who go abroad looking for a fairy tale…like a certain 20 year old I once knew.

falling in love abroad

1.This isn’t his first time at the rodeo

If you met at a disco/bar where study abroad students tend to flock; Rico Suave came with one thing in mind. Use your head, chica. Each year, thousands of Americans and international students move to these hotspot cities looking for an adventure, and men absolutely take advantage of this.  Most women let loose, and rightly so, it’s a time for fun and few obligations. But, unfortunately for many women, this means doing things they normally wouldn’t back home. If a man picks you up in one of these situations, be wary. Oftentimes, the men that frequent these places are just looking for a fling, banking on the fact that a ton of girls are hoping to fall in love. We go in thinking it’s love, a story to tell our grandchildren, while we’re more than likely just going through a revolving door of American girls.

{If he pursues you outside of the nightlife atmosphere, doesn’t try to sleep with you immediately, and especially if he involves you in his life with his family and friends, however, he could very well be an exception}

falling in love abroad

2. You may not be in love with him

Moving away from home to a foreign land presents a multitude of new experiences that could influence your feelings during this time. When choosing where to move abroad, most women choose charming and  romanticized places whether it be Rome, Barcelona, Buenos Aires or New Zealand. With the history, natural beauty and exciting culture, it’s easy to fall in love with the place you’re in and the life you live there. Between the yummy food, flowing drinks and new adventures, your pleasure center is constantly stimulated. Mix in a relationship with all these feelings and emotions and it becomes hard to distinguish how you feel about the person versus how you feel towards life in general at this time. Would you be in love with this guy if you were back in your home town? Would you want him to meet your parents? These are things worth thinking about if you’re interested in more than a fling.

falling in love abroad

3. You’ll never 100% understand each other

This one pertains solely to relationships where there is a language barrier. You could be as fluent as a non-native can be, but it is nearly impossible to truly understand humor or complicated emotion in a language that is not your mother tongue. Things like dry humor, sarcasm, and goofy jokes are extremely difficult to accurately translate. Combine that with the difficulty of conveying exactly why you’re mad/hurt/upset in a new language, and a lot of important things get lost in translation. This makes for a lot of frustration and, more than likely, many unnecessary fights.

{Upside: with all the passion and excitement surrounding you, makin’ up ain’t haaaalf bad}

4. You’ll miss out on experiences

If you’re only living abroad for a limited amount of time, having a man in your home base can and will distract you in some way. This isn’t some feminist “sister, a man will only hold you back from becoming the woman you should be” speal. It’s a fact. If you’re in love with someone and know your time together is limited by your visa, you will want to spend as much time with him as possible. This means turning down weekend jaunts to Ibiza to stay with him and nixing girls’ nights out of shameless bar-top dancing with your friends for quiet nights with your man. Many people only get the chance to live abroad once, and though you don’t think so in the moment, turning down exciting opportunities could be something you may regret when you look back on your life.

falling in love abroad

5. There’s an expiration date on your relationship

This has been a theme in each of the previous points. You have a visa, and visas expire. This means one of two things. You have to either accept your romance as nothing more than a fling, or, you have to commit. Commit to making a bi-continental relationship work, commit to a permanent  move at some point, or commit to staying together with no plan at all. To know that you’re in love and these things have a way of working out. This is, of course, up to you.

My point is that in order to protect yourself from heartbreak and disappointment, there is a lot to consider before entering into a love affair abroad. My friends like to refer to what I had with my love as “the fairytale,” and, in many ways, it was. When I look back on my time with him in Granada, I remember the most intense feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life; passion, pain, confusion, excitement, desperation and intense disappointment. I think I could have avoided some of the darker bits had someone made me conscious of the facts I’ve listed above. So, I hope that I can help at least one person to make the most of their time abroad. To immerse yourself, to love, and to explore, but to be aware, conscious, and smart.

falling in love abroad

My two biggest pieces of advice:

Don’t go looking for love, go looking for yourself and if love finds you, then love. You may find the man of your dreams. And if it’s a fling, go for it, girl.

I don’t think anyone ever regretted a tryst with a mysterious stranger.

{Disclaimer:  I know people who have successful international relationships, so there are absolutely exceptions to this list}

Julia is a world traveler who has spent time living on the Cote d’Azure and Southern Spain. These days she calls New York City least until September, when her wanderlust will relocate her to Madrid in search of new adventures. A sociologist and linguist at heart, she is passionate about seeking out new lands and cultures. She recently started blogging at Nowhere to go but Everywhere to chronicle past, present and future travels. Be sure to follow her out on Instagram and Twitter for real-time updates!

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134 Responses to 5 Things No One Tells You about Falling in Love Abroad

  1. Sam January 20, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    I live in England And tried online dating a few years ago, which lead to a couple dates with out any end result. I started getting frustrated that I couldn’t find that spark. I was just about to give up until I got a message from a Spanish girl who lived in Spain! Well.. Long story short we started chatting to each other on a regular basis which then lead to skyping each other. Then after a year of getting to know each other online, i finally made the decision to go over to Spain and meet her. We clicked instantly and from that moment on and with a few more visits to Spain we both fell in love with each other. BUT sadly just recently we decided to go are separate ways due to complications and responsibilities at this time in are lives. Complications being distance, language, work and cultural differences. I thought about moving to Spain to be with her but in reality I would need to learn spanish and try to find work which is near impossible in Spain at the moment. But the main problem is up rooting my life and leaving my family in England which would be very difficult for me as it would be for her. It really has been a difficult stage in my life with my head telling me to stay in England and my heart telling me to go to Spain. Who knows what will happen in the future, I guess ‘if its meant to be, its meant to be’. 🙂

  2. Kels March 1, 2016 at 6:11 am #

    Wow, this is extremely convenient, in fact perfect timing. That’s a pretty sad story. I met this guy, his from germany. He’s an exchange student studying in RSA, (where I’m from) we met and his so amazing, went on our first official date, but the thing is he’s leaving in 6 months. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to go 6 months just being friends no feelings. Expiration dates are overrated. 🙁

  3. Jackie celi March 16, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    I am also going through something like this. I met an amazinggggg guy at a club a month and a half ago… And he’s done literally everything for me. It was like we were going out but weren’t official exactly. He respected my vegan lifestyle, cooked at my place, respected that I didn’t want to have sex just yet, he slept over, I got the pleasure all the time, he showered at my place, he bought me drinks, always brought vegan and gluten free food, took me to a vegan restaurant, paid for all the uber cabs and suddenly he has to go on a 10 month trip climbing mountains with his brother in a bunch of Eurasian countries. He did tell me about this in advance and how he’s already bought his ticket but I didn’t realize how hurt I would actually be. I am extremely devastated and just wish that he could have stayed because I honestly never felt like this about anyone in my life and I’m sure if he stayed we would have gone out eventually. But the fact of the matter is that he left and I am having a hard time getting over something and someone that was so good to me…I usually never take
    Guys who I meet at clubs seriously but with this guy it all just worked out… How do I get over this:( he’s currently still in Australia right now for the next 2 months but I think he’s trying to detach and prep me up for what’s to come ..8 months of barely any communication… 🙁 well I guess what’s meant to be will be…

  4. Antonia May 19, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    You never know. I met him traveling at 17. We travelled the world for a year. We married at 19. That was in 1998. No regrets. Still in love.

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