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5 Things No One Tells You about Falling in Love Abroad

Check out this great guest post!

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, our contributor 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}

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147 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. 🙁

    • karen July 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      Hi I have known a guy for 15 years through work he lives and works in Gibraltar only really got to know his properly in the last 3 years we met and connected for the first time properly this this and boy has it been a roller coaster desperately in love I want to go and live with him but his world is so different to mine, he travels a lot to uk and other destinations not a problem but his life in his own country is so different, I still have a mortgage here so to rent out would be expensive and I would need to give my job up yes my heart screams do it but my head sais be practical its eating me up we text and Skype every day and deal with each other though work, I have have to say I would love to throw caution to the wind just do it but you cant by knowing a person for only a short time and not knowing their lifestyle I think when I am a bit more older I would just do it even though I am in my early 50s and have never felt this before I know it was mant to be but so many hurdles being thrown my way its a real gamble as I have so much more to lose than him xxx

    • Ed October 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

      Hey Kels! I’m also from RSA, and pretty much in the same situation as you. Please tell me something worked out? I’m absolutely involve… the funny thing is… also with a German!

  3. anon 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.

  5. Sam June 12, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    I have met a chinese girl in my hometown Auckland New Zealand. We have have been going out for 6 months now but it is way more complicated than that. she has two kids and previously divorced. She wants to return to China as she misses her daughter and realised she doesnt like the life here in New Zealand anymore . This could be partly my fault as financially i wasnt ready to become a father . she means the world to me and she doesn’t believe that i can support her and her dreams . i have helped her out heaps as like paying her rent and paying for food and taking her places when honestly i couldn’t afford at the the time .Not to sound down but i really like her but i have no idea how to go about. her English isn’t great and she is double my age . is this love or just straight up lust . ? Sam

  6. Lore July 31, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    Well, my story is quite sad and complicated. I used to live in England where I wwnt to find myself. I found this guy instead. He was super-sweet, caring. He made me feel welcome and I found myself deeply in lovs with. Unfortunately he was not that much into me besides getting very close and didn’t prevent hurting me. To complicate things even more we were housemates. I couldn’t avoid him nor my feelings qhile trying my best. I wish I would have kept my eyes open and my heart still to prevent this hurting so much and I wish I had really tried to find myself. In the end I moved out when he met his gf but, still, couldn’t find a way to forget him. Everything was so amplified that I truly thought I was going crazy. I made of him my everything scared as I was. We had many bad fights. The last one made us really drift apart. It’s complicated when the only person who can help you is the one who’s hurting you and you are abroad. Now I’m back to my country trying to recover from this story. I learnt many things though and as soon as I’ll be better I’ll get myself out there trying to make my dreams cone true. So, don’t waste your chances abroad for a guy you’ll probably never see again. Be careful and if you meet someone make dure it’s worth. Put yourself first and never lose sight of the reasons you went to that country for. Work on yourself, go out, habe fun, make friends and be careful when it comes to love abroad. It can be really hurtful but in the end it s also our responsability to protect ourselves and prevent to be hurt. Follow your mind first.

  7. Peter August 28, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    I did 2 stints of overseas aid in Vietnam. On my recent 9 week stint, I fell hopelessly in love with a girl who was 26 years younger. We spent many hours talking about how we would get married, set up house and move to another country other than Vietnam where she could earn more money in her career and we could set up home. When my assignment finished and I returned home, my heart aches…I miss her so much and feel hopelessly unsettled. She is so sad too and we continue to skyp and viber. It is so hard just to cut off and go our seperate ways.

  8. Rita September 13, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

    I fell inlove with a Italian farmer from Italia..i was invited to a 50 Birthday party that I had no intention to go to but was forced by my son to go….go mum you just might meet someone….straight away i jackex up and said i don’t want to mert anyone…..and wam bamo I did…..he came all the way from Sydney to the 50 party hr was not keen on going himself only to wake up at 5am out of bed and felt a hand pushed himbto thr station….soon as we met he spotted me walking up the driveway ….funny …I spotted him too ahahaha……a year paseed we text every day for a year……we had a fall out over somthing stupid ….we stop speaking …he’s back in Italy….and we havent spoke over 12 years….lately I’ve been thinking about him….Funny .life

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  10. C September 30, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    It’s funny how life has a way making a full circle. I read your post before I went abroad, and here I find myself reading after coming back. Well, it happened to me. I fell in love with a boy abroad. So here is my story.
    I always wanted to go to Australia. So February came and I packed my bag, got on the plane and left on my first real adventure abroad. I met K right when I rocked up to my new apartment, he had a lyrical accent and a typical European haircut. I forgot his name the minute he told it to me, but was too ashamed to ask him again. It wasn’t love at first sight. No. But our relationship was quite playful from the start. It was four of us living in the apartment, two boys, two girls, 2 Australians, 1 American, and 1 Swede. I met J next, he seemed quite sure of himself and much more mature than what his age actually was. He seemed to sense something between me and K, and made a rule that first week that you can be with anyone but your roommates. Perhaps that just fueled the attraction between me and K. It was like he was challenging us. It only took 3 weeks until we broke our one and only rule, although I did feel some slight guilt afterwards. We decided not to tell J. It was our little secret, although we weren’t good at hiding it at all. I am quite affectionate, especially with alcohol. K could be reserved in initiating affection in front of others but was never hesitant to reciprocate. By the time two months had passed I’m sure everyone knew of our relationship, although J remained ignorant to the truth. He had to have known, K had a knack for giving me hickeys all over my neck. While this hidden relationship started out adventurous, it lead to feelings of wanting more. The song at the time “I hate u, I love you” reminded me of our relationship. All my drinks and all my feelings were mixed. I moved closer and K seemed to move away. He loved the phrase “I would never want to hurt you”, but towards the end that was what happened. Now don’t get me wrong, there were so many good times, nights out, holidays together to exotic places, nights spent cuddling just talking of the future and the stars and even politics. But my story doesn’t end with a happily ever after. I fell for a boy abroad that didn’t love me back.

  11. Jasmine October 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    I went to Seville, Spain in 2015 for the first time. I have met many cool people but one who stood out more than the others. I met my boyfriend in Spain outside of a club. I remember it like t was yesterday. I was a cold September night , and he being a gentleman gave me his sweater. I did not think much of him because being a black woman from the U.S in Spain surely made me stand out, but in a good way. Every guy that talked to me wanted to sleep with me, but Antonio was different.I fell hard for him and for that went back this passed summer. Our relationship is hard because we do not talk as much anymore and hes taking it well because he is busy but its really hard for me. But i am willing to deal with the distance for now knowing that i am here saving to move there in a year!!!!!! If it is love, nothing can stop you from being with that person.

  12. Rebecca November 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    I went to Cuba last month and met a great guy. Funny story! I thought he stood out at the beach party were we met and my girlfriend told me to approach him…I refused, chicken mostly. Then about ah 1/2 hour later he approached me. With little English (him) and Spanish(me), we both found it cute and crazy that we could even communicate effectively.. We went out separate ways that night with intentions to meet the next day. As planned, he was there and everyday after that. We spent time chatting and enjoying each others company every single day. I thought it was great having fun with someone and never really thought about anything else. Did not even think about me leaving or living anywhere else but in those moments with him. I guess he felt the same way too until he asked if I would meet his parents. I was blown away. He explained how he felt, and he did not want to loose this thing we had. And wondered if I felt the same. I told him I was having such a great time that I never really noticed how much my feet wasn’t touching ground. He left his number and told me he was sorry if he disturbed my vacation and I can call him if I had a change of heart, but he was not willing to play with his feelings just for a moment. After not seeing him for a cou[ple of days, I missed him and realized that I felt so complete with him, that I did not even think about being without him. We reunited and boy what greatness I felt for the first time with him. And I met his family who welcomed me with loving arms. They said he has never brought a woman home as his intention. Since I have returned home, there has not been a day that we have not communicated with each other. I plan to return in the very near future. But don’t be confused: I as every woman have security questions of my heart getting broken. But what is life if you are afraid to LIVE?. With language and culture as our biggest barriers, we believe that love will always conquer all. We are both enrolled in Language classes. Only time will tell!

  13. Chris November 24, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Found this article and thought I’d share my story. Mine is a little different in the fact I met a girl online doing a language exchange. We started talking a lot and eventually exchanged letters and gifts via snail mail. Turns out she had an Uncle and Cousin in my country and even in my University town. She also informed me she was coming to my country for a year to live and practice English. Fast forward 6 months and she arrives, we meet up, we connect and we fall in love. One year later her Visa runs up, and she has to go back home.

    That night affter leaving her place driving home knowing I may never see her again was definitely the saddest moment of my life and still remember it vividly. In order to stay together I would have had to move to her country with the prospects of getting an English teaching position, being the young fool I was, I wasn’t ready for that just yet as I just landed a stable job recently out of University. We broke up two months after she left. Fast forward a year, I dated a bit but nothing felt right or the same as what I had with her. I eventually quit my job as I wasn’t happy there and decided to travel, and visited her country, we hung out for a week and it was amazing. The feelings were definitely still there but nothing came of it. We still messaged and talked every day or so but eventually she cuts off contact as she has a boyfriend. I can’t contact her as she blocked all contact from me.

    Fast forward 9 more months (up until one month ago), and she calls me to apologize for telling me not to contact her as it was her boyfriend who didn’t want her talking to me. I told her how happy I was to hear her voice and we talked for an hour, reminiscing and how she doesn’t think her current relationship is healthy etc etc.

    Anyways, I realize NOW and too late that I still love this girl, I will always love her, and I want to tell her I still love her and always will, and if she still has feelings for me I want to make it work. I’ll move to her country, and if she doesn’t then I have closure and can move on.

    She moved and I now have no way of finding where she is. Sucks. Just wish I followed my heart two years ago rather than saving money.

  14. Jaime December 9, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    I’m an exception. I found the love of my life while knocking back steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. After 5 partly-blurry hours that day, my life had forever changed. Our story is on Amazon: Once Upon an Oktoberfest: A Love That Went the Distance. Travel fairy tales do exist <3

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