The language of luuurve

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How language and culture barriers actually make for a pretty interesting relationship…

Ah, the notion of a foreign boyfriend. Exotic, attentive, romantic and devastatingly handsome, bagging a lover from as far away from Blighty as possible can seem a perfect dream for many of us. It doesn’t matter that you don’t speak the same language – ‘we just have a connection,’ you tell your friends, who in your head look on in awe as you smugly flick your hair and take the hand of your Enrique Iglesias-type boyfriend. But what is it really like dating someone from another country, and is it always what it’s cracked up to be?

Kate is 21 and from Glasgow, and met her French boyfriend Benoit, 23, whilst on her year abroad during university. They have been together for a year.

“I think the main difference with dating a French guy is that British people are much more reserved than the French,” she said.

“So when we first started dating he was really forward – but I quite liked that, because I’ve found British guys like to play games and pretend they’re not too keen. It was refreshing that there was no messing around and he just really wanted me to be his girlfriend.

“On the other hand though I think he probably thought at first that I wasn’t really that interested because out of habit I was playing hard to get, taking ages to text back and everything. But once I realised that it didn’t matter, I was just myself and assured him that I did in fact like him.

“We haven’t had too many language problems as thankfully I can speak French fairly well,” Kate says.

“But even so there have been a couple of misunderstandings! I think the funniest one is that in French ‘smack’ means kiss, but Benoit thought it was the same in English. So he definitely said something like ‘do you want to smack me?’ or ‘are we going to smack?’ at some point – not exactly the best way to set the mood!

“The only other major issue I remember was meeting his parents – it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I went to visit them in Paris with him and they were so lovely but I found it really difficult to understand them when they were all talking at once.  Meeting the parents is terrifying in English never mind in French!”

Emily is 22 and met her ex-boyfriend on her year abroad in Germany.

“We met on Tinder and originally I was only using it to practice my German, but then I agreed to go meet him for coffee.

“My German wasn’t as good as his English, but we had a few arguments because he always sounded more blunt than he actually meant to be when speaking English and he didn’t understand English sarcasm.

“There was definitely a huge language barrier when meeting his parents but I got on with them really well anyway, and I learnt a lot more colloquial German from being around him and his family.

It was very different to being with a British guy as Germans have a very different outlook on things like education and drinking – dating someone from another country isn’t impossible by any means, but you have to understand that the culture is different and try your best to see things from their perspective.”

So, there you have it, it doesn’t matter where bae’s from, as long as you’ve got that ‘connection.’ So what are you waiting for, go out there and find your very own Enrique!

Kate on her year abroad where she met Benoit

Kate on her year abroad where she met Benoit


Some more amusing mishaps from cross-country relationships…

Gemma is 21 and has been dating her Dutch boyfriend Vince for two months.

“I’d recently cut a full fringe into my hair, and when I met up with Vince he kept repeatedly telling me that he ‘liked my ponytail’.”

Rebecca is 20 and has been dating her half-Turkish boyfriend Adam for a year.

“My boyfriend’s dad is Turkish and has a sometimes limited grasp of English – when I first met him he had a good ten minute conversation with me about an artichoke, only for it to turn out that he actually meant architect.”

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