International Dating-Trouble In The Long Run?

If you think accents are irresistible and love romantic adventures, dating a foreigner can be mighty appealing. Here are a few things to consider before taking the passport-friendly plunge.

By Amy Keyishian

“I didn’t think about it,” says Elizabeth, a 50-year-old Los Angeles television writer. “I mean, I didn’t give it a second thought. He even told my mom before the wedding: ‘Don’t worry — I won’t take your daughter away.’ And here we are, 12 years later, moving back to Australia over my mom’s hysterical objections.” International dating certainly has its
That has turned out to be a much bigger obstacle than I could have anticipated.
pros, such as meeting someone with a sexy accent, excitingly exotic shared experiences, and escaping from a hum-drum past. The cons, however? Well, let’s think it through before making any assumptions.

The allure of accents — and traveling abroad
When Elizabeth first met David, he stood out to her (in a total meat-market of a “find a single guy” party that a friend had dragged her to) as “the Australian.” His accent was upper-crust (with notes of his mother’s English background) and he literally towered over his competitors, height-wise. When he finally called a few days later, Elizabeth was able to refer to him with that one-word moniker when reporting back to her pals.

But her concerns then were of the standard matchmaking variety — not the larger, long-term issues that would end up biting her in the behind down the road. “I was concerned with how our personalities would mesh,” she recalls. “The cultural differences were a plus for me — I’m an adventurous person, and he’s one big adventure. But the sheer distance of our homelands, such as taking a 24-hour flight just to bring the children to see their grandparents? That has turned out to be a much bigger obstacle than I could have anticipated.”

There’s also the unfamiliarity quotient to consider before making your move. Elizabeth notes that, for her, David’s claims — that he was an earl, that he had a law degree, that he was a successful producer before moving to America — weren’t verifiable (this was pre-Internet… or at least, pre-social media presence), but in the end, they all turned out to be true. For another international dater named Margaret, however, the cultural differences masked much deeper problems.

Why some daters look for love beyond their own borders
“When I met Joe, he told me his phone number was ‘911,’ so I should have known he’d be trouble,” Margaret recalls. “But I assumed all his rough behavior was par for the course in the part of Ireland he was from.” When she accompanied him home, though, she learned that he stood out there, too. “A jerk is a jerk, regardless of his looks — and other
I developed deeply romantic feelings toward his Russian culture.
qualities,” Margaret explains. In her case, Joe’s “otherness” was both the source of her attraction to him and their romance’s eventual undoing, because his red flags just looked like cute shamrocks to her on first glance.

Sometimes, “different” can be rewarding
If you’re avoiding pursuing an international romance because the cultural differences seem too much to bear, on the other hand, don’t be too hasty to write off what could actually be a good thing. “At first, the idea of our vastly different backgrounds was not appealing to me,” says Elissa, 40. “And while I do miss the deep comfort of a shared background, because I love Niko so much, I developed deeply romantic feelings toward his Russian culture.” When Niko speaks Russian, Elissa hears bells ring — an effect the language never had on her before.

Even the most obvious upsides — i.e., in-laws that live half a world away, earning copious frequent flyer miles — have defied Elissa’s expectations. “I’m the rare creature that adores her mother-in-law,” she asserts, adding that she wishes they were physically closer so the couple’s kids could soak up more of their Russian heritage.

None of these women have foolproof advice for those of you considering clicking on (or with) someone who hails from a different land. “The one thing I’ve learned in the last 12 years is that marriage is a crapshoot, whether the guy comes from next door or across the universe,” says Elizabeth. “Having a mate from a different background brings another layer of problems, but it also brings a lot of exciting challenges.” So if you’re pondering a romance with someone in another country, go into it with your eyes open — and your feet on the ground. But that’s good advice no matter where you’re from!

Amy Keyishian has written for Cosmopolitan and other national magazines.
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