Being an Au Pair
is challenging for various reasons: you are in a foreign country, speaking a different language while working and trying to make new friends
, while being an Au Pair, is not everybody’s priority, but is not so unusual to fall for somebody while living abroad.
While dating a person from another culture could seem attractive,you should keep in mind a few things to live this experience the best way. Because no matter how close your Home and Host Country are, intercultural dating is never really smooth, but it is not even impossible!
What intercultural dating is
First of all, we should give a definition of “intercultural dating”. Culture involves the characteristics of a particular group of people: including language, religion, eating habits, social manners and even different tastes, for example when it comes to music.
If you are au pairing abroad, it is probable that you like the culture and the customs of the place that you chose as your Host Country
and that you find them attractive in your partner.
Some things that he/she might be doing naturally without even thinking about, could look weird and funny to you.
While you might like some of these characteristics, other things might be a problem or a little harder to understand, and could create misunderstandings in your intercultural relationship.
Communication is the key to every successful relationship. Dating somebody who doesn’t speak your language
is a real challenge: if your partner has a little knowledge of your language and wants to communicate with it, from the very beginning you will have to introduce yourself and converse with someone who will probably not be able to understand
If you are the one who has to speak a different language, on the other side, your ability to express yourself is likely to be limited and at first you will feel uncomfortable or like you are not expressing your personality and what you want to communicate fully.
is widely spoken pretty much everywhere, it is not everybody’s native language!
If you are an Au Pair from an English-speaking country, keep it in mind while dating. The person you are dating might be able to communicate with you, but might not feel so confident while speaking with a native English speaker and this could cause some misunderstanding as well.
Every culture has different habits, even when it comes to the basic things or necessities such as eating habits.
Food, for example, has an important role in Mediterrean countries, while it might be seen just as a simple need in Northern European countries.
In Southern Europe people tend to structure their days according to their meal routine
. As a matter of fact, we are not talking about a personal routine. In countries like Italy
, for example, nobody really eats when they feel hungry: people eat at “mealtimes
”! Everybody knows since a very young age when it’s time for eating and what is the best thing to eat at every meal (ex. whether a sweet or savoury food). However, in a neighbouring country like Germany
, people know what the different meals are, of course, and more or less there is also a common timetable, but this is not as strict as in Italy.
Such things might seem really superficial at the beginning of a relationship, but if the habit of a culture is so deeply rooted it can lead to problems or small disagreements in the relationship when it comes to making common plans.
Speaking of food, this is one of the big unknowns when it comes to first dates between people from different cultures.
As we mentioned, different cultures structure their day differently, and in some countries it is common to organize them around meal times.
When making an appointment for a certain time, therefore, it is advisable to ask or try to figure out if it is an invitation to dinner or a simple walk at a time that could be considered "dinner time" for us. This will avoid arriving unprepared and with a rumbling stomach on the first date.
If you have decided to go to dinner together, expectations regarding chivalry should be reviewed and adjusted depending on the Host Country.
South American countries, for example, are known for good manners and gallantry. In a stereotypical date between a man and a woman, in fact, it will be the man who invites the woman, pays the bill and even opens the door.
In North European countries, however, gender roles are overcome when it comes to dating and it's not uncommon for the girl to invite the guy or pay the bill.
There are also a number of factors that can interfere in a relationship. In America, for example, there is a tendency to introduce your partner to your family very early on, almost at the beginning of the relationship. For other cultures this might seem like an exaggeration or something done superficially.
For those who are used to this, however, being in a country where introductions take place after many months (or even years), not knowing your partner's family may seem like a sign that the other person is not taking the relationship seriously.
Another thing that might be odd for Mediterranean or South American cultures is the "social distance" that many other countries tend to have: if you come from a "warm" country and you are dating a Swedish person for the first time, don't be offended if during your first date he/she seems distant and doesn't stand too close to you while talking.
In conclusion, not only intercultural relationships are difficult!
Even if we start dating someone who was born and raised in the same small town as us, sooner or later there will be a topic to discuss and agree on. It's all normal and all part of the process of dating. Dating someone from a different culture, who speaks a different language, has a different religion or mentality can be scary. If it's worth it though, the initial fear shouldn't limit us, it should only make us want to get to know this person and their culture even more.
Relationships are a great opportunity for growth. The personal growth to which an intercultural relationship can lead, however, is even greater.