Expat dating: Love in a cold – or warm – climate
Is it true that the French make the best lovers? That the Dutch are more sexually liberated? How easy is it to meet a new partner - and where do you find one - when you're an expat?
Last year we asked around 500 (mostly, but not exclusively, heterosexual) expats living in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland a series of up-close and personal questions about themselves, their relationships and their sex lives. Here are the results...
When they moved abroad
Just under half of the expats said they had come either with, or to join, a partner, while 13 percent intended to maintain a long-distance relationship. Thirty percent were single, with 7 percent saying that they had broken up with someone prior to leaving their home country. At the time of the survey, approximately 70 percent of the respondents described themselves in sexually and emotionally satisfying relationships. Of those not in a relationship, almost all – some 80 percent – said they were actively looking for a partner. But how easy is that when you're a stranger in a foreign country?
Looking for love
While most expats don't mind whether the person comes from their country of origin, country of residence – or anywhere else in the world – they seem to agree that it's not easy to meet a local love interest. Almost half – 43 percent – said it was ‘somewhat difficult', 27 percent said it was ‘very difficult' – and only 4 percent described it as ‘very easy' to meet a local man. One woman described Dutch men as "rather hard to get to know as they are not necessarily the ones to start a conversation". It seems easier to meet local women – 30 percent of men said it was ‘easy' or ‘very easy'.
But did it vary from country to country? Expats in Switzerland seem to be having a particularly hard time: everyone said it was ‘difficult' or ‘very difficult' to meet local men for a romantic relationship, and expats living in France report it impossible to meet local women!
And is it any easier to find love with other expats? 46 percent of women said it was ‘easy' or ‘very easy' to meet male expats and over half of men looking for other men agreed with them. Both men and women seemed to find it harder to meet female expats.
Where to go...
Most expats said they met potential male partners through friends and family, closely followed by, surprise, surprise, at a bar or nightclub (unless you're living in Germany, where only a quarter of respondents said they met someone that way). But if you've been there, done that and still no luck, then expats in Switzerland should try their luck at work, at expat meetings and on online dating websites (those specifically for expats seem especially productive – three quarters of expats living in Switzerland meet someone that way).
If you're living in Spain, make sure you're looking your best when you're out shopping (a third of you have met someone that way). Expats in Germany stay at home and browse internet dating sites: three quarters of respondents meet men that way. In the Netherlands and Belgium, romance seems to blossom at work. Living in France, it appears you can find love anywhere.
Bars and clubs are the most popular places to meet female partners (except in France, where only 14 percent expect to meet someone that way) followed by through friends and family and then, in equal amounts dating websites, work and expat events. In Switzerland, you're as likely to meet a woman at work as in a bar or club, about half of you living in Germany meet partners at expat events – as do 40 percent of expats in the Netherlands.
Are the national stereotypes true?
We asked our expats about the men and women in their country of residence. Here are some of the things they said:
"The [Spanish] culture generally isn't as macho as I expected, even in rural areas..."
"German men are nesters."
"Belgian women are very family orientated."
"Some Catalan guys that I've met...are quite possessive."
"Conservatism is not something you usually associate with the Dutch but I found [them] to be quite conservative."
When asked to rate the men in the various countries, everyone got the thumbs up for politeness, the French are perceived to be the most charming, the Germans the best looking (but least romantic), and the Spanish are seen as very attractive as well as romantic. Not many of you found the men in your country of residence very passionate (15 percent in France and 10 percent in Spain) - less than 4 per cent in others, including zero in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands!
When asked to rate the women, most respondents found the women in their respective countries attractive, passionate, humorous, intelligent, with the Spanish women the most empathic.
However, the national stereotypes turn out, in the main, not to be true. It turns out that not all Belgians are boring, that Germans do have a sense of humour (though perhaps not the American sarcasm or British dry humour), that not every Dutch man or woman is a sexually liberal weed-smoker and not all Spanish man are ultra macho. When we asked which prejudices turned out to be true, the answer was often ‘almost none' and to the question ‘what prejudices turned out to be false?', the answer was ‘almost all'. Well, there's a surprise.
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