Home Living Abroad Love, Marriage & Partnership Expat dating: debunking the myths surrounding cultural stereotypes
Last update on April 14, 2021
Sophie Pettit Written by Sophie Pettit

Learn how to navigate the dating pool in your new home country as we reveal the truth behind those amusing – and absurd – cultural stereotypes.

The player, the romantic, the cling-on. There are countless types of people that we inevitably encounter during our quest for love. But throw a bunch of complex cultural stereotypes and dating etiquette into the mix and suddenly finding ‘the one’ becomes even more of a challenge.

For the 34% of expats who are currently single, navigating the dating scene in a foreign land can present many obstacles. Whether you’re dating online or flirting with people the good old-fashioned way, it’s difficult to know if any of the cultural stereotypes are actually grounded in truth. Are French guys really only after one thing? Will a Russian literally drink you under the table? Would a Spanish guy seriously expect you to live with his parents? We’ve all heard them, but regardless of whether or not they ring true, getting to know someone from a different cultural background can take you on a steep learning curve. That said, it can also be a lot of fun, too.

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So, to help you navigate the dating pool in your new home country, we’re here to bust some of the biggest myths surrounding cultural stereotypes and set the record straight – once and for all. But before you read on, we urge you to take this with a pinch of salt. After all, cultural experiences and observations vary significantly, and it would be unfair to paint an entire nation with the same brush. That said, these general pointers might also help you find ‘the one’ – or at least have some fun!

Belgium

Don’t expect him to waffle on

Belgium is famous for its drool-inducing fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer (hell, that’s reason enough to live there). But there is far more to this charming little country than its yummy pub grub. For starters, Belgians speak three languages – Dutch, French, and German. So, if you speak one of these, then you’re already over the first hurdle – the language barrier. Despite the country’s gift for languages, however, you shouldn’t expect your love interest to be a chatterbox from the get-go. On the contrary, Belgians are known to be somewhat reserved and closed when first meeting people. This can make them appear distant, unemotional, or even disinterested in the early stages of dating. As a result, relationships can take a long time to develop. But if you have the patience, it’s well worth the wait.

dating

After all, many of Belgium’s cultural stereotypes involve good manners and proper etiquette. Dependable, calm-natured, and hard-working are just some of the positive adjectives that expats tend to throw around. And because being late is considered a major sign of disrespect, your date will almost always turn up on time, too. They won’t mess around with dating standards either – if they are interested, you will know about it. So while the object of your affection might not shower you with roses or twirl you around in the moonlight, they will arrive on the dot, scrubbed up nicely, and whisk you away to a dinner party. Just make sure you dress for the occasion, too, as scruffiness does not bode well with this dapper nation. And, if you’re female, don’t forget to bring your wallet, as Belgian women are generally known to be independent and happy to pay their way.

France

Rendez-vous avec two? Think again!

French men are notorious for their romantic skills and powers of seduction – but don’t believe everything you hear. Sure, there will always be the players (known locally as beaux-parleurs, which literally means ‘beautiful talkers’) who reel off all kinds of crap to lure you into your boudoir. However, you will find this in every country, and generally speaking, French men (the good ones, at least) like to keep a cool distance when it comes to dating. Because they value their independence, getting to know them can take some time. This can be a good thing, though, if you value your space.

Cultural stereotypes

Contrary to popular belief, French men don’t actually date, but rather rendez-vous, which literally translates to ‘meeting you’. And if you do get invited out, don’t expect an intimate dinner for two because in this context, ‘you’ actually means you; as in plural – so expect company. But if you happen to find yourself sitting at a table of single people and spot a piece of eye candy you’d like to get to know, then don’t be scared to make your move. After all, French women are famous for their confidence and for being fiercely independent, so chances are he won’t be shy about it either.

You can expect a certain level of sophistication when dating the French, too. Indeed, the idea of sipping a café au lait by the River Seine while discussing art and politics with your amour isn’t totally out of the question. In fact, this topic is important to many locals and will likely pop up in conversation at some point. So you might want to read a newspaper from time to time to keep up with current affairs.

Germany

Fashionably late is not an acceptable excuse – we warned you!

While Germans certainly value orderliness, they are actually more flirtatious and cheeky than you might expect (it’s always the quiet ones, right?). Interestingly, there is a tendency among German men to casually date women who are much younger than them and then marry later in their 30s. As long as they want to play Peter Pan and not a Lost Boy, however, this might not be an issue if you aren’t looking to settle down anytime soon.

dating

Because gender equality is highly valued in Germany, dating etiquette such as splitting the bill is not a big deal, either. In fact, a woman is just as likely to approach a man if he catches her attention, and her dating style will likely be similar to his. Essentially, if she sees something she likes, she will go for it, and if not – well, auf Wiedersehen!

One thing she certainly won’t tolerate, however, is machismo – but then again, who would? German men aren’t exactly famous for their flattering charm either, so a local woman might not know how to take a compliment. In fact, she might simply not believe you. As long as you turn up on time, though, you’re off to a good start, because if there is one deal-breaker a German won’t make any allowances for, it’s tardiness.

The Netherlands

Easily offended? Then think twice before dating a Dutchie.

This low-lying country does many things well, but subtlety is certainly not one of them. While cultural stereotypes are meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, this one is pretty accurate. Indeed, people in the Netherlands are notorious for speaking their minds, regardless of how it might be received. When it comes to dating, this can either be seen as painfully direct or refreshingly honest, depending on your outlook. But hey, at least you know where you stand, right?

Woman screaming

The Dutch love efficiency, so have no time for games or playing hard to get, either. Instead, they favor honesty and being upfront about what they want. While this leaves little space for flirting, it will certainly save you plenty of time and heartache. After all, you won’t be left second-guessing how he or she feels about you because they will just tell you; even if that means a flat-out rejection. And this could actually be a blessing in disguise if you’re looking for a serious relationship.

Because the country prides itself on gender equality, etiquette like splitting the bill on a date (or going Dutch, which they actually do) is also standard. Just don’t expect him to open doors for you or carry your bags – he respects you far too much. Now, this approach to dating certainly isn’t for everyone. But while some people see it as the downside of dating a Dutchie, others revel in the freedom that comes with not having to dress up and plaster on layers of make-up. This is unlikely to impress him anyway. Plus, the idea of saving money on cosmetics is also appealing; not to mention avoiding getting panda eyes during one of the Netherlands’s notorious downpours.

United Kingdom

If you think all British men are Martini-swigging womanizers like James Bond, then think again.

While it might be unfair to stereotype an entire nation, the Brits are generally renowned for being unfailingly polite and reserved. This might be interpreted as giving one the cold shoulder when it comes to dating. However, it’s more the case that public displays of affection just aren’t as common as they are in other European countries. Unlike in some cultures where women might be the ones to make the first move, the UK also remains fairly traditional. The task of asking someone out, therefore, usually falls to the man. And because British charm and chivalry are very much a thing, he’ll be your knight in shining armor, too. This generally means holding the door, paying the bill, and leaving a generous tip, to boot.

dating UK

Generally speaking, tradition runs through all aspects of life in the UK. Therefore, the goal of finding a partner, getting married, buying a home, and having children is one that many young people aspire to. That said, the millennial generation is somewhat less rooted in these concepts. Like in every country, tastes vary, and when to comes to date night, the Brits might be just as enthusiastic about going to the cinema or local pub as they are about binge-watching the latest Netflix series on the couch. One thing that might take some getting used to, however, is their sense of humor, which is notoriously dry and satirical. That said, given the nation’s fear of offending anyone – and we mean, anyone – you will rarely be the butt of the joke.

Russia

Don’t drink her under the table – just sweep her off her feet.

Contrary to what cultural stereotypes might lead us to believe, not every Russian spends their time swilling vodka and eating caviar. On the contrary, many men – and especially women – consider drinking the hardcore spirit to be rather unladylike. Indeed, they would much rather prefer to sip on a glass of champagne or wine when socializing.

Russian man with a glass of vodka

Like most aspects of life, dating in Russia is all about tradition. Therefore, men generally adopt a highly chivalrous manner to sweep women off their feet. Romantic gestures like bringing flowers on a date are also common. That said, they will always bring an odd number, as pairs are synonymous with funerals. Russian men are also highly courteous and will hold doors, help with coats, and pay the bill. It’s also worth noting that – rightly or wrongly – they aren’t impressed by outwardly ‘unfeminine’ behavior. Therefore, swearing profusely or smoking will not bode well.

When it comes to romance, Russians tend to stick together, too. In fact, fewer than one in five marriages in Moscow are between people of mixed nationality. This can be challenging for expats who already face the language barrier. Gender roles might also be an obstacle, depending on where you come from. Russian women, for instance, are expected to be loyal and domestic, keeping a tidy home and focusing on family life rather than their own careers. Men, on the other hand, are known to enjoy socializing and drinking heavily to relieve stress. This can often lead to major health concerns and is a main reason for divorce. In this respect, Russia is less advanced than other countries when it comes to attitudes towards the sexes.

Switzerland

Just like a good cheese fondue, the Swiss can take a while to warm up.

While there is no rule book for dating in Switzerland, you might find yourself playing the long game when it comes to finding love. That said, more often than not, it’s well worth the wait in this beautiful country. The Swiss are a relatively conservative bunch and women generally expect men to make the first move. That said, this isn’t always the case, and it can take some time for a man to pluck up the courage to ask someone out. When he does finally set a date, however, he will likely turn up fifteen minutes early because courtesy and manners rank above all else in this chivalrous country.

dating in switzerland

Some expats claim that Swiss men like to take things slow when it comes to getting more intimate. However, this shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a sign of disinterest. It’s more the case that they simply prefer to take their time to get to know someone properly before opening up. On the plus side, this usually means that when a Swiss man does eventually decide to settle down, he’s in it for the long run.

Personal space plays a big part in Swiss relationships, too, and you certainly won’t be living in each others’ pockets. This is good news if you cherish your independence. Generally speaking, Swiss women are also fairly laid-back and tend to be comfortable with seeing how things naturally progress. And because new laws are pushing for gender equality and more women in the workplace, splitting the costs on a date is also common. In fact, doing so is seen as a mutual sign of respect rather than a rejection of chivalry.

Spain

Spaniards are loud, lazy, and love a long siesta, right? Well, not entirely.

There are countless cultural stereotypes for this famously flamboyant country, but not all of them ring true. For example, despite Spaniards having an image as work-shy shirkers, they actually clock up some of the longest working hours in Europe; even more than the Germans. That said, they do seem to run on a completely different timetable to every other country on the planet. After all, where else can you enjoy two to three-hour lunch breaks and eat dinner well after 21:00? This applies to dating, too. Indeed, the Spanish are often accused of being late on more than one occasion – or worse, flaking out altogether. Hispanic time – as it is often dubbed – can make dating a local a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Man sleeping on a couch

If you are extremely laid-back and patient, on the other hand, then this might not be an issue. And if you don’t mind shacking up with your guapo and his parents, then even better; after all, a whopping 80% of Spaniards (mainly men) under the age of 30 still live at home. Indeed, it is true that while women tend to flee the nest earlier in Spain, men often live at home for much longer; enjoying the comforts that come with it. They often wait a lot longer before they tie the knot, too. So, don’t hold your breath if you’re looking to settle down anytime soon. And prepare to spend a lot of time with their family, as this is a central part of Spanish culture.

Portugal

Whatever you do, do NOT call them Spanish!

When cruising the dating pool in Portugal, it’s crucial that you understand just how important the country’s roots are to the locals. Branding them together with the Spanish or Brazilians, for instance, will not go down well. For starters, the Portuguese are known to be far more reserved than their Latino counterparts. Despite their sunny, laid-back Mediterranean culture, the Portuguese also pride themselves on their time-keeping skills; another trait that sets them apart from their Hispanic neighbors. This applies to dating, too. Indeed, most local men and women frown upon tardiness, and turning up late for a date will likely get you off on the wrong foot.

running late

As a result of their traditional views regarding gender roles, a man will likely insist on paying the bill during a date and being a perfect gentleman. These attitudes also extend to the family, which is an integral part of life for both men and women. In fact, they love nothing more than discussing their relatives and sharing stories from their childhood; so be all ears. On the flip side, however, this means that you might have to work extra hard to impress your future mother-in-law. If all goes well, though, they’ll accept you into the family and treat you as one of their own.

Luxembourg

Farm animal wedding gifts? You’ve goat to be kid-ding!

Looking for love in this affluent country can be particularly challenging, given that more than 170,000 people commute there for work; from Belgium, Germany, and France. Indeed, this transient expat population can make getting to know people – or even just scheduling a date – a bit of a mission. And just like the business culture in the grand duchy, dating is a slow and formal affair. Greetings are fairly aloof, punctuality is highly valued, and chivalry is important, for instance. Table manners are another crucial part of social etiquette in Luxembourg – so no slurping at the dinner table! Locals also tend to frown upon things like walking around with your hands in your pockets. And because bluntness is seen as rude (we’re looking at you, Dutchies) it’s best to remain polite at all times.

Married couple at a wedding with a goat

Another thing to be aware of is that Luxembourgers are generally known to be reticent and private. Therefore, they might not be as forthcoming with their emotions as people from other countries. As a result, developing relationships can be a slow process. If all goes well, however, and you end up getting engaged, you can certainly look forward to plenty of fun at the wedding. This is because traditional Luxembourgish wedding etiquette involves playing various tricks on the bride and groom. And, if you’re a younger sibling getting married before your older brother or sister, you might even receive a goat as a wedding gift! We’re not even kid-ding.

South Africa

Put another boerewors on the barbie, braai!

Dating in South Africa is a colorful experience, to say the least. Given the cultural diversity of the country and its many different customs, experiences can vary significantly between groups. South Africa is essentially a patriarchal society, which means that gender roles can be somewhat old-fashioned and regressive. Women, for instance, are generally known to be sweet, romantic, and elegant. They also expect men to be brave and chivalrous. This means that choosing a nice restaurant, scrubbing up nicely for the big date, and holding the door open will make a good lasting impression. That said, South African women are certainly no pushovers. On the contrary, they can be pretty feisty if you get on their bad side. They are also fiercely loyal to their partners, friends, and above all, rugby team; so be sure to take an interest in all of the above.

South Africa rugby fan

Because sport is such a major part of South African culture, the ideal man is likely to be fit, healthy, and athletic, with a love of the great outdoors. That said, he will also be sweet and traditional. This means he will likely seek approval from his partner’s father before proposing, too.

One fun outdoor activity that you are guaranteed to come across during your dating adventures in South Africa is braai; a meat-heavy barbecue that many people enjoy. And because the country boasts so many outstanding vineyards, you won’t have any trouble finding a delicious bottle of wine to take with you, either. However, just make sure you slap on the suncream. After all, you don’t want to end up looking like a burnt boerewors (spiral-shaped sausage) roasting in the unforgiving sun.