I recently found myself thousands of miles away from home in the company of a beautiful professional Spanish soccer player.
Sounds like a dream, right? It was, at first. Then I realized he spoke almost no English -- and my Spanish, quite frankly, is abysmal.
When we first met, neither of us seemed to notice our lack of ability to communicate (not a surprise as we were in a nightclub).
I was caught off guard by his intense eye contact, as he stared down at me, his hands waving me through the bodyguards to his table. Honestly, I would call it more mesmerized than caught off guard. Not taking my eyes off his, I walked up the stairs to meet his kiss on my cheek.
If you were to describe my type in one phrase, it would literally be “hot foreign soccer player.” Actually, I'm pretty sure that would be many girls' (and guys') type. Needless to say, I am not surprised I was so into this guy.
He took down my phone number as I left that night. A few days later, I realized I would need to put in a solid effort to learn how to date a guy who “doesn't speak my language.” And this is what I've learned:
1. Acknowledge that he's trying.
2. Don't laugh when he messes up (OK, don't laugh most of the time).
If he's referring to a childhood movie called “White Snow”… really try not to laugh when you conclude he really means "Snow White"… and then when you realize he has spent his whole childhood thinking the phrase “white snow” refers to a Disney princess.
3. Ask him how to say things in his language.
Show you are curious about him so he never feels like he is the only one trying to communicate.
4. Compliment him.
He has a charming foreign girl by his side; he is probably just as excited and nervous as you are. Make it clear you are happy to be there.
5. Ask him questions.
Inevitable silence is probably the worst part of not speaking the same language. Ask him questions about his life, but don't rush into asking super deep questions (like the meaning of life) right away.
Depending on the guy, those questions can be a little scary anyway. It may be hard to express anything in regard to deep questions right away, especially in a different language.
6. Notice when he's talking about you.
When you're at dinner with his friends, he's on a phone call or he's saying hello to people when you're out, notice when he talks about you.
Even if you don't understand exactly what's going on or what's being said, you'll probably be able to sense when you are the subject of discussion. Hopefully, he's smiling.
7. Hold his hand.
Not much of a hand holder? Try to imagine explaining your reasoning for that in his language. Just hold his hand, or let him put his arm around you… it will show him you're happy to be there. And yes, there is a good chance he will ask, “May I kiss you?” several times. That's up to you.
8. Understand (and accept) there are cultural differences.
If he sends you “??????!!!!!” in every (attempted) text message, goes with a large group to every single dinner, drives like a maniac or introduces you to his family on his first date… it will all be OK. Just breathe.
9. Embrace eye contact.
When everything else fails, eye contact won't.