Distant Love: What It's Like To Struggle Through An International Relationship

by Lindsey Lazarte

Over a year ago, I fell in love with a French guy. He was a complete stranger, and I said hello to him in the Times Square subway station in New York City.

Initially, I had absolutely no idea he was French; I just thought he was cute. From that moment on, we were in a crazy, complicated and cross-cultural relationship.

Since my parents immigrated to America, I am well aware of the differences between various cultures.

Although I identify with my ethnic background, my mannerisms scream American. I’ve dated several people with different ethnic backgrounds, and it never fazed me.

Though we may have had our differences, we still shared the commonality of being American.

Before meeting my Frenchman, I had no idea how large of a role culture could play in relationships. We would get into the most random arguments all because of miscommunication, and it was more than just a simple misinterpretation of what one of us said or did.

Actions and words can mean completely different things to different cultures. Take the way people greet each other in certain cultures (hugging, shaking hands, kissing on the cheek, etc.).

Depending on the culture, the way you greet someone could significantly differ from how you would normally greet someone. Furthermore, if you do it incorrectly, it could even come across as offensive.

I didn’t realize how much American culture influenced me or how "American" I truly was. After only experiencing the American "rules" of dating, I just assumed they applied to most other cultures. It turned out I was very misinformed.

My guy recently sent me an article from HelloGiggles titled, “All the ways dating in America is completely different from dating in France.”

After reading it, a light bulb went off in my head, and I was finally able to comprehend where all of our arguments stemmed from.

Although he had warned me of these things earlier in our relationship, I refused to believe him. I thought he was just making up excuses for his actions. But, I soon realized it had less to do with him and more to do with the dating culture of France.

I had never dated a French man before, and he had never dated an American woman before. Neither of us could have predicted all of the difficulties that came with our differences.

Here are the major struggles we dealt with:

I thought he didn’t want to meet my friends

When I'd invite him to hang out with my friends, he would always have a scheduling conflict and never come.

I began to believe he just didn't want to meet my friends, but he explained to me the language barrier complicated things.

I imagined myself surrounded by a group of people, not being able to follow the conversation, and I understood his hesitation.

I thought he didn’t want me to meet his friends

Since I always extended invitations for him to meet my friends, I expected him to reciprocate.

But, he never asked me out with his friends, and I assumed he was embarrassed of me, or he just didn’t want people to know about us.

Similarly, the problem was the language barrier.

I wanted him to label the relationship

I didn’t realize French people weren’t used to labeling relationships.

One of the first things he told me was when two people kiss in France, they are automatically "together."

I wish I had believed him when he first told me because I just thought he was finding an excuse to not call me his girlfriend.

I didn’t realize exclusivity was implied

After a few years of dating in New York City, I realized people aren’t exactly faithful and almost everyone has a wandering eye.

Maybe I was paranoid, maybe I didn’t trust him, or maybe, I just forgot what a real gentleman was like, but I believed he was probably seeing other people.

I didn’t think about the long-term

Although it’s hard to admit, you do have to think about the possibility of having a future with your current partner.

He constantly told me he wasn’t sure about whether he would stay in America, so I just kept telling him we would worry about it later.

What I failed to realize, however, was he was simply trying to save us from a whole lot of heartbreak if it came down to him eventually leaving.

I wish I had been more open-minded in the beginning. I wish I had known these things when we first started dating. I wish someone had told me.

But, experience is the best teacher, and had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have understood how much of an impact culture truly makes in the dating world.

Keep these things in mind the next time you fall in love with someone from a different country.