7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Dating Someone Abroad

Suzannah Weiss/Bustle

In the summer of 2016, I was burnt out from two years of OKCupid dates that didn’t go anywhere and decided to quit dating apps. I figured I’d just embrace being single for a while. Of course, that’s when I met my partner — but not where I expected. Rather than one of the NYC bars or cafes I frequented, I met him at the club Amnesia’s opening party in Ibiza, Spain. Because he lived on the other side of the world in Dortmund, Germany, I figured he was a one-night stand and nothing more. But as we grew closer over the course of the trip, I began to see us as star-crossed lovers instead.

On the plane ride back, it occurred to me that maybe living in different countries didn’t have to be a dealbreaker. I’d already tried for long enough to find someone near me, after all. This is an approach that dating coach Julie Spira recommends her clients take. "I think that singles have to cast a wide net when it comes to love," she tells Bustle. "There shouldn't be any barriers. If you're only hoping to meet somebody who lives in your neighborhood, you're really leaving the opportunity for deep love on the table."

So, I sent him an email confessing all my emotions. “I have some feelings for you,” he replied. He came to visit me the following month. I'd already been wanting to become a digital nomad, someone who travels the world while working remotely, and our relationship inspired me to take the plunge. This allowed me to spend a few months at a time living with him in Germany. It's the first place I went when I left New York.

Through our relationship, I’ve gotten much more than I expected when I was dating on OKCupid. Not only did I get a significant other; I got to experience another place and culture. Here are some things I wish I’d known about dating someone abroad that might benefit you if you're considering it.

1. Distance Doesn’t Have To Stop You

Gone are the days where your physical distance from someone determined whether you could be in a relationship. It’s 2019, and there are tons of ways to keep in touch without physically seeing each other. We have video-chatting apps, couple apps, and even remotely controlled sex toys. We also have more and more jobs that can be done from a distance.

If you want to end up in the same place as your faraway love, you can find a way to — maybe not now, but eventually. Expanding the circumference within which you date allows you to find the best person for you, not just the best person you happen to live near.

2. Technology Is Your Best Friend

Speaking of which, one effective way to keep in touch with a partner abroad is to take advantage of technology. I personally use WhatsApp and Google Hangouts to talk to my partner, even if it’s just a quick “hi” while I’m at work.

If you want to get adventurous, you can get an app like We-Vibe WeConnect that lets you video-chat while using sex toys that you can actually control for each other. Or, get a couple app like Couple to deepen your bond while you’re apart. It’ll make your time together that much more meaningful.

3. You Don’t Have To See Each Other All The Time

Despite the cliche of romantic partners who want to be together every second of every day, it can be really nice to have some time on your own.

Depending on your arrangement, you’ll likely have many days, weeks, or even months apart. There’s actually a lot to enjoy about that (hello, having your own bed), so take advantage of it. And take advantage of being together, too. Each has its upsides.

4. Moving To Be With Someone Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Your Independence

I freaked out when I first semi-moved-in with my partner. I’d only known him for a few months at the time, and I had all these ideas about what it means to be a woman who relocates to be with a man. The truth was, though, I wasn’t sacrificing what I wanted for him. He and the life I’d have there with him was what I wanted. I was actually being adventurous and going after it.

I also worried that our relationship wasn’t serious enough to live together yet, but living together doesn’t have to be a milestone. Sometimes, it’s a matter of convenience. Don't let arbitrary meanings assigned to relocating for someone dictate whether you do.

5. Language Barriers Are Real… And Hilarious

My partner speaks nearly perfect English, but my German is practically nonexistent and he sometimes slips up so, needless to say, we have our moments. We still call my apple-scented body wash the “apple comb” as a reference to one of his early mistakes, and I still misuse the phrase “das schmeckt mir” (“I like it,” but only for food) to refer to everything from a new haircut to a dog, around him.

It’s super painful to walk into a German cafe and accidentally ask for yogurt in Spanish (yes, I’ve done it), but if you can have a sense of humor about it, it becomes just another part of the learning process.

6. Your “Meet the Family” Date May Be On FaceTime

The question of when to introduce your partner to your family is interesting when they may not meet them in person for years. It may happen sooner than it otherwise would, because it feels like less of a big deal when it's just a call.

I decided spur-of-the-moment to introduce my partner to my parents while I was FaceTiming them on my birthday. After that, it was nice to have his company on our calls. If you don't feel comfortable introducing your partner to your family until you meet in person (or ever), though, that's totally fine as well.

7. You Can Still Bond With Their Family Without Speaking Their Language

I was nervous to meet my partner's family because they don't speak that much English. But I was surprised by how well we could still communicate. They cook me food, I bring them gifts, and we translate through him when needed.

Of course, it's nice to make an effort, but don't worry that your partner's parents will judge you for not being able to communicate perfectly with them. What's more important is that you make an effort to reach out to them in whatever way you can.

My biggest piece of advice about dating someone abroad, though, is to be open to it. It can expand your horizons in ways you can't even predict. You'll meet new people, discover new places, and probably discover new things about yourself. And now, we have more opportunities than ever to connect with people all over the world. That's one more reason to change your online dating location settings.