Now that study-abroad season is in full swing, it’s time to start considering your love life in your new foreign country. For those of us who aren’t trapped in a long distance relationship, traveling is the perfect time to meet exciting new people with unique outlooks on life. As someone who has already studied abroad multiple times, whether it be in London, Tokyo, or Milan, dating in a new country can be delightful…but also extremely horrifying. Here are some of my best tips I can offer to hopefully keep you from danger and dating dismay.
Do: Download dating apps, but be selective about which ones
Hopping on Tinder is honestly the easiest way to quickly meet new people in a foreign country. Swiping through random faces might not be your thing in the US (it sure isn’t mine), but when abroad, it is a great way to connect with cute people in an unfamiliar setting. That being said, be conscious of where you use certain apps, as many apps are not available in various countries. For example, Hinge has not yet been rolled out in many European countries and is only used by foreigners who have downloaded the app somewhere else. While you can still use all the apps that are available in the US, you might only be exposed to a dating pool of other visitors in the country. Do some research about the most popular dating apps in your area and get in there!
Don’t: Meet up alone with someone you met on a dating app
As much as dating apps help with connecting you to people, it is never a good idea to link up alone. Not only can there be creeps who catfish and lurk on these apps, but a lot of times it is genuinely just awkward to meet up with a random date alone in a foreign country. It’s also important not to assume the person you’ve matched with is from the city or country you are studying in. It is extremely common that other travelers use dating apps as well, so Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge often become meeting spots for tourists and visitors who are also looking for a local to take them on a tour of the city. If you are adamant on going alone, make sure you share your location with your friends, and more importantly, find out where you’re going ahead of time. Tell your roomies where you’ll be, and just be smart!
Do: Suggest group dates
One of my favorite tactics while abroad has been to make plans with whatever new love interest I found, and then invite their friends along as well. If you have a group of close friends you’re traveling with, it is smart to do your first date as a group hang, as it is safer and honestly way more fun. Mention that you have some hot single besties that would also love to see the city, and it’ll create the best first date environment possible.
Don’t: Give out your social media to random people you meet
Absolutely one of the worst mistakes you can make… To this day I still have 4 strange, older Italian men reacting to all my Instagram stories, asking me when I’ll come back to Rome. It’s been over a year since I last met them, and they still find ways to contact me. Yes, it is very easy to block these types of people if they make it creepy, but do yourself a favor and just give out your phone number if you’re interested. It’s more mature, and they can’t stalk every part of your life that way.
Do: Visit hole-in-the-wall bars that other University students don’t usually attend
Honestly, this is my most favorite tip. The best part of studying abroad is getting to know locals, and perhaps even pretending you’re becoming one too. Instead of frequenting the hot-spots that every university student goes to in your town, hop into random little pubs, bars, and even unheard of discotecas. When dating abroad, the less Americans, the better. You’ll have a higher chance of meeting someone who knows your city.
Don’t: Expect everyone to respect your sexual boundaries
This one sucks, but it is one of the more important things I’ve learned from traveling so often. Every country has different cultural norms when it comes to dating, gender, and sex. While this tip is also true in the United States, it is crucial to note that expectations can differ greatly in the country you are in. For example, while visiting a certain European country, I was warned that men were more aggressive there, and dates usually led to sex after the first time of meeting up. This of course is a generalization, and is in no way meant to demonize people in those countries, or place the US at a higher standard, but it is a harsh reality that we must acknowledge. Be upfront about what you really want and are comfortable with.
Do: Be cognizant of cultural attitudes towards your sexual orientation
Similarly to the tip above, it is so important that you stay aware of cultural attitudes regarding various sexual and gender identities. Not every place is necessarily safe or accepting of all sexual orientations, and sometimes it can be dangerous to date the member of your preffered sex in public. This is a horrible truth of the world, but becoming aware of your surroundings can protect you from harmful outcomes. Still, you should feel comfortable to date if you want to, and one of the best ways to do so in your study abroad location is to research the dating scene for your preferred type of person. Underground gay bars and specific neighborhoods often exist to offer a safehaven for people to express themselves. Reach out to people on dating apps, or even over websites like Reddit, to get the scoop on where it’s best to go on dates.
Don’t: Let language become a barrier
I recently went out on a date with a nice Italian cutie who barely spoke any English. With my mid-level Italian skills and their pieced-together English sentences, we actually had an amazing time. Communication is much more than just language, it’s hand gestures, facial expressions, and emotions. This is also a case in which having friends there can help, as some people might know more of one language than your date does.
Do: Get involved in the University dating scene
Though you’re a study abroad student who will be returning to Tulane at some point, it never hurts to approach the permanent students that attend your university. They probably know where all the local spots are and can help you become more acclimated to your new city…as well as give you kisses if you’re bored.
Featured Image via Magdalena Saliba.
Magdalena is a Co-Editor for Sex and the Crescent City, as well as a member of the photo and graphic design teams. She’s a Junior double majoring in Art History and Studio Art. She loves shopping for cool pants, watching The Sopranos over and over again, and making pasta from scratch.