Romantic Relationships in England: My Observations

There are many things that no one told me would be different in England: pancakes, apple juice, and lemonade to name a few. However, I didn’t realize how different developing romantic relationships would be. Before deciding to study abroad, I met and started dating an Englishman. This has made my experience here extremely special, and has also given me certain insights into the dating culture in the UK.

Because of the many similarities between the British and American cultures, I was surprised about the cultural differences related to dating. My boyfriend—who is from London—has helped me observe and understand some of these differences. For example, guys generally don’t make the first move.

This probably isn’t always the case, but in my experience, seem to wait for the girl to express interest before approaching her in a bar or club. In America, guys will usually just go up to a woman  and start dancing with her.

I have also noticed that relationships here are more casual. While exclusive relationships are fairly common, they aren’t taken as seriously as they are at home. Dates are also smaller affairs; they seem simpler here, possibly because English students have very little disposable income.

Public displays of affection are very, very rare. Refraining from public displays of affection is likely cultural. When people-watching on the street, you begin to notice subtle differences such as less touching. Even handholding is uncommon. One of the interesting and subtly complex parts of dating someone who doesn’t share your culture is learning to navigate these differences in experience. As always in a relationship, it is important to find a compromise that both parties are comfortable with.

Along with enabling me to better understand the culture that I am temporarily a part of, dating someone from England has enabled me to befriend and live with locals. I would recommend this to any student studying abroad: if at all possible, spend time getting to know locals. Studying abroad can give a great student perspective on a culture, but not always a clear picture of home life.

Having close friends who live here has helped me gain a better idea of what it’s really like to be English and a British university student. It really helped me see beyond the stereotypes and get an idea of a more authentic culture than I might have been aware of.

I’ve been in a relationship for a while and am enjoying learning about dating and cultural differences in the UK. Some of my American friends, however, struggle because they’re not used to it. I can’t say that either system is necessarily better, but I prefer it here because I feel safer.

Being able to observe and experience these subtle differences in culture is one of the best parts about studying abroad. There are a lot of things no one tells you about wherever you study abroad, such as dating, simply because people don’t even realize it isn’t the same everywhere.

Cultural difference is sometimes extremely subtle and it takes close attention to notice. Studying abroad teaches students to be observers of the world. This observation of difference in British dating culture is from my personal perspective. While other students may have different relationship experiences discussing and comparing the intricacies and dynamics of cross-cultural experiences can be the best part!

Carley Roe is a psychology major at Sewanee: The University of the South and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler in England at the University of Leeds in Spring 2017. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.

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