Dating is a foreign language

Dating is never easy.

Whether you are from the States or from any other part of the world, finding someone that you love and that loves you back is hard to do. When you are dealing with people from your own culture, it’s easy to know how to act or what the other person means when they say or do something. But if we are talking about understanding another culture for this type of interaction, things can be a little confusing.

Almost every girl has a list of the things she wants in her “ideal match,” whether it is written or in her head– and guys do, too. Finding someone that fulfills the requirements of your list can be complicated.

First of all, the person needs to have at least three major characteristics from your list. What are the most important ones? Only you know, but if you have them in mind it will save you a lot of time that you might be wasting with “players,” luring you into a relationship that you are not looking forward to having.

I was completely sure of the type of guy I wanted to date: someone who loves God more than anything else in this world, fair-colored hair, speaks English as his first language, and ready to start a serious relationship. In other words, the “keeper” kind of guy.

Things did not go as planned.

I met someone from my same culture, atheist, with dark hair, that speaks Spanish as his first language, and absolutely not ready for a serious relationship– and I was attracted to him.

I thought that because of his charming personality, it didn’t really matter if he didn’t have most of the characteristics on my list. Our conversations were so deep and honest that I thought I was talking to my soul mate. The way we understood each other and helped one another through hard times is not something that you find every day.

One week, everything changed. He was not the same person, or maybe he was showing his true character.

When things started to look suspicious, I had to back off and think from an outsider’s point of view. (Friends are always great when it comes to this type of wake up calls!)

It didn’t take long until I realize that being with him was one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever made. In between distrust and tears, I had to go back to that list and put my priorities in order.

When I finally did that, things started to look good again. After doing that, I was at the starting point, ready to set out on my journey that will eventually lead me to the person with the characteristics on my list.

Dating is never easy, but setting priorities and knowing what you want will eventually take you to the right person that will make you realize that all the waiting was worth it.

Here are some differences between the American and Latin American culture when it comes to dating:

America has something notoriously different from every other country that foreigners can tell immediately. In my country, if someone gives you their phone number it’s because they are friends or maybe because they need it (to ask a question about a class or just to be in contact), and it doesn’t mean there is any interest in the other person. Here, it’s the opposite. So, be careful not to give the wrong impression.

Texting is one of the things that changes completely. This is an inevitable part of the dating process. If you asked yourself why, then you are probably already married or out of the “dating stage.” When relationships begin, there is usually texting involved. First, as friends with random text messages about irrelevant questions. Then, the phone calls begin to appear. In Argentina, smily faces and exclamation marks are not always a sign of flirting.

If you are a woman from Latin America, then you are probably used to waiting for the man to open the door of the car for you. For some strange reason, this is not as common among American boys. Some of the rare specimens will surprise you with this attitude, others were not raised with this quality.

If you were wondering about who pays the bill on a date, the answer depends on whether you like the guy or not. If you do like him, he can pay. If not, then you have to pay. And about sharing your frozen yogurt, you might want to think twice if you want to do that. Decide before you get in the car because if you share that delicious dessert then you are sending him a message. The next thing you know, you are in a relationship without even knowing about it.

There are endless aspects when it comes to dating. Some cultures share habits and some others are completely different. You might be living in a country where your culture differs from the one that primes in that place. Even if you have never left your country of origin, but have met some foreign people, can you tell the difference?


Saying hello: not as simple as it sounds

Different ways of greeting people. Or in this case a statue.

Some people like greeting their friends by shaking their hands, others by waving from a safe distance and others with a kiss on the cheek. If this last option sounds weird to you, that’s because you are probably from the United States of America.

I am originally from South America, more specifically, Argentina. Down there we are used to greeting our friends with a kiss on the cheek, and if you are from a province far from the capital it is probable that you would say hello with two kisses.

The American culture varies in different aspects from the Latin American culture. I want you to think for a second how many people you talk to in one day. Can you imagine yourself saying hello to all of them with a kiss on the cheek? You might be thinking about all the germs that would be transmitted from one person to the other if you were to implement this custom in your daily life.

In Argentina, if you don’t say hello using this cultural habit, people are going to categorize you as the rude person who doesn’t know how to interact with humans. A little extreme, right? What happens when we translate this old tradition of saying hello to the person every time we see him/her to the American way?

When I moved to the United States almost three years ago, I had to adjust to some of the cultural views that pertain to this country; some of them I am still working on till this day. The American way to say “hello” is also something that I am still learning. It’s actually relieving not having to kiss every person that I see on the cheek. I didn’t like the idea very much of having contact with the other person to be polite and say hello.

Now I am facing the other side of the equation. I find other people not saying hello or goodbye. They say what they need to say without wasting any time and then leave. Why? Is it awkward to say hello to the same person several times during the day?

Here in America, saying hello has to be from the distance and without giving too much importance to it. If you put a lot of thought into your introduction, the person might think that you are boring and that you may take a lot of their valuable time.

The funny thing is that as I am acculturating to this beautiful country, I sometimes find myself not giving much thought to this act of respect: greeting people.

While “Hello, how are you?” might be the words that we hear the most, they are also words that have almost lost its meaning.

So, what is the right balance between these two extremes? If we combined these habits I would say the outcome would be very positive and it would generate conversations that we might be missing simply because we do not put the time to listen to people and make them feel important. Mixed cultures often end up being a new way of living that could revolutionize a community.

Saying hello and being polite are going to bring you more benefits and will open more doors than you could ever imagine. Dedicating the right amount of time to those around you could change your worldview and strengthen your relationships.