Although I have spent the last 16 years in two long-term relationships with an American and an Italian, there have been intermittent periods of dating in two international metropolises—New York and Rome. I have also experienced the grey area of accepting dates from Europeans living in America, that provided the best of both worlds. Many stories of relocation have common threads in which people from all walks of life leave their childhood home and start anew in a big city for personal and professional goals and fulfillment. This can be true from someone who has picked up and taken off from the American Midwest or migrated from southern to central Italy. However, there are some unique, funny, cultural, and outright strange differences that really impact the experience of courtship from both sides of the Atlantic. This is certainly not meant to generalize as each person and situation is case-by-case sensitive, but rather it’s an account from my personal experiences and those of dear friends who have shared theirs, too. The next time a date is offered and accepted, here are some things to consider…
1.) First impressions and personal sense of style.
European men take great pride in dressing up and being well-groomed for a date. They select their clothes for the fit and neutral color palette and appreciate a warm smile at first glance based upon their effort and attractiveness.
American men are more casual and will show up wearing anything ranging from their favorite band’s tee-shirt from 1999 or a pair of loose jeans and a polo. Only if coming from work, perhaps a suit without the tie. They are more concerned about comfort yet will maybe joke that they are too dressed down.
2.) First date: from antiquity to modernity.
European men have a strong sense of cultural and historic pride. A first date may be to stroll along the cobblestone streets on a Saturday afternoon while recounting stories of the country’s past—spanning back thousands of years while perhaps reciting a famous citation from an opera or poet. They also value the woman’s insights and impressions of her surroundings.
American men have a strong sense of degrees earned and career related pride. A first date may be to meet up for drinks or a mid-week dinner and reciprocally discuss university studies, internships, promotions, and the workday.
3.) Compliments, flirting, and laughter.
European men are charming with their words. This is because they’ve had centuries to practice the art of making a woman feel beautiful, desired, and adored—and that’s just on the first date. However, be aware. It’s not the first nor is it the last these affections come out of their mouths and ring into the ears of their love interest (or said to other women).
American men are sweet yet more reserved with the outpouring of compliments. They may point out something that they like about what a woman’s wearing or enjoyed something that she said. If they make her laugh, they are working hard to win her over.
4.) Chivalry and equality.
Although European men value a woman’s strength and intelligence, they want to be caring and protective of her during the date. Most men will be insulted or put off if she reaches for the check, offers to split it in half, or emasculates him by overtly shooting down what he has planned for their enjoyment together. It’s his goal to create a beautiful experience and initiate the courtship. In return, he sincerely wants to be met half way with simple kindness and attentiveness.
Although American men also value a woman’s strength, intelligence, and have the natural inclination to be caring and protective of her, they tend to be more passive if a woman reaches for the check or offers to pay half. With women making equal or even more money, a power struggle or blurred lines can occur anywhere from making plans, initiating communication, and determining the direction of the courtship.
5.) The chase and conquer.
European men love the chase. From boyhood they have learned to convince, persuade, hunt, negotiate, and develop skills of being persistent and clever—as passed on from their fathers, grandfathers, and so on. Women who gently resist, make them work to win over her heart, and present a playful challenge will make him feel successful that he has conquered the heart of his treasure.
American men tend to be more direct, straight talking, and relaxed. If they want to court a woman, they will let her know through actions and words without much fuss, but will still hold her to standards of being too willing and eager to give to him without rightfully earning her affection.
6.) The beauty of doing something vs. the beauty of doing a bit of everything.
European men may think up interesting, stimulating, and amusing dates but it tends to be one outing or activity per meeting. This is because Sunday lunch can last for four hours followed by a walk. Going dancing means you start the night at 11:00 p.m. and dance at a locale until 4:00 a.m.
American men are thoughtful in their planning, yet also have spontaneity to see how the date is progressing. It may start out as a Sunday brunch and if all goes well, an early evening movie at the theatre, followed by catching a bite and a drink afterwards.
7.) Smoking and drinking while enjoying an evening out.
Europe is known for its healthier and farm fresh cuisines, active lifestyle of frequent walks around the town or city square, along with valuing the importance of taking a daily dose of fresh air. However, smoking is still quite predominant within many countries. A “dream man” may show up, but every so often takes out his pack. However, a glass of wine is sipped and enjoyed for its flavor and accompaniment to conversation or the meal, not for further recreation.
America is known for it’s heavier cuisine and fast food culture along with a more sedentary lifestyle in the office or at home. Yet there is less interest in smoking as people choose to protect this aspect of their health. Only rarely will a “dream man” show up with a pack and if he does, he may even go as far to conceal it to eliminate judgment or a long lecture. However, anywhere from a glass to four of alcohol may be enjoyed during the course of dinner along with some under-the-influence behaviors.
8.) The language of the gaze.
European men will gaze at a woman of interest until she senses it. He will not back down until their eyes meet as he’s determined to catch her attention. During courtship, a language of the eyes develops as looks, stares, and glances speak volumes of appreciation, interest, flirtation, and comfort.
American men will wait for a woman to stare at him first and give him the go-ahead to approach once their eyes have met. During courtship, he relies more on gestures and words rather than eye contact to demonstrate his affection.
9.) Affection and intimacy.
European men are hot blooded and passionate about life, love, politics, economy, family, sports, and their interests. They are more emotive and expressive yet retain their masculinity. However, when they want to cherish and pleasure their woman, they will treat her with delicate care; taking the time to enjoy intimate moments spent together without rush because it’s meant to be savored.
American men have more of a cool reserve that certainly illustrates strong work ethnic, intelligence and interest in both world concerns and academic education, along with making time for hobbies. However, they express themselves conversationally and with more tranquility. However, when they want to be intimate with a woman, they tend to speed up the process from 0-60 and within a blink of an eye, it’s over.
10.) Independence and future planning.
European men like to live in the moment. They of course have work and familial obligations that require advanced organization, but they value letting their life’s process unfold day by day. If they feel good in the presence of their woman, they will come back for more and once they decide to commit they won’t let her go. However, there is a lot of external factors regarding economic crisis and strong family ties that impedes the path of marriage sooner rather than later.
American men are more future oriented and value organization, hard work, and planning to reach both short and long term goals. If they feel good in the presence of their woman, they tend to commit and marry sooner because they see the value of wanting her to share life together side by side. They also strike more of a balance between family and their personal lives.