Last year, while I was back home in the United States for a few months, a friend of mine set me up on a date with a female friend of his. She was a nice girl, pretty and easy to talk to. We went out for drinks and dancing and ended up staying out having a good time until the bars closed on a weeknight.
The conversation had been good. We got into some personal topics. We talked about relationships and our exes. She had interesting perspectives on why people cheat and we had a fairly in-depth discussion on monogamy and how natural it was. She had ambitions, a broken family similar to mine, liked decent music, enjoyed partying. Really all you could ask for in a date.
At the end of the night, I drove her home. We had made out a little before in the bar, but for whatever reason I wasn’t really into it. Some invisible force seemed to be preventing my interest in her from escalating past a basal level, despite her being an attractive girl. When we got to her apartment, it got awkward. She lingered in the car a bit too long, making strained small talk between a little more kissing. It became clear she was waiting for me to invite myself in, yet I didn’t really want to go in. It was a stand-off: her giving me every chance I needed and me consciously not taking them.
She shuffled through my iPod for the third time that night, anything to buy some more time. She began dropping obvious hints, like “You should check out this new album I got the other day. I’ve got it on my computer.” I felt like we were a high school couple where the guy sits in the car trying to think of ways to trick the girl into coming inside with him. Except she was the horny high school guy and I was the hot girl who wasn’t going to put out no matter what. And for some reason this dynamic just turned me off even more.
I just sat and let her stew in the awkwardness for a few minutes, patiently waiting until I could go home. There was a strange calmness about me. It came from indifference. Despite enjoying the girl’s company and finding her physically attractive, I was not emotionally invested in the least bit. I was… bored. And this baffled me. Here was an attractive girl, who was obviously really into me, fumbling around in my car as long as possible so that I would go inside with her. Yet I was turned off. Inexplicably turned off.
On paper, everything looked right. I had been in this situation and pulled the trigger dozens of times before. But now, for some reason, I just wanted to go home. Alone.
As many of you know, I’ve been living a mobile lifestyle the past two and a half years and have spent most of that time traveling and living in various countries abroad. In that time I’ve dated and/or hooked up with women of probably two dozen different nationalities. And although none of these relationships evolved into anything long-term, a handful of them developed strong emotional connections.
The experience above with the girl in my car would play out three separate times during my three-month stay in the US last year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been on more than one date with an American girl in almost two years. Whether I had sex with them or not, I inevitably didn’t want to see them again.
It’d be easy here to lash out against American women and say they “suck” or that they’re entitled and high-maintenance, or make some other rampant generalization about our female population to fit my personal whim. As tempting as it is, and although there may be some valid criticisms there, it’s not entirely fair. I’ve met a number of guys from other countries who love dating American women. They can’t be all bad. And they aren’t.
So I began to consider what it was about my experiences with foreign women — not the particular women, but foreign women in general — that drove the changes in my experiences with American women, the ephemeral indifference that drapes each interaction, the spiritual ennui which makes connecting with them feel about as exciting as folding my laundry.
I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons: novelty, communication barriers, and cultural differences.
When dating foreign women, there’s an avalanche of novelty hitting you constantly. Big things and little things. The way she holds your hand to her ideas of what a good date consists of to which movies she has or hasn’t seen, to her beliefs about chivalry and courtesy, to her cultural background on femininity, to her expressiveness (or lack thereof) in bed. Dating foreign women constantly bombards you with new and unique twists to the everyday dating experiences.
According to the Three Loves Theory, novelty and newness of experience is the number one driving factor of passion within a relationship. It releases more endorphins, creates stronger senses of bonding, raises adrenaline, piques more interest, demands more focus, etc. The same reason why old, stale couples do crazy and inventive trips and activities together to rekindle their flame is what drives foreign couples into passionate connections quicker than is normal. The constant “newness,” the endless stream of idiosyncratic differences between her and every other girl you’ve ever met keeps you as enthralled as a 16-year-old with his first girlfriend all over again.
Novelty isn’t the entire story, but I’m convinced it skews the perception of foreign women being more passionate in all of us — whether we’re from the US or Germany or Colombia. It’s also why dating regular, cute, girl-next-door types back home emotionally lulls me to sleep — it’s not novel, it’s not new, it’s not fresh. I’ve been here before. It’s the same old story.
The second reason I think American women feel ruined for me is that there’s no barrier to communication. That may sound crazy, as communication is possibly the most important factor in determining the success and pleasure in a relationship. But when presented with language barriers (however slight), different conceptions of traditional relationship roles, differing expectations, or flat out misunderstanding each other, these barriers create a perceptual bias towards valuing one another more.
It’s a fact that as humans, when we perceive ourselves to have worked harder for something, we value it more. Dating foreign women requires more effort, more focus, more diligence and understanding. A big reason for that is the constant micro-miscommunications that go on, the stuttering around each other’s languages, the cultural differences (which we’ll get to in a minute). When you overcome these things together, it creates a greater sense of bonding and purpose between both of you. The result is a deeper attraction much quicker. I’ve often commented that emotionally I often reach a point with foreign women within a week or two that it would take months to reach with American women. A large part of this is the perception of us overcoming barrier after barrier together.
But part of it is also cultural differences. When traveling, everywhere you go, every society you enmesh yourself into, you expose yourself to different a subset of values. Some cultures value family and friendship more, some value material success, some value emotional expression, others value silent suffering. What you begin to notice is that every country and culture has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, and it becomes less a question of which culture is “best” and more of which one aligns with your personal values the most.
In my opinion, the great weakness of English-speaking culture is our reluctance to share our emotions authentically, and the repression of our sexualities. These two cultural traits also happen to be two of the cultural traits I value the most, and therefore I find much more value in creating relationships in culture which do value these things: authentic communication, emotional expression, loyalty, being fun-loving and enjoying life first. And most of these cultural factors are better found outside of the United States.
The United States has a lot of great things going for it, but most of them revolve around seeking personal success, social stature, making tons of money, or material wealth. And many of these values, shared greatly by the women as well, compromise the values that I do hold most important. Therefore it makes sense that I find forming relationships and bonds within the US less appealing now than before — by default the girl has been raised in a culture whose values no longer completely align with my own.
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible for me to find a great girl in the US. There are plenty of amazing American women. I’m just saying that this traveling has made it less likely that I connect with them, and the emotional rollercoaster dating foreign women has given me has made many conventional dating scenarios back home feel dull and empty. Call it be over-exposed to a good thing. Or call it a “high quality problem.” I’m not complaining, but just here to share my (bizarre) experience, of actually finding going home alone more appealing than going home with your average attractive 20-something back home.
Right now, I’d put the odds of me settling down in the US permanently at 50/50, and the odds of me settling down with an American woman at maybe 20%. One of my best friends who has traveled quite a bit with me puts those odds at 80% (I settle abroad) and 0% (I marry an American woman). I’m not sure which one of us has more perspective.
But I do know that my perceptions and relationships back home have irreversibly shifted. Whether this is a good shift or not, I don’t know. But I imagine for the American women who persist in awkward small talk, hoping or expecting me to take them home with me, it’s probably a bad thing.