Gather a group of young and single foreigners who recently moved to New York City and at one moment or another, you’ll hear them talk about how weird the dating scene in the city is. Moving to a new place, anywhere in the world, means adjusting to new dating rules and standards. Different countries approach love and relationships differently, which often makes for bizarre culture shock but also fascinating conversations.
So, we decided to gather eight women who work at BuzzFeed and who live in and come from different countries to discuss cultural differences when it comes to love and relationships. Here they are:
Marie Telling: I’m an associate editor for BuzzFeed France, based in New York. I’m French and I grew up in Bordeaux, in the southwest of the country. I lived in Paris, in Sweden, and in Washington state for a while. I’ve been living in New York City for two and a half years.
Julia Pugachevsky: I’m a staff writer, live in New York, first-generation American from a Ukrainian family (so I was raised with some conflicting ideas as far as dating traditions go). I am single and only slightly ready to mingle.
Rossalyn Warren: My name is Roz, I’m a news reporter at BuzzFeed UK, I live in London, and I’m from Hertfordshire.
Tasneem Nashrulla: I’m a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News. I’m from Mumbai, and I’ve been living in the U.S. for the past two and a half years.
Juliane Leopold: I’m the founding editor of BuzzFeed Germany. I live in Berlin.
Jenna Guillaume: I’m a senior editor for BuzzFeed in Australia. I’ve lived in Sydney with my partner for the past six years, but I grew up in a coastal town near Wollongong, about 90 minutes south of Sydney. I’ve never lived in another country — YET. My other great love is the internet, and I spend too much time obsessing over fictional characters and their relationships.
Conz Preti: I’m the editor for BuzzFeed EspaÃ±ol and Brasil, born in Argentina but raised between Colombia and Brazil, moved to New York in my late twenties for grad school and stayed here ever since. I’ve been seeing someone for some months now.
Julie Gerstein: I am BuzzFeed’s style editor. I live in Brooklyn with my boyfriend of three years.
Marie: How do people date? Is it OK to date several people at once? Is there an “exclusivity talk”? I don’t know if it’s an American thing or if this is just specific to New York, but the dating scene here often feels like an actual market where people try goods (several at once) and decide which one is best fitted to their needs and expectations. Then, they have a very reasonable talk to establish that they’re both interested in the other the same way. It’s like relationship shopping. Very pragmatic, very American. It feels way more organic and spontaneous in France, but that could also just be an illusion. What do you guys think? Is it the same where you’re from?
Julia: I feel like, in NYC specifically, you ALWAYS have to have the talk. You can find, theoretically, someone and get in the groove of things and just start dating naturally, but the talk still always happens — nothing is ever assumed.
Juliane: In Germany, it’s similar to France and different from the U.S. You tend to date one person at a time. The talk is done nevertheless but just to know if you should move on or not. But it’s definitely not OK to shop around.
Rossalyn: In the U.K., I think that it’s fine to date several people at once, provided it’s still at the early stages and you’re not taking the piss. I think if you’re dating someone for more than a few weeks, then maybe some clearer “erm, hey, are we making this a thing?” kinda chat is needed. British people are too awkward to have an “exclusivity talk” — I almost never hear my friends say they’ve had to have that talk. Having said that, I think British people do eventually try and figure out whether it’s exclusive or not, they just don’t outright say, “Are we exclusive?” — they just skirt around the issue until enough hints are dropped to be like, “oh, we’re a thing.”
Conz: In Argentina it depends on how long you’ve been “going out.” If it’s been over two months, the assumption from both sides is that there is no one else around and there is no real need for “the talk.” In my experience the sort of “oh, we are a couple now” moment was when either introduced the other to people as my BF/GF. I’ve never had the “so are you seeing someone else, are we exclusive?” chat. Ever.
Julie: I definitely feel like it’s a market-style thing in the U.S.
Jenna: In Australia it definitely seems more organic. I feel like people probably go on dates with different people around the same time, but if they like a particular person they don’t date anyone else. And “the talk” isn’t really something that happens in general, I think it tends to be a mutually understood thing after a certain period of time. This is very generally speaking, of course — some people probably do have the “exclusivity talk.” But Australians on the whole aren’t that blunt about these sort of things.
Rossalyn: When I lived in Brooklyn, the dating did feel like a market, but in a different way to the U.K: It felt more cutthroat and like “nope, not feeling this, next!”
Julie: Especially when it comes to online dating, which has very much mirrored itself after a transactional arrangement. You’re “shopping” for people you find attractive, you go on dates to check out the goods, you date to see if you’d like to make a more permanent arrangement. In a city like NYC, especially, where the male-to-female ratio is so incredibly off, it seems especially like men are alllllways keeping their dating options open.
Marie: I don’t even feel like we “date” in France. We just sleep with someone casually or we’re with someone. If you’re sleeping with someone and you’re hanging out with them socially one-on-one, then you’re a thing.
Jenna: I think dating has become more of a thing in Australia thanks to online dating. Now people go on dates with people they’ve met online, whereas in the past it was more just someone you met in a bar or at work or whatever who you started hanging out with.
Marie: Yes, I think that may be true for France too, Jenna.
Julie: In NYC, you can’t presume that you’re a thing. You’re better off assuming that the person you’re doing that with is doing that with a few people, unless you’ve expressly made it clear you’re not. I think that’s why it’s a safer bet to always date a few people at a time in the early stages.
Jenna: That sounds exhausting.
Conz: Yes. I don’t get it and it feels almost insulting in a way. Like…why spend time and open up and all that if the other side is doing the same with several others.
Rossalyn: It’s such a hassle.
Julia: I feel like I barely have time for ONE guy, let alone a couple.
Julie: Not necessarily sleep with, but at least date. DIVERSIFY YOUR BONDS.
Jenna: But that makes it sound so…clinical.
Marie: It is VERY clinical.
Jenna: Clinical and cynical.
Julie: I think of it as emotional insurance.
Julia: It’s like none of us have time to get our hearts broken so we have backups, which makes me sad.
Rossalyn: I think that is the same in a lot of major cities actually: bigger cities, more people, more dating, more options. In the countryside/suburbs, people are less hassled by dating more than one person at a time.
Tasneem: I think the concept of dating, the way it’s defined in the U.S., has taken root in India only in the last couple of years (that I’ve been away for). I was shocked to hear that friends in Bombay actually use Tinder. I thought that was such an American thing. Earlier, there were two ways to go about it: Either you’re “messing around” with someone, as in having a casual fling where you’re not necessarily exclusive and both know this is a casual, fun thing. Or second, you’re in a relationship. Dating, as in sleeping or making out with different people, is a little alien to me, but apparently common in Bombay now. (I feel old.)
Marie: I was actually wondering about dating apps. How do people use them in your countries? And which ones do they use?
Rossalyn: Tinder. LOL.
Marie: I was actually very surprised to learn that people have started using Tinder in France, too. It felt so pragmatic and un-French to me that I never thought it would take off. Mind you, I don’t actually know anyone who is really using it.
Julie: Tinder and OkCupid here (in New York), as we all know. And Hinge is becoming popular too.
Jenna: Tinder for sure.
Conz: Tinder blew up in Argentina this year.
Juliane: Tinder is still quite new to Germans.
Conz: I feel that the gamification of it compared to other dating apps is what it made it a thing. You are not ~really~ on a dating app, you are swiping photos.
Marie: I wonder if Tinder is used for the same thing everywhere? Do people use it for fun, for dating, or just hooking up?
Rossalyn: It’s mostly used by your friends who are in relationships to swipe through for fun. But for those who use it properly, they do meet people and date. But there is also a laziness to it — who has time to message strangers witty replies all the time?
Tasneem: My friends are not only ON Tinder (like, for the fun of it), they’re actually meeting and hooking up with people through it. I mean it’s not THAT common, but if I personally know someone who’s done that, then I’m sure its getting popular. But I should also note that the friend I’m referring to hooked up with a non-Indian on Tinder.
Julia: In New York, I feel like people find S.O.s on it, but otherwise, it’s mainly hooking up.
Jenna: I know people who have had a lot of dud dates through Tinder, but no one who has actually found a relationship.
Marie: Are there any other popular dating sites/apps?
Jenna: Rsvp.com.au is a pretty popular dating site in Australia.
Rossalyn: OkCupid was kind of big. So was Plenty of Fish, which is the worst name ever for a dating app. Guardian Soul Mates is used by middle-class liberals here.
Julia: Match.com is for people who are very serious because you have to pay for it.
Tasneem: Shaadi.com is for marriages only. And A LOT of Indians use that to find suitable marriage partners.
Rossalyn: If we’re being honest, Match.com says it’s a dating site, but it’s for people who are looking for serious relationships/marriage, they just don’t explicitly say it.
Tasneem: Some NGOs in India conduct mass weddings for niche groups like differently abled people. They don’t even meet their partners before that. They’re just all married in this massive mass wedding.
Marie: How do you flirt? Do women ever make the first step? How is it perceived if they do?
Jenna: It’s more common for guys to make the first move, and it’s quite rare for women to do so.
Julia: Yeah, guys are supposed to make the first move. But me, I like to pounce.
Conz: I’ve openly asked dudes out and they are fine with it… But at a bar, usually men swarm women. It’s OK if I walk up to a dude and start talking, but usually they’ll be straight up talking you up immediately.
Marie: Yeah, in France, men are more forward, although it’s not unusual for women to flirt. When I was living in Sweden, though, men were always expecting women to make the first step. It was very confusing coming from France.
Juliane: In Germany, women are not really expected to make the first move. It can be perceived as slutty. In my last two relationships I have always made the first move and that freaked the guys out.
Tasneem: I don’t think (and things might have changed) that random men flirt with random women at bars in India. You usually flirt within your social circle or when you’re introduced by someone you know.
Julie: I “had a line” when I was single.
Jenna: What was it?
Julie: “Oh, good, you haven’t left yet. I wanted to talk to you.” It always worked.
Marie: I think guys like it when women make the first move in France. They may judge them a bit, but they also appreciate the change.
Julie: Guys, they’re just like us. NERVOUS.
Marie: My friends who were living in Sweden LOVED how forward women were.
Julie: They like it because they are lazy and scared and weird, so it takes the pressure off. And if they are the kind of guy you want to date, they will appreciate a strong, confident woman.
Marie: About “dating” — what is a typical date? And who pays?
Julie: Well, if you live in Philly, where I’m from, a date is getting a drink with a dude and then paying for it, and then he basically moves into your house and you pay his rent. Because there are a lot of hot, beardy dudes with marginal jobs there.
Julia: Typical date in New York: casual drinks, guy pays.
Juliane: Typical date in Germany: dinner or movie, maybe both. Both split the check.
Jenna: The “who pays” thing is such a personal thing, I think. There’s not a set social norm.
Conz: Go to a bar to get a drink, dude pays. But also, I never went out on a date while I lived in Argentina because it was more organic — I met a friend of a friend at a party and then we would see each other again in a social gathering and then maybe go out.
Rossalyn: My friends and I here in the U.K. had a big chat about this the other day. Most of them think that both sides of the date should offer to pay on a first date, but that usually the guy should pay. But they also said it’s not a big thing if the woman pays; it’s just a preferred thing. Then, after the meal, if the guy pays, the woman buys the drinks at the bar.
Julie: In NYC, I’ve found that dudes are cool with paying for dates, or whomever asks. I now have a serious live-in boyfriend and whoever asks is the one who pays.
Tasneem: Dinner and drinks (guy usually pays or you “go Dutch”).
Jenna: Traditionally I guess the guy pays, but I think more and more women prefer to split? Or maybe that’s just me. I much prefer to split the bill.
Rossalyn: Personally, I usually split the bill.
Julia: Yeah, I always offer to pay out of politeness and then the guy usually is like, “NO, I’m paying,” and I meekly pull away my wallet.
Julie: I like doing the one pays for dinner, one pays for drinks thing.
Marie: I always offer to pay, but I like when guys insist on paying for the first date, otherwise I’m always afraid they’re cheap. After that, I’d rather split the check (unless he earns significantly more and suggested an expensive place).
Conz: After the first date and when you are together, it is usually half-and-half. When I lived with my ex, I would do the groceries and he would pay the electricity, or something like that.
Julia: If I’m seeing them past a few dates, I feel more comfortable splitting — actually get annoyed if they don’t let me.
Jenna: Yeah, if a guy, especially beyond the first date, is like, “No, I’M paying,” I’d kind of question their attitudes toward women. Benevolent sexism.
Marie: While we’re on the topic, what about chivalry? Is chivalry still a thing where you come from? How does it express itself?
Jenna: Australian guys are not chivalrous.
Marie: Haha! Really?
Jenna: Well. SOME are.
Rossalyn: Yeah, British guys are not either. It’s all a bit cringe.
Tasneem: Indian guys NEVER LEAVE DOORS OPEN. I think holding doors in India is not even a thing. Like, no one does it. It’s just not in our societal DNA. But I used to get annoyed when boys exited a restaurant first and literally slammed the door on my face. (Not deliberately, of course — they were lovely guys. But they don’t hold doors.) I think that speaks more about just general public etiquette. Americans are excessively polite when it comes to doors and elevators and the like.
Rossalyn: Dream guys are the ones who slam doors in your face.
Jenna: I mean, a lot of chivalry is politeness. Australians on the whole don’t rate politeness as a top attribute. Not that we’re necessarily rude (although, well, sometimes we are), but we just don’t go out of our way to be extra polite.
Julie: I think I’m way more chivalrous than most American dudes.
Julia: See, it’s complicated for me because some guys open doors and some don’t and I don’t think I would care either way, but my parents, who are Ukrainian, are horrified when guys don’t do this.
Juliane: Politeness seems to be rather underrated in Germany. Older dudes will hold the door and stuff. Younger guys won’t.
Jenna: I feel like Americans on the whole are super super polite.
Julie: No way.
Rossalyn: British men are mostly polite, which I suppose falls under this area. They are mostly a nice bunch on dates.
Marie: In France politeness is not our major forte as a society, but guys tend to be pretty old-school, courteous, and do little things like opening the door, insisting on paying for things.
Jenna: I think holding doors, etc., should go both ways.
Marie: Yeah, I agree. It’s more about politeness than chivalry.
Rossalyn: Yeah, agree. “Don’t be a rude dick” = chivalry in 2014.
Conz: Argentines are SUPER old-school. They will open doors, and wait for you to get off the elevator, even open the door of the car for you to get in, etc.
Jenna: I haaaaate the car door thing. When I was younger I tried to force my boyfriend to do it because I was young and dumb and had romantic ideals about chivalry, but now I’m like, actually that’s bullshit.
Marie: On to something different. What’s the general position of PDA? I never noticed how much French people were into PDA until I moved abroad. I also had a Canadian friend who moved to Paris and was SHOCKED by the amount of PDA she witnessed. She couldn’t believe people were making out in supermarkets and in the middle of the street. To be clear, we’re not all climbing each other in public, but we’re mostly cool with kissing in public.
Jenna: I hate PDA. I think that is typical of Australians. Holding hands, quick pecks, that’s it. Oh, and maybe hugs. But anything more than that, most people feel uncomfortable.
Conz: In Argentina, you kiss, you hold hands, you hug, you sit on their lap. Everything is OK.
Julie: I think PDA is generally for the young and for the very old.
Juliane: In Germany, holding hands and kissing is OK, but that’s basically it.
Rossalyn: People in the U.K. are pretty meh about PDA — they don’t tend to do it too much, but they’re not fussed. Don’t ram your tongue down their throat while shopping or something, though.
Julie: I once wrote an open letter on The Frisky to a couple who would PDA at 9 in the morning in the subway station EVERY MORNING. Because I hated them so much.
Conz: I’m that person who kisses in subways at 9 a.m. If I wanna kiss you I will kiss you. No, we are not gonna make out and slob all over our faces in front of people but like…show some love!
Rossalyn: Yes to kissing. No to dog slobbering.
Jenna: I will give a peck in public. But no more than three seconds, and even that is pushing it.
Julia: I think it’s a person-to-person thing. I personally only do it when drunk and I side-eye people who make out in the middle of the street SOBER in the middle of the day.
Jenna: Oh, drunk is another story.
Rossalyn: Yeah, when I’m drunk it is different.
Marie: If I’m drunk I’ll climb you in public. No boundaries.
Jenna: LOL. I think that’s most people.
Julia: I’ve climbed poor boys like trees.
Rossalyn: When you’re drunk it’s like, Now is a perfectly acceptable time to climb on top of you thanks bye.
Tasneem: Kissing in public is unlawful in many parts of India. There was recently a huge “kiss of protest” all over India to demand our rights to kiss in public. (Unlawful not in the legal sense, but we have a lot of moral policing.) But in clubs and in other safe spaces where like-minded people hang out, PDA is pretty common.
Rossalyn: That protest looked amazing.
Tasneem: Yeah, it was awesome.
Jenna: What about holding hands and stuff? My school had a hands-off policy to try to discourage the ~sexual urges~. You weren’t allowed to hold hands or anything.
Julia: We definitely didn’t have that rule.
Tasneem: Well, I was in a girls school, so holding hands was totally OK. We held hands a LOT. A LOT. A LAAAWWT.
Marie: My school had a “please don’t have sex in a bathroom” policy, but that was pretty much it.
Rossalyn: OMG you had to have a policy to not tell students to fuck in a bathroom?!?!
Marie: Hahaha, it was a tacit rule. I don’t remember any actual rules we had.
Jenna: Most Australian schools have the hands-off rule. Usually it’s hands off or the meter rule or the balloon rule, like you couldn’t get so close you’d pop a ballon in between you. I got on after-school detention for hugging my boyfriend. We had to write lines: “I will be mature and keep my hands to myself.” (I am now married to him, lol.)
Julie: We had enough teen pregnancy at my school that obviously there were no proper policies in place.
Julia: We didn’t have any of these, and people openly made out in hallways. Once, a girl in my high school got away with giving a guy a BJ under the stairwell. Like, people SAW THEM and they didn’t get into trouble.
Conz: I had a boyfriend in high school in Brazil and we both almost got suspended because we gave each other a peck in the hallway in the morning.
Marie: Is marriage important where you’re from? Can you live together without being married?
Jenna: People usually live together for years before getting married, if they get married at all. The majority do but, it’s also totally OK not to. I think it’s important for people as in it’s like the most romantic, big thing you can do in a relationship. But in terms of morals or whatever, no one cares.
Conz: In Argentina and Brazil, it depends on religion. I’ve had friends get married at 19 and I have friends that are 40, have three kids, and are not planning on marrying. More and more, it’s getting common to live together before marrying. But it was a huge shock for my parents when I did. Same with my male cousin — our family was super against him moving in with his then-girlfriend. There’s a feeling of “if you move in together you are making things easier for the man” in older generations.
Tasneem: Marriage is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT (for parents), and moving in with your boyfriend is still very rare in India, though it’s getting common in certain niches. But I think neighbors would judge you if they knew you lived with your boyfriend.
Rossalyn: People can live together here without being married, definitely. Marriage is still something many women here would like, but it’s not crucial.
Julie: I think it’s still important here, though maybe becoming less so. People still put a lot of value on marriage, though people are ALSO getting married later and multiple times.
Rossalyn: Yeah, divorce is so commonplace here that it’s like, “Meh, who even wants to get married.”
Marie: I admit I wanted to talk about infidelity to debunk a very old clichÃ© about the French: People think the French are totally cool with infidelity. That’s simply not true. Some couples may have tacit agreements, others may be in open relationships, but the vast majority of the people I know in France would not be OK with their partner cheating on them. I don’t think there is more infidelity in France than anywhere else. And I don’t think we’re more OK with it than other cultures. We’ve just made more movies about it, I guess.
Jenna: Cheating is the worst thing you can do for a lot of people. People do it, but it’s a deal breaker for most people: It’s unforgivable.
Juliane: Yes, cheating is absolutely off-limits in relationships.
Julia: I feel like I hear about cheating all the time and it’s a bad thing to do and people break up over it, but it still happens a lot.
Conz: Argentine men cheat. All. The. Time. Not all of them, but most of them. It’s like a fucking epidemic.
Marie: How do women react?
Conz: It depends — some don’t take it, but so many, because it happens over and over again, are like, What eyes can’t see won’t hurt my heart. Now, if the woman cheats, she is a slut.
Tasneem: I don’t think there are any particular cultural connotations when it comes to cheating. It’s universally frowned upon but many people do it.
Julia: Right, but I feel like there’s more shock/condemnation when it’s a woman.
Jenna: And the “other woman” gets vilified more than the man who did it.
Julia: Oh, absolutely.
Conz: There is so much of blaming the “other woman” and not the man. SO MUCH.
Tasneem: That’s true. I feel like men think they’re often justified but women aren’t.
Marie: OK, let’s talk about gross stuff to conclude. I have some foreign friends who are NOT OK with their partners farting in front of them. I’m totally cool with it, but I’m not sure I’m representative of French people on the topic.
Conz: I AM THAT FOREIGN FRIEND.
Marie: Yes, you are, Conz.
Conz: No farting. I brought up this with my Argentine friends on Sunday because I told them the dude I’m seeing told me to “pull his finger” and then proceeded to fart and they were all sooooo appalled they even questioned me on why I was still with him. Not kidding.
Jenna: OK, the “pull my finger” thing is gross. Otherwise, I think it’s FINE. And I think most people think it’s fine, but it is such an individual thing.
Juliane: Not OK with farting. But I guess it’s pretty personal.
Rossalyn: LOL, I kinda dont care? I think it’s a bit much at the start of a relationship, but who cares after.
Julia: I think it’s perceived as gross but also a weird form of intimacy. Cute intimacy.
Rosalyn: Yeah, in a weird way.
Tasneem: Farting is the gas that holds couples together, in my opinion.
Julia: It’s more romantic than the first kiss, IMHO.
Jenna: Yes. You can really kiss anyone. There are only a select few you can fart with. You only fart in front of people you care about. That’s love.
Marie: If you accept each other’s farts, that’s love.