What to Expect when Dating a Foreigner

7 tips for dating a foreigner: A few things I learned as a Filipina dating the odd foreigner before marrying a Canadian.

I met Mike through work. We’d not met for the first couple years we worked together in one capacity or another, and we worked online via email, Slack, or Skype chats.

When we finally met, it was supposed to be work-related (we were starting Copyrise) but that changed on the cab ride home from the airport the night we met.

Before Mike, I’d dated a few other foreigners who I met either in person or online. This article is from my experiences of dating a foreigner, and those of my friends and colleagues that I’ve heard over the years.

Dating a foreigner

Date a Foreigner: Tips

Whether you meet online or you meet in person –every scenario of dating a foreigner has something in common. In this article I’ll discuss a few things myself and my friends have learned over the years by dating a foreigner now and then.

1. They’re just a human, just like you

Maybe it’s the accent, the way they fumble over a word, or how they are often more romantic than the guys back home. If you’re dating a foreigner it can be easy to put your partner on a pedestal because they come from a totally different background from you, and that makes them interesting.

Just remember, they’re only human too. Love them as an equal and have an open mind for new ways of doing or experiencing things. And never fetishize your partner when you’re dating a foreigner, it’s a really shitty reason to date someone.

2. It’s easy to be stereotyped

Most of the time, when you’re dating a foreigner and tell your partner’s family and friends where you’re from, they’re gonna’ try to reference things they think they know about your country.

On Mike’s second time visiting the Philippines, we were living in my province where seeing a foreigner is a bit of a rarity. He noticed kids and adults on the street would hollar “Hey Joe!” every time they saw him.

He was curious (and mildly annoyed) so I explained to him that US forces in the Philippines during World War 2 were referred to as “GI Joe”, and hence the nickname.

It wasn’t that people from my hometown were being mean to him. For them, that’s just what you do when you see a foreigner who looks American, especially when it’s a 6’ 4” tall, blonde stud muffin.

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3. Cultural differences are real

Different cultures have a different way of viewing things. Even couples who come from similar cultures will find that they too have some obvious differences.

It doesn’t mean your relationship dating a foreigner is doomed to fail. It just means you need to adjust and learn each other’s way of seeing things. Be patient and don’t expect your partner to act how you expect them to. Sometimes, it’s not even about cultural difference — You’re two individuals that have had different upbringings.

To remedy any friction, make an effort to get to know each other on a deeper level (how dating should be!). Talk about your childhood, interests, dreams, experiences, and views about the world.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and sometimes a little bit silly when you’re dating a foreigner. It’ll bring you a step closer to understanding your partner and why they are the way they are.

I cannot count the number of childhood stories Mike and I have exchanged with each other. One thing is for sure, it’s brought us closer to each other.

It’s like a puzzle. Each story is a piece; the more we share our experiences with each other, the clearer the picture becomes. It’s never going to be perfect but filling in the gaps help us to understand each other and be more patient.

4. Language barrier

Another obstacle to dating a foreigner is the language barrier. Pag kayong dalawa hindi fluent sa isang foreign language, siguradong meron kayong hindi pagkakaintidihan later on.

One of you is going to have to learn the other’s language to lessen the strain. You can start by learning several useful phrases and sayings. It’s nice learning a new language and your partner will appreciate the effort you put into it.

Ang native language ni Mike is English while sa akin naman ay Cebuano though alam ko rin mag Tagalog at nakakasalita rin ako ng English fluently. So you can expect that we’re both fine and dandy when we communicate right? Nope.

There’s still times where we misunderstand each other because of the way I pronounced a word or delivered an idiom.

Sometimes, it’s not even about that.

It’s just that we think differently. Kahit nga language nang pag iisip namin, minsan pa-iba iba! Hahaha! 

Even though I can speak English, my upbringing is still Filipino so if Mike references a TV show from his youth back home, I might not get it right away. But over time, you’ll learn to accept these things and figure out your own way of navigating through them when they happen.

And hey, at least you’re learning about a new culture when you’re dating a foreigner, right?

5. Travel issues

Travel will become a part of your life when you date a foreigner. You’re gonna be flying back and forth visiting each other, meeting family and friends, and attending important life events.

There’s going to be visa challenges.

Depending on where you are visiting, you may need to extend your visa or fly out of the country once every few months just so you’re allowed to stay where you’re loved one is. It’s no easy feat but if you are really committed to each other, you’ll find a way.

Nung pumunta na si Mike sa Pilipinas para magkita kami for the first time, tsaka ko lang nalaman na kailangan nya pala nang return ticket o onwards ticket bago sya makaboard sa airplane. Lahat kasi nang airlines sa Pilipinas, humihingi nang ganito sa mga turist tulad nya para patunay na hindi sya sosobra sa Pilipinas ng 30 days.I told him right away at buti nalang talaga may murang ticket syang nabili papunta sa pinakamalapit na bansa, Malaysia. Yung totoo, never nyang nagamit ang onwards ticket nya at patuloy syang nagstay sa Pilipinas for more 30 days para magkasama kaming dalawa ng mas matagal. 

In the first year that he was with me in my home country, visa runs every one to two months became part of our routine.

It’s become normal for me now to get a bit antsy whenever we encounter anything travel or immigration related.

I learned that as long as you do your research and you are well-prepared, you’ll be fine!

6. Family approval

In some cultures, dating someone from a totally different background is discouraged.

This is more of an exception and not the rule; international dating is becoming more common due to how easy it is to start a relationship over the internet.

However, in some cases family opinion is going to have some effect on your relationship. Even though you have the choice to date whomever you want, it’s still good to be aware of this possibility since our families do hold some influence over us whether we like it or not.

7. It gets lonely, sometimes

Being with your loved one is a great thing but when you’re in a different country where you don’t know the people, the language, and the culture, it can get lonely (or boring).

One of you will have a network; friends, relatives, a life. And the other will be meeting all of the people in the other partner’s life for the first time as you roll them out.

It’s just a reality of life. When you date a foreigner, one of you may be away from home more than they’d like to.

This can be detrimental to your relationship because the homesick partner can just decide to break up anytime and leave.

Unless you’re really serious when dating a foreigner, you will find a way to make it work. To ease the loneliness, do something for your partner that reminds them of home.

Cook his favorite meal, watch a favorite childhood movie together, or learn a few funny phrases in their language. They will appreciate little things like this and it will hopefully make them feel less lonely.

In Conclusion

Make no mistake, it’s going to be a real adventure dating a foreigner given how vastly different you are culturally –but by being a bit more understanding of each other, no language barrier can keep your relationship from blossoming.

Philippines online dating is incredibly popular, yet it’s hard to really know what it’s like to date a foreigner until you’re in person over an extended period of time.

I hope this article casts a little light on what to expect after the ‘honeymoon period’ when dating a foreigner. Did I leave anything out? Share your insight in the comments.

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6 comments

    1. Really glad you pointed that out! Let there be no confusion; a number of readers are in the same boat in that they met their love online and that’s amazing.

      My point is that although I have tried online dating, I married a guy I worked with online for a few years and my experience is just a little different.

      Even with the different experience I’ve had, I still hope others find a little insight in this post. I cleaned up the end of the article a bit to ensure no one thinks I’m throwing shade on online dating! I also linked to a dating website a friend recommended.

      The original line in the article we’re talking about, in case anyone is wondering:

      And although I didn’t marry a guy I met on a dating site, hopefully you found this article a little helpful.“.

      Thanks for your words Federico, stop by again!

  1. For me the most challenging difference was the language. If you can’t have a sophisticated conversation with someone it makes it hard to connect in the first place. But thankfully, this can be overcome 🙂

    1. We missed this! Thanks for stopping by Nadine. Agreed. My Cebuano is terrible lol It’s hard to make time on top of life, but over time, anything is possible.

  2. Great article! I can definitely relate to most of the points mentioned.

    I’m from the US and my boyfriend is from Vietnam, and I love him to the moon and back, but recently he’s been feeling very homesick. (He’s lived in the US for several years now, but his family and friends are all back in Vietnam). He just came back to the US after spending two months in VN, and I noticed he hasn’t been the same since. It kills me to see him so sad, and honestly I’m worried about what will happen to us if he decides to move back there…I knew this would be a reality when we first started dating, but you can’t really choose who you fall for :/

    I know there is a void in his life that I will never be able to fill no matter how much love and affection I give him, and, quite frankly, it makes me sad. Do you have any advice on how I can be more supportive of him and help him get through his homesickness?

    1. Hey Steven! Really happy you stopped by.

      Are you living a nomadic lifestyle at all? Vietnam is a hub for our kind just like Chiang Mai or Medellin –it’s a wonderful place.

      After Oshin and I got together we both knew I was going to “take her away” for years at a time. Leading up to our first long trip away, I got an apartment beside her folks for a year, got to know them, and they got to know me. I figured our relationship would be a bit of a time share between countries.

      The end result is that everyone involved feels a sense of comfort they might not have had if I’d just swept Oshin away, right away. Her parents know I’m not a psycho (boy, I fooled them!), I got to see where she comes from and learn about the family dynamic, and she didn’t feel rushed or isolated. All the while setting the expectation we may likely move to Canada for 5+ years in the future when we have sprouts.

      Asian family life –hell, Asia in general is so family-first, it’ll make your eyes water. And on the pragmatic side, it’s always great to have another home base nearby for future travels and dropping off heavy items you pick up along the way.

      If you’re able to live a bit of a nomadic lifestyle through working online, I’d give that a shot. If you don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place.

      Check out FlexJobs because they don’t take 20% like Upwork and they hook you up directly with employers, no middle man “gig economy” underpaid bullsh*t. If you’re further up the corporate ladder there’s even C-level jobs on there.

      On the flip side of that, many couples make it work outside of a nomadic relationship and keep their feet firmly planted in one place. If they can make ends meet enough to send back care packages and cash to their family, it still feels like they’re doing their part for their loved ones back home, sight unseen. Of course it isn’t all about money, it does ease the pain knowing they’re improving the lives of family back home.

      I’ve also got an open invitation to her siblings if they’d like to come along to Canada when the time comes. Not sure if that will work out, but they’re pretty awesome humans and I’d love to have them around.

      And finally; do your best to minimise the perceived gap between the US and Vietnam. It’s only a flight away. Maybe make a schedule to pay them a visit now and again and stick to it. Sometimes it’s a mental thing. If it feels so, so far away, it is. Make it feel closer.

      Best of luck Steven.

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