Dear Miss A,
I write you because I think I may need advice about the process of dating in the US. Please, help me with some tips, because I know there are cultural differences. I am more than 1 year here now, and I really would like to have a boyfriend, a committed relationship. Please, excuse my English, and if I write these things in detail, it’s because maybe you could understand my background and what is happening to me here….
I come from South America and live now in Maryland, and it is taking me some time to understand how things are functioning here. In my country, if I go to a party/ gathering/ dinner,etc. and a man is interested in me, he will ask for my phone number, he will call me soon and he will be the one to call me first. He will try to fix a date in advance, perhaps to have a drink or go to the movies, take a coffee and appetizers, etc. But it will be also “normal” (and maybe more sure) that he will propose to have lunch or dinner, because it’s a time where 2 persons can have enough talk / conversation and start to know each other.
Important: he will pick me up, yes! no way to “meet” somewhere… and he will take me home too (specially the firsts dates, until he becomes an official boyfriend and start to have more “informality”). If I live with my family, it’s not a problem if he casually meets one of my parents/ relatives that first night or during the first dates (if some of them opens the door, it’s not a problem and does not mean nothing… )
Maybe the second and third time he will be the one to call, and, the process will flow naturally between calls, dates, emails and texts, so, very soon, women, will start also to call him too, to propose him to do things.
After few dates, it would be just very normal to say him to do anything, movies, a party, or go to a lounge, do sports, etc. and little by little, he will start to know my friends. It also would be normal, maybe after 2 or 3 weeks of dating, to tell him to have a casual lunch or dinner with the family , it does not mean it is something SO formal… ( it is not like in America, where you meet with all the family for dinner only for Thanksgiving…. In Southamerica you have a lunch or dinner with your family at least every week, or several times per week)….
So, after many years in my country, I came here, and the first boy I liked, asked me to go to the movies, in a very informal way: 3 hours before the movie, he sent an email and told me that he will be in the theaters with a group of friends, and if I felt like going, I already knew where he will be, just in case, that the movie will be fun…. Of course, with so little notice in advance, I could not go… When I ve got that message I just thought: Oh! it’s a pity, he just seeing me “only as a friend”….
The next week, he just text me to tell me that he will be that Wednesday in a bar with a group of friends, a happy hour, if I felt like going, that same day… so, very casual… So, with very little notice in advance, I could not go… Once again, I thought he just wanted to be nice with a foreign like me, and introduce me new people. The next week, I’ve got the same message, and I told him to tell me in advance so I could go… I also told him that I was having a party, (in advance) and if he wanted to come with me… He answered he could not come.
So, like that, that boy, always started to send me emails or text messages for those casual invites…I always thought he only wanted to be my friend. But of course, I understood that I am in another country and things could be different, but, no one could expliain me how… But months after that, one Saturday night in a party of a friend, I met someone in a party, and I realized he really liked me, I was happy because I liked him too… He gave me his card first with all his numbers and emails ( for what? I have to call him first??? ) and also asked me only for my email.
The next day, he sent me an email… and like that during the week… (I thought, if he is interested, why he does not call me to go to have lunch, dinner, or a drink, etc.?? )…The next Friday, in the morning, he sent an invite to me, for a Happy hour, telling me that he will be there with friends and “if I wanted to come, he will be there”… So, I went to the happy hour, where he was only with his best friend, and we took a cup of wine in the bar.. his best friend was almost absent, talking with other people.. I thought: he just wanted to see me.. why he did not ask to go out alone with me?… The same process continues for 3 dates more.
The next day, Saturday, he sent me a text message at 6 pm, telling me that “he was in a party with friends, and if I wanted to go to the party” (sending the address, etc.).. I was already in another meeting… so, I told him that I could not go… Why he did not tell me in advance? why some casual dates first?
I told him that we could go to have lunch, why not a Sunday? and maybe that we could plan it a little more in advance?
After some “casual dates”, 4 weeks after that, he finally told me to go 1 Sunday to have lunch, only me and him ( it is so scary for them??? ) … It was the first time he was so open and talked to me so much about his life, and asked me a lot about me, he wanted to know everything… I just can tell you it was a very normal conversation, ( I did not make any pressure about nothing or about any subject of conversation, and did not talk about having a relationship or nothing, I just enjoyed the lunch and conversations)… and for me it was the first “real date” I had in this country…. I felt happy at that lunch, and I thought we had so much chemistry… no kisses, nothing, just talk, and I was happy that we could start to know each other little by little. We just hug a lot when we said good bye…
2 days after that, he just sent me an email to tell me he was confused and scared about a committed relationship… he sent emails to tell me he thought I am beautiful and wonderful, but, he would not go out with me again because he was confused. So, like that, now I know, most men would like some casual dates in the begining, meeting with groups of friends, etc… but, how can they know me? if we are sourrounded by so much people, how they will make a decision to start to date me, if each time we meet it’s a noisy place with many people??? And if I propose to go out alone, (movies, lunch, dinner, take a coffee, but, just the 2 of us), apparently it is TOO intimate for the beginning…
Please, help me…
Lost in Translation
Dear Lost in Translation,
Thank you so much for writing in. Your English is great! Much better than my French, or even my Dutch which was my first language! I think Americans don’t give foreigners enough credit for having the courage to move to America, speak a foreign language and deal with a culture so different than the one they are used to. My mother is Dutch (now a US citizen) and my father is American, so I witnessed first hand the struggle they went through trying to communicate and relate to each other, because each saw things through a different cultural perspective. I read a study that the majority of marriages between people of different cultures end in divorce. So if you want to hedge your bets, you are better off dating someone with a similar world view, culture, and tradition.
Dating in America has changed a great deal even since I started dating 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, a woman from NYU interviewed me last week about the differences. I’m with you, I think you need to spend quality time with someone to get to know them. Just seeing the person in a crowded bar, or party doesn’t create a good foundation for a relationship. I also believe that dating while intoxicated is also very unhealthy. I think it’s much better to go hiking, play tennis, volunteer together, meet for coffee, or enjoy a lunch together. Fact is some people can’t handle social situations when sober. They also are extremely afraid of commitment, and the reality of a true relationship. Many would rather have drunk hook up’s, communicate via short texts, and objectify women based on fantasy.
I don’t think you should lower your expectations and standards. I think dating in your culture sounds great! And I like how in your culture meeting the family isn’t a huge deal. It’s natural as it should be. Be yourself, set your limits, and the right man will appreciate you for them, and will do what it takes to get to know you and be with you. I suggest you join The International Club of DC. I’ve been wanting to join, and really should. They have a lot of events – tennis lessons, wine tastings, tango lessons, and much more! I think you’d love it. You will meet a lot of men from Latin countries who come from a similar culture, and agree with you about dating. I think that is the best solution for you.
Another idea is to join a church, if you aren’t a member of a church already. I think you’ll find good people there, and having religion in your life will be helpful to you on many levels. Please let me know how things go! Good luck! Hang in there!
– Miss A
Andrea Rodgers is a Dating & Relationship Expert for HealthCentral’s SexualHealthConnection.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.