In my younger years, I tried dating girls from my home town but the relationships never got off the ground.
Once I was set up with a friend of a friend. We met at a local pub and I hoped for enthusiastic conversation and a bright ending. We talked about the things we both liked but the chat was forced, the mood sombre and we had less in common than we thought.
Some time later, I took another local girl on a date. I'd returned from university and while the craving to head abroad had started to grow, I was determined to give hometown life and a night out with this pretty, intelligent girl a fair go.
I chose the wrong venue. We dined at an elegant restaurant, served seven courses of not-a-lot over three hours. The conversation was stilted and we were awkward table companions. The night ended with a peck on the cheek and a "thank you".
I never saw her again.
This was a repeated story when it came to dating English girls. A mixed bag of dates, not much success and whole bunch of self-doubt. I wondered what the problem really was. I couldn't get a girl, couldn't hold down a relationship when I did, and after each date, I'd look back and realise I was actually bored.
I could launch into a tirade about English girls and their shortcomings but this wouldn't be fair or true. There was nothing wrong with the girls I dated. The problem wasn't them, it was me.
I realised I prefer the company of foreign women.
|Foreign Women | Shutterstock|
At university, I dated an Irish girl for a year. I had another 12-month relationship with a woman whose background was Portuguese. Not long after, I had a brief fling with an Italian. Whether or not those relationships were successful, I enjoyed their company and felt hopeful about my time with them.
I eventually met my wife - a vivacious, effervescent beauty from Australia - and I thankfully put my years of failed relationships with English women behind me.
But I did learn three simple things about myself from both failed and successful dating experiences.
1. I adore uniqueness.
There is something profoundly unique about finding a partner far removed from your homeland. It's even more fun to fall in love with her.
It's not that English women aren't unique but when you're an Englishman with a foreign wife, every conversation has a different slant. Every moment together is intriguing. With no shared past and no shared geography, each step forward is uncharted territory.
When I dated English girls, we'd inevitably come from the same town or region, know similar people and share past experiences of one sort or another. But with a foreign partner, there is no prior connection and that knowledge is a welcome leap into the unknown.
There is also the novelty factor.
From the holding of hands to favourite television shows, preferred foods, weekend routines, even the style of clothing or choice of vacation spot, everything is different. Everything is new.
There is a constant "newness" accompanied by passion, interest and excitement. And not only do I find her fascinating, I long hoped she found the same with me.
Uniqueness is an attractive, addictive quality and I soon knew I couldn't settle for the girl next door.
2. My horizons were broadened.
The act of dating and marrying a foreigner was an extension of the kind of person I wanted to be.
I couldn't imagine a world in which I had a relationship with a girl from the same town, with our loved ones nearby and weekends spent driving from one family's house to the other.
For most, this is how life should be but I needed space to grow.
I wanted more.
I wanted a relationship where I'd feel emotionally challenged, where the road ahead wasn't always clear cut. I wanted a relationship where we'd take off on last minute jaunts to far-off places, where we'd act with spontaneity and haste, rather than deliberate on our annual two-week vacation.
I needed more than a Saturday night at the local bar. I craved passion and adrenaline, when the blood rushes to the head and decisions are made on the flip of a coin. Where you're no longer restricted by country or even home town - the world is your oyster and ripe for exploring.
Dating and marrying a foreign women gave me that and more. I felt alert to the possibilities around me and alive to the idea of constant change.
3. I'm attracted to cultural and language differences.
When you date someone from another country, you marry into their life and embrace the cultural differences that follow.
Whatever the cultural focus (family, customs, beliefs), you're given an opportunity to learn from and better understand each other. And this brings you closer together, creates a deeper bond, makes the connection stronger.
You also learn about differences in language.
Whether it's subtle nuances in Australian English when compared to British English, or a completely different language altogether, dating foreign women often leads to the learning of a foreign tongue.
I've long had a passion for language and while I'm fortunate that my wife and I share the same language, we still have to put in extra effort, focus and understanding to ensure there aren't regular miscommunications.
It's why I make sure my knowledge of language is always up-to-date and why, earlier this year, I turned to a service called italki to improve my abilities in an online environment.
At italki, students can search out some of the best online language teachers in the world. The service boasts an audience of over 1.5 million students and 4000+ teachers of 100 languages. It's great for helping you connect with native speakers and experienced language teachers, especially if you want to get busy speaking the language from the comfort of your own home.
Why the plug?
Because I believe in the value of this kind of service. Because language and culture, and a greater understanding of both, are important.
This is what dating foreign women (and marrying one) taught me.
Have you dated or married someone from overseas? What did the experience teach you?