(photo by activekiddies.co.uk)
As many students get ready to study abroad, they start thinking about the new experiences they’ll have such as sight-seeing, travelling, and meeting new people, particularly a romantic interest. I’ve found quite a few forums where students ask what it’s like to date in France and if Paris is gay-friendly. These questions raise an interesting concern about dating expectations abroad that we’ll tackle here today so let’s take a look!
Why do we study abroad?
(Answer: To gain skills for our career. Photo by: www.rickbillings.com)
All of these questions on dating while studying abroad in France made me realize that some students are forgetting the reason why we study abroad. Ask yourself this: did you go to online forums with dating questions if your university is in a different state than the one you grew up in? You probably didn’t. And why not? Because you chose the school based on its academic programs. A study abroad should be exactly the same. You should study abroad to further your academic studies and gain skill sets for your career; not to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right. Romance abroad should be a bonus, not a goal.
Love during a study abroad
Although I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t plan on having un petit copain/ une petite copine during your study abroad, it’s good to be prepared and familiar with French culture through its dating customs and expectations. You’re right to be curious about dating in France; it’s different than dating in the USA. How you can find out these differences is by learning more about the culture through your weekly language exchanges and reading French articles about dating. These native sources should answer all of your questions about French romance and will also give you more insight into French culture. To develop a romantic relationship during your study abroad, you must be hanging out with the natives all the time. Here’s one tip I can give you about French dating- it’s super slow. The French like to get to know each other petit à petit and don’t share much personal information in the beginning of a budding romance.
If you find yourself getting involved with a French person, here are a few tips to remember:
- Don’t let this romance distract you from your studies (the main reason you’re in France)
- Don’t speak English in your relationship. Use this unique opportunity to really understand and better your French language skills.
- Think about the final outcome. A romance during a study abroad is founded in temporary conditions. It’s ok to tomber amoureux but remember that you have to return to your homeland in 10 months or less so don’t be super attached. I feel weird encouraging you to have feelings but to keep them in check at the same time but that’s what you should do. What I can tell you from personal experience is that having a long distance relationship with someone in another country is extremely difficult and stressful to maintain. Have your fling, be prepared to end it for your return back home and keep some great memories. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of marriage or maintaining this romance once you return home.
- Respect your host family/ roommates rules. So you’ve found love during your study abroad and you’re gaga over him/her. Unless, you’re renting an apartment by yourself, you’ll want to respect your host family/roommates rules on bringing guests over, especially if your guest is staying the night.
Now that we’ve gone over some rules of etiquette for romantic relationships abroad, let’s check out rules of etiquette, health and safety for physical relationships.
Sex and Sexual Orientation During Your Study Abroad
(Photo by www.livingstylish.com)
Sex and sexual orientation are 2 different things that I’m going to tackle separately. First, let’s talk about sex. It’s important to remember that every time you have sex, even with protection (condom and birth control), there is always a risk for pregnancy and contracting an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). Protection and testing are not 100% fool proof or a guarantee that you will not get an STI or pregnant; merely, they can significantly lower the risks when used consistently and properly. I never got the point of a random hook-up. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would risk their health (and safety!) for a non-guaranteed 20 minutes of pleasure with a complete stranger. I’d much rather stay home and me débrouiller for a guaranteed good and safe time for as long as I want. Anyhoo, if random hook-ups are your thing, you need to follow these basic rules of etiquette and safety. These tips also work for anywhere in the world at anytime during your life.
- NEVER under any circumstances bring your date home for the evening to your host family’s house; I don’t care how close you are to the host family; I don’t care how accepting they are; I don’t care if they walk around in their underwear around you. You are NEVER to bring your evening romp to their home- EVER. This is inappropriate, weird and disrespectful.
- If you’re staying with roommates of the same age, make sure that you talk in advance about the rules for bringing dates home. Some people may be uncomfortable with a stranger staying the night in their home or eating that left over baguette they didn’t pay for in the morning before they leave.
- Go with your gut feeling. If you’re on a date and you’re feeling uncomfortable, leave immediately.
- NEVER go home/ to a hotel with someone that you just met a few hours ago. You should always try to get to know the person a little bit before hooking-up. It’s not a guarantee of safety but it’s better than not knowing them at all and gives you time to get STI tested.
- Always keep condoms or préservatifs with you. This goes for men and women of any sexual orientation. ALWAYS use protection against STIs.
- Ladies, if you’re into the opposite gender you need to use a form of birth control in addition to condoms. No exceptions!
Now that we’ve gone over common sex health and safety tips. Let’s tackle sexuality abroad. It’s important to remember that no place is really “anyone friendly”. When you combine millions of people with different religious beliefs, criminal and general backgrounds, political views, sexual orientation, age, gender, and overall values you can’t ever be guaranteed that any place is truly gay friendly; punk friendly; female friendly; black friendly, so on and so on. I guess you could consider France a gay friendly place as it legalized gay marriage a few years ago with no signs of it being overturned anytime soon. We could also assume that Paris is fairly gay friendly as the previous mayor was openly gay. However, just because the host city and country have accepting attitudes doesn’t mean that your host family feels the same way. This is a concern expressed by some students. They wonder if their host family will be accepting of their sexual orientation. There is no way to guarantee this and no reason why you should be declaring your sexual orientation to your host family. No matter what flavor you are, you need to keep this on the down-low with your host family. Remember, they are not your real family and do not have to accept you. Even studying abroad in France, I don’t recommend you to flaunt your sexuality or sexual orientation. Be discreet in your hook ups and think of your overall safety.
Dating during a study abroad can be exciting and a great way to really immerse into the local culture. However, it does come with its own set of responsibilities and distractions. Bonne chance!