Expats and Love: Seeking It, Keeping It, and Letting It Go

. 5 min read

Every year, as February rolls around, for many expats and native-landers alike, our thoughts turn to love and romance. Sure, Valentine's Day is elevated in our hearts and minds by manufacturers of chocolates, greeting cards and (ahem) evening wear. Yet optimism abounds for many couples and singles looking for love. As Dean Martin used to sing, Everybody Loves Somebody. (Sometime, whether it's February 14th, or any other day of the year.)

Some expats move abroad with a specific goal - to find their soul mate and/or their life partner. According to online expat community InterNations, others are looking for adventure, to advance their career, or to pursue an education, and just happen to build a relationship with a significant other whilst overseas.  

As a once-married, currently single man north of Toronto, I don't profess myself to be an international "doctor of love" by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not a relationship therapist, or professional matchmaker. I am merely your guide through this digital discussion of finding, sustaining, and - alas, ending romance (if necessary) in - or from another nation.  

To set the mood for this article, might I suggest you queue up "Hey There Delilah" from the Plain White T's on your favourite music device or platform? It's the perfect song to set the mood for thinking about love from afar, or across borders. Here are the opening lyrics to stir your imagination. Apparently there is a real Delilah, by the way, in case you are wondering.

Hey there, Delilah
What's it like in New York city?
I'm a thousand miles away
But, girl, tonight you look so pretty
Yes, you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you
I swear, it's true

If you have a far away Delilah love of your own, or a Dave, a Denise, or even a Dilbert, I hope this article gives you hope that your cross border relationship can endure. Or that you can find love in far away places.  

Photo of a couple cuddling by Lauren Richmond on Unsplash

Long Distance Relationships

For those with a husband, wife, or other loved one, living the life as a "geographical single" is challenging. Consider spouses of those enlisted in the military on missions overseas, or those who love universities, journalists, rockstars, or actors who are in far-away lands. What of Trudie Sumner when Sting is touring with his theatre production of "The Last Ship"?  (Which I'm seeing next week. Looking forward to it.)

Some expat couples where one is contracted to work abroad may start out on their international journey together, but many spouses or S.O.s return to their home country to reunite with their adult children, friends and extended family. An InterNations survey shows that about one out of five of the expats they surveyed from countries like Denmark, Peru, the US, Australia and New Zealand were happy to live in another country to be with their spouse. Which leaves about four out of five couples with one partner unhappy living abroad, or where the couple lives apart most of the time.

Psychology Today suggests that couples in long distance relationships should:

  1. Make sure your goals are aligned, such as getting married some day (or co-habitating) when the time apart is over, or to have children.
  2. Use technology as a temporary bridge, and in addition to occasional in-person visits or phone calls (not as the exclusive communication channel).
  3. Have regular and spontaneous conversation.
  4. Neither partner should put their life on hold or isolate themselves.
  5. Build and maintain trust.

In scenarios like this, the person working away from their home country often uses international money transfer services to send money home to their loved ones. If you are a touring musician or contract worker that needs to send money home on a regular basis, forward contracts are an excellent way to save money, and keep the home fires of love burning, even from a distance.

In the digital era, quality time on an app like Skype, Facetime, or Google Duo, combined with a heart-felt letter and a generous cross-border money transfer are fine ingredients for any love potion. Take it from Doctor Love. Oh, right. I already admitted that isn't me.

Photo of women kissing by Tallie Robinson on Unsplash

Looking for Love or Landing it Overseas By Fate

Many of those looking for love flock to the traditional centers of love and romance, like Italy, France, Spain and Canada. I live in Canada, so maybe I am biased on that one. It's cold here in February, and love finds a way here. Digital nomads living the laptop lifestyle sometimes cross paths in their journeys around the world, and often reunite as they cruise around the globe in the gig economy. Websites like MeetUp and InterNations communities are often excellent resources to connect with your fellow expats from your home country.

The traditional countries listed above are no longer perceived as the world's most sought-after hotbeds of romance. Though Italy continues to be among the top 10 places for expats to find romance, France and Spain have been displaced by countries like:

  • The Philippines, Thailand, and Japan in Asia
  • Greece, Portugal, Finland, Poland and Turkey, in Europe
  • Brazil, Mexico, and dare I say, Canada (?) in the Americas

If you still need inspiration that love can be found anywhere, the next song on the XE jukebox is "Love is Where You Find it" from 1981 by The Whispers. Or, just listen to "Delilah" again. You do you.

When Love Doesn't Last

Long distance relationships, or those kindled overseas sometimes come to an unceremonious end. Just because you are far away, doesn't mean you should "ghost" the former object of your affection. A text is unforgivable, especially if you have already returned home.

ModernLoveLongDistance.com has some excellent advice on identifying the signs of a pending breakup of a long distance relationship, and Elite Daily advises about how to go through with the break-up itself.

You can always sing your former flame the Delilah song to ease their heartbreak.

Whether you're in a long distance relationship, if you're looking for love in a foreign country, or when you've lost that loving feeling (and it's gone, gone, gone,) living your best international life is never boring. For more relationship advice (from qualified professionals) during the Valentine's Day season, check out these great podcasts for couples.