Oh, l’amour, that feeling that causes butterflies on the stomach all around the world and that make us to be thinking about the other one all the day long with a stupid smile painted on the face.  But… is it really Universal? Or better said… is it really expressed in the same ways in all the different societies or there are differences according to the culture you belong to?

One of the best things that living abroad has is the possibility that it brings to you for getting to know different realities. And given that today is San Valentine’s, there is nothing better than talk about how Love works in the four countries I had the chance to know better during the last months: POLAND, THE NETHERLANDS, ITALY and SPAIN. They are of course generalizations (so, OF COURSE, they are just tendencies and of course it DOES NOT MEAN that everyone is like this), and, above all, they are things that I HAVE OBSERVED or that I HAVE BEEN TOLD; so it might not be the reality itself, but just a piece of the reality I had the chance to have contacted with.

Here we go:

POLAND. The relationships in Poland are marked by the strong Catholicism that identifies the country. In this way, they are built on traditional values and follow strict and conservative rules. A big part of the friends of my Polish 23-years-old friends are already married; some of them have already children. People propose after two or three years of dating. Young couples does not necessarily wait for the end of their bachelors to get married: in Poland there is a lot of jobs, so most of the students are able to be economical independent; and in this sense, they do not perceived the need of waiting in order to start a family. Sex is a not-spoken-topic. Sexuality is not openly sold on the TV shows nor on the music clips.  Even if, nowadays, most of the young people have sex before marriage, sex is perceived as something that has to be necessarily linked with Love and with a really stable partner.

THE NETHERLANDS. In contrast with the previous nationality, Dutch people do not like to get engaged at all. They just panic labels and, because of that, they simply avoid them. They are able to date someone for one year and they will still perceive her/his as “someone-I-am-seeing-regulary-and-with-whom-I-have-sex-and-fun-but-of-course-it-is-nothing-serious”.  In this sense, it is weird for them to have a stable girlfriend or boyfriend before the 24 years old. Sex is openly talked and Dutch people totally understand it as an activity not necessarily linked with Love. They would admit way easier that “I am having sex with X” than “I am actually in love with X” (just the opposite than the Polish).

ITALY. Italians like long-term-relationships. This is one thing that you realized when you first meet a group of them and you find out that the shortest relationship between them is a six-years-long one. “Isn’t it a thing for you Spaniards the girlfriend-of-the-high-school?”, they would ask you, without understanding your shocked-face. “Yeah… – you would answer – and most of them break up during the first year of the University”. In this sense it seems that Italians do not like being single and that somehow they are afraid of it given that understand “being single” as “being alone”. I guess this is why they keep they relationship over the time despite the crisis or problems they might have. And I guess that this could explain why cheating is a kinda common tendency in here.

SPAIN. And what about the most-beautiful-country-in-the-world? (:P) Spain represents, of course, the normality. Are you guys surprised? You shouldn’t. Taking into account that I am Spaniard, the features of the relationships we have establish my parameters of the (read as “my“) normality. And, even more, those are the parameters from which I understand and process the realities of other countries. That’s why I pointed out the features I described above: because they called my attention given that we are not like this; we are not as traditional as Polish people are, we do have stable relationships before the 24 and we do not have so long-term relationships, unless not when we are in our twenties. I guess that, in order to describe my country, a non-Spaniard person should do it; and I guess that, if a non-Spaniard person would describe the previous nationalities, they would probably point out different aspects. Sometimes it is just incredible how different the same reality can be perceived. You guys are, of course, welcome to do it 😉

– Inés –