The Expat Dating Game

09 March 2006

The Cheat's Valentine's Day article. He says your full house becomes a meer two-pair when you go from tourist to expat in the dating game for expats living in Spain.

No one needs a manual on dating in Spain.  This country is synonymous with flirting, partying and getting into trouble, ringing to the tune of 55 million visitors annually, most of whom go home with stories of great times and great sex.  This is after all the country in which we find Ibiza, Europe’s answer to hedonism and excess, so dating here should come as a sort of natural by-product, right?  Living here, who hasn’t had “one of those nights” that started out innocently enough, then quickly developed into a bacchanal tournament of liver destruction involving one or several unnaturally attractive young people?

It turns out that quite a lot of expats don’t find dating to be one of living in Spain’s greatest assets, if an impromptu survey among my flock is any indication.  We are all in a new land and the rules are pretty different here, and as I look around at my dozen or so expat friends I can’t fail to notice that expats tend to meet, date and pair up predominantly with other expats.  Are we looking for shared experience? 

One of my friends recently told me that she didn’t feel like herself when speaking to some guy in Spanish.  Aha!  So it’s a confidence issue I fired back.  You need to improve your Castellano and then you’ll be fine. 

Um, no.  I call your attention once again to the millions of happy tourists that never have problems hooking up during their stays in our wonderful country, and 90% of them cannot even order a churro with any proficiency.  Clearly being on holiday opens the floodgates of courage and as such, most people manage to find a good time without any problem whatsoever.  Living here day in and day out brings reality crashing down.  All of a sudden it’s not cute to butcher the pronunciation of the letter “j” and the guys and girls at your local bar aren’t excited by another guirri with a bad accent on the hunt in their community.  In short, by living here you are no longer an exotic person drifting on your way to adventure, you’re just one of us, only you can’t speak properly and will never understand the true importance of a Madrid - Barcelona football game.  That’s harsh.

I have always likened meeting people of the opposite sex to a poker game, where success goes to whomever can keep a straight face the longest, and feel like they have nothing to lose.  That’s easy when your return flight is tomorrow, and you don’t care what happens tonight as long as it doesn’t involve the police.  Living here raises the stakes because now your card values are different, and maybe you are hoping to find someone that lasts beyond tomorrow morning.  Other expats offer similar card values and more to the point, you can read them easier.  But lower risk means lower gains.  Love isn’t investment banking, it’s gambling.

So what’s the secret to dating the Spanish successfully?  I have no idea, but my guess is to go out and have fun like a tourist, which is to say to be uninhibited and carefree.  They like us like that because they exhibit those qualities themselves.  Northern European and North American people flock to Spain and Ibiza to taste this lifestyle in little bites, but you have decided to make it your whole life.  So stop starring at that Danish in line ahead of you at the chiringuito, go talk to that cute local now and just don’t think about anything.  Genuinely enjoying yourself, I find, is pretty damned attractive. 

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