Managing Relationships Abroad

We hope that while abroad, you’ll become friends with locals, other international students, and students from the US.  However, managing interpersonal relationship, whether romantic or platonic, abroad can be challenging (you might be noticing a trend here). Here are some things to consider: 

  1. Language Barriers:  We all make language mistakes when we go abroad- there are idioms, vocabulary, and other language issues that we all experience.  However, when you are considering interpersonal relationships, you should be aware of these language challenges.  That said, any individual that is worth your time will be patient and understanding. 

  1. Cultural Understandings: This is a big one.  Be aware that actions as simple as giving someone your cell phone number can have much different implications overseas as in the United States.  Other cultural interactions – the amount that some texts you, what a kiss means, or an invitation to dinner – can all have unwanted or undesired implications. 

  1. Gender and Sexuality: Cultural understanding of gender and sexuality varies from country to country, and even region to region.  Whether or not to respond to cat calls, what it means to identify as gay or trans, interactions between different genders – all of these cultural subtleties are part of forming relationships with people overseas. 

So, what should you to do navigate these situations?  Your faculty and local staff can be great resources for helping you to understand the host culture and social relationships.  Associate yourself with individuals that are patient and willing to help you understand your new environment. 

Last, but not least, don’t let yourself be lured into a sense of false security simply because someone speaks English.  We are drawn to people who are like us, and in many cases overseas, speaking the same language might be the immediate draw that brings two individuals together.  That said, the similarities between you and the other individual may end there.  It’s not to say that you shouldn’t associate and take advantage of finding people who speak English.  Just don’t assume that they are automatically good people or that you have any more in common than a shared language.