This post about dating in Colombia isn’t meant to read like a Carrie Bradshaw column from Sex in the City. Although if it was, it would be dubbed “Bangin’ in Bogotá.” Nor is it aimed at describing the difference between dating Colombian guys and men from the United States. Tons of articles and blog posts have already been written about that subject and most of them are filled with generalizations and stereotypes. Oh, Latin men love to dance? You don’t say. Tell me more.
I’m writing this post to describe what it’s like to date as a foreigner. Dating while living in your home country is hard enough, but it becomes even more challenging with a language barrier.
Before we delve in, you should know that my grasp on the Spanish language is like a 1-year-old trying to toddle across the room to get a cookie. Stumbles are common and there’s just an overall instability to the whole the situation.
Now that I live in Colombia and go out with guys who speak limited to no English, dating is a strange but exciting struggle that I hope I can look back on in a few years and laugh at with my smoking hot husband who also is a good listener and plays soccer. (Clearly my standards are not very high.)
If dating in the United States was a coy tango between myself and a gentleman, dating in Colombia is an awkward chicken dance. You can call me, but you will have to speak slowly into the phone. You can make jokes, but I might not get the punchline. You can whisper sweet nothings, but I might excuse myself to the bathroom to look up the word you seductively breathed into my ear.
On a date in the United States, I was able to eloquently represent myself, while skillfully weaving in hilarious antidotes that made me seem both interesting and down to earth. Okay, maybe that’s what I hoped for. In reality, I probably made one-too-many fart jokes and licked barbeque sauce off my fingers while the guy flagged down the waiter to bring the check as fast as humanly possible. Whatever the situation truly was, at least I felt like myself.
Dating in Colombia is stressful because I don’t have the language skills to authentically show my personality. The guy isn’t seeing the real me because I don’t know how to show it yet.
Conversely, the way I feel out guys on dates has changed now that I am using my second language. My Spanish isn’t good enough to read in between the lines or pick up context clues when someone speaks. It’s not as easy to fall into the over-analyzing trap that many women (and men) often do when dating a new person, so I have to take everything at face value. Although, I sometimes enlist the help of the translators at work to help me gain more context. “Psssst, come read this text he just sent me. I know what it means, but what does it really mean?”
Since I am not able to catch subtle clues just yet to help me form an opinion about a potential suitor, I use non-verbal methods: How does he carry himself? How does he interact with others like waiters or bartenders? Is he courteous? These are all the questions I should have been asking myself about guys in the United States, but those non-verbal cues are often overlooked when you speak the same language.
“I wish you could have seen me in the United States. I was different. I was better,” I once said in Spanish to a guy I had been seeing. What I meant, but couldn’t quite articulate, was that I was more confident and comfortable on dates in the United States. I was able to order what I wanted for dinner instead of pointing to an item on the menu because I didn’t want to sound out the difficult word like a second-grader struggling to read. I didn’t have to ask the guy three different times when and where we were meeting because I know I get easily confused in Spanish and I wanted to be 100 percent clear.
So other than wanting to take me to pound town, why would a Colombian guy, or non-English speaker, want to date me in the first place, knowing the challenges I bring to the table? I honestly have no idea. It must be exhausting having to speak slowly and explain words to me all the time.
When I was trying to lose weight (and eventually did), I felt so self-conscious about running on the treadmill at the gym. I ran so slowly and it felt like everyone was watching me. But I told myself that this discomfort was going to be worth it when I achieved a healthy weight. I just had to push through. That’s how my Spanish feels while dating. I know actually speaking and hearing it is the only way I’m going to reach my goal of becoming fluent, even if it feels awkward and uncomfortable right now.
Plus, the journey to fluency is a lot more exciting when the hottie across the table calls you “his queen” and has strong arms.