Love and dating are both found all over the world, but ideas about them aren’t always the same. During the past six months in Germany, I’ve learned that there are some differences between the mindset of couples and dating in the United States and the mindset in Germany.

One difference that I found particularly interesting is that young, college-age people in German tend to stay in a relationship for a longer period of time as compared to what I have observed in the U.S. During the orientation class I took in September, our teacher told us that many young Germans will date their significant others for quite a long time, often up to four or five years, or more.

Our teacher also mentioned that at the University of Tuebingen, the university where I am studying, most students are involved in a long-term relationship. While I do know people my age in the U.S. who have been dating the same person for an extended period of time, I would say that I know more people whose relationships last a few months, or sometimes even just weeks, rather than several years. So I was somewhat skeptical to hear that the norm in Germany is to be in a long-term relationship lasting for multiple years.

However, my teacher’s claim was later given real-life substance when the topic of couples and dating came up with my tandem partner. My tandem partner is a girl I meet up and chat with each week, so that I can practice speaking German and she can practice her English. On one such occasion, we were discussing relationships.

After telling her about a relationship of mine which lasted six months, she told me that she had been with both of her two previous boyfriends for six years each. Even though I’d already known that relationships in Germany tend to last longer, I was still slightly shocked when she told me. I found it odd that a couple could be together that long without eventually committing to be together for life. But as with everything else here in Germany, nothing is strange, better or worse, it is simply just different.

Another difference I learned during my orientation class was that when a German couple first begins to date and gets to know each other, they share their first kiss after a longer period of time compared to a similar couple in the U.S.. Apparently, this is also true for other countries, because some of the international students in my class mentioned that compared to the U.S., in their country the first kiss tends to occur later in a relationship.

I’m sure there are exceptions to this tendency and I’m sure there are differences between every couple, just like every relationship in the U.S. is different, but it was interesting for me to learn that there are even cultural differences attached to the first kiss. The vast array of cultural differences between Germany and the U.S. extend to every part of life, and learning about and experiencing these cultural differences has been a large part of my last six months abroad.

The thoughts expressed are those of the writer, and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Claire Johnson at torch@valpo.edu.

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