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The idea that a meeting is a date or not has to be clarified. You can’t just have a drink with a colleague, and let the romantic interest to-be-determined. Americans, as I understand it, tend to have “the talk” which is a clear idiom for an actual conversation where they mutually decide to “be exclusive”, i.e. not take dates with other people. Timing, number of dates and all that are also fairly established.

I have regularly seen in several countries in Europe a relationship going from inexistent to committed, public and exclusive in a matter of hours. “Having the talk” is often understood as an intent to break-up (because it sounds like “We need to talk”). Whether a meeting has a romantic interest is never really expressed: it’s generally either obvious or purposely vague than anything. That has lead many American friends in Europe very frustrated with the dating scene, because it comes off as unreadable. Europeans in the US can find the formalism icky, but they generally adapt more easily.

There are also far more differences between European countries (wolf-calls are apparently common in Italy; Scandinavia can come of as the opposite) than with the US — but formalism is certainly the big one.




As a young American, I don't really agree with this and this is definitely not the norm among my peers. It reminds me of the common misconception that Americans wear their shoes inside. Everywhere I've lived (Midwest) it's generally considered rude to wear your shoes inside, unless it's a dirty environment (e.g. the apartment of some messy college guys) or sometimes a party. I've heard keeping them on is the norm in areas like California / Arizona, though.


I tend to keep my shoes on in someone else's house, unless they are a relative or friend, or unless they say something along the lines of "make yourself at home." Although I don't wear shoes in my own home, I don't think it would be rude if someone else were wearing shoes in my house, maybe just weird. Another determinant is carpet vs hardwood floors: I'm more likely to wear shoes in a house with a lot of hardwood flooring compared to a house with carpeted flooring.

I can see why Americans would be viewed as tending to wear shoes inside, since I've seen a much stricter adherence to not wearing shoes inside in Japan (to the point of having separate footwear for bathrooms).


European here, this might explain that awkward time when my American girlfriend tried to have the formal talk with me and I thought it wasn't necessary.


> Americans, as I understand it, tend to have “the talk” which is a clear idiom for an actual conversation where they mutually decide to “be exclusive”

American here. Neither I nor, to my knowledge, any of my close friends in relationships have had this "talk" you speak of. In my experience, expectations around monogamy (or not) are not explicit but typically pretty clear from the nature of the relationship.


I'm curious how much of this view comes from watching American movies. At least amongst young Americans, it seems that dating formalities are almost completely non-existent. People are entirely ambiguous and frequently hooking up with multiple people simultaneously.


That was implicit when I described “becoming exclusive”; outside of some universities or a confessed “player” personality, that would not be common in Europe.


I guess I have a different idea of formalism, because American hookup culture seems to be the opposite of formal to me.


American hookup culture != American dating culture


This was a very interesting read, thanks for sharing it with us. As an italian, however, I've to say that wolf-calls here are definitely perceived as very rude and as a thing of the past.


What's a wolf-call?


It’s not clearly defined, but it goes from: narrowly, the howling that Tex Avery’s wolf character does when he sees an attractive female to, more generally any equivalent reaction: whistling, clapping, openly appreciative remark.

Practitioners generally describe it as a positive reaction; feminists see it as sexist and objectifying, up classify it as sexual aggression.


Thanks for this post. As a European I wasn't aware these rules actually existed. I thought they were merely "Hollywood" tropes to have explicit romantic interest in fiction while keeping a G rating.


A lot of it might have started that way —French kissing for instance has a complicated and not well documented history of misunderstood euphemisms– but they have influenced culture and expectations. Most people have lived through less relationships and break-ups in real life than they’ve seen in movies.


That's true. In the EU, it's the context of the relationship itself that determines exclusivity, I have never seen people needing to declare it explicitly.

> Whether a meeting has a romantic interest is never really expressed

That's because to most Europeans a meeting is just a meeting, a pleasant way to spend some time in conversation and maybe getting to know a person better. Romantic interest, a friendship, or an acquaintanceship, may develop from that. If it doesn't end up being romantic in nature, that doesn't usually mean the meet-up is considered a failure.

Now, I would contrast that sharply with "player" behavior (as applied to both sexes), which is virtually the same in both the US and the EU.


As someone who is not from EU nor USA, this certainly is a relevation.




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