I never thought that the cultural background of a dating prospect would make much of a difference when it came to relationships. However, since living in New York, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many different people from various backgrounds and it’s become clear that there are definite cultural norms specific to European men versus American men (especially New Yorkers). I’m not to judge that one is better than the other, and mind you, my observations are based on my own experiences as well as a group of women I’ve interviewed in the last two years. The below is a list of some of the themes and commonalities observed. Now, when I discuss the differences between European and American, I’m referring to a mindset. You can very well be born in America but have a more “European” mindset and vice versa.
1. European men aren’t just aiming to score. American men on the other hand, tend to be goal oriented, with the aim of getting laid. Perhaps this ‘score mentality’ is for bragging rights, perhaps it’s for validation so they can feel wanted and desired, or perhaps it’s a pure ego play. American men will rush to get you in bed as quick as possible, while European men don’t appear to have the same rush (or desperation).
2. European men don’t ‘date’ – in the formal way that Americans are used to. The types of dates seen in movies – the formal ask, the fancy dinner and the entire dance that ensues simply doesn’t exist in the European mindset, in fact, the word “dating” isn’t even a part of their lexicon. Sure, they will go out for dinner and do fun activities, but it’s not packaged up in a formal and contrived manner.
3. European men aren’t into labelling. Unlike American culture, where there’s almost a rite of passage which takes two people from “hooking up” to “seeing each other” to “dating” to “exclusive”, these labels just aren’t a focus or concern for European men. They don’t over analyze the situation. Rather, the mentality is, “I like you, I want to see you, and if it’s enjoyable, let’s keep seeing each other”. It’s more organic and instead of defining the relationship in order to know how to act, they let the relationship unfold and the label of boyfriend/girlfriend just naturally develops in the process.
4. European men are comfortable with women, which leads to respect for women. Perhaps this has to do with their upbringing, where it’s very normal for boys and girls to play and intermingle together. They grow up developing friendships with the opposite sex and in turn, develop more empathy and understanding of the opposite sex. In American culture, there is a clear segregation of the sexes, boys play with boys and do boy things and girls do the same. Then these boys grow up and are exposed to the opposite sex in an abrupt, often sexualized way. The consequence of this is a lack of understanding of women, a lack of comfort and often, a lack of respect.
5. European men are raised to have great manners. This is definitely seen in how they treat not only women, but everyone around them. There is a courtesy, consideration, chivalry and thoughtfulness in how they act, behave and engage with others. They are also raised with strong family and community values, so there is a sense of responsibility and accountability for others, not just for the self. American culture raises children to be fiercely independent and to look out for ‘number one’. This breeds a generation of men who have habits of looking after their own needs versus the needs of the collective.
6. Europeans don’t get their sexual education from porn. For example, in the Netherlands, comprehensive sexuality education starts at age four. In America, sexual education is not taught until one hits their teens, if they are taught at all. The topic is still taboo and filled with shame. It’s no surprise that American men are left to their own devices, subconsciously learning about sex through porn and the media.
“Many American men are getting their sexual education from porn.”
7. European men do not “ghost”. Instead of cruelly dismissing someone by disappearing, they communicate that they are not interested. Again, this comes down to respect and manners.
8. European men have a different perception of beauty. As the media in Europe is a lot more heavily monitored, Europeans grow up surrounded by media and images of women who are curvy, comfortable in their own skin, and sensual (versus overly sexualized). The latest law passed in France where excessively skinny models need to prove their health is a testament to that. But when you’re surrounded by American media, filled with Barbie dolls, waif skinny models and Baywatch breasts, the idea of what ‘beauty’ is becomes skewed.
9. European men have a quiet confidence, a demeanor that doesn’t need to scream out loud to prove themselves. The American way is loud and even arrogant at times.
10. American men like to date around. The dating culture involves trying out many different options at the same time. Call it the revolving door or hedging – there’s the idea in the American approach to dating that there’s always something better around the corner. With European men, if there’s mutual interest, they keep seeing that person and don’t keep hunting for better options simultaneously. The dynamic may or may not move into a serious relationship, but they are not trying to gather other options or back up plans in case it doesn’t.
11. European men don’t play games. Nor will they freak out when discussions of commitment or future come up. Americans (both men and women) have been socialized to play games, to act unavailable, to wait a particular amount of time before texting back… There are a set of ritualized rules that are abided by in American dating culture, and if you don’t play within them, you are labeled as desperate or needy or undesirable.
So does this mean the only hope for a happy, committed relationship is to move to another country? Not at all. As mentioned above, the observations summarized above are not really about where one is born, but rather a mentality that is influenced by societal and cultural values. We must be aware of our own behavior in the dating game, because we are active participants in how we are treated. We must take a look at who we are drawn to in the first place, and why. If you keep attracting (and are attracted to) men who are emotionally unavailable and who treat you poorly, then it really doesn’t matter if your dating prospects are from France, New York, Vancouver or Mars – the shift needs to occur within you first and foremost. In fact, you may be experiencing attractions of deprivation, where you try to recreate the issues from childhood in your romantic partners. To find out more, read this article on “Why Do Good Women Pick the Wrong Men.”