How to Stay Safe While Dating Abroad

Imagine this: you’re in a bar, and a stunning Italian man walks over to you smiling. He reaches for your hand and nods in the direction of the dance floor. You’re not up for dancing or leaving your friends, and kindly say “no, thank you” in your sweetest voice. He doesn’t speak English, but says something in Italian insisting that you join him. Immediately you feel uncomfortable but aren’t sure how to tell him no. After all, the only phrase you picked up in your Italian class was, “gelatoal cioccolatoper favore” (chocolate gelato, please).
 
With Love Abroad 101: The Rules of Dating Foreign Guys we gave you a few tips and tricks for attracting European guys. But, before that hookup gets you hooked into an uncomfortable situation, remember these rules for playing it safe, because whether you’re turning down a drink, or asking how old he is, you want to get your message across correctly and safely.
 
Personal safety expert and coach, and President of Project Safe Girls, Anny Jacoby, helps us break it down by scenario.
 
If he buys you a drink…

 
And you accept it, he might think he gets to “spend the night” with you.
 
Elizabeth Wagmeister, HC Campus Correspondent at the University of California at Santa Barbara, was studying abroad in Barcelona when she learned of this foreign custom.
 
“A German man (probably around 25 years old) came up to me at the bar and bought me a drink. I didn't think much of it so I accepted the drink, and was just talking to him with my friends for a bit,” she says. “Then he told me (straight to my face) ‘I want to sleep with you tonight.’"
 
She ignored his comment, set the drink down, and moved to the other side of the bar. But the guy was persistent. He followed her and continued to insist they sleep together - not something that would normally pass as acceptable in the United States. Realizing he wasn’t giving up, Elizabeth gathered up her friends and left the bar.
 
As much as we would like to get a free drink, to keep from getting in any awkward situations, Jacoby says, turn down a drink offer before he buys you one.
 
“We are always afraid we are going to hurt [guys’] feelings,” she says. “But if you’re not interested, just cut it off at the chase.”
 
If it’s too late, firmly tell him you don’t want the drink, or to sleep with him. If he becomes clingy, or continues to follow you around the bar, like in Elizabeth’s situation, collect your friends, and head someplace else. You can also tell security or the bartender that the person makes you feel uncomfortable (in Italian: scomodo, in German: unbequem, in Spanish: incómodo). Ask to be escorted out to be sure he doesn’t follow you.
 
If you hookup…

 
Forget the idea of the old casual hookup from back home. In Europe, if you hook up with the same guy more than a few times, this may mean you’re ‘dating’. Don’t be surprised if he expects to meet up the following few nights after hooking up at a club or bar, or acts as if you’re already dating.
 
Dating, or the American idea of it, consists of meeting, going out to a restaurant or movie, and then ultimately making it official.  This, 26-year-old Declan of Ireland says, rarely exists in Ireland. It’s often much more casual. Things don’t usually become ‘official,’ but if a girl shows any interest in a guy, it may be understood that they are together.
 
“Guys go out with their friends, inevitably, to the pub and try to 'score' as the saying goes,” Declan says, “If that happens on, say, more than three times, you're dating.”
 
The guy may be in the mindset that you’re dating while you’re thinking, “great hookup last night.” Keep in mind that he could become upset, or not understand why you’re dancing with or hooking up with another guy the following night. You would feel the same if your 2-month long hookup-buddy suddenly moved on to another girl without saying anything to you first!
 
Beware of this if you’re not looking for anything serious, but want to hang out with a guy regularly. Make sure you’re both on the same page about the relationship, and where it is headed. The best way to do that: use your translation dictionary. Learn the words for “relationship”, “date”, and “meet up”. When the German guy calls you “freundin”know this means girlfriend, and not friend.
 
If you go on a date…

 
Always do lunch.
 
To European men, Elizabeth says, “dinner dates can often imply that you want to ‘spend the night with him’ as well.”
 
As mentioned above, dating is often more casual in terms out of making things official. An invitation for dinner may be a “would you like to date?” in disguise.
 
To avoid this, suggest a restaurant or pub close to where you live, and have a friend tag along.
 
“Never go from point A to point B alone,” says Jacoby.
 
 Grabbing a coffee, rather than going out to dinner, also keeps things a bit more low-key.
 
Of course, if you’re up for more serious of a relationship, go ahead and take the dinner invite! Most likely, with the romantic ways of the Europeans, you won’t be paying for the pasta.