Kacey Margo has been going on plenty of fun dates ever since she moved to Paris in October 2019. Men frequently approach her with the dramatic antics seen in Disney movies.
“This one guy was like, ‘I ran through traffic just to look into your eyes once, and if you don’t want to go on a date with me, I can die happy knowing that I just met you,’” said Ms. Margo, a 28-year-old English teacher from Los Angeles.
After studying abroad in Paris in 2016, Ms. Margo fell in love with the city (and its men). She found a gig teaching English in Paris and moved there after she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in May 2019.
Now, Ms. Margo is living a dream of many American women who are seeking relationships abroad, some of whom cite the toxic dating scene in the United States.
Tinder Passport, a subscription service that allows users to match with people in a destination of their choice, is one of the app’s most popular features, with a majority of members using it up to nine times a month, said Stephanie Danzi, the senior vice president of global marketing at Tinder. From 2022 to 2023, there was a distinct increase in the number of female members shifting interest to unique locations.
There is even a dating show that premiered last month on the cable channel Freeform, “Love Trip: Paris,” where four American women move to an apartment building in Paris filled with eligible French darlings. Although each woman has various levels of dating experience, they are all looking to find a French lover. (“I’m in Paris to find my woman,” Caroline Renner, 26, said on the season premiere. “I am looking for a fresh start,” Josielyn Aguilera, 26, said.)
“Paris is, for a lot of people, the epitome of romance,” said Susan House, the executive producer of the show. “American women love Paris.” Romanticized images of an American woman in a beret roaming through the streets of Paris, kissing a French partner by the Eiffel Tower — they are enchanting for many. (Think: “Emily in Paris.”)
But there are other reasons people want to date outside the United States.
For Ms. Margo, a Black woman who attended predominantly white institutions throughout her school years, she felt ignored in the United States, as if she “was not an option,” she said. In Paris she felt seen.
As for the women in “Love Trip: Paris,” they were all exhausted with casual dating in the United States.
“They felt like by going to a different country, suitors are more serious, or there’s more intention behind their actions,” Ms. House said. It’s a sentiment that is shared by many American women who have had disappointing dating experiences in the states and feel that moving to a different country might help them open up to the idea of love again.
Alexis Brown, for example, noticed a lack of “effort and intention” from the men she was dating in Atlanta, where she attended Spelman College.
“The dating culture in the U.S. is that it’s cool and normalized to be indifferent to someone and not really express how you genuinely feel,” Ms. Brown, 23, said.
When she traveled across Europe for vacation from October 2022 to January 2023, however, the people she dated made it clear that they wanted to spend time with her.
“Their interest could have been tied to the fact that I was just different from anybody they had ever met before,” said Ms. Brown, who works in communication and social media. Regardless, she appreciated making meaningful connections and new encounters.
“I was just open and interested in meeting different people and having cultural exchanges,” she said.
Cepee Tabibian, who moved to Madrid at 35 from Austin, Texas, felt similarly. She was excited to meet people in Spain, where she noticed a culture of getting married or having children later in life than in the United States, or not getting married at all. “When I walked into the room, I wasn’t the oldest person,” Ms. Tabibian said. “I wasn’t the only single person.”
In Austin, dating apps became tiresome for her. “I felt like every guy was the same guy,” she said. “I felt like if I stayed there, I’m probably going to be single forever.”
Being in a new environment made Ms. Tabibian “very playful” in dating. “I didn’t have the history of dating guys in Spain,” she said. “I wasn’t jaded.”
Going on dates that were spoken entirely in Spanish was also an enjoyable challenge for Ms. Tabibian, who is Iranian and Colombian but did not grow up speaking Spanish.
In 2020, she met her partner, who is Spanish. Now, she is the founder of She Hit Refresh, a community that helps women over the age of 30 move to a different country.
For Cindy Sheahan, meeting people outside of her circles in Denver was momentous. She started traveling solo shortly after ending her 30-year marriage in 2016.
She found the men she dated in Denver after her divorce to be unadventurous. She said she went on 60 dates in 2017.
“It was like a comedy show,” she said.
At the end of 2017, she quit her job and traveled throughout Southeast Asia for leisure, and she started using Tinder.
“Because they were out there living their life, there was a lot more energy to the dates,” Ms. Sheahan, 61, said about the people she met while traveling. “It wasn’t just somebody meeting after their work at the bank, on their way home to let out the dog in Denver.”
In 2018, she met her partner of five years, Jean-Marie Mas, a 61-year-old professional tandem paraglider from Dordogne, France, in Nepal.
“You’re not tied to your history,” said Ms. Sheahan, who now lives in Porto, Portugal. “You’re living more freely.”
For Frantzces Lys, it was also important to be around people who are passionate about traveling. She found dating to be difficult in the United States, but ultimately she crossed paths with her current partner, Samiyyah Williams, after buying a one-way ticket to Thailand. She had just experienced a breakup in Silver Spring, Md., and the move was a part of her healing journey, she said.
She started a podcast called “Chronicles Abroad” with her co-host, who had met Ms. Williams, 40, in Malaysia. In 2018, Ms. Lys interviewed Ms. Williams, the founder of a consultancy, and the two kept in touch. They started dating years later.
“When you decide to just live your life for yourself, you actually end up stumbling upon people that match your energy and the same ideals and values,” said Ms. Lys, a 42-year-old founder of a wellness company.
So, it’s not just about the country. “Can you go to a beautiful city and find love, or are you bringing your baggage with you?” Ms. House, the executive producer of “Love Trip: Paris” said. That was the social experiment of the dating show after all: “You take these four women who have had a lot of issues dating, and now they’re in Paris. They have a lot of the same issues,” Ms. House said.
“I would argue that somebody isn’t just looking for love, they might be seeking out something more deep in themselves,” said Jess Carbino, a former sociologist for Tinder. “The issues we have transcend geographic borders in terms of what is motivating us internally.”
That is precisely why the focal point for many women moving abroad is to learn more about themselves in a new environment; dating is just a piece of the bigger picture.
Ms. Brown, for example, had underwhelming dating experiences in the United States, but she also wanted to be in a new space. She traveled to 25 cities in 15 countries in three months.
“I felt like it would be hard for me to figure out what I want my life to look like in the same environment that I’ve always been in,” Ms. Brown said. That included learning more about what valuable connections look like for her.
“I really don’t know that I’ve ever been treated better,” she said about one man she dated in Vienna, who was equally interested as she was in planning thoughtful dates. “If somebody that I met two days ago can treat me this well, I should focus on building relationships with people who are intentional and want to do the same.”
Ms. Tabibian said that anyone who is jaded about dating should definitely try dating abroad. “It can really feel like you’re living in your own rom-com,” she said.
And while these women take the theatrical romantic encounters with a grain of salt, they serve as a reminder to reject thoughtless advances.
“Now, you won’t catch me accepting a date where a guy is like, ‘Let’s pregame in my car,’” Ms. Brown said, reflecting on a previous encounter she had. “That’s an immediate block.”
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