Transatlantic Dating. You’ve done it. You’ve done what, for many, is the ultimate goal, the dream, the golden ticket. You’re dating a Brit.
You’ve updated your Facebook status, posed for the obligatory Instagram new-couple selfie and giggled adoringly at their pronunciation of ‘aluminum’ (they will insist on that on second ‘i’, won’t they?).
But other than your different pronunciations of periodic element #13, the two of you are going to be pretty similar… right? I mean, our two great nations have a deep and interwoven history… but things are pretty different across the pond.
We Americans may feel we have a better comprehension of what the Brits are like after having watched Four Weddings and a Funeral for the seventeenth time, but there are a plethora of differences, big and small, between dating customs either side of the Atlantic. It might pay to be aware of some of the potential cross-cultural roadblocks to come.
On first dates, American women tend to be rather more self-conscious than do their British counterparts. While the American ladies might remain cautious over their appearance and maintain conversation that is entirely politically-correct, British women are more inclined to eat, drink, say and do whatever they want.
That said, British men who have dated American women often report that the first date felt almost like a formal interview, with questions regarding specifically what they do, where they studied, even their earnings. The British are far more worried that such enquiries might come across as prying, or even downright rude.
On the other hand, while American men on dates are rather more communicative, tactile and affectionate, British men are commonly perceived by American women as being a little reserved. While this can be misconstrued as the gent being, perhaps, boring or lacking in expression, it is often merely a mask for his nerves, hiding that famous dry British wit – which will often make an appearance after a drink or three. Which reminds me…
It’s no secret that Brits are big fans of the booze, but did you know that this extends into their dating culture, too? Drinking on dates is often seen an essential component of the British scene – and getting ‘
hammered’, as the Brits say, is fairly standard. While many Americans opt for liquid courage on dates, it’s by no means considered requisite – and the Brits are likelier to end up dancing on the tables and tripping over the rug on their way out the door.
And that’s to assume that the date will occur in the evening…
This is basically unheard of in the UK. The Brit is a nervous creature, and only once the sun has passed behind the hills overlooking the green pastures will they emerge tentatively from the woodwork and head for the pub. Meeting in the daytime would be considered a signal of a more serious intention. If a Brit were asked out for a daytime date in the US, they may well misinterpret this as being invited out as a friend! And that’s not the only time you might run into transatlantic misinterpretation…
You might want to hold your horses on that Instagram selfie. In the US, dating several people at once is fairly ordinary; people may even wordlessly expect that the person they are dating is seeing other people – if it isn’t just explicitly stated. And even if it is stated, it is by no means a euphemism for ‘I am sleeping with everyone I’m currently dating’ – which is where some misunderstanding can creep in.
The US dating scene is actually quite rigidly structured compared to that of the UK. How soon should you call after a date? How long should you wait before sex? In the UK, the attitude is much more one of going with the flow, muddling through haphazardly and seeing how you feel on the night – in fact, this is often seen as part of the excitement and fun of dating. Plus, Brits tend to ‘see’ one person at a time – and, crucially, a relationship gradually evolves after several dates. It doesn’t necessitate a label, as is often the case in the US.
A Brit could be somewhat horrified if they discovered the person they were dating was seeing other people at the same time, to the point where they might even accuse them of cheating. In the US, however, there generally comes the time for The Talk, in which exclusivity is discussed. The Talk is far less common among Brits. And once you’ve had The Talk, at some point it’s going to be time to…
Meet the parents
In the US, meeting the parents is a fairly major milestone in the relationship. We Americans yearn for the approval of our newly-beloved’s folks – and it’s a big deal to not get the thumbs-up. In the UK, meeting the parents is a characteristically less formal, less structured occurrence – and, while it’s preferable to get affirmation from the parents, if they don’t like you then they can, as the Brits say, ‘get on their bike’. (I learned this wonderful British euphemism for, essentially, ‘Go **** yourself’ from a British friend.)
Picking up strangers
Both Brits and Americans are equally likely to meet potential romantic interests through mutual friends, but we Americans also commonly meet strangers in the coffee shop, the gym, the mall. In the US, mutual eye contact and small talk in a public place can often lead to an exchange of numbers and the arrangement of a date. In the UK, picking up strangers is basically unheard of (remember, nervous creatures!). Brits are more likely to rely on those tried-and-tested dating apps.
After matching on a dating app or website, Brits are keen to meet in person; they consider the texting game to be a bit of a rigmarole. By quickly meeting up, they can assess the other person’s character (and attractiveness) and thereby waste neither person’s time if the chemistry, the spark, just isn’t there. Here in the US, things are a little more gradual: texting might graduate to phone calls, with the final face-to-face meeting a somewhat weightier affair.
The big day
Well, this is what it’s all been leading up to. This is it. The moment.
The Americans are on one side, your friends, your family. On the other side, your beloved Brit’s nearest and dearest – the American ones their usual jovial selves, the British ones decidedly twitchier (the bar doesn’t open for a few hours yet). But the differences between American and British weddings are numerous and fascinating. Let’s dig a little deeper.
- Regulations. The British wedding is a more tightly regulated affair than is its US counterpart. In the UK, you require a 28-day notice – in the US, there is a mere 24-hour wait for a marriage license. The US also has no residency requirement on nuptials, meaning tourists can come and marry as they please. Registrar weddings are far more common in the UK; in the US, people who desire a nonreligious ceremony often opt instead for a humanist or otherwise secular officiant.
- Before the wedding. In the US, pre-wedding activities, such as the bridal shower and rehearsal dinner, are staple parts of the marriage as a whole. In the UK, they simply do not exist. The only activity the Brits have in common is the bachelor/bachelorette party (‘stag/hen do’ over there). However, whereas the ceremony itself might go on for around seven hours maximum in the US, British ceremonies tend to be all-day affairs, lasting upwards of twelve hours!
- Bridesmaids. The British bride will commonly purchase her bridesmaids’ dresses as well as her own; this is not practiced in the US. The bridal party will generally precede the bride into the venue in the US – in the UK, the bride goes first. American bridesmaids generally stand beside the bride; in the UK, they sit. Furthermore, British bridesmaids often accompany the bride in wearing white – in the US, to wear white when you are not the bride is considered a major faux pas.
- Men’s roles. In the US, the maid of honour gives a toast; in the UK, it is generally only the men who deliver speeches. The American groom will generally give only a brief toast, thanking the guests, whereas the British groom is generally anticipated to give a full speech. In terms of tradition, the American groom will face his bride-to-be as she enters the venue; the British groom will face away until she is alongside him.
- First dance. US? After the couple are ‘announced’ into the dining room – before dinner, of course. UK? After the meal – and after the cake has been cut.
- Hats. US? Unheard of. UK? Expect every woman to be donning some form of elaborate headwear or fascinator.
- Guests. While in the US the guest list is generally all-encompassing, the British guest list generally ranks people, with an element of exclusivity to the ceremony itself, limiting the numbers to family and friends – the reception is then open to acquaintances and dates.
Are you destined for transatlantic dating?
Here at The Vida Consultancy, our extensive network of exceptional singletons spans the entire globe, with especially large concentrations in New York City and London. If you’ve always been enamored with that clipped British twang, with that awkward demeanour and self-deprecating wittiness, why not get in touch today? Our 85% success rate speaks for itself, and our expertise is second to none. And don’t just take our word for it – why not read what previous happy clients have said about us? Contact us today – fall in love tomorrow.