So I was with one of the co-hosts of our podcast Erik Thorbecke in the wonderful city of Vemtura one night, doing a modest little bar crawl with some of his friends. I talked to one of his buddies whom I hadn’t formally met before that night, a really cool dude who is a traveler and photographer amongst many other things. I was really impressed and inspired by him as I’d never met someone who traveled as much as he had at his age. As we were getting to know each other, naturally the subject of relationships came up. He told me he was getting to know a girl he had met in France, which I found interesting.
My natural reaction was a little shocked and empathetic of his situation, as most people would be; it’s hard enough to try to maintain any kind of relationship here, be it family, friends, romantic interests, etc., let alone with someone who lives over seas.
To my surprise though, he expressed comfortableness and satisfaction over the situation. And this wasn’t the kind of easefulness one expresses as a way to comfort themselves in a situation they know they’re supposed to be anxious over. He was legitimately ok with the prospect of being in a relationship with somebody that far away, or having any kind of friendship for that matter. My narrow mind was again surprised, and after expressing curiosity over his comfortableness, he told me that while long distance relationships are harder to maintain, there are deeper connections that exist between people here, and someone in Europe.
I fond this to be very interesting, since most people would gauge the strength or depth of a relationship with proximity as one factor of reference; the closer you are, the more frequently you are engaged in real life interaction, the stronger and easier the bond will be, at least that’s what most of us are inclined to think. But my buddy noticed something different that I found very interesting. He pointed out to me three factors that contribute to there being a more genuine bond between an American and a European who see each other once a year, than two people who live in the same country.
1. Different Education System
It wouldn’t seem like education would have anything to do with this conversation. But my traveling friend explained that because they receive an education that’s much higher, more practical, and more easily accessible, even having college available to them for free, allows most to become more socially adept at a much younger age. This sounds like a stretch, but when you think about it, relationships aren’t something that can’t be quantified or calculated, because they’re emotionally based. The education, independence, and responsibilities that are introduced to Europeans at an early age makes them susceptible to more maturity, a crucial contribution to stronger, more meaningful relationships.
2. Europe Is More Culturally Diverse
Although America can be considered a significant cultural “melting pot”, if you live here, think about how you react when you meet somebody from another country. While it’s true America gets many international visitors, Europeans aren’t as surprised to run into someone who speaks a different language from theirs. In fact, learning multiple languages is a normal part of their curriculum there. The diversity there allows them to be more in touch with different cultures, broadening their perspective and tolerance.
3. Travelers Make The World Go ‘Round
Traveling is a norm for Europeans, especially for students and graduates. Traveling not only broadens their perspective, but exposes them to more relationships with people from very different walks of life. This would naturally force an individual to sift through friendships and companions to prioritize who means the most to them and why. Americans are used to, once again, building close friendships and relationships based on proximity, while for Europeans, just the opposite can be said in many cases. While they have their hometown acquaintances, it’s impossible for them to cut ties with everyone they meet from different cultures. So when they do find someone who tickles their fancy, the bond is sincere, genuine, and strong.
What do you guys think? How would you feel about expanding your circle of friends or romantic partners to that of another country?