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Insider tips on navigating romance the world over.
Japan

On Valentine’s Day in Japan, girls buy boys chocolate. Boys buy girls … nothing. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. BUT, fellas, don’t think the Japanese chocolate industry is going to let you off that easy. Exactly one month later (March 14th) is White Day, when boys buy girls white chocolate. I once heard that the rule of thumb is that men should spend twice as much on White Day as the women spend on Valentine’s Day. If your budget’s tight, it might be a good time to plead cultural ignorance. Though the barrage of White Day advertisements might make that a bit hard to believe…

Courtesy of: Saleem Reshamwala

Laos

It is illegal for a foreigner to have sex with a Lao person, unless they are legally married. If you plan to, you risk being deported, or worse–spending time in a Lao prison. It is not unheard of for police to participate in extortion schemes where unsuspecting tourists are caught with a woman in their guesthouse room. Better not risk it, or make sure you know whom you are going home with after a night at the disco.

Courtesy of: Gabriel Shaya

Norway

If you want to buy a drink for the girl at the end of the bar, know that it is an investment. With the price of alcohol so high, the gesture implies you’d like more than a wave and some small talk. Dole out your gifts carefully because, in Norway, a free drink is not a frivolous gesture.

Courtesy of: Patrick McCue

Malawi

Displays of affection are common in Malawi, but you’re more likely to see them among members of the same sex than between men and women. Men hold hands while walking down the street or strolling through the market. Women are demonstrative as well, exchanging high fives, braiding a friend’s hair, and slapping each other’s shoulders genially while laughing. Do not, however, misinterpret these displays — homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and punishable by a maximum 14 years in prison. Men and women who hold hands or kiss in public won’t meet penalty, but such behavior is unusual and probably best to avoid.

Courtesy of: Rebecca Jacobson

Photo: cjbsaw

Egypt

For many Egyptians, the concept of a group of girls and guys being close platonic friends is beyond foreign. You’ll have to repeatedly explain to your friends that none of the guys are “yours.” Meanwhile, you might want to let some people assume you’re together. You’ll generally be left alone if you are (or claim to be) married. When traveling alone in Cairo I switched my ring to my right ring finger, indicating that I was married or seriously spoken for. Once strangers noticed this, they usually didn’t persist with unwanted advances.

Courtesy of: Delia Harrington

Mongolia

It’s not uncommon for a Mongol and a foreigner to go on a date, but be forewarned. If you’re a guy and a Mongol sees you walking with a Mongolian woman at night, it wouldn’t be a total surprise for him to give you a hard time and maybe even throw a punch. If you get pushed around for being with a Mongolian, show that you’re not messing around and they should leave you alone. Just keep it civil.

Courtesy of: Lindsay Myron

Community Connection

All of these tips come via Glimpse.org. Studying, living, or traveling abroad? Submit your own tip to Glimpse.

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Culture + ReligionRelationships

EgyptJapanLaosMongoliaMalawiNorway

 

About The Author

Sarah Menkedick

Matador Contributing Editor Sarah Menkedick has traveled, lived, and taught on five continents, and is constantly in pursuit of spicy food, dark beer, and new places to run. She is an MFA student at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • http://lonelygirltravels.com Lauren Quinn

    White chocolate?! What a rip!

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  • Val Hamer

    I love the way Japan (and Korea) make unofficial holidays so common. The thing with Valentine’s and White Day is that there are two types (maybe three) of giving. The romantic; the obligation and more commonly these days – the friendship chocolate.

    In the case of the former – outside of an established relationship – the gesture will be returned on White Day only if the man is romantically interested. A Japanese friend once told me that the gift of a white hankie (to dry your tears) was the way to reject the girl!

    • nik

      Somehow the whole White Day traditions has made its way to Hawaii as well. Except boys and girls give each other white chocolates.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/gypsynoir Shreya

    * makes a mental note to try to be in Japan one month after Valentine’s Day sometime *

  • http://annemerritt.blogspot.com Anne M

    I’ve heard that mixed couples risk a punch-up in China as well as Mongolia. Foreign men beware…

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  • http://www.wrinkledsoul.blogspot.com Aarthi

    May I add something about India, Not every Indian girl wants to get married to the man she went out with a few times… well at least not right away :)

    See my post for more:
    http://wrinkledsoul.blogspot.com/2010/05/like-can-be-just-as-tough.html

  • http://www.inkingstamp.com Elizabeth Taylor

    Hey can someone point a good website about How find the perfect dating partner?:,:

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  • AP

    NO!!
    you are already spoken for…:O)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/P7LT3AH5FOLOGOV46HPW37U24A KENNETHK

    Oh man I’ve found the perfect countries to be an ESL teacher in the future!You see I am truly one ugly son of a bitch and have zero game with women so I could be either in Laos or Mongolia and be completely justified for the total loser that I am!….”Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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