The culture of dating as shared by students from Europe, Asia, Polynesia, Latin America, the United States, and Africa

Written by: 
Hailey Kenyon and Dani Castro
In some cultures, a date is an opportunity to get to know the other person

Dating customs vary from culture to culture and person to person. For example, in some cultures, people only date after they know each other and are serious about each other, but in other cultures, dating is more casual and is seen as a way to get to know people. BYU-Hawaii students shared their traditional customs and modern-day dating standards from around the world. They discussed the role dating has in their own countries and on campus.

However, the descriptions of dating are only the perspectives of the individual students and not necessarily their whole nation.

What does it mean in your culture if someone asks you on a date?

Adam Jonsson a sophomore from Sweden majoring in business management, said, “It means they have some sort of interest of the person they ask out. Usually people know each other quite well before asking them out.”

Hans Nieto, a sophomore from Ecuador studying business management, said, “It would mean the person is interested in getting to know you, with the possibility something romantic might happen with time...  It doesn’t necessarily mean the person is looking for a romantic relationship right away, but instead to get to know you better to see if they can find a good connection as a result of that date. It could end up in a friendship, a romantic relationship or nothing. In our culture, we are very open to any possibility.”

Aseri Matiavi, a freshman from Fiji studying business management, said, “Asking someone on a date means getting to know a person.... Back at home it means you are looking for a serious relationship, a person you want to spend a lifetime with. It is a serious step, not very casual.”

Rute Berehe, a sophomore from Ethiopia majoring in engineering, said, “We don’t really go on dates in my culture. If a guy likes a girl and she knows and likes him back, he’ll tell her, and if she accepts it, they will start going out on dates. They both already know each other and it starts with a friendship before dating. Dating is a more serious commitment.”

Jensen Bilan, a junior from the Philippines studying TESOL, said, “In my culture, if you ask someone out on a date, you would already be courting them. It’s a bit different from here where you ask someone out on a date as a casual thing.  You can mean it as a casual thing or you’re interested in them, but when you’re asked on a date in my culture, you are already asking them to become your boyfriend or girlfriend.”

Aaron Wong, a senior from China studying accounting, said, “If someone asks you on a date, it means they want to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Before you ask someone to date you, you will look at him or her for a long time, find out who they are, whom they hang out with, and you try to find out if you’re interested in them. When the time is right, you ask them on a date.... In my culture it is more of a serious commitment than Western culture.”

Gabriel Meyer, a freshman from Arizona studying marine biology, said, “I think if someone asks you on a date, it’s a sign that the person has an interest in getting to know you on a more one-on-one setting.”

Are there specific customs expected of men or women in your country?

Sweden: “There are less expectations in Sweden. It is not uncommon for a girl to ask a guy out. Regardless of whether you’re male or female, don’t be late. If someone is late or cannot make it, it is important to give a heads up.”

Ecuador: “Elegance and a good presentation is important in most places in Ecuador. It is expected of you to give the best impression you can. This doesn’t mean you have to spend millions of dollars, but you can simply use the best you have and put in an effort to give the best impression you can. Often, the way you dress up is a reflection of your personality, [and] if you can find time to make sure you have a good presentation.”

Fiji: “It is a traditional thing for the men to come to the doorstep of the house to ask for the parent’s permission. Guys take food to the girl’s house. They can’t just walk into a girl’s house empty handed. It shows no manners. It is appropriate if you come with something. Food is more popular.”

Ethiopia: “On a date, it is expected the guys pay for everything. The girls don’t spend anything. It is cool to be independent, but it’s the culture. Guys like to be kind and generous.”

Philippines: “One of the things I think is really cool about my culture is that guys always have to get the girls and then bring them back home. It is like bringing her and then giving her back. It is also custom for guys to socialize with the girl’s family as well. When they hang out, it is usually at the girl’s home with the family around so the family can get to know the guy.”

China: “Chinese boys and girls are shy. If you want to date them, just be brave and ask them. If you are waiting for them to ask you, they may be too shy and it won’t work.”

United States: “Traditionally in my culture, men are the ones who ask the women out. Men are also the ones who usually fund the date and come up with the ideas. Not to say women can’t do that also, but nine times out of 10, the male is the one to instigate the date.”

Could you describe a typical date in your culture?

Ecuador: “Common dates in Ecuador consist of dancing, going out to eat dinner, and visiting tourist attractions. Whatever is done should be done to treat the date wonderfully.”

Ethiopia: “Boys don’t really meet your parents until you’re planning on getting married. They don’t expect to meet that person, and if you’re happy, they are happy. However, they do their best to make sure they are a good person.”

Philippines: “So courting in the Philippines is a very long process. You actually have to do a lot of things before you can become official. You have to show you’re actually interested in the girl. Try to get to know her first. Become friends with her friends. Become familiar with her family well. When the family finally approves of you, that’s when you can become official.

“On a typical date couples would typically go out to dinner or the movies, and they actually prefer group dates until you are official. Solo dates are not until you are official.”

United States: “Typically a date usually requires food, right? Also, it has a fun activity that lets the two individuals get to know each other.” 

What is an important factor you consider when deciding to date someone?

Sweden: “Well, you got to be able to have fun with each other. I don’t think it is likely for a guy to ask a girl out unless he knows to an extent it is not going to be awkward. Dating is purposely designed to lead somewhere. It could lead to a relationship, and a relationship may even lead to a marriage.”

Ecuador: “For me to consider someone to ask on a date, it is important to find a connection in our personalities. When I date, I want not just to spend time with the person I like, but to spend quality time with her. I want to enjoy the moment as much as possible and that depends a lot on the other person’s personality.”

Fiji: “As long as the guy [can] take care of you.”

Ethiopia: “I hope in every relationship there is love. You don’t want to get married to someone because it is arranged and there aren’t any true feelings. It should be something personal that you want to do. Both sides should be fair and love each other.”

Philippines: “I guess for me our compatibility and how comfortable I am with that person, because I guess if our personalities don’t match, then I kind of know we aren’t going to be a good match.”

China: “Knowing someone’s personality is really important. How someone looks will determine if you decide to talk to them. How someone’s personality is will determine how long the relationship will last.”

United States: “An important factor in dating is finding someone with similar goals and interests. Ultimately, a relationship built on two people who don’t have a similar vision for the future and who don’t like similar things won’t have the best of times.”

How have the teachings of the LDS church impacted your opinion on dating?

Sweden: “The purpose is always the same. It is for two people to learn more about each other and to have fun. The LDS teachings encourage people to act and get married. That is the biggest difference.”

Ecuador: “I think the most important thing I have learned in this church about dating is the responsibility I have to do everything in my power to protect the other person’s dignity before God and to always do things to treat the other person in an honorable way and not just to satisfy my selfish worldly passions. Treating the girl I am dating as the daughter of God she is, and all the respect that should be involved with that knowledge, is for me the most important thing to take into consideration when I am dating.”

Fiji: “The LDS dating culture has changed my perspective, in the cultural aspect. You’re parents are the ones making most of the decisions. In the LDS Church, you decide because you are taught in the church standards of what to do and what not to do.”

Philippines: “We have standards, and I really like to follow those standards, which is a good thing. If the guy follows the standards, I feel like we have more time to enjoy each others quality time.”

China: “The church teaches us the purpose of dating is to get to know someone. It’s not focused on what you have. It is focused on what your future will be. That’s something I enjoy, that [the church] focuses on what we can be and the potential we have. LDS dating changed a lot of how I look at dating. Dating for me is now more about futures and potentials. The church taught me to have standards.”

United States: “I think people who follow directions passed on from the prophet and the Lord’s other appointed officiates are a lot more desirable to date. Plus the teachings teach us to date. So that too.”


Date Published: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018