I can’t speak for all of Belgium, but as a general rule outside of maybe Brussels, I can tell you…
There’s no dating game in Belgium. Of course there’s the usual dating motions to go through and all the getting to know each other on the first date like there is in America, but here there are just less games. No games. Let that sink in, because it’s still sinking in for me even though I’ve been living here almost three years.
Being from New York City myself, I know the dating game in the city can be sadistic. I was Ms. Sadomasochist and the City herself. New York’s a city like no other and therefore the games played in dating must be like no other.
In a smaller country like Belgium and smaller city like Ghent, it’s logically milder the dating game. In fact, in many cases by the second date a couple is already “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” here. Like, Belgians say those words out loud to each other and about each other after just a few dates with someone. Can you imagine?
In New York it can take a structure of months of once-a-week dates before “the talk” ever happens. You know…the talk where the two dating people in question talk about monogamy and possibly the boyfriend or girlfriend word rears its epic head. I can count on one hand the number of boyfriends I’ve had. I need to count hairs on my head for the number of guys I’ve dated or slept with or had otherwise sexual relations with. Does that make the word boyfriend more sacred? No. It just means it’s easier to find sex than it is a boyfriend in New York. New York City, in fact, which is full of underground sex for sale.
Not here. Sex is for sale legally here, like much of the EU, so there’s less allure around it and less hype. Here, you can break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and move out and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend within a week or two, or even days. I see people moving in together after just a month of dating. Egads. I’ve had discussions with Belgians my age and younger and older and it doesn’t matter. They think all the rules of dating in America is headache-inducing. I agree of course, even if I participated in it for years.
It’s not because the term boyfriend/girlfriend is less sacred in Belgium, but because here the rhythm of life is slower and less dramatic by default. Priorities are different. Breaking up and settling into a new relationship is like going from one end of a metal slinky to another, and letting yourself spill out into a new relationship at the end and that’s it.
It’s not to say there are no sluts or man-whores or psycho exes in Belgium. There are. I assure you. There are just less in proportion, and in concentration, than there are in the States. There aren’t “rules” here preventing you from calling somebody you like if you want to, instead of waiting a certain number of days or giving mixed signals and mind-fucking people. It confused me at first because my natural state of cynicism.
I’d never seen people who just started dating attending weddings and family gatherings right away. Shit, I think there are boyfriends’ parents I never even met, but here you meet everyone over a beer and you’re family asap. Woah.
I’m married so it’s not like I was a part of the dating game here in Belgium at all, but the mentality is something I’ve had to adopt socially. Even when I met my husband Davy randomly on vacation I knew it didn’t feel like a casual vaca-fling, but how could I be sure? What were Belgian dudes like? Why couldn’t Google tell me?!
We looked great in our vacation photos, but was it a sure thing?
I chose to be sure, and I chose to fuck all my usual game-playing and to believe that Davy was sincere. Of course he had to do the same, knowing I was a New York brat who happened to also have won “Big Brother in America.”
Davy had to be sure too that I wasn’t playing him, and that our chance meeting in the tropics could lead to marriage. Would I really move to Belgium for him? Would he even see me ever again once we parted ways and went back to our lives after some time in the sun? His Belgian mentality ultimately took over, and nothing else mattered. I was his girlfriend. Just like that…there was that word!
I went with it. We did it. I’m not saying you should grab the next Belgian guy or girl you meet on vacation somewhere and say hallelujah hello marry me. Davy’s decision wasn’t merely a “Belgian” one, because meeting the right person knows no bounds. It’s not that simple, but I can tell you that the dating game here in Belgium is much simpler. You’re just with someone or you’re not. Oh, and a marriage certificate here is not required to live as a married couple under one roof. If you “co-habitate” then you have the same rights and titles as a married couple. Which is why I’m glad Davy and I married after all.
In case you were wondering…