Love is a universal emotion, but how that emotion is pursued differs from culture to culture.
Walk to the end of the earth, take a detour in Asia, put a blindfold on and walk back. In every single country, state, and town you will have stepped in, love can be found. Yet while romantic love is found in abundance no matter the region, what differs is how those feelings of affection are showcased. The customs that we have in the US are by no means the standard when it comes to dating.
As varied as the tastes, sounds, and sights found across the globe are, so too are the ways in which people demonstrate romantic affection. While we consider the courting huts of the Zulus to be an odd dating habit, to them it’s as normal as swiping right is to us. So what are some other odd dating habits that our neighbors of the world engage in?
Mexico: Unabashed PDA
PDA in the states is a behavior that most would agree verges on taboo. It doesn’t quite matter how old the couple is, if they’re smooching in public and moisture is being generated we’re grossed out. On a personal level, I’m not as much grossed out but insulted that these flagrant lovers are taking over public space. If two people are swapping passionate secrets on a public bench I can’t bring myself to sit on that same bench. I feel like I’m invading their personal space. Yet when it comes to Mexico, boundaries be damned.
It’d be easy to slap the Latin lover stereotype on a Mexican and call it a day, but there are one or two theories that need vetting before being tossed aside.
According to a census taken a few years back, the average Mexican home houses two people per bedroom. To put this into perspective, the 75% of American households have just one person or less per bedroom. Judging from the stats, it seems as though space might be an issue. It’s just tough to start a fire when there’s barely enough oxygen to go around. But that isn’t the only reason Mexicans decide to make their love nests in the park.
Judging from the census, you wouldn’t be wrong to infer that many Mexican children live with their parents for quite some time. It’s not uncommon for children to live with their parents until they’re married. Being that Mexico is still fairly conservative, it’s of no surprise that little lovers are in no way allowed to express themselves romantically inside the home. Not only can one act however they want in public places but according to Mexican adolescents, showing affection in public is a status symbol. But it isn’t just kids that flagrantly dry hump in public, older generations flex their exhibitionist sides as well.
The older generations probably just took a note from the young folk. If children can spoon on park benches without getting shamed, why can’t adults get freaky in public too? The next time you’re in Cancun, take a walk outside the glamorous boundaries of your resort to get a glimpse of some unbridled PDA, Mexican style.
Odd Dating Habits, Japan: Goukon
Americans seem to be anathema to group dating. For us, group dating is akin to admitting that we’re too socially awkward to date as a pair. Dragging along a friend of yours to wingman you for the entire night is a great favor, one that you can only ask for so many times. There’s a reason Tinder Social failed so quickly in the USA. Yet, while Americans may not be groomed for double dating, it’s all the rage in Japan.
Goukon, is a Japanese custom that sees groups of men and women that have never met before hit the town as a group. Typically a goukons is formed after a single man or woman asks a friend or acquaintance if they’d like to go on a group blind date. She invites some of her friends, he brings a few of his, and soon enough sexes are sitting across from each other drinking sake and flirting to the best of their ability.
These group dating outings almost always take place in a bar or restaurant. The goukon will generally begin with a round of self-introductions. After this point the participants will change seats so that they’re now sitting across from the person they’re most interested in. Such formal rules don’t apply to each goukon. Some may be more free form and involve talking with a range of potential partners throughout the course of the night.
As the night comes to a close, numbers and social media accounts will be exchanged. Although it happens, sex rarely takes place after a goukon. These group dates usually involve between 6-8 people and have been a common dating practice for a few decades.
Kyrgyzstan: Bride Kidnapping
Every 40 minutes a bride-to-be is kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan. This central Asian country started the tradition of kidnapping brides in the later 1950s. No one is sure exactly why it began, but most will posit that it started as a way to push back against Soviet Union rule.
This more than odd dating habit is in fact outlawed under Kyrgyz law. Despite its illegal status, it’s still a widely culturally accepted practice. Should a kidnapped wife refuse or divorce their kidnapper turned husband, shame on the part of the woman is usually quick to follow.
To be clear, kidnappers aren’t just random people completely unacquainted with their victims. Quite often, the soon to be married couple are friends or even dating before the kidnaping takes place. This however doesn’t mean that the woman wants to be married and certainly doesn’t excuse the heinous act of kidnapping.
Kidnappers almost always try to gain permission to marry their victims from the victim’s family. The wedding is a subsequent affair that takes place the day of or days after the kidnapping. Consensual or not, rarely do kidnappings end with the culprits being imprisoned. Should a penalty be doled out, it will typically come in the form of a fine and nothing more.
Cambodia: Love Huts
To be fair, this isn’t a Cambodian thing in as much as it’s a Kreung tribe thing. The Kreung call the northeastern province of Ratanakiri home. It’s here that both men and women are on the same social playing field. Standard gender norms are cut to shreds as men and women share in many of the same labor and social tasks. One odd dating habit that sets the people of the Kreung tribe apart are their love shacks.
Around the age of 13, girls will be built a love hut not too far from the family’s house, but far away enough to ensure privacy. It’s in this hut that girls are encouraged to socially and sexually experiment with boys. In this tradition, marriage before sex is a foreign concept. It may seem dangerous for girls to be left alone in the middle of the night to converse with boys overcome with sexual effervescence of puberty. But boys have been taught from a young age to respect girls. The way a boy treats a girl has a direct impact of each family’s social standing within the community.
Many of the relationship ills that plague the western world aren’t found among the Kreung tribe. Scenes of jealously and rape are rare occurrences. Women are allowed to sexually explore without being ostracized. It isn’t even uncommon for girls to have more than one boyfriend. Perhaps we can take a note or two from this Cambodian tribe.
Japan currently sells more adult than baby diapers. This is because 23.9% of Japan’s population is 65 or older while just 13.5% of its population is 15 or younger. Unlike just about every country on the planet, Japan’s population is shrinking, and it’s a problem. Such a problem that more than 50% of local Japanese governments allot money to matchmaking events. The brutal reality is that according to 2010 data from the internal affairs ministry, 71.1% of men between the ages of 25-29 were single. That number decreases only slightly in comparison to the percentage of single men between the ages of 30-34 at 46.5%.
This need for social affection has begot various niche serves within Japan’s vast and eclectic love industry. Along with the rise of goukon, spouse hunting or konkatsu has also blossomed.
Konkatsu is simply matchmaking party. The kicker is that these matchmaking parties aren’t open to just anyone. A konkatsu party has very specific requirements.
- Must be a college graduate, business owner, have an income of at least 5 million yen, or work at a major company for roe than 10 years.
- Age: 28-42
- Fee: 5,000 Yen
- Single and employed
- Age: 26-37
- Fee: 2,000 Yen
Some konkatsus target those of a certain profession while others like the ad listed above are more general. Matchmaking parties are held by both municipal governments and private companies that specialize in matchmaking. The objective of such a party is to find a suitor to spend a lifetime with rather than to make professional or platonic connections.
International Odd Dating Habits Wrap-up
Each country can boast or cringe at its own odd dating habits. But before dipping your toe into the dating pool abroad, let’s first learn how to swim in the pool in your own backyard. If you need a little advice on how to romance the ladies, do yourself a favor and talk to the maven.
Emyli, the founder of this site, has been saturated in the dating world ever since she undertook her 100-date experiment while studying at UC Berkeley. Since then she’s transitioned into a coach specializing in equipping single men with the tools they need to become confident daters. If you’re interested in improving your dating ability, book a 1-on-1 Skype session with Emyli.