International Students - Dating in the U.S.

Getting to know people romantically is a great way to meet new people and learn more about yourself in the process. Cultural beliefs about dating vary greatly across cultures. Therefore, to have healthy and positive dating experiences in San Luis Obispo, we put together some information about United States dating norms.  

What to expect (written by students, for students):

There is not only one way to date someone, because everyone has different wants, needs, and values; dating is unique for every person. Because of this, clear and direct communication is necessary to ensure that all people involved feel respected and safe. The information in this section does not encapsulate every United States person’s wants or needs while dating; it is a generalization about common experiences.  

  • Meeting people: There are many ways to meet people. Maybe you have a class with someone you’re interested in getting to know, a mutual friend, or you meet someone while you’re out socializing. Dating apps (Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc) are also a common tool used to meet people.
  • Communication: When first talking to someone, it is customary to primarily have text conversations rather than call on the phone. Some people may feel uncomfortable with constant texting, so it is always beneficial to just ask the other person what they would like the communication to look like. If someone stops responding, it's best to leave it alone and not pressure them to continue talking.
  • Dates: Anyone can ask someone on a date, regardless of gender identity. There are many mixed opinions about who pays for dates, but a common belief is that the person who asked to do a certain activity pays for it. But again, this is another opportunity to ask and have open communication!  
    • On a first date, conversation is usually about fun topics (where you're from, what you like to do, fun facts), but the important part is making sure to ask your date about themselves! It can be considered rude to talk about your interests, career, or school for a long amount of time without asking any questions of the other person. Be yourself - the person on the date with you wants to get to know who you are!  
    • The amount/type of physical touch to have on a first date varies depending on the person. When in doubt, ask! When you first meet, “Can I give you a hug?” If you want to get to know the person you’re dating more before having physical contact, do what you both are comfortable with!  
  • Relationships: It is also a common belief among people dating in the United States that people date for around three months before having a conversation about being in an exclusive relationship, meaning that neither person is talking to anyone else in a romantic way. This does not mean that this conversation cannot occur earlier or later, it’s just a general timeframe.  
  • Affection: Once in a relationship, people have differing views about public displays of affection (PDA). It could be considered abnormal to kiss excessively in public, but it is normal for couples to hold hands and embrace in public. And it is normal for people to talk openly about their romantic relationships, even if they do not consider it a serious relationship.  

US Dating Phrases to Know

  • Talking: Talking is a phrase used to describe getting to know someone in a way that’s more than being just friends. It encompasses a lot of different relationships, but is usually used when people have just met (either in person or on a dating app), and are texting each other. It is also used when people are going on dates or hanging out without having a conversation about whether or not they are exclusive (not dating anyone else).  
  • Hook Up: This one can be tricky, because everyone has different definitions for hook-up, and it can range from kissing to having sex. If someone mentions wanting to hook up, it is helpful to clarify what they are interested in.
  • Ghosting: Ghosting is when you are talking to someone you're interested in, and they just stop replying or sending messages without any warning or explanation.
  • Friends with benefits: Having a sexual relationship with someone you are friends with, without being in a romantic relationship.
  • The ball is in someone’s court: it is someone else’s turn to make the next move.
  • To break up: To end a romantic relationship
  • Red flags: Red flags are early warning signs of potentially unhealthy or abusive behavior with a dating or sexual partner, often early on in the relationship.
  • Phrases that are synonymous with dating:  
    • Seeing someone  
    • They're together 
    • They're "a thing" (a couple)  
    • Exclusive

Common "Red Flags"

Red flags, as defined above, are warning signs of potentially unhealthy or abusive behavior with a dating or sexual partner. While red flags may vary across cultures, the following are some behaviors that individuals in the United States tend to consider unhealthy. If you experience any of these behaviors and would like to talk with someone, Safer Advocates are here to support you.

  • Controlling behavior: A partner who attempts to control the way you act, speak, dress, behave, socialize, or not allowing you to be fully independent. You deserve to make your own choices about your own body and life decisions!
  • Isolation: This happens when a partner doesn't allow you to see your friends or family, or makes you feel guilty when you try to socialize or talk to other people. You deserve to have friendships outside of your relationship!
  • "Lovebombing": This is a tactic where someone exhibits intense, overwhelming affection toward you at the beginning of a relationship. This may look like requiring all of your time, expecting to communicate all day, coordinating extreme public displays of affection, or buying extreme gifts. While it may seem romantic at first, lovebombing is often excessive to the point where you might feel indebted to this partner, or dependent on them. You deserve to progress in a relationship at a pace that feels comfortable to you.

You can learn more about Red Flags through OneLove's 10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship.

Common "Green Flags"

Green flags, on the other hand, are positive, healthy behaviors you want in a partner! 

  • They ask you about yourself. Conversation feels equal - both you and them can share information about yourself, and ask questions about one another, equally! Conversation doesn't feel one-sided.
  • Comfortable pace. You don't feel rushed into the relationship - they are okay taking time to get to know one another. There's no pressure or coercion to develop the relationship before someone's ready.
  • Fun! You enjoy being around this person. They make you feel good about yourself, and you feel free to be your authentic self.

You can learn more about Green Flags through OneLove's 10 Signs of a Healthy Relationship.

San Luis Obispo date ideas

San Luis Obispo is full of fun activities to enjoy on a date with someone else. Here are some ideas: 

  • Trivia: Woodstock’s, Milestone Tavern, and Bang the Drum are some places that have trivia events 
  • Sunset Picnic: Terrace Hill, Morro Bay beaches, Montana de Oro offer great views of the sunset
  • Hike: Some easy to moderate hikes are the hike to the Cal Poly P, Lemon Grove Loop, Hike to the M on Madonna Mountain, the Montana de Oro Bluff Trail 
  • Movie night: Watch a movie at the historic Palm Theater
  • Some budget-friendly date ideas:  
    • Utilize Poly Escapes to rent some equipment for an outdoor adventure 
    • Use Cal Poly Now to find free events to attend together; could be a play, sports game, or concert, depending on you and your date’s preference! 

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