Jet black hair. Scruff. Pale blue eyes. Belgian. Twenty-four.
Overtly cultured. Speaks five languages, including adorably accented English.
Full-time job. Suavely dressed. Holds open doors. Good with cats.
Does this sound like the European you’ve always dreamed about? The one that only lives in silly Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, but mature, grown up and unscripted? The one that you’d fall in love with, and eventually live in a Tuscan villa with?
It should. I don’t think I know a single American girl who hasn’t fantasized about the European, or who hasn’t at least internally fawned over international exchange students.
And now I will tell you that the dream is real. The dream will charm the pants off you – literally and figuratively. And then the dream will end, because dreams have terrible texting etiquette, or because the dream was never the dream at all.
“European men are pigs,” a British student plainly told me one night. “Italians are the worst. Forget about the French. British guys will fuck anything that moves. Belgians only pretend to be better than that.”
The topic came about when my roommate started complaining about all the catcalls we get when frolicking through downtown Brussels.
One night, my roommate and I were followed for six blocks downtown. In rapid French, the guy fired off question after question. What’s your name? Where are you from? Are you a student? How old are you? Where are you going?
Eventually, my roommate got so pissed that she screamed at him. But the screaming was in English, and he didn’t understand. Then she shoved him. That, he understood.
Is this situation normal?
Absolutely. Our new British friend confirmed it. Our fellow Americans who have also been followed home confirmed it – one panicked girl even hid in a bush, which, shockingly, worked.
Some degree of sexual harassment is always expected with a night out. If you accidentally make eye contact with someone across a bar, you are going to be pestered. For some reason, this is part of the European culture.
Thus, the European dream is probably just a charming pig, well versed in American expectations of gentlemanliness and wearing a blazer.
Does that mean the American in Europe can’t chase the dream? Absolutely not. The fantasy can still happen. It still happens every day.
Yes! You too can have the British enchanter who says “the loo” and “the lift” and you can giggle and giggle and giggle. Then you can say something American, like, “soccer,” and he’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.
Just realize that this fantasy has temporal restrictions. As you dream for just one night, the real-life dream should only last one night, as well.
You spend a beautiful evening together. There’s probably dancing. There’s probably champagne. There’s probably a cozy taxi ride. There’s probably an apartment furnished entirely by IKEA. If you’re lucky, there’s a kitten.
And then the next day, you make your choice – give him your phone number and try to make the Tuscan villa thing happen, or leave, and let the dream live on.
If you never see the European again, you can always look back on the dancing, the champagne and the taxi ride. You can feel comforted knowing you experienced the pale blue eyes, the adorable accent and the scruff. You can convince yourself that you could have fallen in love, if only you had more time! If only you weren’t going back to the states in a few months…
If you see him again, you’ll find flaws. You might not find his accent quite so adorable after you’ve been surrounded by similar accents for a few more days. You might realize he’s a boring working stiff, and there’s nothing overtly cultured about him. Or you might realize he’s just an oversized kid who will never, ever own a Tuscan villa.
We do it all the time. We lie to people, and to ourselves, to try to make a situation better. We pretend in order to avoid ruining something great.
Charming European prince plus average American girl has never existed. It’s average European guy plus pragmatic American girl, who knows that realistically, playing make-believe is the best option.
JANELLE BITKER wants to hear about your foreign dreams, real or otherwise. She can be reached at email@example.com.