On Relationships Abroad: Where Do You Want to Live?


travel couple

My boyfriend and I met in China. He was this charming young man from brisk and chilly Minnesota and I was from the tropical islands of the Philippines in the Pacific – two countries that couldn’t have been so different. It was a whirlwind romance. We were each others’ first serious expat partners.

Of course the question of where we planned to live in the future came up. He often talked longingly about settling in his small town of Duluth up north. I, like a fool and head over heels in love started to convince myself I can live in his small town. That I can bundle myself up in furs and brave through the biting seep through your bones chilly winds from Canada and tiptoe my way twinkle toes on icy sheets of roads when all the while something inside me yelled, “No! You’re a city girl. You love the sun and the beach!” When he started suggesting that we don’t travel too much and it’d be expensive anyway, I found myself numbingly nodding in agreement. Yes, it was too expensive. And yes, I am getting too tired of hauling ass in the airport and discovering too many new things. The voice inside me rebelled more.

I tried to squash that voice of reason down.

Eventually we did break up because he moved back to Minnesota and I stayed in China where I still had a job. He also showed no desire of us staying longer – there was often no “we” when he rambled about his vague future. He also verbally abused me littering his conversations towards me with “idiot”, “you don’t know what you’re doing”, “you’re stupid.” And you know what, he was right. Because I was all those things the more I continued to stay with him.

I realized that it was time to gather the broken pieces of my heart and move on. I knew when I wasn’t wanted. I also knew I only had myself to blame for my disillusionment. Never again would I deny my own dreams just so I can stay with someone. Never again will I stay with someone who doesn’t want to travel anymore.

Currently I am with someone who is far different than my previous ex. Mr Z and I met in a tour group in North Korea (yes, we found love in Kim Jung Un land – no one was executed). He was one of those Paypal Noppies I talked about in my earlier North Korean post. He litters his discourse towards me with me “you did great!”, “I’m proud of you.” and “I miss you.” Sharp tongued and a little crude around the edges due to his New York City background, he craved adventure as much as I did (we did meet in North Korea). We spent my crazy year last year traipsing around Southeast Asia, the fool grinning all the way happy to live with just a duffel bag.


I spent last Christmas with him and his family in Philadelphia. Hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree, he surprised me with a sigh. “I hate living in the US.”

“Where do you want to live?”

Shrug. “I don’t know.”

Which is actually a good thing that we haven’t come to a decision yet. I don’t know where I wanted to live either. We were bickering in Vietnam when it came to which neighbourhood  we wanted to live in. I wanted a quiet side of town near my expat friends and my school. He wanted to be in the beating throb of the metropolis, stroked by the stimulating noise of the flood of motorbike traffic. Being there for only 5 minutes was enough for me to blow my head off. And he felt the same way walking through the quaint silent streets of my neighbourhood of choice.

“Too quiet. Too foreign,” he complained when I pointed out the cute French bakeries and Moroccan restaurants. “If I wanted to be surrounded with white people, I would be back in the States.”

Sometimes he’d dropped hints he wanted to live in Paris. Romantic Paris with its cafes, Arc de Triomphe and cobbled streets. I loudly said I often encounter French people when I travel and they are the rudest arrogant people – insisting on speaking French in the table when someone doesn’t clearly understand and putting their snooty noses up as they leave your table when they see another French person. Yes, your foreign company isn’t good enough for them and how dare you speak English to me when there are other French people around! Speak French!! Vous parlez français!

I do have a few French friends but they are the exception. Perhaps I just meet the wrong kind of French people abroad.

We have agreed on one place – Japan. Crazy/Weird hentai otaku Japan. Where I am fascinated at its cute inventions (bidets, subway money changer, vending machines), its tiny paraphernalia, its organization and neatness, efficiency, its weird fads and fashion, how they have their own way of doing things and how the people are still bound by rules and traditions. Where I love it for its serenity and solitude, he loves it for its noise, bright lights and brashness. We would love to live there for a period of time but for now, Japan is too expensive for us.

Young women choosing drinks from a vending machine

So for now the question, Where do you want to live? still hangs above us like a huge swinging ax. The question that most expat couples struggle with.

What about you and your partner? Where do you want to live?

Happy Valentines Day to Everyone!

Images Credit: Imagesource



4 thoughts on “On Relationships Abroad: Where Do You Want to Live?

  1. Ceri says:

    I think this is exactly why I’m single and my relationships inevitably come to an end. None of the people I would happily settle down with actually wanted anything with me, and those who were willing to carry on and figure something out weren’t enough for me and I left. :/ I’m doomed to be single because of my country hopping. 😛

    • Kate says:

      Thanks for dropping by Ceri! I know what you mean. It is extremely hard to find somebody you want to “settle” with and nurture the relationship with because you aren’t in a country long enough to meet somebody. But don’t give up hope. I am sure there is somebody out there who wants to travel and wants to be with you longer. He’ll come when you least expect it 🙂

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