What is a Love-Pat?
Us standing in the North Sea – Image: Melinda Brandt
I first heard of a ‘love-pat‘ when another expat woman in the Netherlands was looking for love-pats to interview for her business. According to her, and my subsequent research, a ‘love-pat’ is a person who has moved to (and is living in) another country for the sake of love. This can be like me moving to the Netherlands to be with my Dutch boyfriend, or even someone who has followed their partner to another country, if the partner was posted overseas for work or something. In that case the first person would be moving or expatriating for career, but if the second person went so they could be together, then they would be a love-pat. I think the most common type of love-pat, at least that I have come across, are the ones like me. The people who are living in a foreign country (or at least not the country they think of as home) together with the person they love who is from that country. Being a love-pat has all the challenges of being any other form of expat, but it also includes a lot of other challenges associated with navigating a love relationship in unfamiliar terrain.
My Love-Pat Story
Us in front of Burg Eltz, Germany – Image: Melinda Brandt
In January 2013 I did what so many young Australians do, and moved to London. I was planning to live and work in London for two years, on the youth mobility visa. I loved living in London, and I loved going on dates with British men while I was there! Living in Australia, I don’t know if it was a cultural thing or just me, but actual dates were very few and far between. I mostly met possible dates through the online dating website OKCupid. I only really looked at profiles for men who were in London, because, well that’s where I was! A few months into my London adventures I received a message from a Dutch guy through the website. It was short but he had actually commented on some of the things I had said in my profile, which didn’t always happen. Even though he lived in the Netherlands, which seemed too far away to bother with, I found his profile quite interesting and I wrote back. We’ve pretty much never stopped talking since!
Hat-shopping at Camden markets
Even though Dennis came from another country and spoke another language more often than English, we just clicked. Within two months of talking online he came to London to meet in person. We’ve been together ever since. After he had visited me in London for two weeks I went on a big around Europe trip with my best friend from Australia. Dennis and I kept in contact while I was travelling and soon after returning to London I went to the Netherlands to stay with him for two weeks as well. Then I returned for Christmas that year and we began to talk about me moving to the Netherlands to live. In some ways it was a hard decision. I still had a year to go on my British visa and there were still so many things I wanted to see in London and the UK. And moving to the Netherlands would be a much bigger culture shock than moving to London from Australia. But I also found it really hard to be apart from Dennis. We talked every day by text and Skype, but I often found myself wishing he was there to see things with me. In the end I thought about what I would regret more in the long run. Would I regret not seeing sights in the UK more than time spent with the man I was already pretty sure was the love of my life? In the end I left London after living there for a year and three months and moved to the Netherlands to be with Dennis.
What I Gave Up
Spring Beach, Tasmania
As a lot of people will tell you, being an expat in a foreign country is challenging. Especially if you don’t speak the language. I very naively thought I would be able to get a teaching job in the Netherlands as easily as I had gotten work in London. Unfortunately, if you don’t speak Dutch you are very limited when it comes to what jobs you can apply for here. Trying to learn Dutch has been very hard for me. Navigating a foreign country where everyone speaks another language is also hard. Not having a job or being able to contribute financially is one of the things I struggle with the most. My decision to move to the Netherlands indefinitely also means that it is now nearly four years since I have returned to Australia. That means I haven’t seen any of my family or friends (apart from the one who visited me in London) for nearly four years. I have missed weddings of close friends that I would have loved to attend, I’m yet to meet the son of one of my best friends and I wasn’t there while my grandmother spent two years battling cancer. No longer living in Australia also means I miss my old lifestyle. The feeling of really knowing a culture, the familiarity of places, people and foods. The beaches. Oh man I miss Australian beaches!!
Being an expat of any kind always comes with these sorts of challenges. Being a love-pat adds more challenges, on both you and your partner. Guilt over not having a job, and Dennis having to support me often plagues me. Then he feels guilty when he knows I am feeling homesick or lonely. Not having a job, being an introvert and still struggling with the language means I haven’t made many friends here, so apart from Dennis the only people I really interact with are his family, or friends from Australia over the internet. Obviously I miss my own family and friends from back home.
But while there are a lot of very challenging aspects to my expat life, it’s not all doom and gloom, and I think what I’ve gained overshadows what I’ve given up.
What I’ve Gained
3 years of Christmas selfies!
The most obvious answer to what I’ve gained is quite simply, love. As cheesy as it may sound, the reason I moved here, the reason I still live here despite all the struggles and the things I miss, is because of love. Before I met Dennis I had never really been in a ‘serious’ relationship. Of the couple of quasi-relationships I had been in things had never lasted more than about five or six months. Dennis and I have now been together nearly three years and I have never once doubted how I feel about him. It moved pretty fast from us meeting to me moving to another country to live with him, but that was mostly because I had never felt more sure about anything in my life. I have a man who loves me, who constantly reminds me how much he loves me and who I am not afraid to show how much I love him in return. That is something I had never experienced before I met Dennis. He is the only man that I have ever felt completely comfortable around, that I can be completely myself with, and he still loves me. He shows me the kind of unwavering support and affection I had always longed for and he makes me laugh more than anyone I know.
Dennis and I with Zaphod the cat
As much as living in the Netherlands has been full of challenges, it has also given me more opportunities to travel than ever before. I have explored far more of the Netherlands than I ever would have if I hadn’t lived here. Most people only ever visit Amsterdam, perhaps the Hague, but I have seen interesting sights all over the country. Being within driving distance of so many European countries is also a novel experience for an Aussie like me! We have driven to Germany and spent four days exploring castles in and around Cochem. Next month we are spending a weekend in Luxembourg and during the summer holidays we are going to visit places in Belgium and France, just by driving. I am always amazed by how close everything is in Europe, and if I wasn’t living here, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see as much of it as I now can.
My first trip to Amsterdam
While learning Dutch is hard, it’s also something I never would have done if I hadn’t met Dennis. I had always wanted to learn another language, but without the resources or any real need, it hadn’t happened. Now I am learning another language so that I can continue to live here and understand people, and so I can also talk to our future children in Dutch! Not being able to get a teaching job has also meant that I have more time and energy to work on my writing career (and this blog!), something I had always wanted to do seriously. So while there are still struggles, and a long way to go until I am fluent in the language and earning enough money to feel like I am contributing, overall my decision to become a love-pat is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
Spring picnic selfie
Are you a love-pat too? My fellow love-pat Susan De Vriend is still looking for other love-pats to interview. If you are interested in sharing your own story with her you can find more information here. Tell me in the comments what your biggest love-pat struggles are, and how you’ve overcome them!