Valentine’s Day: the day that much of the Western world runs to buy mushy, heart-filled cards, flowers and chocolates for their loved ones in an effort to express, “I love you.”

Valentine’s Day: the day that much of the Western world runs to buy mushy, heart-filled cards, flowers and chocolates for their loved ones in an effort to express, “I love you.” But for expats, international couples or couples living in different countries, the romantic holiday has an additional set of challenges (or opportunities). How should expats and internationals celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Whether you’re planning a romantic night with your lover or acknowledging “SAD” (Single Awareness Day), in many parts of the world, you can’t avoid Valentine’s Day. But why should you? These Valentine’s Day ideas for expats and internationals will give you a new perspective on the day of romance and make you eager to find the perfect someone to celebrate with.

Valentine’s Day for expats and international couples

Valentine’s Day has a fascinating and strange history — what began in ancient Roman times as a way to commemorate the martyred Saint Valentine has evolved over centuries into a full-fledged and very commercialized way to express love all over the world. If your new home country celebrates Valentine’s Day, it’s a chance to experience the holiday from a completely new perspective. Many countries celebrate the day of love in unique and charming ways, giving you an opportunity to experience a new piece of your country’s culture.

If you’re in a country that perhaps doesn’t commercially celebrate or acknowledge Valentine’s Day, creating your own international Valentine’s Day celebration may be a chance to take part in something that reminds you of home. If you prefer the traditional concept of spending Valentine’s Day with one special someone, consider finding single expats online to meet fellow expats with similar interests and lifestyles.

It’s important to know that some countries go as far as banning the celebration of Valentine’s Day — predominantly Muslim countries like Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are examples (as well as parts of Russia) — so if you live in these countries, proceed your celebrations with extreme caution. Even gifting flowers or chocolates can be prohibited, so perhaps a romantic movie marathon from the safety of your apartment would suffice. Other countries don’t explicitly forbid celebrations — such as India and Indonesia — but they are especially critical of the holiday. Conservative Islamic Indonesians have protested the celebration in recent years, claiming it encourages casual romantic relations.

If you’re already dating another expat (and are in a country that welcomes Valentine’s Day festivities), make this year special by trying new and adventurous Valentine’s Day ideas for expats:

Go somewhere iconic

Are you both newcomers to your city? Is there somewhere you’ve both had your eye on that really exudes the city’s culture, but haven’t had the chance (or reason) to go? Whether it’s a historic cinema, a Michelin-star restaurant with traditional cuisine or a romantic river cruise, consider Valentine’s Day the perfect excuse to experience new parts of your city together.

Get out of town

Valentine’s Day activities for expats don’t have to be the typical dinner or movie. If you’re living in a bustling city, consider the day a chance to escape and explore a nearby area neither of you have visited. Even if it’s just a day trip, head to a beach, take a hike, or visit a charming village and rent a cottage for the night. Traveling and exploring together are some of the best ways to bond and get to know your partner on a deeper level.

Get high — in a hot air balloon

For a truly unforgettable (and epic) Valentine’s experience, surprise your partner with a hot air balloon ride. Countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey and England are especially known for their breath-taking hot air balloon tours, but almost every country in Europe has an option. To take it a step further, book a morning ride complete with breakfast or a sunset ride with champagne. Just make sure your partner is okay with heights first!

Head to a museum (but not for the art)

These days, many museums throughout Europe offer more than just their art collections — they also have delectable culinary options that would make for the perfect Valentine’s Day meal. Possibilities include Amsterdam’s RIJKS at the historic Rijksmuseum, Cologne’s modern (and all-organic) Ludwig im Museum Restaurant & Café at the Museum Ludwig, and Barcelona’s Òleum Restaurant inside the beautiful Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

Volunteer together

Nothing says true love like helping others in need — it’s scientifically proven that helping others makes you happier, and perhaps even more, um, romantic. Expats know first-hand how lonely holidays can be when there’s not a loving support system, so whether it’s helping at a local homeless shelter, going to a nearby hospital or simply visiting the widow down the street, you may be the only person who even wishes that person a happy Valentine’s Day. To make it even more fun, show up with homemade Valentine’s Day cards (don’t forget to make one for your lover too!).

Cook (both of) your favourite meals

Need a culinary Valentine’s Day idea for international couples? Use this night as a way to learn more about each other’s cultures by having an “assortment” dinner of both of your favourite foods from home. Whether it’s an Italian meal with New Zealand wine, a Colombian course with Dutch dessert or a French delicacy with Spanish tapas to start, mix it up, make it fun and learn more about each other in the process.

Valentine’s Day for couples living in different countries

This scenario is often one of the most difficult for expats: when your lover is hundreds of miles away in another country on the annual day of love, how do you cope? No matter how you spin it, a long distance Valentine’s Day is hard. How can you still make each other feel special even when you can’t actually be together?

For the romantic:

Give your partner a chance to unwind and relax by booking them a massage at a nearby spa. Or, make it more unique and personal: take the time to create a “love jar” complete with affectionate messages, memories and short stories; include everything from your first kiss to their quirky and endearing traits. Extra points: write one message for each day you’re apart, and mail them all on Valentine’s Day for a truly thoughtful surprise.

For the foodies:

It will always be true that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. But since you can’t share a romantic meal together, create a custom dinner package including all your lover’s favourite foods (don’t forget dessert!), and have it sent to their doorstep via an online grocery delivery service (most major cities have a variety of delivery service options).

For the quirky:

If the traditional flower and card delivery route is too “cliché,” send your lover a fruit, candy or other “food” bouquet; add a personalized, jumbo-sized card for extra measure. Send your partner on his or her own Valentine’s Day “scavenger hunt,” complete with clues and a small gift at each “check point” (utilize his or her friends to help set it up since you can’t be there). Or, go all out and send your lover a singing quartet “Valentine’s Day gram” — yes, these exist, depending on where you live.

For the lyrical:

Long distance Valentine’s Day gifts don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be special. In fact, many people love homemade gifts more than store-bought ones because of the time and effort required to make them. If you’re a writer, craft a detailed poem about your lover; or, if you play an instrument or sing, write a song about them and record a video of yourself singing it.

For the crafty:

Channel your inner 10-year-old and make your partner a homemade Valentine’s Day card complete with glitter, ribbons, cut-out hearts, the works. Whether you make it funny or sweet, it’ll be both a memorable and meaningful expression of love. Just make sure you mail it early enough to arrive in time for Valentine’s Day.

For many expats, Valentine’s Day can be a chance to both bond with your partner and experience new aspects of your country’s culture. Now that you’re ready to make this Valentine’s Day the best yet, make sure you have somebody special to share it with. As an expat, it can often be difficult to meet other singles in your area. That’s why Expatica’s free online dating for expats is specifically made to connect nearby expats with the perfect Valentine’s Day match, no matter where you live.

Expatica Dating is brought to you by Expatica Communications: news and information for the international community (established in 2000). With a friendly, high-tech matchmaker system, dating expatriates won’t be such a challenge. Love in a new culture and environment will no longer be a struggle as our online dating site provides you with the golden ticket for discovering a suitable single for you.

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