Love Languages: Expressing Love by Culture

Photo courtesy of Wessex Scene
Photo courtesy of Wessex Scene

By Amanda Cardini, Co-editor

The holiday of love is almost upon us and as every T-bird knows, expressing your feelings can vary widely by country and culture. While in English there is only one phrase for saying “I love you”, some languages have multiple ways and many cultures are more expressive than American culture. Societal rules about PDA (Public Displays of Affection) and even friendly greetings can be tricky to navigate in foreign countries. To find out more about cultural differences in the language of love, current T-birds shared their experiences from home.

Marissa Garay (MAGAM ‘19) – Mexico: Te amo

Popular Valentine’s balloons in Mexico. Courtesy of Info 7

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Mexico, and it is pretty much the same as in the U.S. It is sometimes called “Día del Amor y la Amistad” or Day of Love and Friendship. Most people only celebrate it with significant others- and sometimes friends. The gifts are very similar, typically flowers, chocolates, or balloons. In Spanish there are a couple ways of saying I love you. Te amo is mostly reserved for significant others, while te quiero can be said to friends, as well as te quiero mucho, which can also be said to family such as parents. Some will say te amo to family and friends, but it is much less common. Mexican culture is much more expressive than American culture; there is more hand-holding and hugs, and it is overall more touchy-feely. The culture is somewhat masculine, so more often boys approach girls than the other way around.

Sanne de Schipper (MAGAM ‘19) – The Netherlands: Ik hou van je.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated, but is not as big as it is in the States. It has gained popularity more recently, but many people view it as more of a commercial thing, so overall it is not as popular as in the US. Some high schools will have roses available to send to friends. PDA is not common, it is seen even less so than in the U.S. Americans also tend to say “I love you” more than the Dutch, but within relationships there is a similar culture around saying “I love you” for the first time. It also does not matter whether a girl approaches a boy first or vice versa.

Mărțișor figurines. Courtesy of Argophilia Travel News

Betty Illioi (MAGAM ‘19) – Romania: Te iubesc

Romania does not have Valentine’s Day, but Mărțișor is celebrated on March 1. It is kind of similar to Valentine’s Day, but is celebrated on the Romanian first day of spring. Traditionally, a figurine is given to your crush, and more recently this has evolved into a small trinket with a bow given to family members or friends. Romanian life is pretty patriarchal, so the men always approach the women. “I love you” is much more reserved than in American culture; it is not used to describe random things or items, and the majority of the time it is said only to family members. Many Romanians believe Western cultures’ overuse of the phrase has caused it to lose its meaning.

Irene Kinyanguli (MAGAM ‘19) – Tanzania: Nakupenda

Valentine’s Day is celebrated but it is seen as very commercial. Western culture in general is spreading, but there are still big differences in expressing love. “I love you” is not said often. It’s more expressed by being there for someone in crisis and through presents. People don’t say mushy things like “I love you, I would die for you.” And when it comes to love, men are the dominant ones; they have to initiate it. We don’t expect men to be really emotional; men don’t cry, and it’s almost unexpected if a man says I love you. There is no PDA, everything is very toned down compared to the U.S. For example, I have never heard my parents call each other “darling” or any other pet names!

Jenny Li (MAGAM ‘19) – Taiwan:  我爱你 (Wo ai ni)

Popular Single’s Day gift, Pocky. Courtesy of Ebay

In Taiwan, “I love you” is more reserved for your husband or boyfriend and parents or siblings. If it’s a friend you just say I like you. For Valentine’s Day we have something special. We have regular Valentine’s Day, White Valentine’s Day, and the Lunar Month of July. On regular Valentine’s Day (February 14th) the boys give girls gifts. There are usually special Valentine’s Day meals in restaurants, and couples wearing matching T-shirts is very common, or at least matching colors. White Valentine’s Day (March 14th) is when the girls give gifts back to the boys. This is a newer trend as traditionally boys are supposed to reach out to girls first. The Lunar Month of July involves a story about a boy and a girl who were separated, but during the Lunar Month birds will build a bridge so they can meet in the middle. It is celebrated just like normal Valentine’s Day. We also have a new holiday on November 11th, Singles Day. Pocky, a Taiwanese snack, is given as a gift to single friends.

Love is in the air across the globe this time of year, despite the various ways of expressing it. Whether you’re spending this Valentine’s Day with someone special or with family and friends, there are plenty of ways to celebrate and spread the love. 

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