Relationship Norms While Travelling


In the UK, we’re used to relatively relaxed dating norms and rules. We’ve all seen one too many times a couple getting off a bit too graphically on the Jesters or Oceana dancefloor but for some countries this is severely frowned upon. In some countries even hand holding isn’t acceptable and could even get you in the trouble with the law. Here’s what you should be aware of when in a relationship or starting to date while abroad.


There are widely different rules and expectations for hand holding depending on the country. In Morocco same sex hand holding is accepted and considered a sign of friendship. Opposite sex hand holding is not. In Korea you can hold hands, but nothing more. Only if you’re married can you hold hands in Dubai, otherwise it’s a punishable offence.

Public Displays of Affection 

Although you may not appreciate seeing the drunk couples at 1am getting off on every night out,  this is largely accepted in the UK. If you travel to Japan, however, PDA is not very common or accepted. In Punjab you won’t even see kissing at a wedding as PDA is that frowned upon. As long as you’re not at a holy site, PDA is perfectly fine in Israel.

In several countries PDA could land you in trouble with the law. In Russia the punishment for PDA is a three-month prison sentence or a fine. While being close with someone of the same sex is fine in Egypt, kissing, like in Russia, is not only frowned upon but a punishable offence. Dubai is infamous for its strict laws on PDA. Even as a married couple, kissing is considered public indecency and can land you with a prison sentence or deportation.

Splitting the Bill 

While in the UK you’re probably used to either one person paying or splitting the bill with ease, some countries have more defined views. If you’re dating in the Netherlands you should expect to split the bill with your partner. Meanwhile, in Korea, only one person should pay. There aren’t any gender expectations to this as both men and woman are allowed to pay the bill without judgement. In Mexico and Russia, it is expected that the man will pay for the meal.


The UK is renowned for its hook-up culture, and no doubt some of those couples you saw kissing on the Jesters dancefloor last night will have been heading back for a one-night stand. Some countries also have a relaxed view to sex, such as Italy. Couples in Italy typically wait until the relationship gets more serious for oral sex but penetrative sex can often happen before the first date. However, in Dubai, premarital sex is illegal.


While travelling in a relationship or dating while travelling should not be a concern, always make sure that you’re safe when meeting up with new people and look into the cultural norms of where you’re visiting. While in some countries you might just get a dirty look, you don’t want to risk imprisonment in places like Dubai for a hand hold.


2019/2020 Deputy Editor. English grad with a love for giraffes, tea and travel.

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