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Dating Diary: Navigating Love and Dating Apps as a Black Woman on the Iberian Peninsula

All I know is that my experience dating on the Iberian Peninsula proved much more interesting than back home in the United Kingdom.

Dating as a Black woman will forever be a unique and interesting experience. For the most part, we will experience forms of racism and bias in the dating field. According to a study by Quartz, Black women are subject to the lowest response rates on dating apps, despite being the demographic that gives the most replies.

Despite these dating stats, I believe every dating experience to be unique. While I can say that getting past the initial swipe isn’t too difficult for me, retention and feeling truly desired have always been up for debate. However, I’d say my most positive dating experiences have come from living in Spain and Portugal instead of the home court. In those countries, I felt more desirable and was approached more with greater vim.

Now, some wonder how could this be when the racismo in those countries is considered high by Black communities. Well, I do wonder if elements of my British nationality slightly shield me from the worst of it, but I can’t say for certain. All I know is that my experience on the Iberian Peninsula was a lot more favorable and fun than it has been on my home turf.

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Dating in Spain

I lived in Spain for around six months as part of my year abroad studies, and it was a game changer dating-wise. It caught me by surprise that I could match with some wildly attractive men who were better looking–in my opinion–than some of the men who would reject me at home. It was nice to feel desired by people I found attractive and be approached with more enthusiasm than usual. Greeted by smiles when walking down the cobbled streets to the sounds of “Hola Morena.” Being that I spoke some Spanish, it was advantageous, and I could meet and connect with people I otherwise would not have back at home.

Christine Gwaze

My first liaison with a Spaniard was in Seville when a guy invited me to his house. We drank wine, he offered me light food and invited me to swim in his pool. How lavish, right? Although I didn’t take up the offer to dip in the pool, I did take the one to go to his bedroom. We had a decent time, and I saw him a few more times while I was there, but I did gracefully bow out as I wanted more in the bedroom department than he could provide.

So, I continued to date to see what was out there for me…

It wasn’t all great as, at one point, I found myself on a date with a Spanish nationalist who went into depth about how the Muslim invasion of Spain needed to be swiftly dealt with. As a foreigner on this date, I was confused, I may not be Muslim, but what’s the difference between my presence in Spain and others in the country? I had to shut that one down quickly, making me apprehensive about my approach.

Now, I was a twenty-year-old hopeless romantic–not opposed to the idea of finding a Spanish husband–but I knew I had an inevitable departure, which complicated dating for me. To avoid hurt, I was mostly indulging in light fun, being guarded to deter heartbreak. However, there was one boy who almost penetrated my barrier. A handsome you man by the name of Carlos, incredibly good-looking, extremely chatty, and a decent kisser. We were in contact for three-quarters of my stay, frequently messaging and dating. He was great in many ways, but I couldn’t bring myself to continue our association in the last few weeks of my stay. I decided we’d be better off as friends as I wasn’t willing to humor a long-distance relationship once I left (I take forward planning very seriously!).

As much as I had positive dating experiences, being deemed desirable was mainly sexual, so I used this factor to explore what I liked and grow as a person.

Dating in Portugal

Lisbon has been heralded more recently for its international community, and I found this to be true. With plenty of global men in the streets, I found myself attracted and attracting way more people than I did in Spain. Soon I found myself falling for a Tunisian man. I took a chance on an emotional connection, but it was short-lived as his desires changed, and he wanted someone else.

However, this did not stop me, my fantasies were coming through in the heat of summer, and I found myself engaged in the throes of passion with guys from Portugal, Turkey, Cape Verde, and Italy until I landed in a whirlwind romance with an Israeli man visiting for a few days.

When it was over, we’d be in two different time zones. But it didn’t stop me from deeply connecting with him; we found ourselves laughing in restaurants, drinking and dancing in a bar, kissing in the ocean, cuddling on the beach, and having profound chats on the Lisbon streets in the early hours of the morning. We were connecting emotionally, and this matched physically as our desire for one another burned so bright we locked ourselves away in a room to have the best and most passionate sex I’ve ever had in my life.

Our encounter was beautiful, so parting was bittersweet. I was better off having known him, but knowing someone could potentially be everything you want, but being wise enough not to pursue it. However, we occasionally text, hoping to reunite again in our favorite city.

Despite the highs, I left Portugal single, but from my experiences, I’d gladly go back and explore the situations I left open-ended.

Kissing a Few Frogs Before Love

I firmly believe that the love of my life isn’t from the U.K. I dread to swipe in my own city. Dating abroad increased the variety and my knowledge of other cultures and increased the qualities I deem attractive. There were characteristics and charms I didn’t know I wanted in a future partner until I was exposed to more types of men. However, my singlehood currently does suggest that men can universally be trash.

There were guys who ghosted, only approached me as a fetish, said inappropriate things, were rude or disrespectful, didn’t know what they wanted, or gave the ick. I kissed a few frogs, and they didn’t transform, so I can’t outright say that the men are better in Iberia, but for me, there was more overall joy in my interactions, something that I didn’t expect when first going out there. Now that I know more, I wonder if a committed move to the area might be what I need to spring my love life into its best era.