In the US, people hardly bat an eye at couples walking hand in hand, arm in arm, or, in some serious cases, even lip on lip. In other countries, however, varying definitions of love dictate acceptable levels of PDA and the very role affection plays in a couple’s relationship. What does love mean to people around the world?

Let’s find out!


GREECE: The Ancient Greeks had four words to describe the vast range of love: eros, used to express sexual love or the feelings of physically attraction between two people; storge, which referred to natural, familial love; philia, the warm affection shared between friends; and agapé, typically defined as the “self-sacrificing love.”   


JAPAN: Beyond the well-known bow, the Japanese are not big on demonstrating emotions through body language. In general, gestures are not considered an necessary form of expression in Japan. While public affection is not exhibited, the Japanese still have a wonderful sense of love and sexual expression (in the appropriate forums).


FRANCE: When plucking petals from a flower, the French would change the well-known “He loves me, he loves me not” motto to “He loves me a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all.” This demonstrates their belief not in the absolutes of total love or utter rejection, but in its nuances and array of possibilities.


PERU: The two basic phrases to express affection, “Te quiero” and “Te amo,” carry very different connotations. The first is used casually by friends, family members and couples (similarly to “I love you”), whereas the latter carries a more dramatic undertone that only applies to a very serious commitment—it is usually followed by a marriage proposal.


SPAIN: Spanish lovebirds demonstrate very elaborate displays of love, and are not afraid to show affection in the most passionate of ways. Poetry is a traditional way to express one’s feelings for another—a successful strategy for impressing a potential lover that has been used for centuries.


WALES: An age old tradition has suitors expressing their desire to take a wife by carving a block of wood into the shape of a spoon, called a lovespoon. Whittling out special shapes/etchings into the handle and cup part of the spoon convey meanings like “I am ready to settle down” for an anchor, or “My love will grow” for vines. The more ornate and symbolic the design, the greater chance the suitor has at winning his lover.


GERMANY: “Ich liebe dich” is “I love you” in German. On Valentine’s Day, the typical symbols of love take on a quirky twist, with little pigs offering flowers, taking provocative poses, or holding a four-leaf clover. This demonstrates both the luck and lust aspects of love.  


RUSSIA: Russians are very modest with their public displays of affection. Walking arm-in-arm and holding hands are fine, but openly kissing, etc. is highly frowned upon. Public displays of a couple’s relationship imply a much more serious commitment toward each other (most likely leading to marriage) than in the US.


INDIA: Hindu weddings are lavish celebrations filled with many traditions that include lots of dancing, reciting of hymns, and ornate decoration of both the celebration space and the couple themselves. Marriage is not for self-indulgence, but is considered a lifelong social and spiritual responsibility. As many Indian marriages are arranged, married life is seen as an opportunity for a couple to grow as life partners into soul mates, even if they do not feel that way initially.


AUSTRALIA: Valentine’s cards in Australia are much more ornate than your typical Hallmark card. The tradition dates back to the gold rush in the Ballarat Mine in Victoria during the mid-nineteenth century, where, due to the sudden increase in the wealth of the miners, it became a custom to shower their lovers with extravagant, intricately designed cards.


While the importance of love is not disputed by any culture, the way in which it is interpreted varies widely from country to country. A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but make sure it’s an okay way to show how you feel on that continent first!

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