Long distance wasn’t something I considered too much when I lived in the States. It’s not common to have a long distance relationship unless one is exiting high school or moving onto a new career from college. As an expat, however, long distance relationships are all the rage.

Why is that? Expats tend to find other expats and when people move to another country either for work or for study, the stay is not intended to be permanent. At some point, one of the partners in a relationship has to move back home or move on to the next stage in the career path. Thus the expat couple is faced with a dilemma – do we continue the relationship or call it quits?

For those who have decided to continue (like myself), I’ve compiled some ideas to keep the romance alive just in time for the Valentine’s Day holiday (how convenient).

*First author’s note: The ideas start small and get grander and grander. 

1Send a secret letter

Courtesy of Google Images.

Pretend to be blasé with your significant other and shrug at the holiday, maybe even grunt and sigh at the word Valentine’s Day because it’s overly commercialised (what isn’t?). But in reality, send a post card in the mail with the simple words, “I like you” or “You’re cute” with no return address and no signature. Your partner may even be embarrassed to mention it to you, but it’s a sweet way to play the secret admirer game or worst case, give them a confidence boost because come on, who doesn’t like a secret admirer?!

2Skype dinner date

Courtesy of me. Can you guess what I'll be ordering?

Go online to your nearest Foodora or Deliveroo and order YOUR favourite meal for your significant other. Do you like sushi? Order it. Is pad Thai your comfort food? Order that too. Do you have a craving for meatless pizza? Why not? The sky or your wallet is the limit. And while your chatting with your significant other, you can get excited about their discovery of your favourite dish or dish combination and of course, vice versa.

3Meet for a cup of coffee

Courtesy of Me. How romantic, there's a heart in my coffee.

Depending on your locations this may be a difficult one to accomplish; however, if it can be managed there’s nothing more romantic than a spontaneous day trip, and ‘grabbing a cup of coffee’ is a good enough excuse to meet in a romantic city. Get inspired by George Clooney’s Nespresso commercials and fly to Rome or if that’s too much, Google ‘cutest cafes in X region’ and just pick one. Find a city that’s close to you both (if possible) and meet up for coffee. Because, why not?

**Second author’s note: I’m lucky to live in the Benelux region of Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) where train, plane, and bus travel is incredibly convenient for us both and a spontaneous(ish) cup of coffee is doable. 

4Grow together

This headline is pretty vague. I realise this. But something that can be obnoxiously romantic (with Valentine’s Day giving the right amount of impetus) is to decide on learning a new skill together while apart. Do neither of you speak Portuguese? Start learning with Duolingo and challenge each other daily. Ever want to learn how to give proper massages? Take courses and then when you see each other, test out your new skills (lots of winking is involved with this suggestion). You can still grow together while apart and this can be done anytime, but if you’re looking for an excuse to be romantic on this overly commercialised holiday, here’s your chance.

5Weekend getaway

Courtesy of Me Last year's ball picture. We went with friends and as friends and all of it was glorious and romantic.

This is a low-hanging fruit for most couples living in a proximity that’s relatively easy to manage. A nice twist on the weekend getaway would be to go to a place where you’re experiencing something out of the ordinary together that can also be quite romantic (let’s stick with the Valentine’s Day theme). My personal favourite is to go to a ball in Vienna. It’s ball season (or ‘gala’ as my Dutch friends say. So classy, right?) and tickets are pretty affordable (if you’re not a student) for a night filled with champagne, dressed up gals and gents, live orchestra, and classical dancing (waltz, tango, foxtrot, swing…dances that make you feel more sophisticated than you actually are). It’s even better to attend with a group of friends. It doesn’t take away from the romanticism and also creates a delightfully amusing atmosphere.