Wednesday 14 August 2019

Half of Britons (54 per cent) would avoid having a holiday romance because of language barriers, according to a new poll published by the British Council.

Just 17 per cent of adults in the UK have had a holiday romance with someone who did not speak English as their first language, while a further 21 per cent would consider doing so.

Men were significantly more likely than women to consider or have had a holiday romance with someone whose first language was not English (41 per cent compared to 29 per cent), and less likely than women to be put off by potential obstacles to starting or continuing such a relationship, such as distance, travel costs, time zones and cultural differences. 

Nearly one quarter (24 per cent) of men said the language barrier would not present an obstacle, compared to just 16 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men did not think cultural differences would cause problems, compared to 22 per cent of women.

Of those Brits who found love abroad, 47 per cent of relationships ended with the holiday. Only a fifth of holiday romances with someone whose first language was not English lasted more than six months after returning home.

But even if most holiday romances do not last long-term, they can prompt people to take interest in their partner’s culture: 63 per cent of respondents said a relationship with someone whose first language was not English would inspire them to learn some of their partner’s first language; 59 per cent would travel in their partner’s country; and 56 per cent would try foods from their partner’s region. Twenty per cent would even consider moving to their partner’s country – including a quarter of men.

British Council spokesperson Vicky Gough said: “The results show that speaking another language shifts from being seen as a barrier to romance to something interesting that people want to explore in a partner.

“Language differences might put off half of Brits from starting a holiday romance, but if you break that barrier, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) would want to learn their partner’s language.”

“For those of us heading off on holiday abroad, learning just a few phrases of the local language could see the beginning of a whole new relationship with a person and their culture.”

Previous research by the British Council earlier this year found that just over a third (34 per cent) of Brits would contemplate picking up another language if it might result in love. Some were even prepared to fake it, with 12 per cent of people even admitted pretending to be better at a language than they really were to impress someone – with this figure rising to 21 per cent in the 18-24-year-old age bracket.

Italian, French and Spanish were listed as the top three most romantic foreign languages, overlapping with the latest survey, which places Spain (17 per cent), France (11 per cent) and Italy (eight per cent) as the top three foreign nationalities with whom Brits abroad find romance.

The surveys, carried out by Populus, were commissioned by the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities – as part of its work to build relationships for the UK around the world through language, culture and education.

Notes to Editor

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About Populus

Populus conducted an online sample of 2000 UK adults aged 18+ in July 2019.  Data is weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain.  Targets for quotas and weights are taken from the National Readership Survey, a random probability F2F survey conducted annually with 34,000 adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by it rules.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK