The world is getting smaller. That we already know. Major environmental-impact issues aside, low-cost air travel means a weekend away (give or take a few days) to cities such as London or New York – or anywhere in Europe, for that matter – is relatively affordable. Factor in the Internet's increasing presence in our daily lives, and you start to realize just how small it's becoming.
Where am I going with all this? Our attitudes towards finding love are changing. Long-distance relationships aren't ideal. Granted. But with the advent of talk-for-free web programs such as Skype and aforementioned air travel, dating someone who lives a few thousand kilometres away has never been more feasible. What's more, the emergence of online dating around the globe suggests we're more open to the idea than ever.
Take, say, Britain. A recent article in leading London newspaper The Independent identifies a growing trend of unlucky-in-love Brits looking beyond their own borders for the perfect partner. Why? With the spiralling cost of rail travel in the United Kingdom, it's just as cheap to fly to a city such as Stockholm as it is to head overland from London to, say, Leeds. The paper also suggests that as much as one-fifth of the country's 15 million singles would consider a serious long-distance relationship with someone abroad.
Then there's the ‘exoticness', if you will, of dating a foreigner. It's almost a given, and is something that extends far beyond Europe. Put simply: people often yearn for something different to the norm they've grown up with.
But is the feeling reciprocated here in Sweden? If my early observations were anything to go by – yes. Swedish women, it seems, are warming to the idea of dating foreign men, particularly from the UK.
Keen to put the theory to test, I put the word out through friends. That two friends of friends dating Brits emerged in the space of a week is rather telling. Add to that a chance meeting with another (who happens to be dating an American) in savvy Stockholm bar Riche in the same week, and you start to get the picture.
First there was Sofia, 28, whose boyfriend is based in London. “Before I met James, I was spending time with friends there every six to eight weeks anyway,” says the Stockholm-based marketing manager. “So it's not a big deal. We met, by chance, when I was over about seven months ago, and have since been taking turns to fly over to see each other. We normally spend around two weekends a month together.”
The attraction of British men? “They're a lot more adventurous and interesting than Swedish guys. Seeing someone so far away certainly isn't for everyone, though. I'd much prefer to be able to call and just meet up whenever. But to be honest, it's so cheap to fly back and forth, and I can live with a two-and-a-half-hour flight after work on a Friday once a month. You learn to deal with it.”
So how much longer can she keep it up? “We're giving it until September. After that, one of us will need to make a decision – although, I think he'll end up moving to Stockholm. We'll see.”
For Anna, 33, the distance is much greater. “I was working in New York in 2006, Tom and I met, and things just clicked,” says the Stockholm-based financial consultant. “Unfortunately, I had to move back for work last year, whereas Tom's business had just started to take off.”
Is it worth the heartache? “The things you do for love. A long-distance relationship really suits me. Sometimes it's just easier, particularly if you work long hours. Obviously, long term, I'm either going to move back there or he's going to have to relocate here. In the meantime, though, I just don't have the time to see someone week in, week out. So it's ideal. We talk or email at least three to four times a week, so you can still maintain that connection and chemistry.”
And the fact they're separated by the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean? “Okay, the eight-hour flight is a bit of an issue. It just means I have to dip into my holiday leave every month or two. Not ideal, but definitely doable.”
Hanna, 23, on the other hand, met a Londoner online in March. “He's flying over in three weeks,” says the second-year design student. “We met on a dating site and started flirting on MSN. We've pretty much been chatting a couple of times a week ever since.”
Any apprehensions about meeting up with a foreign guy she's never met before? “I actually met my last boyfriend online, so, no, not really. I'm far more nervous this time, though, given the whole distance thing. When someone is flying all the way from another country, there's a lot more pressure.”
So why not date someone a little more local? “I've always liked the idea of dating a foreign guy – just for something different. I find Swedish guys a little boring. Plus, I'm thinking of moving to London after I graduate next year anyway, so, for me, it's exciting to see where things might lead.”
Is the cost of travelling to London on a regular basis a concern? “If it does work out, flights with Ryanair out of Vasterås are so cheap – they're, like 700 kronor return – I really can't see it being an issue.”