I came across a post by Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s blog advising black women seeking to live abroad.  I had to share her inspiring blog from Heart & Soul from Jan. 22, 2011.

“Had I shut down my Match.com International profile a few seconds earlier, I probably would be writing a different story. A message lurking in my inbox began a three-year intercontinental relationship with a Swede with whom I recently exchanged “I dos.” What drove me to consider love abroad? “Some black women choose to date internationally because it delivers an exciting range of relationship opportunities they would not likely have domestically,” says Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, who has penned expert feature articles on finding love for Match.com and AOL. “For the well-traveled black woman, the chance to meet men from different countries creates an endless stream of relationship potential.”

That made sense. As I chatted with more black women who’d found love abroad, one thing we seemed to have in common was that we were avid travelers; adventurous and open to new dating experiences. Finding love abroad is a significant time investment, and online dating opens up the world to women searching beyond their backyards. Once a connection is made, hundreds of dollars can be burnt flying across continents in attempts to sustain your budding relationship.  While the prospect of an international relationship may seem exciting, the reality is that it exposes a whole new set of challenges. Sure, the old adage says absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of finding love abroad, the adage  out of sight, out of mind  ends up being more appropriate in many cases as the strain of distance takes its toll on new love. International relationships in their infancy readily fall victim to this. And once you and your love decide to take things further, issues such as securing resident permits, learning the local language and finding jobs begin to surface.
Whitney Love met her boyfriend, Roar, online in 2006 while living and working in Germany as an English teacher. The couple currently resides in Stavanger, Norway. “I have heard too many stories of women who ended up down and out because something happened to their husband, and they couldn’t speak the language or didn’t have a local support network. I didn’t want that to be me!” says Whitney, who is fluent in Norwegian and has secured a job in Stavanger.

For many black expatriates, the immigration process could take months, even years, with a mandatory period of physical separation required while necessary visas and permits are being processed. Sometimes, permits are denied and this can devastate a relationship.  Living oceans away from family can be equally emotional. Erica Smith-Escassut, originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but now living in Toulouse with her French husband of 10 years, can relate. Being able to share experiences in real time with family and friends is difficult. “Knowing that I can’t just hop in the car and drive over to see my mother makes the distance challenging,” she says. “The Internet has made it easy to stay in contact, but nothing will ever replace being able to give someone a hug.”

Finding a community of black female expatriates can temporarily fill those gaps of loneliness, and that is what Adrianne George, founder of the Black Women in Europe (BWIE) blog, aims to achieve. BWIE is a social networking site that celebrates “women of the African Diaspora living in Europe.” She also found love abroad, meeting her Swedish partner, Jonas, in Brussels five years ago.

Building a local network of friends can be tough. “It’s been really daunting making friends here,” says Camille Acey, who lives in Radovljica with her Slovenian partner. “I am outgoing, but friendships here are built on something else, and I think that something else is time.”

As intimidating as the challenges seem, the rewards can be significant. Learning she could thrive in a whole different culture is one of the rewards Carolyn Vines found. For 13 years, she and her husband have lived in Voorschoten, Netherlands; she is currently penning a book about her experiences.  Opportunities to understand different cultures as well as raise children in a multi-ethnic environment have more and more black women seeking love abroad. “I’d encourage anyone who is thinking of making a move abroad to study the country they’re considering to learn more about everyday life there,” advises Tara Bradley, who resides in Hampshire, England, with her spouse.Finding someone who connects with you on every level can be difficult. Finding him or her halfway across the globe? Not so fulfilling at first. But realizing there’s no other place you’d rather be than with that person is priceless. “The odds of a successful relationship are greater if you share a common background and goals, but who’s to say you can’t find similar values across ethnic groups?” Cummings-Yeates notes. “It just takes a little effort and an adventurous spirit.”

–Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom