There’s been a recent debate amongst my friends, over how to tell wether or not you’re in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with someone, and most importantly for all my expat friends, does this vary from culture to culture?

In the UK, you’re typically dating someone, or ‘seeing’ someone (mums will never understand the concept of seeing someone), and then after a while, there’s usually that awkward conversation of, “So, are you my girlfriend?” It might not be as clear cut or as blunt as that, but that’s essentially the question that’s being asked. They might just word it in a number of other ways. Like;

“So, are you still seeing other people?”

“Where is this going?”

“What are we?”

“What exactly are you looking for?”

But nowadays, how do you know? Particularly if you’re dating someone from somewhere outwith the UK? My British expat friend shared her confusion when her European boyfriend introduced her to friends as his girlfriend (before having that “So, are you my girlfriend?” conversation). Afterwards, she brought up the fact that he had never asked her to be his girlfriend, and so she didn’t know where she had stood up until that point. He replied, “Well, we aren’t in school. I didn’t realise that I had to ask you to be my girlfriend.” Until the “This is my girlfriend” introduction, she hadn’t known if she was his girlfriend or not. Eager not to rock the relationship boat, she’d put off asking him the “where is this going question” until he answered it himself, without her even asking. It was something she’d never really encountered before.

Let’s face it, people like to know where they stand – plodding along in relationship purgatory isn’t an ideal situation. What’s so wrong with having a bit of verification on the matter? A girl is made out to be a psycho if she just “assumes” that she has a boyfriend (god forbid she should think that the guy likes her and that it may lead to something more substantial long term) but if she asks where it’s going, well, she’s sometimes even deemed as desperate.

With this in mind, I decided to start asking some guy friends for their thoughts on the subject, and they pretty much all listed the same things. However, there was one conversation in particular between me and a colleague during a particularly long and quiet shift at work, that I think concludes the subject better than any other.

(I’m going to lay it out like the conversation/interview that it was).

Picture the scene, me, perched on a wobbly seat drinking Earl Grey tea with milk and trying to distract myself from eating a biscuit:


Me: My friends and I have been having an ongoing discussion about how to tell if you’re boyfriend/girlfriend or wether it’s just a casual thing. We’ve realised that in the UK, you’re not going out with someone until they ask you out officially. It doesn’t seem to be that way though, in other countries…

Him: Well, for a start, if you even have to ask that question, then you’re not his girlfriend. When a girl asks you ‘what are we?’, us guys hear, ‘Your free trial has expired, do you want to subscribe?”

Me: OMG. Do you really???

Him: Yes. And then it’s usually GAME OVER! Haha! Your free time is UP!

Me: That’s harsh! But also a bit hilarious that you say that. I’ve never even heard that before! What’s the big deal about having a girlfriend though? Surely if you’re seeing someone, you like her, and she likes you, so what’s wrong with her wanting to be your girlfriend?

Him: But that’s the thing. Maybe I like her, but I don’t like her – not enough to be my girlfriend anyway. Just enough for her to be like a… ‘special friend’. I mean having a girlfriend is saying goodbye to freedom. For example, if your friends want to go out to a club, but your girlfriend wants to go see a movie, then you kind of need to go see a movie with her instead of seeing your friends, especially if you aren’t going to be able to see each other for a few days because of work. Or if my friends ask me to go to the gym at 10am, but she wants to go at 1pm, I need to go at 1pm with her. I need to WANT a girlfriend before I’ll even consider it. If I’m not looking for a girlfriend then she’s only ever going to be a special friend.

Me: Wouldn’t you go see movies with a girl you like? (AKA your special friend)

Him: Well, no. It’s more like a dinner and drinks, last minute plans kind of thing… With a girlfriend, it’s different. Don’t get me wrong, I am really nice to my special friend. I like her, so I’m not just going to sleep with her and then run out of the door. I’ll stay over, hang out, make a nice lunch together or whatever, and THEN I’ll leave. I’ll call her the next week too, if I really like her. But it’s just for fun.

Me: Hmmmm…

Him: Right, if we are special friends, there’s no forward planning. We live separate lives, and we don’t really socialise with each other’s friends. I’ll see her maybe once a week and it’s usually for dinner and drinks or a Netflix and chill. But with a girlfriend, well… we’ll go to the cinema, and I’ll hold her hand. We know each others friends and we’ve met each other’s family (or the family will at least know about us). I’ll call her, pick her up, I’ll make forward plans with her. When we are both at home, we’ll stay over at one another’s apartments, which means that I see her more than once a week, and we talk about personal things. I don’t do any of that stuff with a special friend. THAT is the difference.

Me: But what if you can’t see one another for a week because of work? I mean, in our job you can both work stupid shifts, and travel constantly.

Him: Well then, for sure I am going to see her on the only day that I can. I’ll even pick her up from work at a ridiculous time, just to make sure I see her.

Me: In the UK, usually, a guy would ask a girl to be his girlfriend. Isn’t that a thing in Europe?

Him: I’m not on some Justin Timberlake bullshit, singing ‘would you be my girlfriend?’!!! What is this shit!? I am not going to write a note and pass it to her like we are in school, “Do you want to be my girlfriend? Please tick Y or N”. Come on!!! We are adults!

Me: So she should just know?

Him: Trust me, she’ll know.

Me: But surely this throws an spanner in the works because, aren’t you supposed to give things some time? Obviously, you can’t just go on two dates with someone and BOOM! I now pronounce you officially boyfriend and girlfriend. So how long, before a person should know?

Him: Listen, if it’s been three months (maximum) and you don’t know if he is your boyfriend, then trust me. That guy is NOT your boyfriend.



And there you have it folks. The most black and white, basic way to tell if you’re girlfriend/boyfriend. If he not introducing you to his friends, making forward plans with you, or holding your sticky popcorn hands in-between the movie trailers, then that guy does not see you as a girlfriend, and you should stop wasting your time right this second.

And that is how you’ll know if someone is or is not your boyfriend/girlfriend without having to ask them.

You’re welcome.

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