The 8 Strangest Dating Customs Worldwide

In my journey to understand the complex tapestry of love and relationships, I’ve encountered some very unusual (and at times downright strange!) global dating customs.

These rituals, some steeped in ancient traditions and others born of modern necessity, offer a glimpse into how different cultures approach the universal quest for companionship and love. Here are eight of the most intriguing dating customs I’ve discovered, from the Welsh lovespoons to the body-scented(!) apple slices of Austria.

1. Spooning Leads to Romance in Wales
In Wales, the age-old tradition of the “lovespoon” demonstrates a man’s affection and intentions. Dating back to the 17th century, a suitor carves intricate wooden spoons as a token of his interest in a woman. These spoons, adorned with symbols of love, were not only a showcase of the suitor’s craftsmanship, but also a sign of his commitment to provide for his beloved. This charming custom persists today, with lovespoons given as gifts during various romantic and ceremonial occasions.

2. Courting by Love Huts in Cambodia
In the Kreung tribe of Cambodia, the practice of love huts offers a unique approach to dating and finding a life partner. Parents build separate huts for their teenage daughters, where they can invite boys over to spend the night as a way to find a suitable husband. This practice emphasises the importance of consent and personal choice in the pursuit of a marital partner, showcasing a surprisingly progressive stance on relationships for such a conservative country.

3. Germany’s Apple of Love
Whilst today Germany is considered a very liberal country when it comes to love, particularly in the larger cities like Cologne and Berlin, in years gone by, there was a quaint custom in certain parts of Germany known as “Apfelstrudelnacht” or “Apple Strudel Night.” On Christmas Eve, young women place several slices of apple strudel under their pillow, dreaming of their future husband. The next day, they share the strudel with the first man they encounter, symbolically offering a piece of their heart.

4. “Blackening” for Scottish Brides and Grooms
Scotland has a rather messy pre-wedding tradition known as the “blackening.” Friends and family gather to surprise the bride or groom with a shower of foul substances like spoiled milk, dead fish, and tar. The belief behind this bizarre custom is that if a couple can withstand this ordeal together, they can handle anything marriage throws their way. It’s a testament to love’s endurance, albeit a stinky one!

5. Love letters to Juliet
In the age of emails, WhatsApp, and “DMs” it is nice to know that love letters are still popular in some parts of the world. Despite the eponymous heroine of Romeo & Juliet being a fictional character (created by a 15th century Italian Friar and immortalised by William Shakespeare in 1597), over 10,000 hopeful/hopeless romantics still travel to the Italian city of Verona every year to leave love letters at the balcony purported to be Juliet’s. Even more surprisingly, they often receive a response too!

6. The ‘Armpit Apple’ in Austria
During traditional balls in 19th century rural Austria, women would carry slices of apple in their armpits throughout the evening. At the end of the night, they would offer the apple slice to the man of their choice. If the feelings were mutual, he would eat the apple slice, symbolising their mutual attraction and acceptance. This peculiar courtship ritual underscores the importance of scent in attraction and the lengths to which people will go to find a compatible partner.

7. The Whistling Village of Mexico
In the village of Zimapán, Mexico, an ancient, whistled language called “Silbo” is used for communication across the steep valleys. Young lovers have repurposed Silbo to send secret messages and arrange clandestine meetings away from the prying eyes of their families. This unique form of communication underscores the universality of love’s language, transcending spoken words and embracing the melodies of the heart.

8. The Foot-Tapping Rituals of the Philippines
In the Philippines, a traditional courting practice known as “Sayaw sa Bangko” or “Dance on the Bench” involves young men performing intricate footwork around and over a bench to woo their beloved. This dance, often performed during fiestas and weddings, showcases the suitor’s agility and grace, symbolising his dedication and effort to win over his partner. It’s a vibrant testament to the expressive power of dance in the game of love.

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