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When you're going out with someone, don't rush to formalise it with the ‘where are we going with this relationship? Just go with the flow and enjoy what's going on between you.

More often, the clue that a relationship is getting serious is if you're invited back home to meet the parents.

To gather real accounts of the European dating scene, last year we asked around 500 (mostly, but not exclusively, heterosexual) expats living in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland a series of up-close and personal questions about themselves, their relationships and their sex lives.

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Whereas in France, if you kiss someone on the lips (or have sex) it means you're ‘in a relationship'. In the UK or US, there's much debate about how long to wait before calling after a first date. Too long and it can seem like they're not really interested.

In Europe, once a man gets your number he will most likely call straight away, rather than wait a few days.

A French man or Spaniard might tell you he loves you after only a few weeks but don't panic: It usually just means ‘I really like you'.

Women can say it back to a man with the same meaning – it doesn't mean you should be moving in together or planning a wedding any time soon.

In France, Germany and Belgium, it's common for the man to ask a woman out, but in Switzerland, the men can be a little reserved so women might want to give them a nudge.

For French men, it's all about the chase, and playing ‘hard to get' is part of the game.In places like the Netherlands and Germany, people can be very direct in the way they speak (rather than being over polite and saying things ‘to be nice' that they don't mean to avoid hurting someone's feelings – as is often the way in the UK).So what you say may be taken at face value – and you shouldn't always take to heart what's said to you. In the UK, drinking a vast amount of alcohol can be central in beginning a sexual relationship with someone.If you really aren't interested, then be very clear and tell him politely but firmly (the hints that might work back home, won't work here).The Spanish have a reputation as romantic and passionate people.In most European countries, rather than going on specific ‘dates' as you might in the US, getting to know someone romantically is far more casual: "Walks in the afternoon/evening which may be followed by an informal drink at a café or a bite to eat at lunchtime", or "meeting up in a group with friends" is not uncommon, says some European expats.

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