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Musings On Love, Language and A Long Life From An American Living In Europe


Does Love Have A Universal Definition?

Love you! Oh la la, there it is again. That weird feeling I get when I don’t know what country I belong to anymore. The slight freeze of my body, with my eyes opened wide when I see these words written:  Love you.

You see, Americans have this wonderful attitude about sharing emotions and feelings out loud and on paper. I think I have lost touch. This word, LOVE, for me is supposed to be attached with emotions. Like a little flutter in your heart or that warm caring feeling in your soul. This definition of love equates with feelings that you translate with love things.

When someone tells me Love you, what do I say back?  If I feel love towards them, I say: Love you too.

If I haven’t seen them in more than twenty years and they tell me:  Love you. I freeze up.  I feel weird. Same with the written words.  If you write me an email and we haven’t been close for twenty years neither and you write at the end of your email Love you;  I feel weird. After a deep breath I stop and think, “sxxt, I am really losing touch with the America should be doings.” Why can’t I just say “love you” to everyone? Because I feel the word Love is said too much in America.  If we say Love You too much, what happens when we really need to say it? For me, it has less meaning coming from inside of me if I say love you to everyone. Let me know if I am wrong. Really, I am confused.

I Love You Doesn’t Direct Translate Into Every Language

France has been my second home for over ten years. I have gotten used to the private, semi-coldness that you get from the French. They let you into their homes and hearts when they are ready. And when they do, you cannot get away! It is just not part of the French culture to outwardly express: Je t’aime (I love you) or Je t’aime bien (I like you).

Do Europeans reserve this discreet language of love?  Or do their words translated to I love you have more significance in some European countries? You wouldn’t say t’aime bien ( like you) to everyone you know. You would say Je t’aime or Je t’aime bien with those whom you reserve this space in your heart.  The weight behind these words is strong.  Je t’aime for your spouse or fiancé.  Je t’aime bien for your very close friends, children and parents.

Things are even more confusing in Spain and Italy, two romantic latin countries bordering France. In Spain you could say: Te quiero or Te amo. In Italy you could say:  Ti voglio bene or Ti amo. Both sayings can have the same meaning “I Love You” but are reserved for different relationships. In both countries, te amo or ti amo is reserved for a romantic, serious relationship, either with your spouse or the person who is nearly your spouse. Te quiero or ti voglio bene means “I want” as in I want the best for you, I care about you, maybe I love you but it is too early to say this, I love you but I cannot say more now. Plus these second ways to say I love you are for other unromantic yet close relationships; our parents, children and close friends.

In a way, the translated version of “I LOVE YOU” can be more confusing than in America, but once you understand it, it can be more powerful. If someone tells you “Je t’aime”, “Te amo” or “Ti amo” this means strong, everlasting love. If you are in a relationship where your language is different, it is best to talk about this delicate issue if you are not sure. It could lead to misunderstandings between cultures. “I love you” is a universal saying, but it has different meanings around the world.

Staying In Love Helps To Live a Long Healthy Life

So you have reached the “I LOVE YOU” stage of a real committed and romantic relationship. What if this continues? Research has shown that those who are in long-term loving relationships have a better chance to live a longer and healthier life. For this reason, I wish you all lots of love, the way you want it. It doesn’t have to be romantic love neither. Just love. Like in America. Emotions.

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