• partner choice;
  • spatial homogamy;
  • meeting places;
  • local cultural similarity;
  • social and cultural norms;
  • spatial connotations


The paper investigates the process of partner choice and the specific role of geographical distance in this process. This focus on the spatial component is a unique and new approach to address the topic. By adopting a qualitative approach, the decision-making process preceding partner choice is captured, including the preferences people have for partners, the norms influencing partner choice, and the places people go to meet potential partners. In a Dutch village, focus groups were organised around the topic. The results show that place is crucial in partner choice. Partners from close by are preferred as that is convenient and as they are seen as trustworthy persons. Spatial perceptions of people and places, based on perceived local cultural differences, affect the distance at which partners are found. The rural setting of the study, including mostly less educated participants, revealed that opportunities and norms are more important in partner choice in such a case, whereas preferences play a minor role. Local cultural diversity, from diverse reformed denominations to spatial perceptions of the mentality of people in nearby communities, affects patterns of social interaction. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.