What an incredible love story you’re about to read!
Learning more about Lisa and Themba’s love did not only give me goosebumps but also made me reflect on my own behaviors as a European.
Growing worlds apart
Lisa grew up near Düsseldorf and her whole family is from there. As she puts it, she’s “100% German”. She mentioned that she identifies a lot with Germany on some aspects like friendships, reliability, organization and punctuality. Yet, since she spent some time abroad, she realized that she didn’t like some of the strictness of German people.
Her foreign half, Themba, comes from a whole different world. He grew up in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia but spent his high school years in South Africa, where his parents originally come from. A country that he considers his second home.
“Our hearts simply knew what they wanted…”
Everything began when Lisa went for an internship in Namibia.
“Since I am studying social work, I wanted to do my internship semester in another country. I decided to go to Namibia for 5 months. During that time, I stayed in a guesthouse and this is where I met Themba. We started seeing each other more often, having nice conversations, and he ended up telling me that he really liked me… I found that so weird, since I didn’t really know him too well. But he was just different from the other guys in Namibia and, at some point, I started liking him too.”
In fact, this is how Themba recalls the events:
“I instantly liked her on the very first day I shook her hand. I stared at her face in total awe. She and I eventually spent some time as friends. We discovered we had mutual interests. “Similar yet strangely different”: that was how we labeled that feeling we felt toward each other. Our hearts simply knew what they wanted…”
Even though they knew Lisa would have to leave Namibia after her internship, their love for each other kept on growing. They decided that the distance would not be an obstacle to their relationship and planned their future together.
Don’t let me be misunderstood
They quickly realized that understanding each other’s language would be essential, even though they could communicate in English.
“Themba is really good at learning languages and is a great English speaker, way better than I speak it. I promised him that if he speaks German fluently I will learn Afrikaans, another language he is speaking. I think everybody in my family including me is really proud of the way he can already speak in German.”
But beyond the language, Lisa and Themba faced huge cultural differences. Where Germans are attached to rules and a certain strictness, Namibians tend to live their life in a more idealistic and improvised way.
Lisa remembers her months in Namibia as a strong shock:
“Namibia was a whole new experiment for me, but so worth it. The country stole a part of my heart. But I had to get used to a few things. Namibians aren’t really punctual and are not taking life too seriously in most situations. But from that I learned to be more chilled in some situations of my life.”
Their cultural differences were also striking in terms of family relationships, friendships and community.
“The kids have to help out the parents a lot and often live with their whole family together. While in Germany, the goal is to be completely independent from your family and the parents are the ones helping out the kids. Another funny thing is, I always had the feeling that everybody was connected to anybody in Namibia. As soon as the locals saw someone on the street, they had somehow a connection to them or at least a story to tell.”
The illusion of time
For Themba, instead, the most surprising element had to do with the European concept of time. His perception is particularly interesting and highlights deeper cultural differences.
“Africa gives me much less promises but a more idealistic vision of life and family. Whereas Europe gives me a sense of immediacy and consistency in getting work done. My big challenge in Europe is simply the serious perception of a ‘time schedule’. I believe that time is an illusion. However, in Europe I realized that time was all about: “hop-hop!”/”Schnell-Schnell”. The concept of time is what you make of it or what you think of it. The most important is what an individual makes out of his or her lifespan on earth. So it is the ‘serious acknowledgment of time’ on a linear schedule in foreign countries that I find interesting.”
Learning from each other
And getting used to such different visions of life is definitely a challenge. But Themba has a wise way to consider this situation.
“It can be hard to accept her cultural differences, especially if it means that either one of us has to adapt to a new character trait…Ouch! But I try to think of this situation as a compromise rather than a sacrifice. My girlfriend is so kind, she makes me feel at home wherever she is. I guess love is all one needs to sympathize.”
Lisa also feels that she’s already learnt a lot from Themba and is grateful for their bicultural background.
“We were raised in a very different way and in some situations, it’s not easy to understand the other perspective. But we are doing a good job from my point of view. One thing I learnt from him is “Trust and believe”. Themba often says that. If you really love each other, you will go through the hard and beautiful moments in life. As long as you have strong love for each other and you care about each other, you can do it, no matter what comes!!”
Good times ahead
The upcoming months will be a great time for the couple. Themba is finally moving to Germany to spend his life with Lisa. Needless to say that Lisa is over the moon…
“I still can’t believe that Themba and I will move together in 3 weeks. The months we have spent apart are longer than the time we spent together. We have reached so much in a short time of period and I am so proud of us. The upcoming time will be more than exciting, I can’t wait to finally see him every day in real life. If we can do it, you can also do it!”
Even if they’re not thinking of getting married or having kids on the short-term, they are hopeful about the future and Themba is not stressed about his life as an expat.
“I’m not worried about our different countries or living far from family members. This kind of lifestyle is familiar because I’ve always been an itinerant as well as my girlfriend. So hopefully our kids will get this in their DNA as well.”
Lisa and Themba are very wise and believe in their love to overcome future challenges. They know that being in an intercultural relationship is totally worth it.
“In the end it has a lot to do with how you see the situation. If you see it as an advantage, it will be one. If you see it as a challenge, it will probably be a challenge. You need a lot of patience, understanding and reflection in order to understand your partner.”
And I have some fantastic news for you: Themba moved to Germany last week! The couple is finally reunited and more than ready to start a European life in Cologne.
Do you want to read another inspiring love story? Meet Edu and Kasia, from Brazil and Poland!