What happens when you meet someone you were not « supposed » to ever come across in your life? And when this meeting is so life-changing that you have to question values and worldviews you thought were right and universal?
This is what I want to explore with you in « Love in Translation ».
Every week, you will discover a new intercultural couple who overcame incredible obstacles to be together.
Language barrier, culture shocks, religion, long-distance, or even a pandemic : these couples will show you that anything is possible.
Fasten your seatbelt, get yourself an orange juice, and be ready for the amazing journey of love across borders.
To start this series, I had to choose a very special couple. Paola and Friedrich are two lovely humans who will make your heart melt.
They come from countries which are extremely different in terms of cultural habits, with conflicting values regarding relationships, communication or even time!
When Paola meets Friedrich
Paola grew up in Limà, Peru. She’s proud of her country’s culture and never thought she would end up meeting a German boy, one day, at a party…
« We met at a party in Lima, Friedrich was traveling for 6 months across America and ended up in Peru. We had a date the day after and we quickly became inseparable.
In my culture, it is common that if you want to start a relationship, one of the parts asks the other formally. But in Germany, they don’t do that. So for a while, I thought he just wanted us to be friends. »
Lost in translation
And this first misunderstanding was only the beginning of a long journey to fully understand each other. As their relationship evolved, they had to learn each other’s language. And it is still an ongoing struggle.
« We both spoke English from the beginning. Eventually Friedrich learned Spanish on the way. But I had to take German classes and I am still struggling with the language. Currently we are mixing up the three languages when we talk.
When I am with his family, I mostly speak in German. They cooperate a lot and practice their English with me too. Friedrich is now able to communicate with my family in Spanish. »
But verbal language was not the only barrier to overcome. Paola realized that their way of communicating was totally different and could create a wide range of awkward situations.
« I discovered he was brutally honest, which in my country can be seen as rudeness. He also uses lots of visual contact, which I’m not used to, and he complains very often while I’m most passionate when we have an argument.
We got to the point where we needed to communicate more and stop the constant misunderstandings. We had to improve a lot in that area. I worked on myself and adjusted to some of his habits: not to speak too loud, not to kiss people when I meet them, and most importantly: to say no. In my country, it is frowned upon to say no to people. »
Adapting to a new environment
Indeed, when you come from such opposite countries, adapting to the local customs and habits is not always easy. It is one thing to know intellectually that you need to adapt, it’s another thing to apply new traditions in your daily life.
Paola decided to move to Germany for a while and remembers the challenges she had to face.
« Most of our fights had to do with our cultural differences. I learned lots of their rules. Punctuality in Germany is everything, from dates to public transport. I had to learn how to be very quick at the supermarket checkout line!
I also discovered some fun differences, like the amount of beer he can drink or the fact that he’s not ashamed of being naked.
Moving to Germany was not always easy. I had a hard time getting used to the weather and I missed a lot of things from home : my friends and family of course, but also Peruvian food and not being close to the ocean. Today I can say that I respect and value German culture, I can even somehow call it « home ».
And Covid came their way…
As they struggled with cultural differences and having to live across two continents, they also had to face the most unexpected issue: a global pandemic.
« Our biggest challenge was the pandemic. Friedrich and I decided to sell my apartment and start my visa process in February 2020, after I quit my job. And before we could even start, the lockdown hit us. He decided to stay in Peru until August 2020. But we couldn’t really move forward.
At the moment, we just have a wedding date, but another lockdown started in Peru. It separated me for months from Friedrich and we had very difficult times trying to deal with our long-distance relationship. I still don’t know how things are gonna go in the future.
Yet, I learned from the Covid crisis to live in the present and to appreciate the time I have with my loved ones. Also not to doubt jumping into new experiences because life is totally unexpected.
In the end, it made our relationship stronger because we experienced quarantine together but also long-distance communication. »
A hopeful future
Paola and Friedrich are planning to get married on June 24th, but they can’t be sure that the situation will allow them to follow their plans. The amount of papers they have to deal with for the wedding is overwhelming and Paola regrets that her family won’t be able to attend this special day.
Yet, when they think about the future, Paola and Friedrich are full of hope. And they know that this situation will come to an end.
« Being in a binational relationship is totally worth the challenge. It helps you to be more resilient during difficult times. But most importantly, the challenges you face as a binational couple make your relationship stronger and special.
We would also love to have kids one day, and I see our bicultural background as a gift for them. I think it opens lots of opportunities to grow as a more empathetic human. I am not worried about raising them in a foreign country because I know my new home in Germany will be like a little Peru. And I will take them to my hometown as often as possible. »