International Couples Series: Ashley & Borja

I’m so excited to feature Ashley and Borja on The Quirky Pineapple for the International Couples Series!! Although Borja is from Spain and Ashley from Canada, and they both live in Spain currently, you’d be surprised they didn’t meet here. Where did they meet, y’all ask? Well, I’ll let their interview explain all of the cute and quirky details of their love story, which started in a little sushi restaurant.

They’ve just been engaged (CONGRATULATIONS!!!) and are currently in the process of planning their wedding in their free time. I was reading through their interview, and instantly felt like they were long time friends recounting funny stories and sharing bits of their personal life with me. I’m sure y’all will enjoy reading this interview as much as I did!

Continue reading to learn a bit more about this fun and quirky couple, who started their love story in a little sushi restaurant, while one person made rice and the other made the maki! (:

The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (: Where did you both meet, who made the first move, how did it come about? 

People generally assume that we met in Spain, since it’s where we’ve been living for the last two years, but we actually met in London, in 2011. At that time Borja was doing what many young Spanish people have done since the crisis and moved to England to study English and work. That same year I applied for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa and moved there during the summer, between university semesters, with a friend from Canada. Borja and I met at work. We both worked at a sushi restaurant in central London- Borja made the rice and I made the maki (sometimes we still make sushi at home)!

Even though we both think it’s the other, it was probably actually me who made the first move. After meeting at work (Borja had just been hired) the company held a party for our restaurant and I asked for his number. I think the thing that most helped our relationship along was how close we lived to one another. London is massive and it just so happened that we lived a mere 15-minute walk from one another. That had to be fate, right?

TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?

Home sweet home is currently Burgos, Spain. We’ve been in this city for a year, after 8 months in small town near Bilbao and a period in Canada after leaving London. We both adore Burgos! It’s incredibly beautiful, and we live in the historic centre so we can really appreciate all of the old architecture here on a daily basis. We also love the size; Burgos has a population of about 180 000 people, which works just right for us! It has all of the things we need and whatever we don’t have we usually go to Madrid for as it’s just two hours away. Plus, the restaurant and pintxo scene here is incredible!

International Couples Series ft Borja & Ashley -- The Quirky Pineapple
Castro Urdiales, Spain (September 2014)

TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?

I speak English, Spanish and French. Borja speaks Spanish and English, and he’s currently learning French (which rocks because I have someone to watch French films with now).

Whenever people ask my answer is usually 80%-20%; we speak Spanish 80% of the time and English about 20%. Of course it varies from day to day, but the truth is that Spanish has really taken over since we moved back to Spain because I’ve wanted to become more fluent. I think it’s interesting that that’s the case when you consider that in the first years of our relationship we exclusively used English because I spoke zero Spanish. Nada!

TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?

Borja is Spanish and I’m Canadian!

TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural and interlanguage relationship?

There are so many things! But for us the top most frustrating part of being in an international relationship has been being together. With one of us being from North America and the other from Europe it made it impossibly difficult to be together! For the majority of our relationship we dealt with applying for visas, expired visas, leaving our jobs and being unemployed in the other’s country, long-distance and leaving home. It was endlessly challenging, but we both agree that since we survived all of that and made it through together we can get through anything.

TQP: What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?

ASHLEY: Just about everything about Spain was hard for me to get used to. España es mucha España! This country’s culture was nothing short of completely overwhelming for me- it probably didn’t help that I didn’t speak Spanish when I first started coming here- and it took me a few years to get used to. I found everything from family life to meal times, from Spanish old wives’ tales to nightlife, general habits to how people dress really different from the Canadian norm.

BORJA: Apart from the weather?! hahaha. One of the most difficult things to get used to was the need for the car, everything in Canada is so spread out, even if you want to have a coffee, you need to take the car to drive to the nearest coffee shop, which may be 5-10km away. Also, not having bread (baguette style) on my table every day to eat my food with was so difficult! Finally, not having shops or bars on the streets, only in commercial centres or the old town, made it difficult to hang out with friends as I was used to in Spain, where we go for a walk just because and meet people we know along the way.

International Couples Series ft Borja & Ashley -- The Quirky Pineapple
St. John’s, Canada (August 2014 — Ashley’s hometown!)

TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?

ASHLEY: Spanish food, of course! The Spanish know their food and food is culture here. I love that meals are still prepared at home and eaten with the whole family in many households. I love that Spanish people eat seasonally, changing their recipes depending of the fresh produce available during each season. I love sobremesa, the way that Spanish people hang around the table after a long weekend meal, drinking coffee or having dessert and simply catching up with one another. And I adore the Spanish wine!

BORJA: Even if it’s the same for some in Spain, I have to say the love for nature; everything in Canada, as far as I have seen, is so green and clean! They go for hikes or to a pond to have picnics, and it was amazing for me. Another thing that I have to say is that they are very open and friendly to foreign people and foreign food.

TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?

ASHLEY: I think that in any international/intercultural relationships one culture will usually dominate the other, without anyone really taking notice. I’ve really fallen into the Spanish culture and accepted it as my own (Borja promises I’m at least a fourth Spanish at this point). But that doesn’t mean I’ve completely abandoned my own.

If I could choose a handful of things that I’ve taken from Borja’s culture to incorporate into Canadian culture I’d probably choose: 1) eating seasonally (when possible, it’s hard to ask that of a country that has to import so much of it’s produce), 2) enjoying free time more (Spanish people take advantage of the free time they have to meet for a coffee and catch up with friends, which is really important in our increasingly busy society), 3) being more family oriented (most Spanish families are a lot closer than the families I know in Canada, which is a ready made support system that we could be taking advantage of).

BORJA: Probably, more multicultural cities and events, and open restaurants with foreign cuisine. Also, they are really sure of their Canadian identity, having flags everywhere, having a bank holiday when everyone celebrates Canada Day and singing their anthem. Finally, I have to confess that I enjoyed the big breakfasts and brunch time, in Spain we have a glass of milk with cookies and we are ready to work, but Canadians spend their time eating well with toast, scrambled eggs, fruit, coffee…I miss it!

TQP: Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”?

ASHLEY: Oh! We’ve had so, so many of those, especially at the beginning of our relationship before I spoke Spanish and while Borja was still learning English. I love telling people about the first summer I spent in Spanish, living with Borja’s family and trying, desperately, to form coherent sentences in Spanish. This particular incident didn’t involve Borja, but his mum. One day it was really hot outside and Borja’s mum offered to take me to a cute café to have a drink while waiting for Borja to get off work. We had barely arrived when she asked me what I wanted. I replied with “un café” (a coffee), to which she replied “con hielo?” (with ice). I had a seriously basic level of Spanish and had never heard the word ice in Spanish before. As she continued to repeat the word my brain kept hearing “yellow” (hilo really does sound an awful lot like yellow) even though I knew that that couldn’t be possible because the Spanish word for yellow is amarillo. We continued this confused banter for a few moments before Borja’s mum decided to help me out by going inside to order one “café con hielo” (coffee with ice) in order to bring it outside and show me, by pointing her finger to her cup, the meaning of hielo.

BORJA: As Ashley says, we have had so many of those on a daily basis, but nowadays less than before. But what I do not have an excuse for (after nearly 5 years in this relationship) is still confusing the word constipated with having a head cold (congested in Spanish is constipado, so you can understand the confusion). Sorry, but the Spanish word is so close!

International Couples Series ft Borja & Ashley -- The Quirky Pineapple
Valencia, Spain (Las Fallas 2016)

TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?

We really take it little by little. We haven’t got any extravagant plans about our future, other than being together, but for the foreseeable future we both agree that we’ll be in Spain. We’re both really happy living here. We both have jobs and I have permanent residence now (no more visas, yay!). Plus, the cost of living in Spain is a lot more affordable than in Canada, which really helped sway the decision to move, and stay, here.

TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural and interlanguage relationship?

ASHLEY: Patience. You must be patient with one anther for a relationship like this to work. Naturally I don’t mean all the time (we aren’t saints, we lose our tempers too), but this type of relationship is atypical and will test you, you’ll need that patience to keep sane when everything seems different and to keep your relationship together when bureaucracy or language barriers make things tough.

BORJA: Have patience, open your mind and enjoy the experience. Of course, you cannot be afraid of leaving things behind, you will learn a lot if you do!

TQP: Extra Question! What is the one dish that your partner cooks, from their culture, that is your absolute favourite?

ASHLEY: This is an incredibly difficult question. Much to his parents’ surprise Borja is really great in the kitchen (his mum and younger brother must have had rubbed off on him in the last few years). He often makes traditional Spanish foods or favourites from his mum’s kitchen and gives them a vegetarian spin so I can eat them! His veggie croquetas or pimientos rellenos probably top the list for me!

BORJA: Although Ashley is vegetarian she still cooks meat for me sometimes. Her stuffed turkey (or chicken normally in Spain) “imported” from Canada breaks my heart…in a positive way. Almost forgot, GRAVY is amazing!

International Couples Series ft Borja & Ashley -- The Quirky Pineapple
Donostia, Spain (November 2014)

Thank you so much, Ashley and Borja, for participating in the International Couples Series!! It was really fun reading through your answers and chuckling at a few of them. Borja is right, gravy is pretty amazing… and I absolutely miss it almost every other day. Again, congratulations to both of you on your engagement! I’m so excited for y’all and for your future!! One day, the boyfriend and I will have to make it up to Burgos to visit and meet you!

If you’re interested in reading more about Ashley and Borja’s life in Burgos, Spain, you can check out Ashley’s blog: ComoPerderseenEspana.com and follow her on Instagram. Her blog has got a section completely dedicated to vegetarian restaurants in Spain! Also, if you are in an international, intercultural and/or interlanguage relationship with someone you met while traveling or living abroad, and would like to be interviewed for the International Couples Series, please contact me! (: I’d love to share your love story on The Quirky Pineapple!


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