International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell

Next on the International Couples Series, I’m excited to introduce Anisa and Russell! The two met in an “unusual” setting, that didn’t exactly allow them to date. But one of them was relentless and wouldn’t give up convincing the other to take a chance! Now, they’re located in two different continents, in two of the most dreamed about and wanderlust-worthy cities! Reading through their interview has given me another sense of hope, that although long-distance relationships are no fun for anyone, taking it day by day and finding the good things is always worth it. Let’s get started with their love story!

The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (: 

Russell: Similar to many other couples, we met through work. We started working at the same company at about the same time. Due to the nature of our roles, we worked pretty closely together. I really fancied Anisa (frankly I thought she was absolutely gorgeous), but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to try and take it further given the work situation. When Anisa moved to a different role, I decided to see if I could persuade her to make a go of it, despite the distance and the different nationalities. I kept pestering her and suggesting that you never know unless you try, until she finally decided to take a risk.

Anisa: I’ve known Russell since 2012 when we started working together. Russell was always very complimentary to me, but I didn’t take it seriously because he lived on another continent and I didn’t think it was a good idea to date someone that you work with. Then, I moved to a new position so I was more open to things. When the Cowboys were scheduled to play in London in 2014, I decided to make a personal trip there since I am a big fan. When I told Russell, he said he wanted to join. I still had my doubts about how a transatlantic relationship could work, but he kept sending me the sweetest text messages. I took a lot of convincing, but I am so glad he didn’t give up on me. It helped that we developed a friendship first and got to know each other well before we started our international relationship.

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

R: At the moment, I’m living on the Suffolk coast, a county to the northeast of London. It’s rural, very beautiful and I like living beside the sea. We watched the sun come up together on Aldeburgh beach New Year’s Day 2016. Although it feels like a completely different world, London is only a train ride away. Anisa is in New York! Yes the distance is inconvenient and we’re working on it.

A: I was born and raised in Texas but I have been living in New York City for the last 12 years. I love it here. NYC has it all – Broadway, museums, the best shopping, bars and restaurants, and my favorite – Central Park. There is always something exciting happening. I also love the people here, I have met so many smart and interesting people from such diverse backgrounds. The only thing that is missing is Russell.

International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell -- The Quirky Pineapple
Tower of London during Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

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

R: I can speak German and a bit of Dutch and French – although they are all pretty rusty! We communicate in English though. The stereotype is that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language. That’s partly true for us. I can usually understand Anisa but sometimes she doesn’t understand me! I think it’s because there are more American films and TV shows available in Britain than there are British shows in the US. We get by though, and there are some British slang words appearing in Anisa’s vocabulary now – like ‘brolly‘. It means an umbrella.

A: I know a little bit of Spanish from taking two years of it in high school but I am really only fluent in English. So I joke that Russell has been teaching me another language, British English. I have been surprised by the amount of differences between British and American English. And I do struggle with some of the pronunciation, especially the names of towns, but Russell says I am improving!

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

R: I’m as English as tea and the Queen!

A: I am half German and half Iraqi, but born and raised in Texas. I consider myself both a Texan and New Yorker.

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

R: The distance is easily the worst thing as we are a huge part of each other’s lives. When one of us has a big event to go to and the other can’t be there, it’s not easy. Although we went on holiday to celebrate Anisa’s birthday this year, I couldn’t be there for the party when she celebrated with her friends. Anisa called me over FaceTime so I could join in for a little while and that’s great, but it’s not the same as actually being there. Even if it’s just a long weekend and we can’t enjoy it together, it’s difficult. We talk a lot over FaceTime and messages – several times a day – and we both enjoy the time we are together, but then there comes that time when one of us has to get back on a plane and go home. It’s horrible and it never gets any easier. Still, I keep telling Anisa that you can’t miss someone, unless you have someone to miss.

A: The most difficult thing is not being there, physically, to help. There was one time when Russell burnt himself pretty badly. I wanted to be there to take care of him and make him feel better but all I could do was try to console him on FaceTime. Seeing him in pain and being so far away is hard. And of course, there are always those days when you just need a hug.

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

A: I still have a hard time remembering that they don’t drive on the right side of the road. Pretty much every time I am in England, there will be at least one time where I try to get in on the driver’s side of the car. I also have a hard time with the ‘washing up bowl’ that they wash dishes in. It is their way of turning a single sink into a double one, but since I am not used to it, I struggle. I usually end up just doing the drying.

R: Anisa’s right about the car, and it makes me laugh every time! Sometimes I’ll watch her walk round to the wrong side of the car and wait for her to realise. My number one complaint about New York – the subway! Honestly, I’ve spent so much time complaining about the London Underground I never thought I’d miss it. Other than that, coming from a European background that has a much deeper focus on social inclusion and collective responsibility than is the case in America, sometimes it’s hard to get my head around.

International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell -- The Quirky Pineapple
Trafalgar Square in London

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

A: I guess I have to say the accent. It is just sounds so “proper” and sophisticated. And then there are those phrases that just make me laugh. I think it is so cute when Russell says ‘bloody hell’. I wish I could speak with a British accent, but it just doesn’t work for me.

R: Oh that’s a hard one. I like Anisa’s answer! I think that’s why Hollywood likes casting Brits as villains. I love New York. It’s a mad, crazy city and the people are very friendly. There’s always a lot going on, and there are so many great restaurants. I like modern art as well and there’s a lot of that, including a big focus on good quality public art.

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

R: The UK does absorb quite a lot of US stuff already, with films, TV shows, and well known chain stores, but I think there’s more of a service ethos in America which would be good in the UK. I’ve got quite into American sports, and I’m a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys American Football team now. A franchise permanently based in the UK would be good too, although it wouldn’t make me switch from supporting the Dallas Cowboys!

A: I definitely drink a lot more tea now. And Russell has taught me to make it properly. Before I would make it in the microwave (gasp!) but now I have a kettle so I can boil water quickly. I have to admit I do still reuse the tea bags sometimes, which I know is a no-no. Of course, scones with clotted cream are the perfect accompaniment to tea. I really wish good quality clotted cream was more readily available in the US, it is so much better than butter. For a real treat, I love to go out for afternoon tea where you get small sandwiches and other desserts too.

R: Re-used tea bags is just wrong! One of these days I’m going to buy her a teapot.

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

R: Pronunciation is a source of endless amusement! Anisa smiles when I have to adopt American words to make myself understood. A few weeks ago I was ordering a salad for lunch & had to ask for tomatoes the way it’s pronounced in the US (tom-ay-toes), rather than my usual British accent (tom-ah-toes), because the first time I asked, nobody had a clue what I was talking about. English place names can be a bit weird anyway, but we both laugh when Anisa tries to work out Gloucestershire or Loughborough, and they always sound so much more interesting in an American accent.

A: I remember telling Russell that I would like to take him to a rodeo someday. His response was no, I don’t want to ride horses. I laughed and calmed him down, we were just going to watch. He didn’t realize that you don’t participate in the rodeo events.

International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell -- The Quirky Pineapple
Beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey

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

A: The plan is still in progress. We hope to be living together in the near future.

R: There’s all kinds of arrangements we need to make over the coming months. Until then, we are spending a lot of time on an aeroplane going in one direction or another.

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

R: Go for it and enjoy the ride! Any relationship is unique, but an international and intercultural one brings another interesting and exciting dimension to that. No matter how much time you spend together, there will always be something new to share. Something you don’t know about each other’s country, history, or culture and that you can both share a laugh about later. You are creating something as unique and individual as the two of you are.

A: It is possible, so keep an open mind. It may not be easy but it will be worth it. You may have to make sacrifices. If two people are right for each other they will put in the effort and make it work.

I loved reading all of Anisa and Russell’s answers, that I wanted to learn more about their relationship! They’ve got such a fresh take on long distance, that it inspires me with my own. Here are a few extra questions that they’ve answered for us! 

TQP: What was your biggest fear before entering your international/intercultural relationship?

R: Like most people I suppose, it came down to how we could make it work. It is harder when there’s an ocean between you, and I guess there was the obvious questions about whether being in an international relationship would create massive cultural gaps that could be a problem. Even though the UK and USA are very similar in a lot of ways, you don’t realise how big the differences are until you start having a relationship with someone ‘across the pond’. Do US men and women expect different things from relationships than UK people do? At the end of the day though, it’s about how two people feel about each other and you just have to run with it and find your own way.

A: For me I was afraid of getting hurt. I didn’t think there was much chance of the relationship being successful. He might decide it was just too hard or he’d rather have someone closer.

International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell -- The Quirky Pineapple
View from the top of the Arc de Triomph in Paris

TQP: What has being in your international and intercultural relationship taught the both of you?

R: I think it teaches you that there’s always ‘another way’. Every relationship needs mutual love and respect if it is to survive, but being in an international relationship I think you’re more consciously aware of your own preconceptions and how you relate to each other. At the same time, I think it teaches you about more than just each other – you learn about yourself as well. You learn so much about another country and culture, and also to both appreciate and question your own.

TQP: How long have you both been together?

R: We just celebrated our 2 year anniversary this month.

TQP: What has been the craziest adventure you’ve embarked on together, or are planning together?

R: We do a lot of travelling! Not just between New York and London, but to other countries as well. We’ve just got back from a week in Spain. We’d both like to go to Iceland, probably while we are still living either side of the Atlantic so we can meet in the middle. We both like to travel, so I’m sure there will be some bigger and crazier trips at some point. I’d love to hike to Machu Picchu at some point.

A: Being an accountant by profession, I am not the most adventurous person. We did recently do a pretty crazy hike called Breakneck Ridge. There were points when it seemed more like rock climbing than hiking. I really wasn’t sure if we would be able to do it, but we did and we felt such a sense of accomplishment!

TQP: What is the one dish that your partner cooks, from their culture, that is your absolute favorite?

R: Anything mexican or tex-mex!

A: Fish Pie. It’s similar to Shepherd’s Pie but with fish instead of meat.

TQP: This one is a bit more personal, but can you explain (or try to explain) that feeling, love, between you two and why it’s so strong, why it works, and how being in this type of relationship makes you stronger as a couple?

R: Anisa is a fun, kind hearted intelligent person who is as genuine and classy as she is beautiful. I think being in a multicultural relationship means that every time we think we’ve got each other figured out, we can always surprise each other!

A: Russell is by far the sweetest person that I know. He has such a big heart and is so supportive of me. He is my biggest fan. Russell is also very romantic and sentimental – probably more than me. I think being in this type of relationship makes us value our time together more.

International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell -- The Quirky Pineapple
Gecko in Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain

Thank you, so much, Anisa and Russell for allowing me to share your love story on The Quirky Pineapple! I loved reading through all of your answers and the sense of humor you both share in everything. Just by reading through your responses, it gave me a feeling of hope and excitement! You both are so kind-hearted and goofy, in the best sense, that I wish I had met you both in person to be able to hear your story first hand.

You can follow both Anisa and Russell on Instagram and Twitter! Anisa is a fellow female travel blogger and Russell is an origami guru! Check out Anisa’s Instagram and Twitter, and follow her on her blog: Two Traveling Texans. You can also follow Russell on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, and read his blog on all things origami: Origami Expressions. The International Couples Series was created to inspire and highlight some of the challenges as well as the funny moments of being in an international relationship. My hope is to inspire those who are in international relationships, that if this relationship is healthy, it can really be worth all of the paperwork and visa headache! Thank you, again, Anisa and Russell for sharing your story! If you’re in an international, intercultural and/or interlanguage relationship and would like to be featured on The Quirky Pineapple, please contact me so we can set up an interview and you can share your love story! (:

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2 thoughts on “International Couples Series: Anisa & Russell”

  1. So glad that you and Russell decided to share your story! (: It was so much fun reading through your answers!

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