Each month, I feature one couple who I’ve met while traveling, blogging, or through friends who are also in an International Relationship. I’ve been connected with so many different couples, all over the world, who are going through or have gone through what Mario and I are, right now. The International Couples Series is a monthly interview with other international couples to hear their story!
For this month’s interview, I’m happy to introduce the Pineapplers to Maria and Martin! They come from two different countries within Europe, but met while studying in Sweden. Martin and Maria are currently living in Germany and are taking things day by day. Let’s get started with their interview!
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (:
Maria: We both went to study in Sweden and were a part of the same program, so we met in class. From the beginning I thought that Martin was really standing out, because of how polite and considerate he was. We started to hang out together and I started to suspect that he liked me, too, because he was around all the time. However, he had managed to confuse me a lot, by literally doing nothing to advance in our relationship!
Martin: Basically the first time we got in touch was through Facebook. A fellow student of ours created a group of everybody that was about to start their studies in Sweden. Since I was one of the lucky ones to get a room, I offered Maria to provide her with accommodation. Unfortunately my flatmate denied me of hosting her in the beginning. We first met in person during the introductions at university. Since I had feelings for her I was trying to stick around her as much as possible, ie: cooking for her and her flatmate, as well as, offering help moving. However, the first move for a romantic relationship came from her, after 1 month.
TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?
Maria: Today we live in Hamburg, Germany. Even though it wasn’t Martin’s intention to live in Germany, after we were done with our studies in Sweden, he received a job offer there, so we moved. It was really clear for both of us that we wanted to be together. Later on, I have also found a job in a very cool company. So, we stayed. For now 😉
Martin: We live in Hamburg. I think we ended up in Hamburg because it is the most international city in Germany due to its port. We stayed due to the fact that we both found a job and me being German made some things (bureaucracy) much easier.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
Maria: I speak Russian, English, and I have learned German in the last four years. I am also starting to learn Italian. Martin speaks German, English, Dutch and a little bit of Finnish. He says he wants to learn Russian, too 🙂
Martin: We mainly communicate in English, since this is the language we both used when falling in love. Sometimes we use German for Maria to also improve. However, I have a really strong dialect when talking German (Swabian dialect) so it often makes things more complicated. I also speak Dutch and a bit of Finnish. I tried to learn Russian, but my vocabulary is based around “I want/like…”, food words, and swear words I caught from our neighbors and other Russian fellow students.
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
Maria: I am Russian. My grandfather was from Belarus, but many people from the outside would say it is the same. Martin is German and he told me once that he has some Scottish ancestors.
Martin: Well, Maria is Russian and I, German, by nationality. In general, I see myself more as a European, having lived in various European countries during my studies, than actually being German. If I look at Maria, I also see her as a European rather than being just Russian.
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship?
Maria: I am not sure if this was a cultural thing, or a Martin-thing, but in the beginning of our relationship I was really doubting if he actually liked me! He was not that much into showing his feelings all the time. And I was really used to be adored all the time 😀 After the first fight where we both got emotional, we have figured it out.
Martin: In the beginning our communication was slightly more challenging than it is now. Google Translate helped us a lot. Now I would say the most challenging for me is how to show/communicate emotions. In my childhood I have been told to keep emotions, negative and especially positive to myself. On the other hand, Maria wants me to show more of them. I think in general to adjust and change the ways you have been taught in your childhood, from social and cultural points of views are very hard.
TQP: What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?
Maria: Planning, planning, and once again planning. Germans really plan things in advance. Vacation? Minimum three months in advance! Where to spend New Year Holidays? Let’s decide in September. What to eat for dinner on Sunday? We’d better have it planned by Friday night.
People in Russia don’t plan very much in advance. Even though the New Year’s celebration is the biggest one, people usually decide how and where spontaneously. The biggest planning period is one month in advance. When I met Martin I was a really spontaneous person. Now I also plan a lot! Everyone around me does it, so I had to start doing it, too. Otherwise the best deals or places are gone!
Martin: There is nothing that I would say was hard to accept from Maria’s culture. What I would say is still a big difference is the value and importance of family. For me, my family is my parents and my brother, as well as my grandmother. If I call them every other week and see them once or twice per year it was sufficient. After spending several months with Maria, I understood that for her it was different. For her, family has a much higher value. Since I have met them I understood why. Now I am proud to call them my family.
TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
Maria: I love that in most of the cases a woman and a man are equal partners. We share everything: housework, cooking, cleaning the house, we both work, too. Being in a relationship in Russia means for a woman, doing that all by herself; in most of the cases, not in all fortunately.
Martin: There is really not one thing I can pinpoint. Still, every time I am going to Russia to visit her family and friends, it is an adventure for me. Even simple things as going shopping without her or taking the overnight train, a wedding of a friend, or just taking a cab through her town with 1 meter of snow and lots of traffic jams. Every time I am there I am discovering something new, something that surprises me (“Wow I haven’t thought of that” or “What the hell, why is it this way?”).
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
Martin: I think I have adopted a more relaxed attitude towards life in general. Before I met Maria my focus and goal in life was always the future. It has shifted and I am trying to live more in the present. In other words: If one door closes, another one opens.
Maria: Discipline. I wish I had just a half of what my husband has! I think that discipline actually helps people to be happier, because it helps them reach their goals. Other way around, I would wish for Germans to be a little more spontaneous and not be afraid to have fun.
TQP: Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”?
Maria: I guess language was never a huge problem for us. What was super funny in the beginning is the gestures that I was especially used to in my culture. Martin was confused all the time! I think he dared to ask after a month, for the first time ever, what do I mean with all these signs!
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
Martin: I cannot pinpoint it to one city or country. The only thing I am pretty sure of is that it is going to be somewhere in Europe. We both love the freedom of traveling from country to country without visas or any hassles and we love the variety of cultures within this continent.
Maria: At the moment we live in Hamburg and would like to keep it that way for a while. Where will life take us next? I don’t know. The important thing for me – we go together!
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural, multi-language relationship?
Martin: Be yourself. Words and gestures might mean different things, therefore talk about them openly and don’t get stuck with fighting over their interpretations. Be open to different ways of thinking. Don’t believe everything you have heard about other cultures and nationalities. I think the most valuable phrase I learnt from my Dad and which I am now applying in my everyday life: “Never judge a book by its cover”.
Maria: If this person is the one, you will know that really soon. Cultural differences will not matter much, if you love each other and want to be together. You will get used to “cultural differences” soon, because they are the personality and character of the person that you are in love with. In fact, I think any relationship has these “getting used to each other” phases, doesn’t matter if partners have different or same cultural backgrounds.
And if there are some things that seem weird for you in your partner’s culture, just talk about it. Communication is the key.
TQP: Extra Question! Since you are married, do you have any advice or tips about the visa, marriage application, or on planning a wedding, etc?
Maria & Martin: The processes of obtaining the visa for marriage can be different from country to country. Somewhere they might be tougher, somewhere easier, but it’s never a pleasure to go through all this bureaucracy. To get married in Germany we had to go to court and let them decide if that’s ok for us to get married. We had to collect millions of documents, and even sign a paper that we are not mentally ill. These procedures are funny, but when you go through that it can be quite humiliating. Also, behind every desk there is a person who will work with your case: some will be nice to you, some indifferent, and others will be judging you and your choices.
Our advice: Stay together, talk about the things you feel, or are afraid of at this moment, open up and make jokes about it, communicate. If you go through the process of getting visas and preparing for the marriage in a foreign country, then, probably, nothing else can set you apart!
Maria: Martin and I always travel together, and this is our biggest passion and addiction! We love to go to new places and discover them together. Even though we travel together I write my blog alone, because writing and photography is another passion of mine. However, Martin supports me with the blog a lot! For instance, he is making videos and great time lapses for my Facebook page. The recent one was a huge success and had almost 25 thousand views! We are not only lovers, spouses and best friends, we are partners in our adventures 🙂
Thank you so much, Maria and Martin for sharing your love story on The Quirky Pineapple! I had so much fun reading through your interview and hearing about your answers. I loved learning about the cultural differences that you both have gone through, but have ultimately learned from. Being with someone from a different culture always brings new learning experiences and lots of patience. I also loved the sentiment that Maria shared that her and Martin are not only spouses, but partners in all of their adventures. They embody a true team! If you’re interested in following along on Maria’s adventures around Europe and beyond, you can follow her blog, Global Mary. Here, she writes about traveling and living a global life! You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
The International Couples Series was created to inspire and highlight some of the challenges and funny moments of being in an international relationship. My hope is to inspire those who are in these relationships, that if the relationship is healthy, it can really be worth all of the paperwork and visa headache! Thank you, again, Maria and Martin for sharing your story! If you’re in an international, intercultural and/or multi-language 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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