The International Couples Series is an original series created on The Quirky Pineapple to showcase romances that blossomed while people were living or traveling abroad. Contrary to popular belief, the International Couples Series isn’t here to tell you to find a boo-thang, date internationally, or the romanticized “fairy tale” of falling in love with a foreign hottie. My hope with this series is to shed some light on the frustrations that come with dating someone who isn’t from your home country, the funny moments of “lost in translation”, and that sometimes it’s worth it. It’s my hope to inspire people who find themselves in these relationships, that the headache paperwork is worth it if you think your relationship is healthy and real!
This month on the series, I am thrilled to introduce the Pineapplers to Gina and Matthew! Gina is Dutch and Matthew is Canadian. They met at one of their usual drinking spots, randomly, and the relationship grew from there. They are based in Canada where they are raising their family. Let’s start with their love story!
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (:
Gina: We first met at a bar in Rotterdam that we both frequented, called De Witte Aap (The White Ape). We had never seen each other there before, despite both of us going there a couple of times a week for years.
I had met one of Matthew’s co-workers there a few weeks before and he introduced me to Matthew. We talked for a long time that night. I kept running into Matthew at the same bar after our first encounter. I guess he wasn’t lying when he told me it was his go-to bar as well. Either that or he was stalking me (just kidding, I hope :)) Who knows.
When we saw each other we would always end up having long conversations about anything and everything. I remember looking forward to hopefully seeing him at the bar. Thinking about it, once, I saw Matthew at the bar with another girl. It turned out it was just a friend, and I was all kinds of jealous. I guess that was a sign right? Eventually we exchanged numbers and started talking more.
We would see each at least once a week when he was in Rotterdam. Then he would leave and there would be no contact. I wasn’t looking for a relationship after all because I just split up with someone. This went on for 4 months, maybe before I started to notice that I was looking forward to seeing him and he would call me as soon as he landed in Holland again.
To this day he will say I made the first move. Apparently we were sitting outside, beer for him and glass of wine for me, and I was rubbing his thigh. I don’t remember this so, as far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t me who made the first move!
I believe he made the first move! That happened when he asked me to double him on my bicycle to his place. First off, his house was a 5 minute walk from the bar and when do you see a girl doubling a guy on a bicycle, even in Holland where everyone has bikes?! I still agreed and it was a hilarious ride back.
Just before we started dating officially, he called me as soon as he landed in Holland. I can still remember where I was, asking to see me before I left for a weekend in Naples, because he was really looking forward to seeing me and missed me. I didn’t have time. He was totally bummed out I was going away for 2 days and all I wanted to do in Naples was see him. That pretty much sealed the deal for us.
Oh yeah, and then I impressed him when we were watching ‘Black Swan’ together. I was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, held close to my face about to take a sip. The girl in the movie is laying in a hospital bed and wakes up, scaring the sh** out of me and drenching my face in wine. It was very classy, and Matthew laughed, so did I.
TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?
Gina: We both live in BC, Canada now. I moved to Canada because he has 2 boys and of course he would not leave them. He has joint custody over them. They live with us when he’s home from work (4 weeks on, 4 weeks off rotation)
I love the mountains, lakes and weather. Holland is rainy and gray. Where we live now, summers are hot and dry, and winters are cold, like -15 cold. Not what I’m used to, but it’s still sunny and we basically have a ski hill in our backyard. Canada has changed the way I live and the things I do. I have done so many new things such as camping, fishing, snowboarding and so much more.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
Gina: English and Dutch.
Matthew: English. We communicate in English.
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
Gina: Matthew is Canadian and I’m Dutch.
My mom is from South America and my dad was Dutch. My dad used to work overseas as well, and that’s how I was born in Nigeria, and spoke English until I started attending a Dutch school in Nigeria.
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship?
Gina: The uncertainty when I was still living in Rotterdam. At that time it was not clear how much longer Matthew would be working in Rotterdam, and that was stressful on our relationship. That’s why we made the decision for me to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. This decision was only made after I had met the kids a couple of times!
TQP: What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?
Gina: How big this country is! I have to drive everywhere! In Rotterdam, I would just hop on my bicycle and go where I needed to be. Also moving to a new country and small town (we lived in a town with a population of 1800 people) shows you how cliquey it can be. It’s hard to make new friendships with people who have grown up together their entire life! Over time this has gotten way better. We moved to a bigger town (40.000 people) and I have made some great friends.
Matthew loves Holland. He had spent half of his life there during the 12 years he worked there. He has plenty of friends in Holland. One thing he says about Holland is that he could never consider it home. There is no nature and it is too flat.
TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
Gina: Everything that is done outdoors, because they have the space. Hiking, camping, fishing, snowboarding and boating. The lake is a 5 minute walk from our house and I just love being so close to water! There is just so much to do outdoors and not enough time.
Matthew enjoyed being in the city in Rotterdam. For him it was a bit of “best of both worlds”. He spent half the time at home with his kids exploring the backcountry, camping and skiing, and the other half living smack-dab in the center of a vibrant, social city.
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
Gina: The love for the outdoors and how much can be done. It would be hard to apply in Holland as it’s a small country and not a lot of open space, and no mountains.
Matthew: BYOB! That’s a pretty nice thing in North America. In Holland you provide the booze when throwing a party, it can get expensive. However, booze is a lot cheaper there than in Canada!
TQP: Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”?
Oh my, we have been thinking about this and cannot think of anything.
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
We will be staying where we are now. We don’t have a choice because of the kids. However, sometimes we talk about moving when the kids are grown and on their own. You might find us in Victoria or Nelson 10 years from now!
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship?
Talk to each other often, even about all the little things that you’ve done that day. Use Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime, email. Whatever works for you. Matthew and I talk every day when he is gone. We are technically still in a long distance relationship with him working away half the year.
Take your time to adjust to your new country. The 5 stages of grieving are real and I wish I had known about it sooner. They were not severe for me at all, but after reading about it I can relate to some of it.
TQP: What was your biggest fear before entering your international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship?
His kids. Will they like me? Will I like them? What about his ex-wife? I did not just move to another country, I became a stepmom in the process as well! Our relationship could have come to a crashing halt if his kids didn’t like me. All that time invested in our relationship could have been for nothing. There is not much you can do if the kids don’t like you when in a long distance relationship. It was a very nerve-wracking time.
Before we made any serious steps, such as applying for a Working Holiday Visa, I flew to Canada twice to meet his kids, family and friends. All went well as you can tell 🙂
I even have a very amicable relationship with the step-kids’ mom. We meet up and have a glass of wine occasionally, talk about the kids and other topics. It took time and effort from everyone, but we have this co-parenting gig figured out as much as we can. I’m sure we’ll face some challenges once the kids become teenagers, but we’re not going to worry about that now.
TQP: Extra Question! Gina, because you and Matthew are married, do you have any advice or tips about the visa, marriage application, registration, and on planning a wedding, etc?
We got married and soon after applied for my Canadian Permanent Residency. Don’t always buy into the bs of hiring a lawyer or consultant. With a good English foundation, some common sense, patience (calling the Immigration line can be tedious and long) and good organizational skills, you’ll be more than capable filling out all the paperwork!
That’s what we did and we didn’t have any issues, no documents were forgotten, or additional information needed. It was a pretty smooth, but long (almost 2 years) ride for us.
Thank you, so much, Gina and Matthew for sharing your love story with me! I loved reading through the story of how you both met, it could have been serendipity that brought you two together! (: Your family life is also very different than the other couples that I have interviewed, but I love that you both have figured things out to make it work for your step sons. Thank you, again, for sharing your tips and advice for the visa process, which I know can be grueling and very long. If you’re interested in following along on Gina and Matthew’s story in Canada, you can follow Gina’s blog, How To Stepmom. Gina’s blog shares advice and insight on becoming a step mom to two sons. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter.
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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