The International Couples Series was a small series of interviews I created to find international couples! While living abroad, I found out that dating is common, but international marriages are a lot more common than I expected. After meeting so many different couples from all over the world, who come from different countries, and still made it work, I was on a mission to find them and share their love story. I’m also a huge sucker for a good love story, so this was perfect! So far, I’ve interviewed couples who met while traveling, who met once, who’ve gotten married, or are still figuring it out. One thing I’ve found to be true is that no matter how difficult it is to be in an international relationship, the will to make it work always prevails!
This month, I’m excited to feature Tarah and Tip! They met while working together and casually flirted back and forth. It wasn’t until someone made the first move, that they turned their casual flirting into a relationship! Read on to hear their love story and great advice on making it work! (:
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (:
Tip: We both started working at 24 Hour Fitness in June of 2010. I was the smooth-talking sales person and Tarah was the shy front desk/personal trainer. We were both single and not actively looking for significant others. We would talk and flirt occasionally but nothing too serious as we both graduated from rival colleges, myself from the University of Oregon, and Tarah from Oregon State University. Anytime the schools face off, the games are rightly called “the Civil War” Game.
After about 2 months after meeting each other and casually flirting we were both headed downtown separately with some friends and decided we should maybe meet up if our paths should cross. Well Tarah made a big effort to meet me at the bar I was at, and feeling good about myself because she made such an effort, I bought all Tarah’s friends drinks. But that night did not end so well, as I saw Tarah flirting and receiving a drink from a random tall guy. After that, I left the bar and we did not speak after. A couple of days later, I wanted to find out what happened, so I sent a Facebook message to Tarah and said: “You totally blew it the other night!” to which she responded “What do you mean?!” I went on to tell her how I saw her talking to the other guy, and she responded “I was drunk and just getting a free drink”. We laughed and I forgave her and thought I’d give her another chance. We went out one more time, and this time Tarah was on her best behavior and didn’t speak to any other guys that night. And now we are beyond happy and just celebrated 2 years of marriage!
TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?
We live right outside of Portland, Oregon. We both grew up in Portland and love living here. Oregon has all the seasons (although not too much snow), but the summers are beautiful. We are 45 minutes from the mountain, and an hour and a half from the beach. It’s a great state to explore.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
Tarah: I am only fluent in English.
Tip: I speak English and Laotian/Thai
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
Tarah: I am American.
Tip: I am Laotian. I was born in Thailand and moved to the states when I was 3.
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural and multi-language relationship?
Tarah: The most frustrating thing would come from my end as there is a language barrier at times. Although Tip’s parents can speak English, it’s broken English, so communication can be rough at times. Going to a party with 30-40 of his relatives and not speaking their native tongue can be frustrating. I can only pick up certain words, so I have to ask Tip for translation.
TQP: What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?
Tip: The hardest thing for me to get used to is the formalities of family get-togethers. In the American culture, they are usually so formal when it comes to holidays and birthdays and require so many formal sit down dinners. In my culture, everyone is easy going, and if you can make it to a social gathering, great, if not, no big deal. There’s no specific time you have to show up, just within a range of time you can drop by.
Tarah: Then on the other hand it was tough for me to get used to the lack of structure in the social gatherings of Tip’s family. I like knowing what time things would be so we could plan around it.
Tip: But overall since both families are different and don’t celebrate things together, the holidays get tough as we have to make individual stops at each other’s families. We are debating throwing our own holidays at our house and having people come to us to save us all the driving.
TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
Tarah: Laotian culture is so different than American. The people are so friendly and welcoming and everyone becomes this ginormous family. I immediately felt welcomed when I visited his family in Laos, even though we could barely communicate.
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
Tarah: In Laos, families all live together. So even after you have grown up and had kids, it is common to live with your siblings and your parents. Family is always looking out for you. So different from America. As I have noticed in America, as we grow up we can’t wait to get further away from our parents and family. The Laotian culture emphasizes the importance of family and taking care of each other.
TQP: Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”?
Tip: I speak perfect English so there is no lost in translation situation with Tarah’s family and I. But there was a funny situation with Tarah when she was having dinner with my family for our first Christmas together. Tarah was trying some Papaya Salad which tends to be a spicy dish, and my mom warned her that it was hot! Thinking that she meant temperature hot, Tarah proceeded to blow on the papaya salad before putting it into her mouth as to cool it down before she ate it. It created a loud roar of laughter from everyone and then Tarah was shortly in pain as her mouth was on fire from the spiciness.
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
Tarah: Even though we currently live in the US, we would love to experience life in another country. I know Tip would love to be able to go back to Thailand or Laos, and be closer to his extended family. While it would be a big change, I welcome the idea.
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural, and/or a multi-language relationship?
Tarah: I think the most important part when it comes to intercultural relationships is communication between the two of you. When you speak different languages, sometimes things can be misinterpreted wrong, so it’s important to communicate what you are saying. Cultural, the two of you may grow up doing things differently so you’ll have to make some sacrifices.
TQP Extra Question: You two have been married for two years. Do you have any advice or tips about the visa process, marriage application, registration, or planning a wedding you’d like to share?
Being an interracial couple, we each had our ideas about how the wedding would happen. There is an American wedding and a Laotian wedding-both completely different. We started out planning a rather big wedding (considering all of Tip’s family and friends) in our hometown of Oregon. But when it came down to it, it wasn’t our thing. We bagged that idea and decided to get married in Jamaica. Luckily both of our families were super understanding, and could attend the wedding. The idea of planning a wedding can be very stressful and expensive. We couldn’t have had a better wedding in Jamaica, with some of our closest friends and family. After that, we were lucky enough to have another traditional Laotian wedding in Laos with Tip’s family. Two different weddings in two different countries.
Thank you so much, Tip and Tarah, for sharing your love story to the Pineapplers! I loved the way Tip described how everything began, especially when he was a bit upset that Tarah decided to accept a free drink from someone else! Coming from two different cultures and traditions can be extremely frustrating at times, but seeing how you both appreciate and respect each other’s culture is inspiring. I also understand that having a huge language barrier can be difficult, but with how you’ve both described Tip’s family being so open, it’s nice to hear that they are still welcoming and trying to include everyone. If you’d like to follow more of Tarah and Tip’s adventures, you can find them on Instagram, Twitter, and their blog: Fit Two Travel.
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, Tarah and Tip, 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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