The International Couples Series continues with this month’s feature story from Larry and Iva! (: Their answers proved that their marriage is fun, silly, and extremely down to Earth. They both touched on subjects that haven’t been covered in an interview before, like spending time alone, cultural clashes that carry into your living space, and what it’s like to get a “real” job and create a life for yourself.
I loved their story and found myself chuckling at their responses, quips at each other, and their genuineness (that’s a word, right?). Y’all will laugh at who actually made the first move – let’s dive in!
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (:
Larry: We met at an environmental educators conference in November 2013 in Tagaytay City, Philippines. Iva was one of the conference organizers and I was a U.S. Peace Corps Response Volunteer working with the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern. At the conclusion of the conference, there was a miscommunication and I had left my bag in the hotel room, while all the other attendees had checked out of their hotel rooms. When I found out that we weren’t going back to the hotel, we were already an hour’s drive away. Iva organized a ride back for me to be able to get my bag. I will never forget her kindness while everyone else probably thought I was so stupid. We got to talking in the car on the way back to Manila and I knew that I wanted to get to know her better. She probably planned the whole thing, so I think she was actually the one to make the first move.
Iva: Like he said, we met in the Philippines, at an international conference for environmental educators. I used to work for the government’s environment department, and we organized the conference. Larry was one of the participants. We were both busy at the time, but at the field trip, I saw a mommy cat with her kittens in a box, started petting them, when he approached me and started a conversation. So he really is the one who made the first move.
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 in the United States in Oakland, California. I grew up in Southern California, and we are living pretty close to some of my family members. There is such a large Filipino community here in the Bay Area, it makes it easier for both of us when we miss the Philippines.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
Larry: I speak English and we communicate in English. I know a few Tagalog phrases that we use sometimes with each other. I also speak some Lunda from when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia.
Iva: My native language is Tagalog, and I also know English. I’m trying to get Larry to use Tagalog more often because he knows the words, he’s just shy.
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
Larry: I am a tenth generation European American. My family’s ethnic background is British, German, French, and Irish.
Iva: I’m Filipino, born and raised in Manila, Philippines.
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship?
Larry: I really appreciate time alone, and I think that it is important, even in marriage. Americans seem to generally value time alone more than a lot of others do. Iva has a hard time understanding why I would want to spend time alone. She almost never wants to be alone and expects me to want to always be around her.
Iva: Filipino culture is tied to the value of family and togetherness, and it is something that I miss, now that we live in the US. It’s perfectly fine for Filipinos to be with, and still live with our parents, even after we have our own families, which is a direct contrast to Americans where you’re expected to be independent, and move out by the time you’re 18. I love being with my family, and Larry is my family here, so I love always being with him.
TQP: What was, or is, one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?
Larry: For me it was the crowds. I don’t really like crowded and noisy places, and it seemed like there was no quiet, peaceful, unpopulated place that one could relax in Manila. Once I was able to visit some of the provinces, I found out that this isn’t always the case, and there are some very peaceful places in the Philippines if you know where to look.
Iva: It’s the culture of excess. But it’s not just about people having too much of everything, but more about seeing people not having anything at all, and are just out in the streets helpless. So much is wasted. I am also not too fond of the beer and sports culture.
TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
Larry: I love the way that Filipinos celebrate and support the ideas of family and community. The phrase “it’s more fun in the Philippines” could not be more true.
Iva: I love how Americans value knowledge. People are so aware, and so learned about issues all over the world. It helps that the US is a melting pot of culture because it is this fact that makes them exposed to so many learnings life has to offer.
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
Larry: I never thought that I would eat so much white rice! Also, I have become more willing to live in a large city and take public transportation regularly since living in the Philippines. I could never do that before living in the Philippines.
Iva: I love the outdoorsy nature of Americans. I love traveling, even when I was in the Philippines, but I was never exposed to camping and more difficult nature adventure, like longer hikes and backpacking. It could be difficult at times but I like it.
TQP: Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”?
Larry: We often go hiking together and I am usually much faster on the trail than Iva. One time when I was going too fast, Iva should at me and told me to “walk on my face”. I looked at her in confusion then I started laughing hysterically because I realized that she did something that Filipinos sometimes do when speaking English, mix up her ‘f’s and ‘p’s. She meant to say “walk on my pace”.
Iva: I told him to write that one. He also finds it funny when I say hippopotamus.
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
We want to stay in the Bay Area for the near future, but we would like to have access to some land where we can be closer to what we eat and rely on our neighbors. It’s difficult to think about right now because we are in a small one-bedroom apartment that we can barely afford.
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural, or multi-language relationship?
I think you have to be extra patient and try to understand where your spouse is coming from culturally. A lot of misunderstandings come from a difference in culture, and you have to learn to respect those differences rather than try to change them.
TQP: What was your biggest fear (or the thing you were worried the most about) before entering your relationship?
Larry: I wasn’t worried before entering the relationship. I got worried once I fell in love with Iva and wanted to propose to her. I was worried about adjusting back to the United States (yes my own country), getting a “real” job, and being apart from Iva for six months while waiting for her to get a visa. All of those things were very challenging, but I think we’ve gotten through the worst of it.
Iva: I honestly had no fear entering into a relationship with him. My fear was more about when I had to move to the US and thinking I would be leaving my family, and that I would have to start all over again – carrer-wise.
TQP: What has being in your international, intercultural, and multi-language relationship taught the both of you?
Larry: I have really learned how to compromise and work as a team. Before, I was much more used to getting exactly what I wanted.
Iva: Yes, that is all about being a team – that we need to communicate probably even more than couples of similar cultures just because we need to make sure what we want to say is exactly what the other one hears, and vice versa. We are different in so many ways, and we celebrate them because that’s how we learn from each other.
TQP: Your favorite phrase your partner says in their language?
Larry: I love how she says “sarap”. I use that all the time when something feels or tastes good.
Iva: “I love you.” *cheesy grin*
TQP: What is the one dish that your partner cooks, from their culture, that is your absolute favorite?
Larry: Iva doesn’t cook, except maybe ramen noodles. I actually cook Filipino food better than she does!
Iva: I cook rice, too! But yes, he is the better cook. And of all that he prepares, I love his adobo (a Filipino dish) the most. I wash the dishes though.
TQP: This one is a bit more personal, but can you 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?
It’s really our dark sense of humor. We laugh at the same things and that keeps us going together. You need to be able to join about dark and disgusting things. That is one of the measures of a great marriage.
Larry and Iva, thank you SO much, for sharing your love story with the Pineapplers and being open to getting personal with us. I loved all of the extra questions you answered because it really made me fall in love with y’all even more! (: Thank you for being so open and allowing us to peek inside what being an international marriage looks like and the cultural differences that you both need to face. What really resonated with me was Larry’s need for time alone, while Iva loved always being together. It’s something my boyfriend and I also struggle with, because I love being around him, and he definitely needs his alone time! Funny thing is, he’s from Europe and I’m from the States! If you loved reading about Larry and Iva, be sure to check out their blog: Green Phils. You can also follow them on Facebook 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! Stay tuned for my next series, featuring some badass women who created their own business and found a way to live a life that gives them their daily adventure!
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International Couples Series: Finding Love Abroad
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