We had a hard time communicating, and that become our culture

We had a hard time communicating, and that become our culture

I share a lot about my multicultural marriage, how and where I met my husband, Adam,  about our long distance relationship, language barrier, courthouse wedding. But this time I wanted to sit down with Adam and have him talk about his side of our story. How he experienced our first time meeting, our intercultural relationship struggles that we had when I moved to America, and about our separation and why we almost got a divorce.

When I say “Milan, Italy” what’s the first thing that comes in your mind about the two of us?

Edit: If somebody asks ‘Where did you guys meet?’, and you say ‘Milan.’… What’s the picture that comes to mind?

Adam: I usually don’t say Milan, because it wouldn’t be a quick answer. I just say we went to college together. And if they genuinely want to know where we went to school, I’ll share our story.

Edit: For me it’s the opposite. I start with ‘we met in Milan’, and if they ask what where we doing there (vacation, school or work), than I would say ‘we went to school together’. And everybody finds our story so romantic. 

Adam: So I think that’s the answer to your question. When I think about us and Milan, I think about the time that I spent in SPD. We didn’t have much time together in the city. We are making more memories on this trip right now, then we did in 2008.

Can you share your experience and viewpoint about how we met?

Edit: How was it to meet a foreign girl in a county were you where a foreigner too?

Adam: I don’t think how I handled things was the perfect way to do it, but I also don’t have any regrets either. So our story and how we met was because my friend, Mark, knew that I was interested in you. He sort of forced that interaction, and made sure we met. When I asked about you, he said, “I think she is from Serbia”. So I went home that night and did a lot of research on Serbia. I didn’t want to look stupid, and I wanted to have something to talk about. But when I saw you the next day, and found out that you are from Hungary, I was like “Well, damit Mark! I spent the whole night researching the wrong country!

Edit: So you knew that I’m not Italian. But did you ever think that because you are in Italy, there is a chance for you to meet an Italian girl? Or because you where in an international school, meeting people (not just romantically) from different countries was pretty normal.

Adam: Yeah, it was normal, but I think you and I have a little bit different mindset when moving here. I didn’t have a dream about moving to Italy. My dream was to become a car designer, and this is where you go when you want to design beautiful cars.

It was great, and I wasn’t against the idea of making friends and building relationships, but that wasn’t my goal or priority.

I noticed you around the hallways, but at no point did I try to make contact with you, because that’s not what I was here to do. I was here to study, and to do the best I can to get a job coming out of this. So that’s why you and I didn’t really meet, or had the opportunity to interact with each other until the school was over. At that point I was able to relax and enjoy my last two weeks. 

Do you think you would have came to me if your friend, Mark didn’t bring me upstairs to check out your car?

Adam: I honestly have no idea! I’d like to think yes, because I was really interested in you. The timing of all of it was really weird thought. Shortly after we got introduced, my friend Jonathan came to visit, and after that my parents came to visit, so I was preoccupied with them. A lot of things were happening toward the end of my time here. 

So I don’t know if I would have. — I mean, I would like to think that I wouldn’t have missed out on what has become of us.

Edit: Beside all of the circumstances, it was also -in some way- good timing, because I was mentally in a really happy and relaxed place. After school ended I was so open minded, and ready to meet new people.

Adam: We just got really lucky with that moment! There was a one or two day period where we could have met, and things could have gone the way they did. And we nailed it! Because any later I probably wouldn’t have been available mentally and emotionally. I had too many other things going on. And any earlier I wouldn’t have initiated anything, because I was too focused on finishing school. Coming here was hard on many levels. It was a very difficult program, graduating was really hard, so I was not going to sacrifice or compromised that for anything.

People often think how cool (and ‘easy’) it is to meet your husband or wife in another country, but it’s actually really hard!

Adam: I don’t know if I would say really hard, but I’m trying to keep everything in perspective. Us Americans are very privileged. Going on vacation in a foreign country for us is incredibly easy. But moving to another country, there are a little bit more legistics to it. I had to do a lot of paperwork to be here legally. I don’t know if I would call it hard work, it’s just tedious.

But I know that for some people in other countries- especially traveling to America- for school or for work can be extremely difficult and expensive. 

Americans also have the advantage of having a language that’s common in a lot of countries.

Edit: Others have to learn English to communicate with each other. So you probably noticed a lot of differences when meeting with international students… But I for example did not speak any English.

Adam: But at any point while you were living in Italy did you feel like you were pressured to speak English?

Edit: Not pressured, but when they heard that I’m not Italian they would switch to English. So I would have to tell them; “I don’t speak English, let’s keep talking in Italian”.

Adam: Learning a new language for me was made easier because our school had a no tolerance policy. You had to speak Italian, and that was it! 

Both of us are still speaking Italian, -granted it’s somewhat broken- but whoever we are speaking to on this trip, switches to English. Now that’s fine, but as an immigrant they expect you to be able to speak their language, and I appreciate that. All of these societal pressures made me do it, and I’m super grateful for it! That’s the difference between being a tourist and living here. 

Edit: If I remember well, we mostly used Italian in the beginning. And then slowly switched to English. Especially after you moved back to the US. Do you think if we would have stayed and lived in Milan, we would use Italian in our household?

Adam: Maybe initially, for the first little while. Because it was not our common language, but we spoke it better. I think if everything had gone the exact same that it has (getting married, having kids), but in Italy, we probably would have ended up speaking English in the house.

For me, moving to America was a much more diverse cultural experience, than moving to Italy.

Edit: In Italy I knew what I was getting myself into. I learned the language, I understood the culture, and I was closer to my home. But I didn’t know much about America, and the only reason I came was so we can be together. I struggled with the language barrier and being isolated. I was home alone for months, and got pregnant really fast… So we had a lot of challenges in our relationship that initially we didn’t think could happen. Both of us wish we would have had more time to slowly graduate our relationship up to marriage.

How did you experience all of this? You went to work in the morning and knew that Edit is at home alone, she doesn’t have her family and friends here. You were probably worried a lot about how I’m doing.

Adam: I don’t think this is going to be as long conversation as you are hoping, because the truth is I didn’t think about any of that. And I really should have.

Edit: I didn’t think about it either! We just had our everyday life, but with lots of fights that we didn’t know why they were happening. 

Now the world is so much more international. There is so much more information out there, and we notice other multicultural couples going through these issues as well. I learned that it was  totally normal how I felt.

Let’s say there is somebody in the same situation -like you were 10-8 years ago-, and is asking for your opinion or advice. What would you say to them?

Adam: I think this is an advice to anybody: ‘Don’t assume that somebody is ok with their situation, just because they are not complaining about it.’ That was the mistake I made. If you were upset about being home alone, or if you were lonely, you weren’t complaining about it. I just assumed that it wasn’t a problem.

Usually people who move to another country would say: ‘I left everything behind just to be with you, so you should appreciate that.

Edit: But I think there is no point in going back and forth on this argument. 

Adam: You can’t use anything as a weapon against the other person. Leaving everything behind is a choice you made! So don’t use it as a threat. But also the person on the receiving end of this,– you should be mindful of the sacrifices that your partner made.

Edit: But like you said, we weren’t aware of it!…

Adam: Nope! We where the model example of how to meet and not stay together. The honeymoon was amazing, but after that we did everything in the wrong way. 

Edit: Yeah! It’s a miracle that we are still together!…

Adam: …And a lot of really hard work too!

Edit: But if you don’t feel like working for something, it may not be worth it, right? A lot of people would have given up after our struggles.

Adam: Initially when we first split up, and I had that feeling of ‘we-are-not-giving-up’, you where really resistant to that, so I don’t think that’s what brought us back together. You didn’t come to me until I was forced to accept that it was over. And that was through going to a therapist. He was very honest with me. He told me that you made the decision to leave, and I’d be better off to accept that. Took me a long time, but the only way I could handle that and survive was to just focus on self improvement. So that’s when I stopped this unhealthy spiral, and focused on myself. Improving all the things that were wrong with me, that got us to this point, and after that was when you came back.

Edit: Many times couples would try to promise each other that they are going to change, but they don’t. And they end up back to the same problems.

For us, it’s been over 5 years that we fixed our marriage and started everything over. It’s like a new relationship we are having.

Adam: Change is hard! We had to go through the struggles and we had to change. 

Edit: Our issues where never based on culture, or being from a different country, or having a language barrier. But I still believe some of those conflicts came from it.

Adam: Every relationship has a culture. It’s a culture amongst two people. And I don’t think that’s a direct result. It’s a symptom, not a cause. We technically had a hard time communicating, and that become our ‘culture’. Even after you learned English. It was just part of who we were; a couple who doesn’t communicate really well. 

Edit: You assume that we can’t have a serious conversation, because she/he won’t understand. 

Adam: Or resistant to a serious conversation, because we’d have to spend half of our time having to look up in the dictionary what each word means. It’s exhausting, so “We just won’t have this conversation!”.

Edit: We also had some conflicts around our cultural differences. For example; me wanting to ‘go home’ once a year, spending all of our money on airplane tickets, or why am I talking to my family daily. It was hard to understand these differences, but you didn’t think that I like to talk to my family, because I’m Hungarian. 

Adam: That wasn’t necessarily a cultural thing. There are Americans who talk to their parents every single day. That’s just not me. That’s not my family. And if you want to dig really deep, it may be a jealousy thing.

People like to generalize and stereotype certain behaviors.

Edit: Or follow traditions just because that’s how their family, and culture have done it. And the hardest part is when you are coming from a different country, trying to feel like you matter just as much as the other one. For example, we always try to mix our Christmas traditions together. But the truth is, it could never be equal, simply because we live in America.

Adam: I think in our example that’s a bit easier, because I don’t have a lot of strong Christmas traditions. But if one of us had a really strong familial tradition, (or religion), it would be hard to pry me away from that. American traditions are slightly different. We’re going to celebrate the 4th of July or Thanksgiving no matter what. Even if we would live in another country. 

Shortly after chatting about holiday traditions we’ve ended our conversation. I’m so grateful for Adam for letting me interview him. I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life when I’ve interviewed somebody, and I think it ended up being more like a conversation between us. Which I didn’t mind at all! Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and can’t wait for round two sometime in the future?

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