I’m so excited to introduce you to Camilla Quintana, who has a very international life. She currently lives in Bilbao, Spain, but is originally from Vienna, Austria. Which is very close to where I’m from. Vienna is actually the city that I fly into when we go visit my family.
Camilla and I have so much in common as we both have a multicultural family, are raising bilingual children, and have a passion for helping others who move to a new country. Her commitment as a certified life and relationship coach is to help women who moved abroad for love, and to live a fulfilled life.
Camilla comes from a very multicultural family. She had grandparents from different cultures, which means that marrying interculturally has always been a pattern in her family.
Growing up in different cultures and languages was part of my upbringing and identity. I traveled and moved to different countries a lot during my studies, and when I returned to Vienna was actually where I met my husband, who is Spanish. So after our wedding, we immediately started our international journey.
They have moved 4 times as Camilla was following her husband’s carrier.
I’m in a lucky position to be able to do that because I work remotely, which isn’t the case for many other women. So in that sense I’m blessed, but still, there is such a big difference between choosing to move abroad and having to move abroad. Even though you do freely marry your partner, and you want to spend your life together, but who really knows what that means?! Especially if you put it into a multi cultural context. Leaving your home, and going to your husband’s town. Where his family, his friends, and his influence is. But what about you? Maybe you want to be able to choose freely, but you don’t feel that you have the opportunity to do that.
Our cultures are very different, but the wedding ceremony is not that different in Austria then it is in Spain. We wanted to accommodate our guests from both countries, so my husband and I got married in Downtown Vienna. We had a Catholic wedding with a priest who was bilingual, and he did our ceremony in both languages. The songs were all Austrians, but we made booklets in both languages. I said my vows in Spanish and he said his in German.
Our menu was multicultural with Spanish ham, wine, cocktails, and Austrian desserts. The music was international with some Spanish touch. The seats were assigned at the dinner table because we wanted to mix all the people up. For some of them there was a language barrier, but we did make sure that everyone would have someone they knew at the table. I think this really contributed to the whole atmosphere, so much so that three couples got together at our wedding.
My husband and I started our relationship speaking Spanish, because he wasn’t so fluent in German, and I spoke Spanish, so it was easy for me. At one point he really wanted to learn German, and make the best out of his time in Vienna, so we started to speak in German together. Which was unusual. Usually you have this one language that is part of the dynamic and it’s hard to all of the sudden switch. It was a little weird at first, but since he really wanted it, we just made it work. We spoke German up until we got married, and then we kind of went back into Spanish. So now we speak 70% Spanish and 30% German.
I’m so jealous of them speaking two languages in the house. I remember speaking Italian with Adam, but we quickly switched to English when he started to teach me. If he would ever learn Hungarian, I’m not sure if we would be able to communicate in that language.
I literally speak all 3 languages every day. I remember having times where I was exposed to primary one language, and I would have a hard time switching over to the other one. Even if it was my native tongue.
I would say there is no one answer, it would really depend on the couple’s situation. But here are some factors to take into consideration:
-Does one have a very stable job and income, and the other one doesn’t?
-Do both parties speak the language of one country, but not of the other?
Language is a gateway to the culture, to making friends, to work, and to be able to find your way around.
– Analyze your family a little bit. How supportive are they? Would they go out of their way to help you? Some in-laws are a little bit precedes about the spouse from abroad, or they are very much in your business. These kind of factors can really cause problems along the way and effect the relationship.
When couples are getting married they are thinking about logistics and how happy they are in this current stage of their life. They have a hard time thinking about what will happen after this whole emotion filled year settles down.
Really get to know the other person’s culture, family, friends, regardless if you are moving to their country, or not. What are they like now that they are back home with their family and friends? Are they changing a little bit? This happens a lot, so just make sure you know as much as you possibly before you say I do.
Living in another country, even if it’s just for a month or so, will allow you to have a better insight and better understanding of their way of doing things. Cultural differences are very real. In today’s globalized world we sometimes think that there are no differences, but actually there really are, and that’s ok. It’s not about the right way or the wrong way. It’s about our conditioning that even if we are very aware of it, it can still come out. It can come out when you have your own kids. In a situation of stress. Or as you get older. So just be really realistic about it.
Have realistic expectations. This is not a Hollywood love story! That doesn’t mean that marriage can’t be great, but don’t expect this happily ever after ending. Life comes in circles and there will be ups and downs in your relationship, so just be realistic about it and have the conversations beforehand.
Unfortunately here in America, for immigration reasons some intercultural couples would have to get married quickly so they can stay together. And they figure everything else out after the wedding. This sometimes puts pressure on their relationship.
My advice to those couples would be take advantage of the technology and have as many face to face conversations as possible. Have those conversations that you need, so you can be well prepared for what’s expecting you. Secondly, I don’t believe that there is one soulmate for everyone. I think that there are many possible options, and really what it comes down to is your attitude and mindset. So even if you didn’t know each other all that well, and you have never lived together, with the right attitude and mindset toward the other one and toward your relationship I think you can really make it work. Talk about what marriage means for both of you and how much are you willing to invest in it. Be committed to making this work.
A lot of times it’s actually about the questions that you don’t ask, because you don’t even think about it. The obvious things like: What food do you like? , How do you celebrate holidays? This is an easy conversation and you will probably talk about it anyway.
But family is always a good way to start, because as you are creating your family, that’s when your own conditioning comes out anyway. Who is family to you? Is it you and your new family unit that you created after marriage? Or you, your parents and your siblings? Maybe you and your extended family? How often do you want to meet with them? How much influence do they have on you? What are your obligations toward them? There are many cultures where the children are expected to, for instance, send money. That can be a real shock for a spouse who is not used to that. They can take it personally, like an offense and attack on them.
Have some discussions about values and what do they mean to you. Punctuality, reliability for example. Is arriving on time important to you, or can things get in the way?
Camilla created a great Multicultural Couples Checklist that helps you go through certain cultural values and discuss them with your partner.
When we got married, the best advice that we received was to make the holidays and special occasions our own. To start new family traditions, because that really makes you grow together. Go through the holidays that are most important to you, and explain to others why is it celebrated. Then see if it’s ok with them. Do they want to add something, do they want to take something out, can you adopt it to your own personal ways? If you can’t agree on one holiday, combine the two. Make this amazing tradition where both of you can feel at home. It’s so important and also something that you can pass onto your kids.
Especially if you have children, these traditions becomes very significant. It’s also important for both sides to feel valued in the same way, even if they live in one’s country.
If your partner lives in your country, in your environment, go out of your way to take an interest. It will make them feel so much more valued and accepted. Ask them; what is this tradition like in your country?
Sometimes I feel like the reason people don’t ask about my traditions or my culture, is because they already have a stereotypical answer to it.
Or maybe they are scared that it’s rude to ask, so they don’t. But it’s painful to be put in a box. There are cultural trades and cultural contexts, but there is also an individual personality. Us multiculturals are not aligned with one culture anyway. We have things from different cultures.
When you go abroad, you are the business card of your country. Make an effort to carry yourself with grace. Know when to adopt or when to take a step back. Sometimes even direct language can be considered rude in another country, when you find it normal. But also own your heritage and culture. Showcase it from the best angle. This is the best chance you have of changing other people’s stereotypes.
This advice from Camilla totally changed my mindset. If I think that we are only going to be here for a few years, I would try to embrace this culture and location so much more, then if I know that I’m going to be here forever.
It’s a complete mindset shift. It can be so overwhelming and can create so much anxiety to see yourself stuck in an environment that you don’t feel comfortable in. You feel lonely and isolated. So allow the possibility that this will be temporary, regardless if it’s realistic or not. When you make this temporary agreement, for example to move abroad in 5 years for one year, (Ideally to your partner’s home country.) all of a sudden the rules would be reversed. This will really foster the empathy between the spouses, and it’s also great to experience the other person’s culture. It doesn’t matter so much if this is super realistic, or if this will actually happen. It’s not about what will happen it 5 years, it’s what will happen during those 5 years! All of a sudden you have this new outlook and the pressure just falls off of your shoulders. A lot of times if you have this outlook, your attitude changes completely. You will be more open to things, and may take advantage of certain offers. If your spouse is already making this huge move to go to your country, you can at least grant them one year.
When your attitude toward your move is: “Oh, I just did that for my spouse!”, it will immediately put you into victim mode. It will make you feel really dependent on your spouse. Anxious, and even depressed. This is also a responsibility for your spouse that they can’t bear. To be responsible for your happiness and unhappiness. When we are in victim mode, we are totally uncreative. This is actually what happens whenever we go into stress, anxiety and depression. Our brain starts to focus on the one thing that needs to be solved in light of a threat we perceive. Which in that sense it’s the new country.
There are different options, you are just not seeing them now. Find ways to make this about yourself. Make a list of things that are positive about the move. If you can’t find anything, then it’s really exciting, because now you can create it! You are not going to waste years of your life! And if you feel like you are, then reach out to someone that can help you see things differently!
Camilla’s method of overcoming challenges that comes up after moving to a new country.
1, Radical self love and awareness
If you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, it will affect every other area of your life.
2, Resilience and Resourcefulness
When life happens, sometimes you will fall, but you can get back up again. Seeing new possibilities and being flexible.
3, Relationship and family life
The dynamics with your family changes when you move.
4, Meaning and purpose.
Create something that gives you a sense of joy, excitement, accomplishment.
My work really revolves around strengthening those four pillars.
Get in contact with Camilla:
Facebook: camilla quintana
Free Resource: Multicultural Couples Checklist
TV Show Camilla mentioned: The O.C. -Set’s Christmukkah Speech