Interviews with Binational Couples: My Husband and I

(Sergey’s responses are italicized while mine are not.)

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John Luke’s Birthplace: Ohio, USA

Sergey’s Birthplace: Penza, USSR (Now Russia)

We met for the first time in 2012 in Moscow, Russia.

  1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)

It had never really occurred to me. Although I had messed around quite a bit in S. Korea with guys that didn’t speak English very well so I just knew that communication had to be clear if anything was to become serious. Before, I didn’t speak any other language aside from English so it was really important that my partner be fluent because I didn’t want the added complication of a language barrier. Relationships are challenging enough. It is a privilege, and this must be said, that the language spoken between us is my native language. You’ll notice that this is the case for most of the couples I have interviewed.

I never thought about it much. When I had considered it I thought dating a foreigner might be difficult simply because we wouldn’t have a common history and culture to reference and that could have caused some ‘relating’ issues but it turns out it really isn’t a problem, especially because Luke is American and the USA’s culture is the most globally recognized.

  1. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?

My husband being Russian (and part Ukrainian), I assumed at first he’d be a big drinker and he’s really rather mild in this regard. I am a much heavier drinker than he is. But I didn’t really consider anything else. I knew very little about Russia before arriving in Moscow and pretty much let the country hit me when I arrived.

Not really. America has its reputations but again, I just hadn’t really considered it.

  1. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?

Well we don’t have many issues because socially and politically we agree on a lot. He, however, was entirely a-religious and un-nationalistic and that was the perdition of both my faith in god and the US. I was already pulling away from religion and nationalism (like a glacier) and his very cogent and incisive stance against them helped ease my own thoughts on these issues and allowed them to finally congeal and solidify. I come from a protestant, patriotic family. We have a lot of military members. So work-ethic, god, and of course patriotism have been themes in my family. Though none of my family members are fundamentalists or ultranationalist – and all of them are very supportive of my husband and I.

Politically speaking, I definitely give more credit to government from time to time but we both feel strongly about activism and its role in shaping government and society. We, however, are not very activist – we are however critical thinkers when it comes to any institution.

We haven’t had any real linguistic barriers since Serge’s English is fluent, any that have existed have been on my side when I’m staggering through Russian. Any other barriers have been of a personal nature and not related to culture but rather our individual personalities.

I’ve always known I was going to leave Russia so I would have wanted my partner to know a second language like English or Spanish anyway. Traveling and living abroad without a language like English/Spanish really complicates and limits your options. My English is well developed and I’ve been learning it for years and have had much practice so it isn’t really a problem for me to communicate in it all the time. Sometimes I even know words he doesn’t. The language I’m currently working on is Spanish which is very applicable in America.

  1. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?

Only that he doesn’t drink much. He is just such a mild drinker. And I think also the fact that he just doesn’t act Russian in any stereotypical way. He is very much an individual, even to the point of being aloof from his native culture much of the time. I am very American in some ways in that I love food, massive portions of it, always fried, and I am very loud and obnoxious about my opinions.

Nothing really. He does eat a lot. And sometimes I have to tell him when he’s gained weight.

  1. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?

Our home language is definitely English. Though we banter in Russian on occasion and often say ‘I love you’ in Russian. I am still learning it but it’s a bit of a slog. Progress has been made, I just need to keep at it. I have a lot of respect for my husband and his ability to constantly communicate, and so articulately, in a foreign language.

We speak English all the time. Occasionally we banter in Russian.

  1. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)

Serge tends to do more laundry than I do but he is an abysmal cook so I do all the food preparation and I often clean up as well. We share many other duties around the house like the care of our two dogs and more general housekeeping. He is better about picking up after himself than I am.

Luke cooks all the time. I tend to do laundry but I also pick up in general because he is always throwing stuff around the house and never seems to get back to it. This is why he always loses socks. He puts them in weird places and then complains about losing them.

  1. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?

Americans are pretty unphased by this sort of thing but there is of course general curiosity. People tend to mispronounce Serge’s name a lot and are always complimenting him on his English. Those are about the biggest reactions I’ve ever seen.

In Russia things were different. There has been and continues to be homophobia in that country and it’s reinforced by the State. We are not that in to public displays of affection anyway but we couldn’t even hold hands in Moscow. People there are similar to America in the 80’s in this regard. Some still believe it is a mental illness while others think it is okay so long as gays aren’t raising children. We did of course have many supportive friends. Most of the time we acted as friends do on the street. Here in the states we can be more relaxed though are behavior hasn’t changed much.

I can’t say I pay a lot of attention to that. We have more freedom to express ourselves in our relationship here in the States. In Moscow there were the obvious complications. None of my friends were surprised by a foreign relationship.

  1. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?

I did meet them and just before returning to the States. I could communicate marginally with them since my Russian is still developing. They were very warm, welcoming people.

I have and everything has been pretty smooth.

  1. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?

That people are people. For me it really goes to show that ethnicity, nationality, and all that superficial jazz is pretty meaningless next to one’s life outlook and ideology. Obviously culture shapes who we are but we can rise above that, we can grow out of it, we can become individuals apart from our passport identities. I think the most meaningful and substantial bond one human being can find with another is through a shared outlook on life and how to lead it.

Agreed. =)

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Interviews with Binational Couples: James and Rizida

(Rizida’s responses are italicized. James’ are not.)

James was born in Arizona, USA.

Rizida was born in Almetevsk, Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR.

We met around early October of 2009, in Moscow.

1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)

Yes. I had a lot of multicultural experience from a young age, so I understood that cultures can be very different in very subtle ways. The differences are often counter-intuitive.

I didn’t have any preconceptions or doubts because I never considered it as a possibility.

2. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?

In the case of my partner, I immediately noticed that she had a strong sense of Tatar identity, maybe more so than any Tatars I had met before. As such, I pretty much wrote off any chances of a romantic relationship from the first date. The Muslim Tatar culture is pretty conservative about dating outside their nationality, or at least the faith.

While I found out she wasn’t a believer, there are many cultural traditions which made establishing a relationship very difficult. She was and still is very shy. Honestly I can’t say I’m 100% sure I know how I managed to pull this off, but I did.

I didn’t have much experience in dating in general. Another thing, I didn’t consider going out with him as dating for a long time.

3. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?

Very different backgrounds in religion, culture, language. Class background was kind of the same except that her upbringing was semi-rural. Also she grew up in the midst of crisis and chaos, whereas I grew up in utter awesomeness because we had NES, Game Boy, Street Fighter II, Peter Piper Pizza, Taco Bell, Animaniacs, etc., etc.

It’s hard to recall particularities, but I remember that in the first year together I felt uncomfortable for not being able to express my thoughts and feelings because my level of English along with a certain amount of shyness didn’t allow me to.

4. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?

Insistence on washing chicken before baking it. This does nothing and can actually spread germs rather than stop them.

Yes, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that it’s not expected from me to cook and do all domestic work. Also, I was shocked when he said he didn’t believe in God. 

5. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?

We started only in Russian, until I learned that her English skills are quite good and she told me she prefers speaking English. We still greet each other in Tatar and we usually only say “I love you” in Tatar.

English, which is my husband’s first language.

6. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)

I handle most food shopping, cooking, and arranging entertainment such as finding movies or documentaries to watch. She does a lot of cleaning, but I wash my own dishes and usually do my own laundry assuming she doesn’t get to it first.

First rule in the house: nobody has to do anything. And usually nobody does)) But I have to add here that my husband cooks much more often than me, but usually only when he can. And I usually clean the house, but only when I can’t stand the dirt any more.

7. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?

We have limited experience with this, but it’s all been positive. No single thing stands out.

For most of my friends and relatives it was curious to meet a foreign person. Some of my Tatar friends and family were amazed (and little bit amused too) to hear my husband speaking Tatar.

8. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?

My wife is pretty estranged from her father. As for her mother, she generally likes me and hates me at the same time. But as you know, she’s a bit eccentric.

Yes, I met his parents and he met mine. I think everything went fine.

9. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?

I think a lot of people need to realize how much of a challenge it can be. My marriage works partially because we connect on a personal level, but I don’t think it would have ever been a relationship were it not for the knowledge I have about her culture and this country. I see a lot of guys coming to Russia thinking they’ll find the perfect wife and cultural-linguistic barriers won’t matter. I can tell you that with my knowledge of Russia and its culture, plus dating experience, I would not marry a Russian woman. Every person I know who is married to a Russian woman and has a successful marriage is a person with plenty of background knowledge on Russia and the language.

Not much, because one learns by comparing different experiences, which I honestly don’t have.

Interviews with Binational Couples: Jennifer and Cody

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(Cody’s responses are italicized. Jennifer’s are not.)

Cody’s Birthplace: Hawaii, USA

Jennifer’s Birthplace: Haiti

We met in Gainesville, Florida.

1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)

Cody isn’t the first foreigner I’ve dated so I didn’t really have any preconceptions or doubts about the relationship. I had seen him in class and around campus and just thought he was nice, intelligent, talkative guy. I never really thought about his race or ethnicity and still don’t.

I asked her out with an open mind. We were in the same major so we had a lot of connection in that regard and race and ethnicity didn’t play a role in our attraction. Sure it was novel for me but it seemed right for so many other reasons.

2. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?

Since I was born in Haiti and grew up in Miami I was exposed to people from all over the world. However, moving to Gainesville was quite a culture shock since it was the first time I was exposed to that many “white” Americans and to the rural south. Since I was in the wildlife program I encountered a lot of hunters and people who enjoyed being out in nature and going hiking. Not many people in my culture do that. I don’t think there were any stereotypes or expectations when he first asked me out, I just thought of him as the cute guy in class that wouldn’t stop talking about herpetology.

When I first met her I was not aware that she was Haitian. I thought she was an American Black girl. Her English is exceptional so it wasn’t until she told me where she was from that I knew I was dating a foreigner. I knew most Caribbean girls are very tight with family so when we started dating I knew I would be meeting the large family.

3. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?

Haitians are very loud people and my family especially when we all get together is loud and everyone talks at the same time in several languages. That is definitely something Cody has had to get used to. I do find it awkward at times when meeting his friends because I never know what to do. In Haiti you always kiss people when you meet them in a social event, however, Americans sometimes get weirded out by that. Cody always has these weird sayings (which I still think he makes up) that are always going over my head.

Humor and sarcasm are commonly over her head.

4. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?

I’m not sure if this is cultural but Cody is always putting his clothes in the dryer to “de-wrinkle” them, which I just don’t understand. If he folded his clothes nicely or hung them up he wouldn’t have to do that! Cody also treats his animals as if they are part of the family. That isn’t very common in Haiti and we sometimes argue about whether or not our dog will get to sleep on our bed or come into the kitchen if we end up living together in the future. Also, Cody is obsessed with Halloween; I still don’t get it.

Fear of Frogs. As a herpetologist this is unbelievable. Most Frogs are harmless but a lot of Haitians are terrified of frogs.

5. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?

Cody and I speak to each other in English. He does not speak French very well and I admit I am not doing a great job at teaching him. Down the line I would love for him to speak French because if we end up starting a family I plan on speaking to my kids in French. Also, I would love for him to be able to speak to my parents in our native language since their English isn’t very good.

We communicate in English but we speak French occasionally and playfully. I’m trying to learn French so I can connect with the family. The family speaks some English, French and Haitian Creole.

6. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)

Cody and I don’t live together but we do spend a lot of time at each other’s places. I am definitely much more of a neat freak and will often fold and put away his laundry. We both cook together which is nice, although we would both prefer a bigger kitchen to work in.

We don’t live together but we cook and clean together often. We both enjoy the kitchen and enjoy food and wine.

7. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?

My family has certainly welcomed Cody with open arms. The fact that Cody is so open-minded and outgoing has made them getting to know him so much easier. Since I am mixed race, many of my family members are white, so being with a white guy isn’t much of a shock. However, living in the “south” we’ve encountered some not so accepting individuals that look at us in disgust just because we are holding hands. Thankfully, the people who matter don’t have an issue. There was this one instance where I was eating at a restaurant alone and a black American came up to me checking me out. Once I told him I had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested (and showed him a picture of Cody and I because he wouldn’t leave me alone) he told me I should be ashamed of myself for not dating a black man. Unfortunately there are people from all races that think you should only be with someone of the same race, I think it’s ridiculous and people should stop looking at what’s on the outside and focus on the person.

Living in the south in America can be challenging. While my Family and friends love her to death, we see stares typically from people in more rural areas where interracial relations are still frowned upon or taboo. I remember walking into a gas station in rural Florida and just about seeing this old woman’s eyes cross when we were holding hands.

8. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?

Since Cody’s parents live only 30 minutes away, I’ve spent plenty of time with them and have no issues communicating with them. They have been so welcoming and accepting to me.

Yes and I love them. Very warm-hearted caring people. They speak English which helps and I listen in when they speak French and try to follow the conversation.

9. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?

Patience and acceptance. It’s ok if your partner does things differently or doesn’t share your same beliefs or viewpoint, as long as you can reach a compromise. Since we live in such a globalize world interracial relationships are no longer an oddity. I’ve learned so much about American culture by dating Cody. Even though I’ve lived in the US most of my life I was raised in a Haitian household and wasn’t exposed to certain things. Also, I love the fact that Cody was excited to travel to my home country and appreciate my culture, it meant the world to me.

When we started dating it was very novel being an interracial couple. Now it’s like oh yea I’m dating a beautiful black women. For us the relationship is so much more than race, that’s a topical thing. We have such great chemistry and try to support each other and foster a healthy relationship. For anyone interested don’t rule it out. I got to travel to Haiti and see a side I never would have had I not asked out my Haitian Sensation.

Interviews with Binational Couples: Lychee and Michael

(Michael’s responses are italicized. Lychee’s are not.)

Lychee’s Birthplace: Shenxian, Shandong Province, China

Michael’s Birthplace: Virginia, USA

We met in Guanghzhou (formerly known as Canton), China on September 29, 2013.

  1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)

No, I didn’t really have any doubts. I’m open-minded. Before, I thought dating a person from a different culture would be interesting. I think with the cultural differences, you can learn a lot.

I always thought it would be possible and fun, as long as there was enough of a common language. In fact, to be honest, during my last relationship with an American, I began to feel I was missing something and that was sort of fulfilled by the experience of engaging with difference on a daily basis.

  1. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?

My stereotype for white Americans was that it was very hard for them to be loyal to their partners. I also thought that they don’t ever want to make commitments. So far, though, Michael is doing well with that one, haha.

I’ll admit before I dated some Asian women I had a tincture of the typical American college-boy’s fantasy regarding the subservient Asian woman. It was never foremost in my mind when I was seeking women to date in Korea, though, since I was just coming out of a rough breakup when I went, and I was mostly just looking for any kind of experience. And now that stereotype is good and dead since Lychee certainly doesn’t hold back if she thinks I’m wrong about something. She’s the boss.

  1. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?

Michael goes on about politics all the time, so when he talks too long, I just pretend I’m listening, while I’m really thinking of something else. At first, we had some trouble with the different foods we preferred, but gradually our tastes expanded. He liked more things that I like, and I liked more things that he likes. But, he still won’t eat chicken feet! I don’t think there are really any linguistic barriers between us, though. We’re able to express everything we need.

The linguistic barriers are pretty minor – a word here or there, and some complex concepts need to be explained (on both sides). Overall, it’s easy though. Culturally I wouldn’t really say there are barriers so much as different reference points. In discussions, there are some events and people that just aren’t as well-known across civilizational boundaries. When you have to explain who Marilyn Monroe is, you know you’re dating internationally.

  1. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?

Most of the things that surprise me about Michael aren’t culturally related, as far as I can tell.

I was definitely surprised how much it annoyed Lychee to have to tip in restaurants. I mean, having lived there for over a year, I knew China wasn’t a tipping country, but I didn’t know it would still be wasteful from her perspective once we left China. The age at which marriage is expected is also just much lower, culturally, in China, and although Lychee doesn’t fully believe in it, it is the culture into which she was born and therefore influences her thinking.

  1. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?

We communicate in English all the time.

Yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s all English. She’s taught me a bit of Chinese, but we really only communicate in English. We’ve planned for her to teach me Chinese, but have gotten sidetracked a number of times since we’ve been applying for grad school, and now attending it.

  1. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)

I do more cleaning, since Michael isn’t very good at that, but we share most other things.

I’ll be honest, Lychee definitely does most of the cleaning, since I’m so awful at it. But, we cook together a lot, which I REALLY enjoy. I love learning how to cook Chinese food from her, and teaching her how to cook things she’s never cooked before (i.e. pretty much everything that requires an oven).

  1. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?

I think people in China generally paid more attention to us because we’re an international couple. Most of the time it was fun, but one time when we were out at a nice restaurant on the waterfront in Shanghai and this Chinese waitress only wanted to speak English with us. She wouldn’t answer a question about the food I was trying to ask her in Chinese. She just wanted to show off her English for the foreigner, but her English sucked!

Well, Lychee and I haven’t spent much time in America together, since she only visited for the first time a few weeks ago. But, when we were both in Beijing one time seeing her sister, we were at this restaurant and I held Lychee’s baby nephew as I walked around outside. After a few minutes, I sat down on the steps, since he seemed very comfortable sleeping in my arms. As people walked by, practically everyone stared at me and her nephew openly (at least 50 people in a 10-minute span), astonished by the young white man holding the Chinese baby. When Lychee came out and stood next to me a woman walked right up to her and said “Is that your little mixed-blood?” Mixed-blood is a name the Chinese have for children born to people of different countries (even sometimes if they’d be considered racially similar; I was once told that I was mixed blood myself because my grandparents on my mother’s side are German, while my father’s family is not). Several others inquired while we were waiting for her sister to come out of the restaurant. It was a wake-up call about how strong of a shock it can still be in China, even in a city with a large expat community, like Beijing.

  1. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?

Yes, and yes. It was a very positive experience. They’re really nice people and easy to get along with. I had lots of fun hanging out with them. They have many funny stories to tell. They have a lot of friends and many social activities. That was great because I had lots of chances to talk with people from different backgrounds.

Yes, and no. They don’t speak a word of English, and my Chinese isn’t nearly strong enough to really converse effectively. But they were really great to me. They were immensely fun, and relaxed in the great way that rural Chinese can be. I ate cicadas, a real delicacy in China with them, and had lots of fun playing with Lychee’s nieces and nephews. I like to think we communicated by how we treated each other, and I have a lot of respect for them.

  1. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?

I learned how to get along with people from different cultures, and how to respect people that are different from you. I learned this from dating Michael but also because we live in a big, multicultural city, London. Also, I think race doesn’t make a person. All people are fundamentally the same, human beings. And this experience has, overall, been very positive. Sometimes Michael drives me crazy and I want to smack him, but at the end of the day, he’s the one I want to go home with. Love is about compromise and tolerating each other. No one is perfect.

I think it just reinforces notions I already had about the common humanity we all share. I also learned just how plain fun it can be to live with someone every day who has a totally different background from you. I mean, ok, if I want to discuss the American civil rights movement, maybe I have to explain a little more what I mean, but if I want to talk about Chinese cities that most Americans have never heard of, or chew over the latest move from Xi Jinping, I have the pleasure of talking with someone who has a wealth of firsthand knowledge. Most of all, the relationship is, as I’ve believed pretty much from the beginning, the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever experienced. Sure, we bump elbows frequently, but our different perspectives allow us to problem-solve better than most, I think. Lychee is great in a tough situation and one of the bravest people I know. And it’s a pleasure to think of exploring life with this person, and getting to know more about them every day. Even though it isn’t always easy, I learn something new from Lychee every day, and that’s probably the best part of an international relationship.

That was fun 🙂

Interviews with Binational Couples: Erni and Thomas

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(Thomas’ responses are italicized. Erni’s are not.)

Erni’s Birthplace: Chengdu, China

Thomas’ Birthplace: Paris, France

We met on February 25, 2010, in Vientiane, Laos.

1. Before dating a foreigner, did you have any preconceptions/doubts about what it would be like dating and relating? (in general)

NO IDEA. But no worries.

I’ve never actually been in a relationship with someone from another ethnic or nationality. I guess I had the normal preconceptions about “dating” that everyone gets from popular culture.

2. With regard to your partner’s ethnicity, did you harbor any stereotypes or expectations about what the dating experience would be like?

My parents don’t speak English and were shocked more than me that I brought someone non-Chinese back home.

I actually knew very little about China and the Chinese before meeting Erni, so I don’t think I’ve had any preconceptions about how a relationship would evolve. Perhaps I expected a Chinese girl to be more reserved than a European one. However, even with the little I knew about Chinese culture, I very quickly felt that Erni was anything but a typical Chinese.

3. What kind of cultural, social, political, and linguistic barriers have you encountered, if any? And how did you manage them?

Basically I wasn’t able to speak English, French, and can’t tell the difference between Jewish and Israeli, no idea about French left and right parties, my western culture was messed up before our relationship. He didn’t know anything about China a part from communism and that the Chinese eat dogs, those clichés. I guess time and patience and humor and sex help this cultural political social linguistic exchange.

We had big language barriers at first. I didn’t speak a word of Chinese (not even basics like NiHao), and Erni’s English was rather rudimentary. Still, we talked and wrote each other e-mails, even if at first she had to make frequent use of her dictionary. Over time we both improved through study and practice, and we now have three languages in common: French, English and Chinese.

4. Name one or two culturally related behaviors your partner exhibited that surprised you?

If we try to have sex in Chinese sometimes I end up laughing for hours.

Once again, Erni is not exactly the stereotypical Chinese girl, so overall we didn’t have many cultural hurdles to overcome. I guess one thing that surprised me was her bashfulness regarding displays of public affection. Holding hands etc are ok, but passionate kissing on the streets made her uncomfortable. She doesn’t mind it as much when we’re outside of China, though.

5. What language do you commonly communicate in? If you didn’t know your partner’s native (or one of their native) language/s, have you started learning it?

I speak French but he doesn’t speak French to me of which I am not very happy about.

We speak mostly English, out of habit. We use Chinese when we don’t want people around us to understand, which is a dangerous habit to acquire. We also regularly use a few French expressions when speaking in English. Erni would prefer for us to speak in French more often, but for some reason it makes me uncomfortable. Speaking French to her somehow feels less intimate, more cold and distant.

6. For those of you living together, what is the home dynamic like? Who does what domestically? (no lying!)

Not me.

I’m curious to see what Erni will reply here, because I definitely do the vast majority of housework. Cleaning, dishes, laundry, you name it. She does do most of the cooking though, because she’s just so good at it.

7. How have people in your native countries treated you as an intercultural couple? And can you share an anecdote, happy or sad, about one such related experience?

My country has something against women and non-Chinese couples (guess it’s from Confucius and the stupid pride of its fucking 5000 year-old culture, for me it’s 5000 tons of baggage) so most people (not intellectual people) hold prejudice for Chinese girls with a non-Chinese boyfriend (less prejudice for boys with a non-Chinese girl, or gay couple) so, many times people insult me on the street just because Thomas is beside me. I fight back sometimes, and write articles about that.

I’ve never had a personal, physical experience regarding this, but I do know that some people in China frown on girls going out with foreigners. There was one instance where an article was published online about our journey (the one where we met you!), and there were several comments insulting Erni for having a foreign boyfriend. Surprisingly she didn’t take it too bad, she’s too tough for that

8. Have you met your partner’s parents, and were you able to communicate effectively with them?

I guess we are good friends with his parents, my parents like him too.

Oh dear god yes. Not only have we both met the entirety of our respective families, but our families have also met each other on several occasions. I even lived with Erni in her parent’s home for a long period. Communication was very hard at first because, as I said, I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. I also had no idea about certain important conventions, like having to call her parents “auntie” and “uncle”. However over time, as my language skills progressed and my cultural understanding deepened, I developed a good relationship with her family. I even occasionally talk to her mother on WeChat… Erni also has a very good relationship with both my parents, and pretty much my entire family thinks she’s great. So that’s nice.

9. Lastly, what has ‘international’ dating taught you, if anything?

I guess living in an international relationship is like travel, you live with another culture with love and everyday life.

I highly recommend it to anyone