In # 1 of this series, I presented the questions.
# 2 profiled Kay and Todd from Japan and the USA
# 3 profiles Vibek and Spencer from Norway and Gibralter
#4 profiles Lobot and Mrs. Lobot from the USA and France
#5 profiles Anna and Dr. Trouble from Poland and Japan
#6 profiles Denise and Ferenc from Malta and Hungary
Denise has also profiled Hanane and I at Travels wit Den Den
1) Your names
Denise and Her Guy Ferenc
2) Your blog
3) Your nationality
4) Spouses nationality
Son of Hungarian parents but born and bred in Switzerland. He has dual citizenship.
5) Where do you live now? Do you live with your spouse?
I live in Oberhasli, a small village about 20 minutes away by train from Zurich, Switzerland, and yes, I moved here to live with my partner.
6) Amount of time in a relationship
A little over a year.
7) How did you meet?
My country is very popular as a summer/English language learning destination, and in the hotter months it’s literally flooded by people from all over the world. I used to work at one of the biggest and most popular language schools for adult learners, and I met him in one of my classes, the first one I had right after coming back from a month spent travelling in South Korea. I taught him for 6 weeks but never thought of him that way. After a level test he moved to a different class, and I only met him occasionally in the school corridors.
Then on Saturday I was pretty much bullied into meeting a group of my students at a bar in the party heart of Malta because a few of them were leaving the island soon, and he was also invited because he had been their classmate too. Maybe it was the fact that we were both in a more casual context, or the fact that we were both a bit tipsy, but somehow, the first sparks started flying. We started having regular chats on facebook, which he topped up by bringing me chocolate gifts everyday with little thoughtful messages, and three months after our first meeting in the classroom we started dating. It was then that he confessed he’d had an interest in me for a long time.
Two weeks after we started dating, he asked me to move to Switzerland and live with him. I had already decided I wanted to move to another country anyway (though I had never even mildly considered Switzerland) and I knew, even after such a short time (I know, I know, this sounds cheesy) that he was the love of my life, so I accepted. Three months into our relationship, we were living together here in Switzerland.
8) What was the biggest impediment to moving together?
Strangely enough, there was nothing complicated about it. My parents are really cool people, and when I told them that I’d decided to move country and move in with a man I had been with only for a few weeks, neither of them freaked out. My mother said she was happy I would be only 2 hours away by plane rather than 7 time zones away (I’d always wanted to work and live in Japan) and my dad immediately started speaking about visiting Switzerland.
Leaving my job in Malta was easy because I had been unhappy with the salary and treatment from my boss for a long time, and many of my close friends had also emigrated, so I had little to hold me back. There were of course, piles and piles of paperwork to fill in order for me to get a work and residence permit here in Switzerland, but as a member of the E.U. I couldn’t be refused residence, especially once my partner also decided to sponsor me.
9) How is the relationship with your in-laws?
My partner’s parents are Hungarian and they escaped to Switzerland about thirty years ago during the Soviet occupation of their country. A few years ago they moved back, but my partner stayed in Switzerland because that’s the country he calls home. I haven’t met them yet. However, we’re planning to visit them this Christmas. It will be, lets just say, strange. I am not learning German because I have an irrepressible dislike for the language and learning Hungarian is simply out of the questions because, as my partner himself admits, it has sounds which are very difficult to master. His parents have both seen pictures of me and his father seems to think that Italians and Maltese are the same thing. I’m really looking forward to meeting his mother because I’ve heard she can cook fantastic traditional Hungarian dishes.
10) What about your spouses with your family?
Since the time between taking the decision to leave Malta and moving was a short one (2 and a half months), I needed to introduce him to my parents fairly quickly. My mother pretty much adopted him for the rest of the time he was in my country, stuffing him with food and letting him stay for frequent sleepovers. Before they met I had shown her a photo of him and she had commented on how good-looking he was. Add to that the fact that the first time they met he brought to her a plant as a gift, and my mother was completely won-over. It was love at first sight.
My father was never a man of many words, but since I never heard any complaints from him, I assume he likes him too.
11) What was your biggest cultural misunderstanding?
Although there is a big lifestyle difference when you compare Malta and Switzerland, it’s difficult to speak about cultural misunderstandings as the two countries share more similarities than differences. Luckily, while a lot of Maltese people are fervent Catholics and church goers and therefore frown upon living together before marriage, my parents are nothing like that and have always let me make my own decisions.
12) Can you tell a funny story about a cultural mishap?
Again, it’s a very mild one, but I smile whenever I think about it. It might sound silly to you, but hang in there for a bit. A Maltese double bed is traditionally dressed with a sheet covering the mattress, then another sheet above that, then a blanket, just one blanket on top. The reason for this is so that instead of having to wash the blanket or the quilt cover all the time, one simply washes the sheets. Now, for some reason, in Switzerland people have only one sheet covering the mattress and then two separate blankets which are folded neatly side by side. At first I thought this was something of his own invention, but then I noticed that all beds in furniture show rooms were also dressed that way. He loves it like that, by the way, because he doesn’t have to fight for his blanket quota. I always joke that when we move and find ourselves in a ‘civilised country’ again, he’ll have no choice but to go back to my version.
13) Have you traveled with your spouse?
Yes, and part of the reason why we are together is because we both share a passion for travelling and want to lead a nomadic life for a bit.
14) If so, has it been challenging? Why?
In some weird way, as travellers we complement each other perfectly. I am the sort of person who buys a guidebook about a destination well in advance and researches and decides beforehand every detail, from what attractions I want to visit and their opening times to which restaurant I’ll find myself having dinner at on Monday. He is much more relaxed and dislikes too much forward planning. He’s very good with maps, which I’m a bit hopeless at, and he’s really supportive during flights, which tend to make me very nauseous and dizzy. It’s something about the airplane’s movements up and down and left and right. We also frequently end up arguing in the middle of the street over an unfindable attraction or restaurant, and my habit of planning even the most minute of details sometimes gets on his nerves, (although he appreciates the fact that it always saves us a lot of money), but we always have a fantastic time, and as soon as we get home from one trip, we already start speaking about the next.
15) Do you have children? If so, what is that like, internationally
16) If you don’t have children, why not? Do you plan to?
We would love to have 1 (my wish) or 2 (his wish) children, but only when we settle down properly. We don’t think it’s fair to constantly displace a child just because one has itchy feet. When we do have children, we’ve already decided that he’d have to speak to them in German while I’d have to do so in English, just to make sure both set of grandparents are able to communicate with them. Hungarian and Maltese will unfortunately be left behind.
17) What is the best and the worst thing about international relationships?
The worst thing is obviously the fact that if two people want to be together, one of them needs to give up his home country. In my case, that was never an issue because I never planned to live my whole life in Malta. However, I must say I am not really keen on Switzerland, and I really dislike German and the local Swiss-German dialect which sports some very harsh glottal sounds. Luckily, we had discussed the fact that I might not like it here before the moving, and he had told me he wasn’t particularly keen on staying either. At the moment, we’re trying to get a visa to Australia, a destination we’d both like to live and work in for a while.
The best thing is definitely the fact that international unions promote open-mindedness and a greater tolerance for ‘otherness’. Immigration is a sensitive topic everywhere. In both Malta and Switzerland, E.U. agreements have made it possible for E.U citizens to simply pack their bags and move to another E.U. country, and such immigrants are often viewed in a negative light because they are seem to be taking precious local jobs. It’s easy to speak badly of immigrants when they have no connection to you, but with so much intermingling, with foreigners marrying your friends, cousins and daughters, it’s a different matter. When a bridge is built between local and immigrant in this way, people stop viewing foreigners as ‘others’.
After all, where we are born is a matter of pure luck. The world belongs to everyone and the increase in international relationships and marriages is helping to make people understand just that.