Saturday, 21 February 2015 00:00

When love moves Europe: story of an ordinary transnational couple

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Photo: Matthias Ripp; Licence: CC BY 2.0
Love for all 


Being in a love relationship can be at times complicated, right? Besides the ups and downs of a "regular" story, those who are in a long-distance relationship may find it way harder to overcome misunderstandings as well as to share nice moments. Broadening the topic,we wanted to go deep inside the feelings and thoughts of a young European couple currently split up into two different places, unveiling their fears, their struggles and their hopes for a future together. E&M's Veronica Pozzi tells the story of Marta and Johannes, an Italian-German couple who have grappled with national stereotypes and modern technology as part and parcel of their relationship.


"I was terribly late. It took me a while to get from my flat to the underground station and the way to get there had been quite weird, featuring a soldier from the German army who paid my bus ticket as I had run out of coins. After getting lost and adding more minutes to my already huge delay, I managed to arrive at the place. And he was there. With his blond hair, drinking a rather big beer. Looking very German indeed. Without taking my eyes off him, I started to talk to an Italian friend, who arranged the evening together, and as I was talking to her (read: very loud and with lots of gestures) I thought I must look truly Italian. And then the show began".


The memories Marta tells us are a strange but clear mixture of funny and sad bits. Her willingness to be abroad brought her to Germany, but she never thought that she was going to be so involved with that country as she is now. She was in that situation when you are not really on the look-out for a new story. But the guy she met there impressed her a lot and the dates that followed made her feel so comfortable, interested and happy that she felt she didn’t want to miss out on him. So, almost two years ago, their relationship started –  more as an emotion-driven decision rather than a totally rational one. But here they are, and, in these two years, they have gone through quite a lot.

Photo: Nana B Agyei; Licence: CC BY 2.0
Love is everywhere


Of course, making a long-distance love story work is not an easy job. The geographical distance sometimes makes it complicated to understand the other person and to adjust yourself to the situation the couple is experiencing. But nowadays many couples meet during Erasmus semesters, thanks to other European exchange programmes or, simply, when they on holiday in our continent. As Johannes believes, the people of the world are getting closer to each other. Travelling has become affordable for the most of us and spending some time abroad is becoming a normal thing for many students: that many European relationships are born through this is only natural and will increase in the future. Marta thinks that our generation, after all, is very lucky.  For many of our parents it probably would have been impossible to travel so often across Europe to see a partner. Also, being based in two different countries would have been a big hurdle back in those days: before the internet started being used by everyday people, the only way to contact a person who lived far away was via snail mail or very expensive phone calls.


Making a long-distance love story work is not an easy job but you will find yourself feeling more European than you were before, constantly enriching your identity in a variety of ways and getting to know another European country's soul


Whilst some older people believe that technology is destroying the essence of social relationships and turning them all into something very fake, Johannes thinks modern technology is actually making long-distance relationships a bit more bearable. The possibility of interacting instantly and sharing your daily life via messengers and video calls lets the distance shrink a little bit. Social media, WhatsApp and Skype definitely play a big role for an international couple but, for Marta, they can not replace a hug or the help you want to give to your boyfriend when he is having a sad or stressful day. She thinks they can also turn into a big trap: it is quite an uneasy situation when you write a message to your partner,  see from WhatsApp that he or she has read it, but you are still waiting for a reply, trapped in the act of wondering if you said something wrong or why the other person hasn’t come back to you yet. Thus one of the key things that facilitates a long-distance relationship (as well as any other relationship) is not being massively jealous of your partner and, more importantly, trusting the other person fully.


If keeping in contact while overcoming physical distances and technology problems is sometimes stressful, things may not be entirely easy when you are together in the same place either. Obviously language can be a barrier, warns Johannes: not being able to express yourself as well as you would like to do can be frustrating. Also sharing local art and culture with your partner can be tricky. Patience is the key, he adds. Apart from often living in a kind of English bubble (with movies, books, games and everything carried out in English) that doesn't represent one's cultural background, according to Marta, the language may also crop up as a problem when you want to spend some time with your partner and your friends or family: in Italy, for example, knowledge of English is still very low so people can't always use it as a common language. It therefore becomes quite complicated to have a proper conversation and the person who is in charge of translating their partner's sentence to friends and vice versa will leave the meeting happy to have helped their partner but at the same time rather exhausted and, yes, frustrated about something that is somehow out of his or her control.


Photo: Matteo Piotto; Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Coffee love 

National stereotypes are also a double-edged weapon. Ofter they are brought to light by friends but Johannes believes that they should be used rather carefully: mocking the other person because of his nationality and related behavior can be a lot of fun, yet is a dangerously thin line at times. On the other hand, the perks of learning from national peculiarities can be very refreshing and enrich personal points of view constantly. Living the spirit of European unification and overcoming prejudices and broadening horizons is one of the most important lessons for everyone of us, he concludes.


In the end, despite the difficulties that may be encountered in a long-distance relationship, the efforts made will pay off. For the person who is at your side. And, in a period in which the Union is somehow questioned, you will find yourself feeling more European than you were before, constantly enriching your identity in a variety of ways and getting to know another European country's soul. But, among all the efforts to overcome language barriers and to hopefully work and live in the same city, one question still remains unsolved and keeps on floating in Johannes’s mind: what future children will feel as regards to national identity? Will they be proud of their multicultural background or will they question their identity? The answer lies in the next, truly European generation.

Last modified on Monday, 23 February 2015 13:44

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