It happens that partners literally speak different languages - because they were born in different countries and raised in a different cultural environment. How, in this case, do they manage to understand each other and find compromises? Women who are in international relations told us about the reaction of society, linguistic mentality and outlook on life.
Interview: Natalia Rudakovskaya
I was born and lived in Belarus for twenty-two years, then moved to Germany. My husband Arpad is Hungarian but has been living in Germany for over ten years. Our acquaintance is a happy accident. I wanted to buy a bike and posted an ad in a group of our city on Facebook, he answered, and we began to communicate. At some point, they decided to meet, and three years later they got married. We communicate with each other in German. Arpad's native language is Hungarian. It is very difficult, even words like "mom" and "dad" sound completely unusual to me. I can say hello, say goodbye and say thank you in Hungarian, and that's it.
I often speak to my husband in Russian, so he learns the language passively. Knowledge of Slovak helps him to understand Russian; his knowledge is enough, for example, to buy metro tokens in Minsk (however, he is asked three times, but in the end they understand). And of course, non-verbal language is also very important in relationships: kisses and hugs.
In Germany, we are both foreigners, and with a difference of several years we have experienced similar and not always simple situations that related to the situation at work and in society. It helped and helps us to understand each other better.
We don't notice any big cultural differences - except that the breakfasts are different. For Arpad, the usual breakfast is bread or buns with butter, salami, cheese, vegetables. When we were visiting my parents, my mother made pasta and chicken for breakfast - for him it is more like lunch. Arpad grew up playing football, they have it the most popular sport, and in my country they like hockey more - but it's all small things.
I am Russian, but I have the blood of the indigenous peoples of the North, my dad had “Eskimo” in his passport (today this term is often preferred to names, for example, of a specific ethnic group, like “Inuit” or “Yupik peoples”. - Approx. ed.), and my husband is Georgian. After a long distance relationship, we decided to live together in Georgia.
Three years ago, my friend and I went to Georgia to have a delicious meal with the intention not to meet anyone in any way - we were afraid that we would be kidnapped. But Georgia always has its own plans for you. On the very first evening in the restaurant, we were captivated by the famous Georgian polyphony, and all thoughts of danger were dispelled. The weapons here are philosophical conversations, kindness and openness. When my future husband was making another toast, I thought I would say the same thing with the same words.
The husband speaks excellent Russian thanks to Georgia's Soviet past. But now I am learning Georgian in order to be closer to the culture and better understand it. I find it very respectful to speak to the locals in their language, or at least try to do so. Georgian is very similar to Russian in terms of mobility and love of freedom, but they have nothing in common in grammar and vocabulary. We began to communicate in Russian and still mostly speak Russian among ourselves, occasionally mixing it with Georgian. Thanks to this, we have almost no language barrier. The only thing is that I better feel the feeling when my husband says “I love you” in Russian, and he - when I say it in Georgian. Our children do not speak yet, but they will definitely speak at least three languages: Russian, Georgian and English.
In terms of cultural differences, two things come to mind: one household, the other relational.In Georgia, taking out the trash is a purely female responsibility, like all the rest of the housework, and I had to come to terms with it. And the second is a tactile attitude towards all friends. Probably, in all southern countries people are more open and sociable than in the north, but at first for me hugs with friends were something unacceptable. Now I understand that everyone here is just very fond of each other.
At first, in our environment, no one approved of this relationship, many believed in offensive stereotypes. I was told that all Georgians are “deceivers”, “cheaters” and “idlers”. My husband was told that Russian women are "bitches" and "cheat right and left." But after they met, these comments stopped.
Health Section Editor Wonderzine
I am a Russian and spent twenty-eight years of my life in Russia. The husband was born and lived until the age of sixteen in Nigeria; he is from the Yoruba tribe, he has two native languages - Yoruba and English (this is the state language in Nigeria, everyone speaks it). In 2013, we met on a dating site when I was living in Barcelona for the third year, and he was almost seven. We speak Spanish from the very beginning. It seems that it was an unconscious decision that put us in the same initial situation - to choose a language that is not native to anyone. In addition, you still need to get used to the Nigerian accent in English, but in Spanish it is always comfortable.
I have not had a situation where I could not explain my emotions or feelings. There is enough Spanish, and for untranslatable things there is English, Catalan and even Russian - some things the husband already understood and felt on it. In general, we actively mix languages, especially since the child began to speak, we often use phrases like “estoy sleepy” or “red camiseta”. But it seems impossible to achieve exactly the same level of intimacy in another language - we can use English or Catalan in speech, quoting news or friends, but our personal conversations are always in Spanish. The son speaks four languages: Russian, English, Spanish and Catalan.
It seems that none of us had a culture shock - Mandela still spent half his life in Europe, graduated from high school and university here, and is better integrated into local life than I am. I, like all Russians here, taught him to take off his shoes in the hallway - and I don’t remember anything else like that. We both make fun of the conservatism of our countries - Nigeria and Russia have a lot in common, from people's love for demonstrating their own wealth (see loans for iPhones and Mercedes in rhinestones) to patriarchal views that make girls feel inferior due to the absence of a husband or children … Every year I get a question about March 8: "But if there is a state day off in Russia on the day of feminism, why do you say that everything is bad with feminism there?"
My family accepted Mandela immediately and unconditionally, my parents, sister, nephew simply adore him. We were in Russia together once and visited my grandparents, they were then about eighty (now, unfortunately, they are not alive). Grandmother talked very, very much, Mandela nodded politely, not understanding almost a word. After that, for several years she recalled him like this: “Such a guy! Handsome, tall! And so smart!"
I sometimes get questions from my Russian-speaking acquaintances how my family perceived Mandela - and these questions are not always correctly formulated. It happens that a person does not find a word in any way: "And how did your parents react to the fact that your husband … well … black … dark … I don't know if it is possible to say that …" That is, the person is explicitly afraid to seem racist, but implicitly considers my parents who must somehow "treat" the color of the skin. Fortunately, this is rarely the case; more often they ask about cultural characteristics, whether there are religious contradictions (no, we are both Christians and baptized the child in the Orthodox Church), and what languages we speak.
Alina Navarro Melendo
I am Russian, but since the age of eleven I have been living in Germany, I have two passports. My husband's dad is Spanish and mom is German. We met when I moved to a new apartment, he turned out to be my neighbor. In addition, we had mutual friends. When he moved, he managed to immediately get to know not only me, but also with my whole family and friends who helped me with my things. After our rapprochement, we lived for some time in two neighboring apartments, and then the need for one of them disappeared.
Perhaps most of all I was surprised that my husband almost immediately confessed his love to me. It shocked me so much that I almost broke up with him. We met at the end of January, and on Valentine's Day he wrote me a long letter of recognition and gave me a large bouquet of flowers. At that time, we didn't even tell anyone that we were dating. This is very fast for me, I am not used to such violent expressions of feelings. But he firmly said that if he realized that his heart was busy, no one would change that. We've been together for eight years.
It seems that my husband was greatly surprised by how strong my bond with my parents was. They have no intimacy at all, he has not communicated with his father for ten years, and with his mother he began to contact more only after my appearance in his life. My family treated our union very well. Mom generally says that she “found me a husband” - because she helped me choose the very apartment thanks to which we met.
Although the husband is half Spanish, he does not speak Spanish and his mentality is German. From the classics - punctuality. I'm late, and he always comes early. He can arrive at the airport three hours before departure and sit there, read, wait. And I usually come at the very last moment, almost before the gate closes. It seems to me that he got it from his German mother, she has everything clearly planned in advance. I am very spontaneous and easy-going.
Our baby is now three months old. Since I speak Russian, the child will definitely speak this language. My husband really wants him to speak English just as well and now speaks with him only in it. And we thought he would learn German in kindergarten and school, because I myself came to Germany at the age of eleven and speak excellently. We have a Spanish surname, and I would like the child to speak Spanish as well. I myself speak Spanish and now I am studying on Skype, and my son sits and listens with me.