How did you two meet?
Hugh: I was photographing in Carnaby Street when a beautiful lady knocked on my shoulders and asked if I needed an assistant… we had a quick chat, I remember I gave her my card while still in shock and as she was soon after gone. I thought, what an idiot, I let her go without asking for her number, she will never call me again.
Marta: I had just moved to London and that evening I was sightseeing in Carnaby Street with my Italian girlfriend while at some point I spot a reportage photographer among the crowd…being also a photographer myself (in the early stages of my career at that time) I would probably have stared at any professional holding a camera just to feel inspired for that one moment while passing by …but he was different! Something about his appearance made me decide to stop walking and approach him.
What attracted you to each other? Was it the nationality, the fact that the other is “exotic” or just the appearance?
Hugh: That evening I wasn’t really paying attention as I was photographing, but when we actually met for a coffee a few days later (yes, she called!) I realised we had so much in common, we both loved our photography and art, we ended up spending an absolutely wonderful day together and in the end she even bought me dinner… It was the first time in my life that a woman ever bought me dinner!
Marta: For some reasons I was always more attracted by the north European male type: blond, tall, blue eyes, with a calm personality and a shy look, cultured and respectful, English speaking! He had it all… but his reassuring voice and his amazing views on the world and its people made me fall in deep love.
Did your friend’s influence helped you to pursue the relationship?
Hugh: Not at all. The first person to meet Marta was my sister who really liked her, but I was already thinking all the world of Marta by then.
Marta: I was a bit concerned to start a relationship with Hugh at first. It happened all very quickly and I wasn’t planning to settle at that particular time, nevertheless in a foreign country,while my friends were already “waving their flags” for us.
What are the things that you like the most about each other’s differences based on the fact that he/she is from a different culture?
Hugh: She is very passionate, she is easily excitable and has a lot of energy.
Marta: I really appreciate his politeness, sweetness and the fact that he is incredibly open minded, all qualities that are missing in my culture (well at least all of them together!) and that makes me feel so much more at ease and relaxed with my approach towards life.
What did you find the hardest to adjust to each other? Did it have anything to do with the cultural difference?
Hugh: Oh yes, the same thing that I love about her is actually most difficult to adjust to sometimes; she is a passionate and driven individual, which is a trait that I recognize in many Italians. At the beginning I was overwhelmed so I started to call her Bella the Bomb!
Marta: I find it very difficult to live with the way families engage with each other in England, their presence can be very discrete compared to the average Italian family and this makes me feel lonely at times. Hugh is completely fine with that and I admire his capability of staying on his own without feeling the need of communicating with friends and family for days!
What food from the home country does your spouse cooks best?
Hugh: I can clearly state that I am not staying with Marta as so I can eat tasty Italian meals, the first time she cooked me a spaghetti bolognese it turned out so salted that I had to politely refuse pretending I was no longer hungry. But she made up when we travelled over to visit her family. Her mum knocked me out with the most delicious pesto sauce based lasagne and braised wild bow with potatoes and sprinkled Mediterranean herbs and olive oil, all produced locally if not in house.
Marta: He is a great cook, many times he surprises me with Asian style rice based dishes and if I feel a little homesick he would choose Asian recipes with tomato based sauces, he is so considerate
Is there any funny story about cultural differences about you two that you would like to share?
Hugh: Marta likes her independence. I remember her getting so frustrated over not being able to understand the man from Newcastle that was explaining her the terms and conditions over obtaining her first UK bank card. She was crying out of frustration and handed the phone over to me at that point.
Marta: I remember my Italian girlfriend’s parents coming over to London to visit their 2 daughters, they invited Hugh and I to have a meal altogether in a cosy little restaurant, and half way through they all started to have an animated conversation about some Italian politics, their voices got louder and louder and I found their conversation quite amusing, but when I turned over to Hugh to translate to him the main topics I found such a worried look into his eyes and he whispered are they OK? Why are they arguing so much?
What is the “advantage” of dating/marrying a foreigner?
Hugh: I agree with Dan here, cheap holidays into a beautiful country are at the top of the list. Marta’s family is very hospitable and every time we go over we are greeted with the tastiest dishes that her mum and auntie can cook. We are so lucky to have our own place there, which is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the countryside, a good choice for anyone seeking a break from a full-on city like London.
Marta: My life in the UK is easier and for some aspects it feels safer with Hugh by my side. But for me what I appreciate the most is that I opened my mind to new ways of thinking and living as well as experiencing different cultural habits.
How did your family react?
Hugh: My mum was a bit worried only because I just came out from a very painful separation with another foreign woman, but she thought that at least Marta was very funny and lively and now she really loves her.
Marta: At the beginning I introduced Hugh as my flatmate and work colleague from London… until mum saw me ironing his shirts! The main issue still remains the communication between my older family members and Hugh, they all love him and they would love to be able to talk with him but the language is too much of a barrier..the youngsters instead can’t wait to practice their English when he’s over.
Hugh: I appreciate her commitment towards life and her passion in keeping our relationship solid and fresh, I don’t think I could find this level of commitment in a woman from my own country.
Marta: That sense of “exotic” that permeate the relationship will stay with you forever and helps keeps the relationship fresh and wild