How did you two meet?
Vanessa – We met officially at the work Christmas party back in 2010, although we had spotted each other around the office and said a brief hello. After the Christmas party we both had holiday booked and it seemed like an eternity until we were finally able to get together in the New Year!
What attracted you to each other? Was it the nationality, the fact that the other is “exotic” or just the appearance?
Vanessa – I think to be honest it was just appearance for both of us, I don’t think Nationality mattered all that much.
Did your friend’s influence help you to pursue the relationship?
Vanessa – A mutual friend did some good PR for Jordan in the run up to the Christmas party whilst also giving him a gentle push in the right direction!
What did you find the hardest to adjust to each other? Did it have anything to do with the cultural difference?
Jordan – The phrase ‘lost in translation’ is something that you cannot fully appreciate until you start a relationship with a foreigner (or Gringo for the Brazilians!). It is not really about the general and fundamental differences of day to day life, but in the detail. It is probably unnoticeable and irrelevant to most, but for the partner – it’s like the fine print to the contract! I found that learning Vanessa’s native language and observing the way Brazilians communicate in Portuguese helped me to understand how she and other Brazilians’ communicate when using English, why they select certain words or misunderstand others. I think it also helped me to reassess how I use my own language and improve communication.
Personally I think there is no better way to connect and understand your partner than to learn their language, or at least grasp the basics of it. Communication is hard enough for any couple, but for a couple who each have different native languages, it’s a no-brainer that this is a great place to start! I think that it makes you understand not only how we are shaped by our childhoods and upbringings in different cultures, but it highlights the polysemy of language. I find that this is not only in relation to false-cognates but in terms of a words range of meaning. The same words in English and Portuguese may have a basic root and translation yet are loaded with a variety of sematic nuances shaped by historical and sociocultural drifts. This becomes even more apparent when learning Brazilian Portuguese as it is an ever changing language steeped in pop culture and incredibly reflective of the national psyche.
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?
Vanessa – It’s a hard one to answer because I don’t think either of us really are that representative of the typical stereotypes of our countries. It’s funny because things like the idea that Brazilians are never on time and English are always punctual are reversed for us! I am very particular about respecting the time to turn up to a dinner or event whilst Jordan messes about and is always late! At work, I drink tea all day, whereas Jordan drinks coffee all day!
What food from the home country does your spouse cooks best?
Jordan – Vanessa makes better feijoada, pão de quejo, frango xadrez. I make better bolo de fubá and Sunday lunch with Yorkshire pudding.
Is there any funny story about cultural differences about you two that you would like to share?
Jordan – The first time sogrinha (mother in law) came to stay, she was cooking everyday and there was always a pan or tin in the kitchen with some kind of new exotic stew or cake to try. Anyway, I had become accustomed to getting home from work and going straight to the kitchen to see what was cooking and experimentar (taste it). On this one occasion, sogrinha was out shopping but as usual there was a pan on the hob. So I grabbed a bowl and spoon and served up a portion of ‘broth’. It wasn’t exactly up the usual standard of mother in law’s food, in fact it was pretty rank. Anyway, sogrinha returned, I said nothing and then that night I asked Vanessa what the soup was and she shrugs and then goes to ask her mum. Cue much raucous laughter from the kitchen. It turns out that it was sogrinha’s birthday a few days before and I bought her a bunch of roses. It is a Brazilian folk tradition that if you boil roses and salt, and then allow the solution to cool, you can then use it to wash your body to offer protection against evil spirits…
What is the “advantage” of dating/marrying a foreigner?
Jordan – I think you not only both have different food and cultural idiosyncracies to introduce to the other, but quite often you approach situations and problems from totally different perspectives. I think if you work with this it makes you a better person and more rounded to understand and develop alternative ways of thinking about things! As far as language you get to really learn properly, or polish your skills (and you get a ‘secret’ language to switch to on the tube when you want to talk about private stuff haha). Not to mention that you also get the opportunity to live in either country and watch twice as much sport as you now have extra teams to support!
Vanessa – In conclusion though, whilst it is fun to discover new foods and customs, learn a language, it really all comes down to the spirit inside, if you click, you click. It makes little difference where you soulmate was born, the main thing is that you found one another and you will start to make your own hybrid family culture, using all the best bits and dropping the rest! After a while you stop recognising the differences and the reality you have build together seems like the most comfortable place to be in the world, we wouldn’t have it any other way! Lar doce lar.