Some people say that the language of love is universal. But what happens when two people from different countries fall in love? On Heartbeats bi-national couples tell their stories.
In 2009, Marc and Derek met in the United States, where they were both working at the same hotel in Montana. Marc was doing a work-study semester, and Derek had just finished schooling to be a cook. After a few years of long distance and frequent flights, Marc proposed and the two got married and started their life together in Germany.
You can find Marc and Derek blogging about their travels at The Migrant Expats.
Watch them talk about the ups and downs of a bi-national relationship in the video below.
About Marc (pictured, left):
Hello, my name is Marc. I’m German and live currently in Hamburg. I grew up in southern Germany and studied American Literature in the Bavarian city of Augsburg. After my third year at the university I decided to take a 6 month long break in the US to improve my English. That’s when I met my wonderful husband Derek. We both worked at a hotel in Glacier National Park, Montana, surrounded by nothing more than majestic mountains and diverse wildlife.
After almost two years of dating and flying back and forth we decided to take the next step and start living together in one country. Setting up a collective life in Germany was a lot more feasible at the time than it would have been in the US, especially for a same-sex couple like us. Since we only spoke English when we met and Derek still had to learn German we maintained talking English with one another in our daily life. I think that one of the hardest things of cross-cultural relationships is that your families live in very different corners of the world and it’s very hard to do both of them equal justice let alone the potential language barrier between them if they should ever meet.
About Derek (pictured, right):
In the summer of 2011 I finally had made the big move from the United States to Germany. Stepping off the plane in Munich was almost surreal. I had uprooted my whole entire life. Everyone I had ever known and loved (besides my husband) was now over 8,000 kilometers away. Speaking of kilometers I had no clue about the metric system. My life in Germany for the first year was based on a learning curve. Not only was I tackling a new language, I was learning how to convert Fahrenheit into Celsius, inches into centimeters, and miles into kilometers. Thankfully the American and German cultures aren’t too far apart from one another.
The only customs I had to learn were: To never cross the street on red, look into the eyes of the other person you are toasting, always go shopping before Sunday, most debts and bets are settled with a case of beer, don’t tip so much while out to dinner, never walk in the bike lane, say goodbye to everyone while leaving a small restaurant or hello when entering an elevator, always watch “Dinner for One” on New Year’s Eve, shine my boots for Nikolaus, never clap after a presentation in school – knock on the desk, never be late, and the list goes on. Even though that first year was incredibly full of learning, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve now been living in Germany for almost four years. Marc’s customs have become my customs and life in Germany couldn’t get any better.
If I could give two bits of advice to anyone in a new multi-cultural relationship, it would be this: Learn the language and never compare the two countries. It seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who don’t know even the basics of German even after living in the country for five or more years. For me, learning the language wasn’t just about something I had to do. Honestly a majority of my friends can speak English quite fluently and Marc could also be my translator if I needed him to be. The main push for me was for my own well-being. Marc had to work and couldn’t always be around to translate everything for me, I needed a job and personally needed to no longer feel like an outsider looking in. Of course learning German wasn’t the easiest task I’ve ever accomplished. I made tons of mistakes and have said some pretty embarrassing things along the way. But that’s the price I and thousands of other foreigners have paid to integrate into the German culture.
The second piece of advice would be to never ever start comparing the two cultures. I could sit here for hours talking about the things I miss about living in my home country. I could rant about the things I don’t like or find strange about Germany or talk about the things the U.S. has that Germany doesn’t. I had a stint of doing this shortly after I moved here. It’s counterproductive and usually just led to quarrels. The pendulum swings both ways as well. If Marc and I were to ever live in the U.S. I know we both would have a huge list of things we miss about living in Germany and why Germany is better than the States. The point is, every country has their upsides and their downsides, but to compare the two doesn’t make sense.