Long-distance relationship: beyond cultures, across the ocean

Sunday, October 22, 2017 , , , , 0

The story of Fedora and Aaron

amwf coupleThis is perhaps more than a typical AMWF story since it is not just about two different countries and cultures…but five. Fedora is Belgian and Italian but is now studying in Switzerland. Aaron, on the other hand, is American but is half Korean and half Chinese. They met during their undergrad, in 2015. Fedora was getting ready to go on a semester abroad to Aaron’s school, while Aaron was an exchange student at Fedora’s. The university organized a meet-and-greet between the exchange students and those who were leaving…this is when they met. When Fedora arrived in Los Angeles in September 2015, she started meeting up with Aaron more regularly. Their friendship quickly evolved into a mutual crush, but since both were afraid of getting into a long distance relationship, it wasn’t until the end of the semester that Aaron made the first step and the two then admitted their feelings to each other. They have been together since, often visit each other across the ocean and are now actively trying to close the distance.

pineapple holidayQuestions to Her

On Our first date…
I believe our first date was one day that he casually invited me to have Korean soup after watching a movie, but he instead says that our first date was the first time we went out for dinner after we opened up about our feelings. So, on the date I consider to be our first one, I was very nervous, I didn’t know if my crush was mutual, I was trying to see if he responded to my “hint” and I was trying to impress him. My soup was the seafood sundubu, which means there was a full shrimp in it. I usually peel the shrimp with my hands to eat it, but I was not sure this was the “right” way to do it while eating Korean soup. So, because I did not want to be “weird” I decided to just leave the shrimp and took it away in the doggy bag with my leftovers…

During the first months of dating my deal-breaker would be…
there really was no deal breaker, we waited so long to be together that by the time we started dating, we knew each very well. My crush was so intense that I think the only possible deal-breaker would have been finding out he was either a drug-addict (haha) or if he had another girl beside me

I learned He was right for me when…
we were going to his parents’ to spend Thanksgiving 2015, he was driving and his phone was plugged into the car music system, so he asked me to choose some music. As I scrolled down the music on his phone, I realized he was a fan of musicals. That’s when I felt I absolutely needed to tell him about my feelings (although I was still waiting for him to make the first move). We spent the rest of the ride singing Broadway musicals together. Then, as time passed, I came to the realization that we just think the same way, have the same life goals, we are both very clumsy and we both love the same food (I know it sounds silly but we are both foodies haha). Aaron is one of the three people on Earth with whom I feel I can be entirely myself (the other two being my Mother and my best friend).

I had culture shock when He…
mentioned he considers doing double eyelid surgery. I did not even know it was a thing men wanted before I met him. To me, he is handsome as he is. Most of the time, when I see pictures of men who went through the surgery I like the “before” picture better. Even after discussing it times and times, I still try to convince him not to go through surgery and he loves to tease me about it by making me believes it will happen soon.

3 things I love about Him are…
first, how caring he is… not just with me, but with everyone around him. Of course, it may sound very mainstream, but Aaron is truly the kindest person I know. When he barely knew me before I came to Los Angeles, he was always available to answer all my questions about the school (and trust me, there were a lot), he helped me look for housing and put me in contact with possible groups I could join in UCLA. I was so impressed by how much time he was willing to sacrifice for someone he barely knew, and I later realized it was not “just” me, Aaron is always willing to help and dedicate his time to anyone.
Second, I love how he is such a good listener, communication is extremely important in a long distance relationship, and Aaron knows it. If I say there is something I like, or don’t like, I know that he will remember it and act upon it….even the smallest things. In the very beginning of our relationship, I remember mentioning how cute it would be to be surprised when arriving at the airport to see him. When I arrived to see him 6 months later, he was waiting for me with flowers and bubble tea. It was so sweet.
Lastly, I love his relaxed personality. I am a control-freak who needs to plan every single little thing in my life. He is the complete opposite; he is a patient person who knows how to enjoy the present. Since I have been with him, I realized that sometimes the funniest events end up being those you did not plan for.

The biggest misconception about His country and culture was…
I cannot think of any misconceptions I had about any of his 3 cultures (or perhaps only on his American side…like “Americans love guns” haha). Maybe part of that was also because growing up my best friend was Taiwanese. We were like sisters and spent a lot of days at each other’s house. I was thus acquainted with the way a Taiwanese household works, and Aaron’s (despite being half Korean and half Chinese) is pretty similar, so I was never surprised.

The most beautiful thing He ever did for me was…
The first is when he saved all his yearly vacation days from work (12 days a year) to come and spend two weeks with me in Europe. We had an amazing time discovering Switzerland together and even went onto a mini-vacation to Malta, which was truly beautiful. The second most beautiful thing is when he came all the way from the United States to Europe for my bachelor graduation in 2016. A very close family member could unfortunately not make it that day, and having Aaron there made me forget about my pain and helped make this day as memorable as it should have been. I am so happy he is in all the pictures and memories of my graduation.

During this relationship the most important thing I learned about myself was…
that I can be a jealous girlfriend! I had never experienced this in any of my previous relationships, but with Aaron, I am jealous at times, especially when it comes to previous (Asian) crushes he had. I guess it is because I am different than them and sometimes feel like I will always lack something compared to them (since I am not Asian).

If there is a piece of advice I could give to my fellow Western girlfriends who are into the AMWF relationships that would be…
fall in love with the person, not the culture and forget about the stereotypes. I understand that some girls might specifically be looking for a “Korean man” or a “Japanese man,” most of the time because they are extremely interested in their cultures (and because they find them handsome of course) but I believe this is the wrong way to go. Try to get to know the person first; if you are meant for each other, the magic will happen, or as we say in Italian “Se sono rose, fioriranno” (If they are roses, they will bloom). When getting to know someone, try also not to show that you know everything about his culture, there is always something to learn about each other and he will definitely enjoy teaching you about it!

half chinese half koreanQuestions to Him

Asking Her out for the first time was…
spontaneous and nerve-wracking. During her time at my school, we both kind of came to a mutual understanding that an intercontinental long distance relationship would have been extremely difficult to pursue, most likely too difficult and would end with us breaking up. However, when we went to a party a couple of weeks before she left for home, I realized that I really liked her and I’d have been crazy to not at least tell her how I felt. When we both decided to take the uncertain step of actually being in a relationship, I was pretty nervous.

I learned She is right for me when…
I don’t think there was a *pow* moment like in the movies where two people look at each other and know that they’re right for each other. For me, it was a gradual and but unstoppable, like a wave. It started when we met each other at the meet and greet at her school, and over time I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with her. I was able to feel comfortable, and be myself, we didn’t worry too much about impressing each other, as we learned more and more about each other, it kind of just came together. By the time I really realized it I was fully engulfed by the wave and knew she was right for me.

I had culture shock when…
I met with her family to celebrate her college graduation. I was definitely aware that in French-speaking culture, it is the norm to greet others, even those you haven’t met, with kisses on the cheek. For me growing up, I was always taught that when you greet others for the first time, it should be respectful and not involving the personal space of that person at all. My family also doesn’t really get emotional with greeting either; we do a lot of handshakes. So when I met quite a number of her family that all greeted me by pulling me close to them and then kissing me on the cheeks, needless to say, I was very shocked. I hadn’t even realized that I was so shocked it showed on my face. I’m still a little embarrassed, to be honest.

italian belgian3 things I love about Her are…
There’s pretty much nothing I don’t like about her. But, since we’re looking for a top three; I’d have to say, her sense of humor, her kind nature, and her adventurous spirit. For me, one of the most important things in having relationships is being with someone I can be myself with, and I have a very peculiar sense of humor. Of course, it hasn’t changed at all and one of the best things about us is that we can always take time when we’re talking about stressful things to crack a quick joke and not take ourselves so seriously all the time. The second thing is her kind nature. She really tries to understand other points of views, even if she disagrees with them. It is endearing to see someone who really cares about everyone she speaks with and cares for the people in her life deeply. She is so empathetic, that when she was little and her father got new cars, she even felt bad for the old car that was going away. Lastly is her adventurous spirit. We have the worst luck you could ever imagine when we travel, but we always make an adventure out of it. When I went to visit her one summer, we decided to go to Disneyland Paris. The tickets were exceptionally cheap and we thought it would be a good experience. Unfortunately for us, the reason the tickets were so cheap was that many of the big-name rides were closed for the upcoming 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris and under renovation. On top of that, pretty much every ride that we did get to go on broke down in some form or another as we were getting on. To top it all off it rained extensively throughout the day and we were soaked to our bones and freezing. Most people usually would have cut their losses after a couple of hours in the rain. We decided to stick it out (mostly) and made our own adventure of it. It is one of the funniest memories I have with Fedora.

The biggest misconception about Her country and culture was…
I have been to over 45 countries and many of those countries have been in Europe, so when I started going out with Fedora, there wasn’t much in my mind that would really take me by surprise. Touching on the previous question, obviously, I have been surprised by some things, but really the world is so interconnected now that I feel like her family is a very normal family, just like mine filled with all of its quirks and memories.

The things that She likes to do for fun with me are…
I know it sounds hipster-y, but we both would say that we are foodies. We love to eat all kinds of different foods. Our particular favorite region of food is Asia. We enjoy lots of things from Pho to Korean Barbeque, all sorts of different styles of Chinese food, and Ramen. She is the better cook between the two of us, so I gave her a Korean modern cookbook as a gift, and now she makes even the things I thought I made well better than me.

She hates when I…
don’t stand up for myself. Being raised in a more traditional Asian upbringing, my parents tended to have a lot of say in what I wanted to do for a living and how I envisioned myself. Now that I am emancipated though, I still tend to hold the advice of my parents very highly. But Fedora has been encouraging me to think about who I am as a person and what I want to do with my life. Thankfully, I have been working on it and have been telling my parents that their idea of how I should live my life and mine are not completely one and the same. My parents have been very understanding that I need to figure out who I want to be and have been supportive with connecting me with family friends that can give me advice.

During this relationship the most important thing I learned about myself was…
that I am capable of being able to value myself. In an effort to force myself to be the best in high school, I always got in a habit of comparing myself to those who were my peers that did things better than me. Even if I was able to be on local TV for a school competition, there was always someone out there doing even better. College cooled me off a little bit, but not to the degree I am now. Whenever I start to doubt myself, Fedora is always there to reassure me that I can be successful in my own way and don’t have to go save the world in order to feel validated. It is something to me that is very precious and valuable, one of the reasons why she is the best girlfriend ever.

interracial coupleIf there is a piece of advice I could give to my fellow Asian friends who are into the AMWF relationships that would be…
not to look particularly at race when trying to date. When I was little I imagined that I would find myself a Chinese or Korean wife one day and would be able to have a beautiful family. Due to some bad dating experiences, I started to realize that just because you think you are attracted to a certain ethnicity, doesn’t mean you will meet the one for you, or make them more likable. I realized I was limiting myself, not in qualities that I liked or didn’t like in other people, but simply because of the way that they looked. My best advice to people looking for particularly AMWF relationships is to isolate the latter, most important part, the relationship. I fell in love with Fedora for who she was and how similar we are, not simply because she is white, and I think that we are able to be such a strong couple because of that.

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