2 years before my last year of high school, my small country high school received its first foreign exchange student, a girl from Firenze named Chiara. We became fast friends and for the whole 6 months she was in Australia we were inseparable. When she moved back to Italy we stayed in close contact for almost 2 years long distance, battling against the 10 hour time difference. After graduation, I had been accepted by quite a few Universities in a variety of courses and I wanted a year to decide what my true passion is, instead of randomly choosing a degree and changing my mind like a lot of my friends did. I am the eldest of 7 children and therefore did not have the money to change my mind. Chiara convinced me to come to Italy for a gap year between high school and starting University. I used my savings for the expensive flights and decided to enter Italy with a study visa, earning my board working as an Au Pair and studying in a language school, leaving the weekends to travel. After a horrible abusive experience with my first host family, I lived with Chiara for a month before going to another host family in Liguria and left a 2 year relationship with my ex in Australia.
André met an older Venezuelan woman in England when he went there for a gap year after graduating High School to study and improve his English. They began dating the year he was there and then they continued to date when they both went back to South America. She was very independent and frequently told him the relationship wasn’t going to be a ‘long term’ thing, she didn’t see a future with him but he was infatuated. Then one day she told him she enrolled herself to do her Master degree in Spain without consulting him. He was in love with her so he started to look into the best Universities in Europe for his Engineering course, which ended up being in Torino, Italy. He thought ‘If our relationship could survive Venezuela - Brazil it will be easy to do Italy - Spain’ and enrolled in University in Torino. A month into his life in Italy she broke up with him. He began to wrestle with the idea of staying in Italy or moving back to Brazil, eventually he decided to stay, dedicating this time abroad to work on himself… He was in Italy for a year and a half before meeting me.
Where are you from and where is your significant other from?
I am from a small town near Byron Bay in Australia, and André is from Recife, Brazil.
Where and when did you meet your significant other?
We met on the first day of summer next to a bar, outside of a club in Genova, Liguria. I lived in the city working as an au pair but André was spontaneously visiting the city with his housemate. I never saw the appeal in Italian men, as a tall girl most of them were shorter than me which was a MAJOR turn off, also every guy I met was either: 1. really sleazy and fake by treating 457829 girls all the same way, or 2. they were horrendously sexist and didn’t even try to be charming they just saw women as objects, OR 3. they were major Mammone and couldn’t function independently.
Curator's Note: BAHAHAH I love this fresh and honest take on the Italian man, so far we've just had stories of girls being totally smitten from the first batting of eyelashes.
I heard countless horror stories of friends going home with Italian men and in the morning they needed to leave BEFORE Mamma woke up OR had to awkwardly wait in his room silently all day until Mamma left the house to run errands so he wouldn’t fracture Mamma's perception of her perfect boy.
Curator's Note: OMFG.
So, when a friend and I approached the two olive-skinned, dark-haired men standing at a bar outside of a club speaking Italian to each other- the entire intent was to get free drinks and immediately run away before they got pervy.
Curator's Note: GIRL, YOU ARE MY #GOALS.
Both of us accidentally ended up being charmed by this tall Brazilian man that spoke perfect English. Suddenly my friend realised that he was interested in me and she got sided with his Italian friend who did not speak English.
Curator's Note: Ooooo you owe her one!
Who made the first move?
I guess I made the first move by walking up to the bar flirting with him, but it was only to get a free drink! I was only supposed to be in Italy for 8 more months and I was not interested in getting into a relationship at all. André was the one to initiate our first kiss and made the first move between friends with benefits to a relationship.
Curator's Note: Friends with benefits! Love it! Again, love the blatant honesty in this.
If you were the foreigner, where did you think he was initially from?
We were both the foreigner in the situation, which I see as a really positive aspect of our relationship. I think if I was with an Italian who had all of his family and childhood friends around him and I was completely segregated from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I would become envious of him and kind of resent being able to see his family every day as I wouldn’t be able to see mine for years. When I first saw him, I noticed his height- as most Italian men are tiny and I tower over them in heels, whereas he was still taller than me in heels. He was well-dressed and had olive skin and dark hair and he was speaking Italian, I had been in Italy long enough to understand most Italian but speaking was still difficult. I guess you assume that if someone is speaking the language with a friend they ARE that nationality. André knew I was foreign- I don’t look Italian at all and he guessed either American, Canadian or Australian.
What was your first impression of him?
He was super over-confident and struck me as a little bit of a player (I think I called him an asshole a couple times) he was really charming and I kind of assumed that he did this with a lot of girls, so I felt safe that I wouldn’t be raked into a relationship. We joked and danced the night away, and he put my number in his phone and made me promise we would go out for a date tomorrow night while I dragged my very intoxicated friend home.
To my surprise he messaged me the whole next day making sure we could still have that dinner and I learnt a little bit more about him. To my surprise he was just as funny sober as he was drunk, but also very intelligent and compassionate. He was studying Engineering in Torino, two hours away, so before the date I told myself repeatedly not to get emotionally invested as he lived 2 hours away and I was going home in 8 months. This wasn’t my first date or man I had been with since the break up, I had kept myself from getting emotionally attached by using apps like Tinder where no one was kidding themselves and trying to find ‘love’.
Curator's Note: I am so curious about how Tinder works in Italy, is it the same as everywhere else in the world? Are there full-on creepers? Is everyone super hot? Tell me all the things.
I was realistic about my reality. A 25 hour flight from Brisbane to Milan isn’t convenient or cheap, the 10 hour time difference made it almost impossible to keep in contact with friends and family and he was going to be studying in Italy for numerous years.
We went out for a dinner date at the best all-you-can-eat Sushi restaurant in Genova and the whole night was magical. He was handsome, artistic, athletic, widely travelled, quick-witted, open with his emotions; he was able to hold a deep conversation and then instantly make me laugh while intellectually challenging me. He was electric and so well-rounded as a person I couldn’t believe my luck.
Curator's Note: *swoooooon* I want someone to describe me as "electric"! That might be the most romantic thing I've ever heard!
Until I realised I wasn’t lucky at all… I met this guy who has all the characteristics I wanted in a man aaaand he lives on the other side of the globe… and I’m leaving in 8 months.
The morning after he told me he really liked me as a person and wanted to keep seeing me. I instantly cut off his sentence and said “We can’t be exclusive” he agreed and that was the beginning. It was of 3 months of both of us catching 2 hour trains to spend almost every weekend together and FaceTiming everyday. I was happy, but I was afraid of falling for him so I kept Tinder as an emotional distraction and went on dates with other guys but could never convince myself do anything physical with them.
Dish on the first kiss!
Brazilian men are not subtle at all and are persistent- maybe even more than Italians! So when we started dancing, he took that as confirmation that he could kiss me. He caught me completely by surprise and pretty much stuck his tongue in my mouth. I was shocked and pushed him away like he was a crazy person and he realised he had to work for it a little bit and eventually I caved (was probably the fantastic Brazilian dance moves).
Curator's Note: without a doubt. You had me at Brazilian and dancing.
After the months went on, seeing each other every weekend and face timing everyday, André eventually admitted he was falling in love with me and hated the idea that I would be seeing anyone else. At the same time and completely unrelated my Mum asked me if I ever considered studying in Italy before. This inspired Chiara to start looking into the likeliness of me being able to actually be accepted into Italian University. We decided that the University of Milan was the best school for the course I was interested in, but I had two weeks to prepare for the exam when all of the other students I was competing against had been practicing for a year and there was only 8 spots open to non-EU students. André was ecstatic, if I could study like him it meant we could have a shot at being an actual couple. I was accepted into the University of Milano to everyone’s surprise and delight. I quit my job as an Au Pair and temporarily moved into André’s place in Torino while looking for apartments in Milano. After a lot of unfortunate things took place, André and I are living together permanently in Torino and I commute everyday to Milano.
Have you learnt each other's languages?
André speaks 5 languages fluently (he’s a bit of an over-achiever) so we normally speak English but I’m trying to improve my Italian so whenever we are in a public place André and I speak Italian to practice but also blend in. At home I always ask him to teach me Portuguese so I can talk to his family, as he has a great relationship with my Mother but I’m mostly unable to communicate with his family.
Curator's Note: Whoa what a catch, FIVE languages?! Can he share some of that please?!
Any advice to “mixed” culture couples or couples doing long-distance?
Patience, Communication and Understanding are key- especially when you live together. André and I are both very open-minded people, but you always have to be mindful of another person's experiences and social norms. Because something that seems completely okay with you isn’t always okay with the other person. There is a difference between Character and Culture, in every relationship the two people will have different characteristics that make up who they are that they have to compromise for, mixed culture couples have the added issue of Cultural differences. Your partner will not understand childhood jokes or memes and your type of humour, they won’t understand your slang, their understanding of what level of PDA is acceptable will be different, they might have a different relationship involving family and typical religious practices or holidays that are either very different or simply don’t exist in your country. Coming from a Latino and an Occidental Culture but living in Italy is a strangely unique situation. Sometimes it feels like we are in a relationship with Italy, as it’s the society we live in and something that's accepted by both of our cultures might not always be socially accepted in Italy! André and I have been fortunate not to have ever done long distance for a significant time as we live together, but when we go home for a holiday individually we have to battle against huge time differences. It’s really important to FaceTime as often as you can and never spare the smallest detail. Tell your partner every single aspect in your day even if it might bore them or its not particularly interesting.
Curator's Note: The part about not understanding childhood jokes and memes and slang is so huge. Just last night we were watching something and there was reference to the birthday game "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" (please tell me they do that in Australia too??) and I had to explain it to my husband. Sidenote: it's very hard to get across the entertainment value of Pin the Tail on the Donkey when trying to describe it.
Thank you for all the time you took to write this story out Athena, it was extremely detailed and insightful and I think there will be many readers grateful to you.
Submitted by Athena.
Here's how you can connect with these two:
Instagram: @ah_thee_nah and @decoholanda
Vi auguro tante belle cose. xoxo
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to "dare un'occhiata" at all of the Love Story Lunedì. There are so many amazing stories to read so make sure you're all caught up. And should you want to share your own story or know of a couple who would, please get in touch.
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