Where are you from and where is your significant other from?
I was born on Long Island, NY and have spent my childhood and college years in NY, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Luca is a Sassuolo native, and moved to Milan for his undergraduate, graduate, and now postdoctoral years.
Where and when did you meet your significant other?
In my living room, where he had been pretending to be typing on his laptop while sitting on the couch and I had just come out of the first-floor bathroom.
He has since pointed out that with all his computer engineer workstations, have I ever seen him using his computer on the couch? Rather true. He had positioned himself in a public space so that he could finally meet his Airbnb host. He had already been at the house for a few nights before we met, but as I really never expected to fall madly in love with my guest, I hadn't prioritized our meeting in person.
Curator's Note: I'm just picturing Luca there typing nonsense words on his laptop onto a blank Word document (that's how I see it in my head).
Who made the first move?
Well, my Airbnb inbox shows that Luca was the one who first sent me the unpersonalized stock message requesting to stay for 3 months as a visiting PhD student at a nearby university. He actually booked another place successfully, and then was messaged back with information that his reservation was cancelled. His second choice was then no longer available. Unlucky! Then, my listing!
But after our fateful internet introductions, I like the version of the story where our inevitable love was moved along by my intentional but very modest overtures of affection and interest. I have text transcripts that show anguished messages written to friends asking if there was an Airbnb policy against confessing your love to a guest.
One poignant story that demonstrates my romantic cunning is the Luca Birthday Party. I found out his birthday was a mere couple weeks after he first entered my living room and life, and so I promptly reserved him for a future birthday party where I would have an excuse to take him out. I told a few friends, and busied myself with “preparations.” But as I fell more in love with him, I unilaterally cancelled the birthday party without telling Luca, planning instead to “aw gee, Dean and Aaron aren't available this is so disappointing but I can still take you out to dinner how about that [I LOVE YOU] is 7 okay?”
But he kissed me first.
Curator's Note: First off, what's the answer as to the Airbnb question? Second, I also like your version where you seduce him with your sly lies.
If your significant other was the "foreigner"in the situation in which you met where did you initially think he was from?
I didn’t even know Luca was an Italian name when he had first reached out on Airbnb. I have invested my life in studying East Asia, Southern Africa, Central Asia, and Turkey and the Middle East. Basically, not Western Europe. I wrote off Italy after having traveled through every major European city and becoming distracted instead by less “overrated” destinations (e.g. Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan). So I knew Luca was hailing from Milan, but literally thought nothing of it. Other than the fact that he asked if the kitchen had pots and pans and I wrote back that yes, he could cook his spaghetti fettuccine with a winkle emoji (I’m really terrible, but getting better).
Curator's Note: I will be needing to speak to Luca about this spaghetti fettuccine.
What was your first impression of him?
Love at first sight, then more love at first word, and then absolutely gone when I saw that smile. Oh dear, he had me. We both smile a lot and laugh easily. He has a cute bouncy way of speaking; instead of what could be an American monotone he punctuates his words with a sort of bravado that makes his sentences more impactful than they normally would be.
Curator's Note: I have noticed that so many Italians have such drop-dead gorgeous smiles and they almost never have had braces. Genetics?
Where do you live now?
A question I receive about every 2 months from concerned/confused friends. We are based out of Milan, but I work in China for part of the year, and return to NY semi-often. Honestly it comes down to where your stuff is, right? So my material life is still in the basement of one of my houses in Philadelphia, most of my family is spread out over 3 boroughs of NY, my adorable nephew and niece are in Denver, but my love is in Milan and so is my electric toothbrush so that’s home for me.
Curator's Note: That last line should be on a greeting card. Although thinking about it, perhaps just the location of your electric toothbrush is enough to pinpoint "home", at least it is for me!
Have you learned each other's languages?
In progress! Luca came to me already speaking English fluently, and whatever “holes" there were I quickly identified and promised that with me by his side, he would soon speak with the American accent he always idealized! My strategy was to make myself indispensable by teaching him the all-important words such as “robe” and “squirrel.” Actually, he would counter that with stories about how I taught him the wrong things on purpose so that I could create inside jokes between us, thus winning his heart.
I’ve learned Turkish and Chinese, but Italian is completely stumping me with its obsession with vowels. If Luca would just leave me with his grandma in Sassuolo I might learn faster, but perhaps he’s concerned instead I might dredge up all of the Spanish words I once knew in a confusing maelstrom of sound. But as it were his entire Milanese social circle is composed of the most highly-educated folks in Italy, fluent in English and all the slang and colloquialisms. So once I return from China and another trip to the US and maybe a short Balkan New Year’s tour (I’m writing from Hong Kong now), I will start back up with Italian classes, and try to stop saying yani and tamam so often in the classroom. Luca has picked up more Turkish mannerisms, masallah, than I have with Italian.
Curator's Note: the only thing I can say is that I WISH I had this issue - as in, that I were too linguistically talented that it became a hurdle to learning Italian. I refuse to help my husband anymore because he must not lose his endearing accent which is more or less half the reason why I married him in the first place. So I only laugh at his mistakes now and refuse to tell him the correct way to say things.
Any advice for mixed/long-distance couples?
Our greatest cultural difference may be that Luca is 100% engineer, and I am a diehard liberal arts evangelist. Our first meeting of the minds was when I declared myself a recreational engineer of intercultural communication from the training I received in the relationship.
Our second mixed cultural aspect is that I am Protestant and he is Catholic. Thankfully, I began to endear myself towards Catholics in college, by hanging out in the Catholic part of the fellowship hall because they usually had better snacks and games.
The toughest one yet may be that I have miraculously inherited the Italian work ethic and he, the American one, at least representative in terms of working hours. But we are working on striking a balance where I don’t start my aperitivi until a reasonable time has passed since lunch.
And then there’s the Italian/American, White/Asian bit. My humble advice to the non-Italian part of the couple:
Curators note: SO MUCH YES HERE.
- Refrain from calling tortellini in brodo “tortellini soup.”
- Gnocchi is not pasta, prosciutto is not ham.
- Wine is not served at just two temperature categories, but all the gradations in between.
- If you’ve been to Italy before, go again. Better yet, move there.
- If you are recommended not to “fill up on bread,” it is not the same admonition from your mother who is anxiously watching your Asianish figure plumpen. It is because there are still seven more courses.
- Try to relate to each other on “culturally neutral ground;” travel to “third-party countries” for holidays so that you’re both off of home turf. In 10 months we have been in 7 different countries together—an absolute privilege to explore our surroundings with one another as our closest cultural complement!
- Trust intention. I can’t embrace this mindset enough—the person who has the closest thing to unconditional positive regard for me of course did not mean to slight my feelings by choosing that word. Stop coddling your pride, Bianca, and let your wounded emotions be released from the self-righteous grip that clear communication holds on you. I’m a stickler for words, and a lover of words, but I can only pity myself on the occasions when I choose to love words over Luca’s honest heart for me. Trust intention.
- You can wear the ugly sneaker-boots and not heels if you want to.
In all seriousness, I think one of the most difficult things about transplanting yourself into a different world, descriptive of all folks who have experienced such things, is the disappearance of perhaps much of the achievement you’ve worked towards in your life thus far. The material and institutional accolades from which you derive value may not be so neatly transferred into your adopted culture. In my case, I was an Ivy League graduate and a Fulbright grantee, but Luca and his world had heard of neither, nor of the other accomplishments that I had been conditioned to think were of the right stock. When I moved into his world I found myself the only one who didn’t have technical skills, an engineering PhD, the common language, or even knowledge of the food we were eating. Simply put, we learn to walk again, trying anew to find cultural purchase in a world slow to recognize us. It may be obvious to say, but my most earnest advice is to support one another. Taking baby steps after you’ve run a marathon is not invigorating, it’s rather humbling and will be an excellent time of growth if you support one another with a fervor for understanding the contours of each others’ experience.
Curator's Note: this last part, especially the commentary on the disconnect between North American "markers" of success and those of other cultures and being forced to put on your humble hat really hit home for me. Honestly, reading it gave me shivers. I don't think we've had a submission that has ventured into this area and so I am truly grateful to Bianca for writing these words.
Submitted by Bianca.
Here's how you can connect with her:
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. The majority of these stories have been brought to me through word-of-mouth, so let's keep spreading the love.
Here are our past Love Stories in no particular order:
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Paula and Pontus
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Alicha and Dennis
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Arachi and Ciro
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Genia and Mattia
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Amanda and Michelangelo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Carmela and Paolo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Evelyn and Fabio
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Margarita and Andrea
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Viki and Que
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Athena and André
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Rosa and Rocco
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Hayley and Mike
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Philippa and Nick
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Camie and Marco
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Alannah and Eros
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Cheyenne and Giulio
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Jade and Daniele
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Chloe and Andrea
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Coral and Riccardo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Rachel and Riccardo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Daria and Francesco
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Briana and Dami
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Kayla and Luca
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Sarah and Michele
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Bailey and Carlo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Gregory and Stefania
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Sofie and Emilio
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Isabel and David
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Jasmine and Massi
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Tiffany and Adam
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Angela and Davide
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Kristie and Graziano
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Brittni and Alberto
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Maddie and Gio
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Jennie and Davide
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Lauren and Luigi
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Rebecca and Leonardo
LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Jennifer and James