Where are you from and where is your significant other from?
I am from Vancouver, Canada, and Gio is from Caserta, Italy. Since we met in 2010, we have lived together in: Leuven, Caserta, Montreal, Vancouver and have finally settled in Calgary. Phew!
Where and when did you meet your significant other?
Gio and I met while we were on exchange in Leuven, Belgium. Gio was on exchange from Federico II in Napoli, and I was on exchange from UBC in Vancouver. Gio and his roommate in Belgium (another Napolitano) decided to cook pasta for literally all the exchange students who wanted dinner. It ended up being 20+ kg of pasta, and a whole bunch of new friends! I was living in a different residence all together, but as a typical undergraduate, I caught wind of free food and new friends and made my way over to the dinner. Best decision of my life.
Who made the first move?
In true Italian style, definitely Gio. But, it needed to be that way. I had gone through a tough breakup one year before I met Gio. When I went on exchange, I was finally feeling grounded and like I didn't "need a man." I had wholly intended to spend my exchange getting back to myself and actually enjoying being single. Well, life had other plans. His name was Gio and he had an agenda not to let me enjoy being single at all!
The aforementioned epic pasta dinner was around February 3. By February 13, on the eve between two new friends' birthdays, we had our first kiss in a smoke-filled Belgian nightclub-by-night, cafe/restaurant-by-day. I've been hooked ever since.
Where did you initially think he was from?
We were both foreigners when we first met, neither of us being Belgian! Given the amount of pasta being cooked the night we met, it was pretty obvious that he was Italian.
What was your first impression of him?
I thought Gio was a complete clown. He was wearing an absurd sweatshirt that he and his roommate had made the week prior that said, "Why lie? I need a beer!" It really made no sense, even though the English was technically correct. I still don't quite get it, and it still makes me laugh!
While both Gio and I are pretty goofy when we're together, I wouldn't really classify him nowadays as a "clown." He is a distinguished academic and professor of chemical engineering, who studies polymers and more efficient drug delivery systems (among other things!)
I was also completely taken aback by how direct Gio was with his feelings. This was a combination of having less-than-perfect English (which forces one to be direct) and him being Italian. I remember getting a text from him one night asking me what I was doing that evening. I wrote back saying something like, "I am tired, so I am just going to watch a movie. I will see you tomorrow because I am sure you want to be out enjoying the city with the others!" and he wrote back saying, "No, I want to be with you. You are the only one I care about here, I will come watch a movie with you."
I was floored. I could not fathom receiving such a direct communication of emotions from any of my previous Canadian boyfriends. It was beyond refreshing to not have to interpret what someone was feeling and second guess everything. I loved it, and still do.
Where do you live now?
We live in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. We never thought or intended to end up here, but here we are! With Gio being an academic, and me working in academic administration, we had to be open to where the opportunities are. It just so happened two perfect positions opened at UCalgary last spring, just calling our names. We're very happy with our new city and life as newlyweds and new homeowners! We've also become outdoorsy and take full advantage of our Rocky Mountain backyard. We manage to go to Vancouver 2-3 times a year, and we go to Italy 1-2 times a year, to see family and friends.
Have you learnt each other’s languages?
Yep, si! Gio's English was pretty hilarious when we first met (re: that quote on the sweatshirt) but by the time our university exchange was over he was already much more fluent. We've lived in Canada since 2012, he did his PhD here and now works in Canada, so he's nice and fluent.
We lived in Italy in 2011. I took several university-level Italian courses to bulk up my language skills before I moved, which was a very strategic move. Gio's parents and nonna didn't speak English, so I had to learn FAST when I was there. I also took intensive classes.
Now that we live in Canada, we speak English 80% of the time. I'd love to speak it more, but since I didn't speak Italian until a year into our relationship, English has always been dominant. When we lived in Montreal, we spoke French, too. We don't know many Italians in Calgary, but we used to have more of an Italian social life in Montreal. If you're an Italian in Calgary, get in touch per piacere!
Any advice to “mixed” culture couples or couples doing long-distance?
Stop doing long distance and pick a side, ASAP. Gio and I only did 8 months of long distance, and that was more than enough. I still hate going on Skype because it gives me nightmares of that time in our relationship when we were speaking over a screen. Having an end date to the long-distance was crucial for us.
If you aren't doing long distance anymore, make sure that you are helping the foreign partner integrate as best you can into the country. This means making friends, getting involved in the community and facilitating your partner going back home as much as they need, to feel good. Try to facilitate their family and friends coming to visit as much as possible, too.
Vi auguro tante belle cose. xoxo
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