Today we have Sarah and Michele, an English lass and an Italian gentleman who seem to have a bit of the luck of the Irish interwoven into their love story. Michele won her over with beer and food, the sure way to any girl's heart if you ask me and then with a make-out session in the cloakroom. No wait, I think it was the safe room. Of a castle. In Italy. Italian boys should be saying a little prayer to the man up there every day for being blessed to have been born in this country and to have things like CASTLES to work with. Sheesh. God could have at least balanced things out a bit by making them ugly. But instead they got looks and castles! Read on!
Where are you from and where is your significant other from?
I am from Redditch, a town near Birmingham in central England, and Michele is from Montichiari in Brescia, Italy.
Where and when did you meet your significant other?
Our first few meetings were actually just before I left Italy. I was nearing the end of nine months aupairing, and planning to go back to England permanently to start a “real life” there. An Italian friend who I'd met in a local Irish pub a few months earlier invited me to a brewery with his friends: one of them was this chatty, nerdy, bearded guy. We met again a couple of times but just as friends. There was definitely some interest there, but we both knew I was leaving a few days later so we made no move on it. Six months later I was moving back to Italy (having decided “real life” was overrated), and he was the first person I messaged with my decision. We were dating within a week of my return.
Who made the first move?
I think it was kind of equal, plus a little help from our mutual friend. By pure chance, the day I returned to Italy was Saint Patrick's day, and we had both already planned to meet friends in our favourite Irish pub. It was absolutely packed, I was already a few drinks in, and he appeared behind me. We spent the whole night standing there talking. Our mutual friend saw us and decided to invite me to Pasquetta (an Easter Monday celebration that Italians traditionally spend with their friends), then told Michele to offer me a lift there and back. I remember as soon as I told my host-mum this, she responded with “he loves you”. I was hopeful but insisted it was just friends. I knew as soon as we got there that we weren't. He was the perfect gentleman, constantly offering to get me beer and food, and immediately taking the place next to me when we sat down to eat. He asked me out for the first date on the drive home, but I went in for the first kiss.
What was your first impression of him?
I remember thinking he was very critical about everything, but this is also part of his Italian-ness – he likes to bitch! But I also saw he was intelligent and focused, two things I still really admire about him. When we started dating, I was always shocked by how completely honest he was with his emotions. I remember worrying that it was some sort of trick, because I couldn't fathom someone being so direct. But it turned out to be real, and now its one of the things that makes us work so well – you can't play language games or just drop hints in second languages, you need to be completely direct.
Dish on the first kiss.
Technically it was in the car, when he dropped me off after meeting our friends at Pasquetta, but it was fairly brief since I was still super shy. The “real” one I prefer to remember was on our first date: we took the whole day out, and for part of it he gave me a private tour of Castello Bonoris in Montichiari (since he was working as a tour guide there at the time). It started with him impressing me with his English summary of the history, and ended with us making out in the safe room.
Where do you live now?
I'm still on Lake Garda, and he's just starting to move in with me. We've decided that while we both have work opportunities here in Italy, we'll focus on making a life here. But he's also open to moving to England if it's ever required.
Have you learnt each other’s languages?
Luckily we were both a conversational level in each other's languages from the beginning. He had learnt English at school and then through Youtube videos (which makes his accent such a strange mix of all the English speaking Youtubers he watches), and I had been living in Italy for nine months, so although my pronunciation was terrible and my vocabulary was limited, I could get by. Originally he insisted on speaking mainly English to make me feel comfortable, but now we just swap between languages depending on how we feel. I also looked back at old messages recently and realised how dramatically we've improved: its true what language teachers say, the best way to learn a language is to date a native!
Any advice to “mixed” culture couples or couples doing long-distance?
We've been lucky to have only done long-distance for a few months. For the last couple of years, I returned to England for two and half months over summer. Both times were brutal, but they made us even closer when we were finally reunited, because we appreciated our daily lives together even more.
Its essential to keep talking when you're long distance, through all types of communication if possible. I remember joking that we seemed to talk even more when I was in England than when we were together, since we'd message throughout the day, have a Skype call for at least an hour, and a goodnight call (we were lucky that there's not much time difference). There also needs to be an end date to the distance, either with one of you moving, or at least a short holiday together. That way you can count down the days.
As for mixed cultures, I'd say the key thing is being open to each other's traditions, and for the native to help the foreigner integrate. My main issue living in Italy is feeling like an outsider, but Michele does everything he can to help me create my own home here and feel independent.
Submitted by Sarah.
Here's how you can connect with Sarah:
Italy Blog: unwritteninitaly
Creative Writing Blog: unwrittenshades
Facebook: Sarah Hadden
Vi auguro tante belle cose. xoxo
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