No wonder that we tend to expand this freedom of exploring and the curiosity towards living to all aspects of our daily lives. Not only our friends stem from different backgrounds, cultures and countries and speak different languages, but our potential lovers and partners might as well.
While exchange studies are usually the first intense contact to ‘otherness’, this contact can also manifest during degree studies or work life when we try to integrate into local culture. We closely cooperate with people from other countries who are foreigners ina strange country like ourselves.
Also the locals, Finnish students and young people here in Oulu get in touch with us and live a more international life than we probably ever did back home. This is a cultural melting pot and if you consider “reading” peoples’ emotions difficult, try “reading” them in a language that is neither yours or theirs.
If it wasn’t a challenge it wouldn’t be interesting, right?
International love made in Oulu
So we dive right in and explore. When else than during your exchange can you flirt in French in one week, have a Spanish date the next week, a Chinese fling or a Canadian relationship in just a couple of months?
You stay in the same place and meet all this ‘otherness’ and sometimes it sticks: After meeting during their exchange in 2010 in Vaasa, Italian Silvia and Spanish Pedro just got married last year after years of long-distance relationship and many common holidays.
Oulu has also produced some Erasmus-weddings. For instance, between an Italian guy and an American girl in 2012 and most recently our 2014-exchange-student-batch attended the wedding of fellow exchangers Brazilian Emanoel and French Alison only some weeks ago. Finnish Matti from Oulu has been dating Spanish Adri since some years already and they met when Adri came to do his exchange in Finland.
Besides this, there are currently a couple of newborns arriving in Oulu of couples who met in Finland but are both from abroad, or those where only one part is foreign and the other one is Finnish. Those lucky babies will grow up with at least three different languages, if not more. These must be the true tri-or quadrilingual superstars from tomorrow.
Language and love
Meeting people from other countries might not necessarily increase your chances to meet “the one” (since there are, depending on the size of the city, approximately a handful of “right ones” per each city out there for us, right?). Maybe a different cultural background adds the spice to the relationship that you were missing in your previous ones. Perhaps discussing important things might be easier in a language that is not your mother tongue.
While research is inconclusive about the emotional effects on first and second languages in bilingual people, the research suggests that differences do exist. The research suggests that it might be easier to discuss and express feelings in a second language because the emotional memory is connected to the first language. “I love you”, for example, in a language not your own does definitely have different implications for how you perceive and measure it.
Add to this ‘simple’ language discrepancy differences in norms and values deriving from growing up in different cultures, and you might end up with a perfectly complementary relationship (or one where you constantly clash)!
In conclusion, there is probably no ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’ when it comes to international love compared with local love.
But still, there might be one big advantage to finding your chosen partner from your home village: If you are restless and seek adventure by nature and you tend to change places and countries a lot throughout your life, it might be a good thing to have a similar minded soul by your side.
People who are not bound to stay in one region or place tend to be more flexible and more open to change. They are more willing to adjust to new situations and ready to make compromises.
Perhaps, this will to compromise could actually be a good trait for a well-functioning relationship?