#OurRelations: Cultural differences
Let's begin our new series of posts, focused on love and romantic relation, from the quite obvious, yet pretty complex topic of cultural differences. Anna was born in Poland, Andrea in Italy and they are two quite unlike cultures.
Starting from stereotypical issues, in Poland punctuality is important, while the Italian approach toward time is, let's say, a little loose. It has to be underlined that it doesn't mean that all Polish people are punctual and all Italian are late, but in our case that's what happened. For the first two years we had a constant fight about timing. For Anna being punctual was a sign of respect, while Andrea didn't pay that much attention to it, valuing rather slow pace and flexibility. At the end, we both smoothed a bit, meeting in the middle, but it took lots of time and nerves.
Another stereotypical thing, which occurred to be true in our case, is the approach toward food. For Anna eating is something you do to survive, for Andrea it's one of the most important moments of the day, it's a source of pleasure, coming with lots of dogmas and philosophies. Once, still in Portugal where we met each other, Anna opened Andrea's cupboard finding ten different types of pasta. Ten types! In Poland we just take one and put whatever sauce on it, in Italy such a take is unacceptable: each pasta has its own uses and there are "serious" reasons for that. To know more about it, you can follow our posts about #ItalianFood. This cultural divergence was easier to overcome than others, Andrea simply took on cooking chores/delight. More problems occurred when we started to spend time with Andrea's family, which basically eats, cooks or speaks about food, and Anna doesn't have much to say on that matter.
But cultural differences go much deeper than those two obvious examples. I remember Andrea asking me often why am I so aggressive and I couldn't understand what he meant - I was not aggressive at all. Then, we moved to Poland and he found out that from his point of view all Polish people feel aggressive in the way they speak. We would call it straightforwardness. If I don't like something, I speak about that directly, which won't happen in Italy, where people go more around the issue, trying to smooth the message or simply resigning from giving it directly. Oftentimes, Italians linger in courtesy chats, starting every conversation from small talks, while in Poland we often go straight to the point with little politeness dance around it.
The list of differences could go on and on, let us rather tell you how we dealt with them. First of all, it took us a few years to go beyond and above all, to understand them. That's the first step. What helped us a lot was the decision of trying and live in each other's country for at least a year, to understand the culture, get to know people and recognize their daily routine, to learn the language, etc. We started from 1 year in Italy, followed by 1,5 year in Poland and that was a game-changer for us. The second thing is to learn to appreciate those differences, not only the cultural ones. Andrea is not punctual, which drove me crazy for several years, but he is also much more relaxed and balanced, he taught me a lot about how to take it easy and enjoy simple things in life. Anna is straightforward and very rigid concerning time or plans, but thanks to that she is effective in achieving goals and building honest communication. Differences can be a huge strength in the couple and in time they became something we deeply appreciate. As mentioned in one of the #AskAQuestion posts, we don't think we would be able to travel and keep ExChange the World going on for so long without having different skills, competences and strengths.
Having said that, it's worth to notice that cultural differences are not a thing only to those who come from different countries. Being born in the same country doesn't mean there is no cultural diversity. Coming from distinct social or economical backgrounds, belonging to different communities, being rural or urban, raised as girl or boy, those are all sources of cultural differences, maybe even more challenging, because they are more subtle. Take your time, observe, understand and appreciate - that's what eventually worked for us. And realizing that all in all we tend to focus on contrasts, but there are much more things which make us similar than those which make us different, and this is true for all people around the world.