Nieuws - 14 februari 2011

Love across the borders


With a myriad of nationalities in the Wageningen UR community, it is inevitable that Cupid's arrows go transnational occasionally. Three couples talk about cross-cultural differences.
'Lianne wants only flowers.'

Lianne Mulder and Obinna Okafor
He: Nigeria, MSc student in Environmental Sciences
She: The Netherlands, International Development Studies

Obinna: 'We were introduced to each other in the Forum by a mutual friend.'
Lianne: 'It was love at first sight, but I forgot his name afterwards and kept referring to him as 'Mr. Nigeria' to my friends. A month later, we bumped into each other at a university party and afterwards, continued to dance all night at the International Club. Since then, things got going.'
Lianne: 'At first, there were some language problems. Although we both speak good English, we could not find the right words to express ourselves at times. We'd then turn to Google Translate.'
Obinna: 'Lianne always gives me a greeting kiss, even when we meet in public. In my culture, this is not done so spontaneously. I don't feel comfortable about it.'
Lianne (giggling): 'He would then become very shy. But he has got used to that.'
Obinna: 'We also have different eating habits. A bowl of soup, bread or salad is what Lianne calls 'food'. But I have to eat something quite substantial, preferably with meat and rice.'
Lianne: 'Oh yes, and tea. That too.'
Obinna: 'Dipping a little bag in water three times is what Lianne calls tea.'
Lianne: 'Ha ha, his tea is pitch black, with a lot of milk and sugar. Disgusting!'
Obinna: 'I envisage us as a couple for a long time to come. I plan my future around Lianne.'
Lianne: 'Actually, it's simple. I would like to go to Africa, and Obinna would like to stay here. Ideally, the Netherlands in summer and Africa in winter. But it would probably be difficult to find work which fits into this.
Lianne: 'On Valentine's Day, Obinna will be in Nigeria for three months, unfortunately. But we will skype.'
Obinna: 'Otherwise, I would buy her flowers. She likes flowers, and I had to get used to that too. The women in Nigeria want to have expensive clothes or jewellery. And if you take them to a restaurant, they often invite their friends too. At your cost. To test your love for them. Lianne wants only flowers.'
Lianne: 'All those flowers from him, I dry and keep them.'

Nanine Gieles and Jose Lozano
He: Colombia, PhD Nematology
She: The Netherlands, MSc Nutrition & Health
Nanine: 'After my return from a trip to Mexico two years ago, I was still terribly fascinated with the culture there. So my girlfriend took me to a salsa lesson. That turned out to be quite something.'
Jose: 'Hmm. I give salsa lessons in Wageningen and had this very special student all of a sudden. Sparks flew and things got going between us.'
Nanine: 'A relationship with the salsa instructor. Quite cliché actually.'
Jose: 'That both of us are studying here is just a coincidence.'
Jose: 'I have been living for seven years in the Netherlands and so I'm pretty used to the habits and customs here. Moreover, I'm not the typical Colombian. My mother was - like many Dutch people - ambitious, punctual, direct and critical. So I can adjust rather well.'
Nanine: 'At the same time, I'm not like the typical Dutch. I'm easy going and not very structured. We therefore have a lot in common.'
Jose: 'We meet one another somewhere in the middle.'
Nanine: 'We haven't thought much about the future yet.'
Jose: 'Since I have been living in the Netherlands for so long, I don't have a strong desire to return. My friends and network. All these are here. It's only for my family that I may want to go back.'
Nanine: 'Colombia is a really beautiful and nice country. I wouldn't mind living there for a few years.'
Jose: 'We have something like Valentine's Day in Colombia, but then in September. A day dedicated to friendship and love.'
Nanine: 'But that's rooted in your culture. This Anglo-Saxon Valentine's Day doesn't mean much to me. We'll probably just ignore it.'

Ties Huigens and Nina Fatouros
She: Germany (with a Greek father), Entomology postdoc
He: The Netherlands, Entomology postdoc

Ties: 'Ten years ago, I was a PhD student doing research into an ichneumon wasp. Nina, then a visiting colleague from the free university in Berlin, joined in the work. So I got to know her.'
Nina: 'We have been together for nine years since and we have two wonderful daughters. Lisa is four and Hanna is one.'
Ties: 'And we are still working together in Entomology. We are both postdocs with a Veni grant.'
Ties: 'The German culture is quite close to the Dutch. But there is still something from her Greek genes. Nina is pretty temperamental. For example, concerning experiments. She can become impatient very quickly, or be thrilled when things go well.'
Nina: 'I'm easily fired up.'
Ties: 'That problem shows in football.'
Nina: 'When I'm with my two brothers, I'm a real fanatic. If the Netherlands had to play against Germany in the finals last summer, I would have gone to Berlin to watch.'
Nina: 'A professor in Berlin wanted me as a PhD student very much, but I was allowed to do the actual work here in Wageningen. That was super!'
Ties: 'You are open to anything in the beginning, but we are now quite settled in Wageningen. Each of us has a contract for another three years. Unless a very nice opportunity comes along, we would not leave here.'
Ties: 'Valentine's Day doesn't mean much to us. I think that it's more for young couples.'
Nina: 'And we haven't had a wedding day either. We don't quite follow tradition.'
Ties: 'I prefer to do something spontaneous some other day.'