There are countless movies that talk about meeting someone while traveling. At least in the United States, while I was growing up, there was always this romanticized idea of having a summer fling, a rendezvous with a cutie at the beach. Comeon y’all, High School Musical is all about a serendipitous connection at a ski lodge during winter break, that turned into a love story! A love story that involved three different movies, an entire empire of apparel, and I would say launched Zac Efron’s career. So, when we think about falling in love serendipitously and finding someone while traveling or out of our element, it’s safe to say there’s a big stigma around it.
This month’s featured International Couple is Munnawar and Angie! Coming from two VERY different countries, cultures, and even religions, they met while celebrating a different country’s independence day (*cough* USA *cough*). They’ve dealt with people who question their relationship, and others who support them. I loved reading their answers and I’m sure y’all will, too!
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (:
Munnawar: I think we both remember the exact date that we met. It was on 4th of July, a day known by most as American Independence Day. A friend of mine was hosting a ‘Murica day celebration and invited me to come along to his house after work. He is a Texan with a Filipina wife and they were hosting an American barbecue in a small town in Thailand. When I arrived I saw the guests were mostly European, American, and Filipino. With the Western guests mostly mingling with other Westerners and the latter doing the same with other Filipinos. I remember walking in, speaking with everyone and then noticing Angie. She was standing by the grill nursing her drink and speaking to her friends in a language I didn’t understand. I introduced myself to her and her friend. Over the coming months we became very close friends and also began travelling together. It was on the night of the 31st of August, Angie’s birthday, that I realised I wanted more. We were at a bar celebrating with a group of our friends. The live band playing asked anyone if they wanted to come up and sing, we jokingly started chanting for Angie to get up since it was her birthday. After much persuasion from us she agreed and got on stage.
Angeline: On the 4th of July 2014, we were invited to an Independence Day party by a mutual friend. The hosts were an American and Filipina couple, and so were most of the guests. At the party the Filipinas and Westerners mostly kept to themselves and when Munnawar arrived he didn’t just stick to the people he knew he spoke to everyone. I thought this was interesting, and when he came over and spoke to us he spoke in such a way that it felt like we had met before. One of my friends asked me in my language “Who is that guy? Do we know him?” In answer to her questions, at that time we didn’t know him, but I would become very familiar with him in the months to come.
Munnawar: A pretty accurate description of how we first met, we became very close friends after that day and ended up travelling to many different places together. It was on the night of her birthday where she got on stage and sang ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None the Richer, that I realized that I wanted more. I had to make the first move, and she actually said she’d rather remain friends. I respected her wishes and we continued our friendship, just when I thought there would be no hope, she made her move. Since then we have travelled to 7 different countries in 2 different continents and we have never looked back.
TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?
We both live in Thailand teaching English!
Munnawar: I initially came out here to teach for 5 months and have now been here for 3 years, it’s a beautiful country, with a low cost of living and the lifestyle and culture are super chill! My job is amazing, I love working with children and I do feel that I’m making a difference. I plan to return home to London one day, but for now it’s hard to complain with how life has turned out.
Angie: I came here to visit my cousin almost 9 years ago now. That was meant to be a short vacation, but once the travel bug bit me I just couldn’t return home. We both use Thailand as a base, and our jobs provide long enough holidays that we are able to go somewhere new at least twice a year.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
Munnawar: Angie speaks 4 languages: Visayan, Tagalog, English and Thai. It’s actually one of the things that impressed me most about Angie when I first met her. It’s not every day you meet a foreigner in Thailand who speaks Thai, and her English is flawless. When I read her blog for the first time, it blew my mind that someone could write so well in their third language.
I, on the other hand, speak only 2 languages. English and Thai. My parents are Pakistani and whilst I kind of understand 2 languages from that part of the world, I’m not confident or fluent in enough to speak them. When we communicate with each other we use English unless we are travelling outside of Thailand, in those situations we might switch to Thai whilst in public places. 😀
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
Angie: I am a Filipina born in the Philippines whilst Munnawar is a British born citizen with Pakistani ethnicity.
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural and multi-language relationship?
Munnawar: I guess the only difficulty is kind of managing expectations of those around us. Not so much our friends, but families and people from back in the old country. Telling some people in my family that I am dating a non-muslim can be difficult at times. Despite this however, I would not have it any other way!
Angie: I have a similar problem because there are so many negative representations of Muslims in today’s media. So I have had people ask me questions like “what if he forces you to wear a hijab? What if he asks you to change your religion?” And I’ve had a couple people warn me to be careful. Some people will never accept that Munnawar is from London and will only see the colour of his skin. He has dealt with this his whole life and always handles it with a joke and a smile. These issues are just minor niggles in an otherwise amazing experience.
TQP: What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
Angie: This is tough because Munnawar has a mixed culture. Being born in London but being raised in a Pakistani household has allowed him to see the pros and cons of both. I think Pakistani cuisine is just incredible and the fact that, like most Asian cultures, they really prioritise the family. In terms of English culture, I feel like speaking one’s mind is something that more people should adopt. My English friends are very direct and whilst it may come across as rude to some, I feel like it leaves little room for misunderstanding or confusion.
Munnawar: I have had Filipino friends for as long as I can remember. They are the most hospitable and friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I feel like hospitality is a big part of the culture and this is very evident when visiting the Philippines.
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
Angie: Similar to what I mentioned earlier it would be great if in the Philippines we didn’t beat around the bush as much as we currently do.
Munnawar: Welcoming people into your home. I feel like back in London, we have become scared of our neighbours. These days most people don’t know the names of most of the people who live on their street, because of this I feel like communities become more divided. Obviously a balance should be struck, as when everyone knows your name and history gossiping can arise but it’s a risk I feel more Londoners should take.
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
Angie: I have cousins who live in Switzerland and my lifelong dream of travelling to Europe was finally fulfilled earlier this year when I visited them. The trip did not disappoint and has left me wanting more. Since Munnawar speaks so fondly of England I also would love to live there for a while, but at the moment my time in Asia is not yet finished and there’s still plenty more to see.
Munnawar: This is a tough one to answer! I want to live in so many different countries, but right now South-East Asia is treating me well. I also have to consider the visa requirements for each country, whilst the British passport is a good passport to have whilst travelling, the Filipino passport is not as well received. I’ve always wanted to move to America and live there for a few years, but now that Donald Trump has been elected I think I may reconsider that option. Ultimately I see myself settling back in London and raising kids there, opting to travel abroad twice a year (I don’t see that happening anytime soon though 😛 )
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural, multi-language relationship?
All we can say is keep an open mind. I know it sounds obvious, but keeping an open mind really is key. When our partner does or says things that seem off, unnatural or weird, we should try to be as understanding as possible. Many an argument can be averted if we just stop, try to listen and understand why our partner is behaving in a way that is different from our own expectations.
Extra Question: What is your favorite phrase you’ve learned from your partner’s language?
Angie: I’ve grown up speaking English so this is a tough one! But as a woman of action, I’ll go with: “let’s go!”
Munnawar: This isn’t really a phrase but more a collection Visayan words. Whenever I get asked to do the house work and I’m feeling really tired I like to reply with: “Zigi zigi, kapoy, ugma!” Which translates to “yes, yes, tired, tomorrow!”
Thank you, Angie and Munnawar, for sharing your love story with me and the Pineapplers! It’s amazing that you both are able to speak such different langauges, and fluently! I loved hearing your insights about dating people outside of your religion as well as the social stigmas of dating someone from a different ethnicity than your own. There’s always a romanticized idea that when we find someone while traveling and “run off together” living out adventures, everything is like a fairy tale. It’s so important to talk about the stigmas that may surround these types of relationships, and I’m glad that you two are so open to speak about it. If you’d like to read more about Angie and Munnawar, you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook, as well as their blog, Travel Moments.
The International Couples Series was created to inspire and highlight some of the challenges and funny moments of being in an international relationship. My hope is to inspire those who are in these relationships, that if the relationship is healthy, it can really be worth all of the paperwork and visa headache! Thank you, again, Angie and Munnawar for sharing your story! If you’re in an international, intercultural and/or multi-language relationship and would like to be featured on The Quirky Pineapple, please contact me so we can set up an interview and you can share your love story! (:
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