The common visual where the worlds of travel and romance overlap is that of a sunset, pop media would have us believe. Personally, I see it more as spaghetti up a straw.
When you enjoy exploring new countries and learning new languages, managing a cross-culture relationship could be likened to eating spaghetti with a straw. At first sight it looks like an easy match. None of this square peg-round hole business. Even a child could match the pairs: the hand fits in the glove, the foot in the sock and the spaghetti up the straw. But with a strand of pasta half-way up the channel and pesto clogging the airways, things appear a little more tricky.
People advise willingly and lengthily on crossing cultural and linguistic barriers. The best thing is to discuss things, apparently, explain your point of view, feelings, expectations, and thereby avoid misunderstandings. But the fact of the matter is that even if you use the same language you can talk until you are blue in the face, but you still might have trouble persuading the words to have the desired effect. Those apparently simple, clear, factual terms hide a wealth of untold meaning, of ingrained assumptions. Every word uttered can be at best a misnomer, and at worst a turncoat. And so the battle to pin down meanings begins. Yes, a “small” wedding can be any size your culture dictates and did you know that beige comes in every colour? Oh, and my better half would have to point out that olive and aubergine pasta sauce is not called pesto. So you come to rely heavily on a second language to improve concept mapping together with a great deal of time stating the obvious to try to root out misunderstandings, misinterpretations and myriads of other ways of missing the point.
And then we read together, in stitches, Watching the English, by pop anthropologist Kate Fox; we returned to visit the areas and the people of our respective childhoods in the US and the UK; and I lived in France for a few more years, and then moved to Lebanon. Soon words started slipping back into their places… or maybe into new homes. Just like the spaghetti and the straw.