Cross-Cultural Relationships – Laura & Roger

Cross-Cultural Relationships: Laura & Roger

We met for a reason
Laura from Albania and Roger from England met each other nine years ago and they believe that their love story is unique. Only two months ago they became parents for the second time and they feel love even stronger.

Laura Shimili

Life has been great with Roger by my side
My love story with Roger is, we like to believe, unique. We didn’t meet during our studies like some people do. That wouldn’t have been possible as I was studying in Paris while Roger was in Bristol, quite a few miles away from each other. We didn’t meet at the local pub or at a regular bar either, as we lived quite far away from each other.

We met after a number of years spent living in other countries, and quite far away from Roger’s home in South Devon. I spent seven years in France studying economics and then philosophy of economics for my Master’s degree. Roger studied civil engineering in Bristol and lived in Qatar for two years and then in Albania for another two. And that is where we met.

Life has been great with Roger by my side

I had recently returned from France, where I found it hard to give my career a start. Whereas Roger had come to Albania to work on a big project, a motorway that connects Albania to Kosovo, the pride of Albania’s previous government, also called ‘the nation’s motorway’.

Our actions often have some reasons behind them, which we don’t always see clearly. It is only after that when we can try and make connections between events. I wasn’t particularly happy to return to Albania but looking back I am very happy to have done so. I wouldn’t have met Roger otherwise and we wouldn’t have had our two beautiful boys and a happy, peaceful life in London. Things happen for a reason and I believe in the law of attraction, we attract the things we want.

I don’t speak Albanian!

The place we met, at Serendipity bar and restaurant in Tirana, is part of the romance; some call it destiny, and it is only later that I learned that it means ‘good luck’. That unusual start is a special part of our story. We separately went there to see some music. Roger with an old acquaintance of mine from high school and me on my own, waiting for my friend to arrive. When I sat at the table of my old acquaintance, next to Roger, I didn’t notice that he wasn’t Albanian and I spoke to him in Albanian.

That first look of surprise he gave me while saying I don’t speak Albanian and the laugh and conversation that followed was the beginning of our love story. We were both intrigued by each other and something had clicked inside. It wasn’t particularly hard for him to have my phone number and vice versa. The rest is history.

Seven years later, we have been living in London for five years and have two sons, Edward aged three, and very recently Elliot, who is two months old. Life has been great with Roger by my side and we have been very lucky to find each other after many years and so far away from home.

Being in a relationship is about the person you are in love with.
My knowledge of British culture and people was very limited until I met Roger. I had come across the stereotypical descriptions of the British being conservative people, their love of drinking and pubs, the good music from the Beatles to Amy Winehouse, their not very good cuisine, ‘the British can’t cook’ seemed to be the belief in France and an ultraliberal society where money is king.

There exists a historical rivalry between the British and the French and I had been for the first part of my years abroad, under the French influence. With Roger I discovered the English perspective, which has given me a different flavour and my own appreciation of these facts.


Cross-Cultural Relationships: Laura & Roger


It is not true that the British can’t cook; they can when they follow recipes! And it is true that London (as the rest of the UK) is a typical capitalist economy, which attracts people of considerable wealth from around the world, and through its attractive financial institutions makes people from around the world, wealthy at the same time.

There is a social side to all of this, to my surprise, free public health for instance and also in my sector of work, public housing, which is subsidised for people on a low-income. This would come as a big surprise to my French student friends, who do not realise the size of the British welfare state, which was created after the Second World War,but has been shrinking with the current Tory government.

But I digress, being in a relationship is about the person you are in love with and so I first discovered Roger as a person. He is very caring and loving, and he did charm me with his clear blue eyes and beautiful smile. He is very positive and eager for new adventures and new challenges, something that we completely share.

While we lived in Albania for two years I didn’t find our different cultural backgrounds to be a barrier between us, quite the opposite. It was very exciting to spend time with him, and discover his ways and slowly his culture. I did meet his family and friends quite early on and started learning more about the British way of life.

As a British person, Roger is definitely a planner, whereas for me being spontaneous was more important. I have learnt to plan better and see that leaving things for the last minute is not always the best plan. Generally, talking about feelings and emotions is not Roger’s cup of tea, but he has learnt to do more of that, as dealing with a Mediterranean girl without talking over and over about how I feel, can quickly turn into a drama itself.

Roger’s politeness can still surprise me, especially with family and friends when it rules over being direct and looking for a clear answer from others. But I have seen it helps avoid conflict and tension and it has generally better results than a direct confrontation. Nothing better for me, than a strong one to one explanation with someone, but that’s not for Roger.

The best gift is the need to communicate constantly.

Challenges and gifts of a different culture
The gifts are the differences and the little everyday discoveries of what makes us who we are. The challenges come from the same differences, as it can be sometimes difficult to understand each other’s views and position.

The best gift is the need to communicate constantly; to make sure we have clearly explained even the smallest thing or thought because if we don’t, it sure can lead to misunderstandings. Such explanations do involve talking about our past or about the way things are done in our societies, so it is not only about us but about our cultural background. But luckily we are both quite easily adaptable and can learn new ways.

Our relationship has changed and it has become stronger
All relationships change overtime, as we know more about our partner and we adapt to them. Our relationship has changed and it has become stronger. It was quite challenging when I first came to the UK, as it was all new to me but all familiar to Roger. And some of my frustration from being in a different culture and in a language I didn’t understand very well initially, would sometimes fall upon Roger. He was my only link to this big unfamiliar British world and as such it may have felt like a big responsibility at times.

With the recent birth of our second son, I feel that our relationship has grown stronger again. Roger was my birth partner and he did an amazing job, although on his own, not the way it was planned at all. We had hired a birth doula but because of a very quick unravelling of events, and my labour progressing very fast at home, we didn’t have time to get to hospital. Roger managed to deal with me and massage me during contractions; he was on the phone with the emergency health line, he managed the ambulance crew and finally our childminder picking up our older son. He was brilliant and the satisfaction we got from this very special birth, of our little baby arriving in our lounge, is immense and difficult to describe with words. I fell in love again with him and with our little baby boy. We are off to a fantastic start all over again.

Roger Mears

It’s great to be with someone who has a different perspective on things
It’s great!Having a partner from a very different culture does mean that communication is really important – we have different outlooks on life, less common ground than couples who have grown up in the same country and our first languages are different. To overcome this we work hard at our communication – which is a positive really as it means we are very open and honest with each other, and we both make a conscious effort to improve how we communicate.

I really enjoy the fact that Laura is from a different background to me, it’s great to be with someone who has a different perspective on things. It’s also wonderful bringing up children with a mixed cultural background – we hope our two sons will have a more broad understanding of the world and be more rounded as a result.