Q&A: Meet me and my boyfriend

This was supposed to be published on an online magazine. However, we submitted it a bit late but I thought it would be nice for you all to meet us through this Q&A so I’m posting this here. Enjoy!

1. Tell me your love story! (: (Where did you both meet, who made the first move, how did it come about?)

Gregoire Tavernier

Greg:
I am French and I’ve spent now about 6 years in Hong Kong. I first came here for an eight months internship during my business school time in Paris. And I moved here for good right after my graduation in 2011.
My situation at that time was a bit messy. I ended a previous relationship in a pretty disastrous way, I did not want to commit to anything too soon and I was not feeling ready at all for that.
I met Rachelle a bit randomly, but she is the cause in the matter of our relationship, that’s for sure and she’s getting all the credits! We met on a dating (hook up?) online application. I was in Hong Kong and she was travelling in South East Asia. She contacted me first and I replied to her, which is not common because I used to almost never reply when people where contacting me from oversea. But I did so, and we had couple chats, nothing too passionate on my side. I don’t know why, but one day she asked me what I would think if she was coming in Hong Kong. I was between 2 jobs, so I had time in hands and said why not, that wouldn’t hurt anyway. And she was cute and seemed cool to hang out with. So, without any expectations, I said okay. And couple of weeks after, I’m seeing myself on the way to the airport, after a beach party, to pick up a random girl who is most likely staying at my place for a week or 2. Kinda freaky to be honest. What if she search my shit and make a mess in the flat? What if she was a psycho, thief or just mental? But I thought she’s actually taking more risk than me, simply by being a girl coming to visit a (almost) stranger that she met online only few weeks ago.
She stayed at my place, I showed her around Hong Kong as I had time between interviews and contract signature. And we had a great time together! Great enough that she asked me if she should come back in few weeks! And, in the fear of not knowing what was going on, I said yes. I was still not ready to commit to her and to call her my girlfriend yet. But I liked her enough that I simply wanted to spend more time with her! And, from there, we started our relationship. A bit messy and rocky at the beginning. But eventually I became more and more addicted to her. I finally embraced the idea of making her my girlfriend and that I was simply in love with her.

Chel:

I did a little bit of backpacking around South East Asia. Around this same time, I was playing Clash of Clans. There’s this annoying ad below the screen called Skout and I accidentally tapped it. It redirected me to AppStore and I was a bit curious so I ended up downloading it. Turns out it was an app like Tinder. I registered but did not put a photo up. I was just scrolling through and that’s when I saw Greg’s photo. It was just his back facing the beach. Being a beach lover myself, that attracted me to him so I messaged him. Surprisingly he started talking to me without even asking what I looked like, etc. But since I was travelling all the time and barely had data, we didn’t maintain constant communication. But I sort of felt that there was something about him.

After Laos, I wasn’t ready yet to fly back to Manila. I remembered him saying during one of our conversation that if I’d end up in Hong Kong, I am welcome to stay at his place. So I asked him if that offer is still on the table and he said yes.

I was so nervous because I flew all the way to Hong Kong to meet a guy I’ve barely talked to. I had all these stuff going through my head but I just trusted my instincts. I am so happy I followed it because I am now with the most beautiful man inside and out.

So funny because when he picked me up in the airport he was so drunk haha but I didn’t really feel any awkwardness between us. Its as if we’ve known each other for a long time already. Maybe they call it destiny?

2. Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?

Greg
I am still in Hong Kong, my life is here and I joined my current firm in same time I met Rachelle. I’m actually a recruiter here. I fell in love with this city when I first did my internship. I did not think I would have stayed that long. But every time I travel to different countries, I’m always thinking that the quality of life I have here is not comparable to any other place I’ve been to. The reason why I like it so much is because I can live in one of the most dynamic city in the world. And in same time, being able to escape the city every single weekend within few minutes to do outdoor activities. I love being by the water, so I always can go to the beach, swimming, sailing, wakeboarding, kayaking, or hiking, camping, beach parties, and many more! Surprisingly, Hong Kong territory is 80% naturally preserved (that’s why Hong Kong is so dense and the housing is the most expensive in the world, everyone is packed on the remaining 20%). And the weather is cool enough for 8 or 9 months a year.

Chel:

I travel very often to Hong Kong but I am from Manila. I am trying to move to HK so Greg and I can build something together for our future.

3. What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?

Greg:
We communicate in English. Mine is far from being perfect, but I think it’s enough.
I also speak French (not too often in my daily life), and a bit of Spanish (never using it, totally loosing it). Couple words in Chinese (Cantonese) that I picked here and there, and that’s it!

Chel:

We both use English. I speak Filipino and a little bit of Spanish. I don’t speak Cantonese but I know how to say good morning and thank you haha.

Gregoire Tavernier

4. What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?

Greg:
I’m French, was born in Lyon (just like both my parents and I think my grandparents, the majority of my family and roots are there). I grew up with my parents near Cannes, on the French Riviera.

Chel:

I’m Filipino with Spanish and Chinese blood.

5. What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international/intercultural and (I guess) interlanguage relationship?

Greg:
Well, not much to be honest. Because I’ve been living abroad a big part of my adult life, I’ve always been in contact with people from different cultures. Also because Hong Kong is such an international place so I’ve always been living in a melting pot. Rachelle is a very easy going person, simple, down to earth and with very similar values than mines. And I have not felt this in a very long time; being close to the Chinese community, I’ve always felt that there was always a very big cultural gap which can be difficult to handle, no matter how open minded you are and all the integration efforts you can make. The only thing I can think of is that she likes eating her crispy bacon with her fingers, leaving her cutleries in the plate… I just don’t get it…

Chel:

Greg is such a wonderful boyfriend but when he gets upset he tend to isolate the problem than talk about it. It took him some time to open up to me but I was very patient and understanding. I grew to love that part of him. Haha and yes, I do like to eat my crispy bacon with my fingers.

6. What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to? (This question applies if you both have lived in or visited your partner’s country/culture)

Greg:
She eats her bacon with her fingers!!! I mean c’mon!
And she eats plain rice, without any sauce or nothing! And sometimes for breakfast. I need sauce in my rice, like a curry or something. And not for my breakfast!
On a more serious note, we have different family relationships. I feel much supported by mine, even tho I live 10,000 km away. I feel sometimes she’s the one supporting hers.

Chel:

Hahaha. Filipinos has this thing called “kamay” where they eat food with their fingers. But I don’t do it that much just really when I’m eating crispy bacon. And yes, I love my rice even if there’s no sauce or just dry viand. I learned so much as we grow together about what Greg likes and does not like.

My family has always been complicated and I’m really happy that Greg’s isn’t like mine.

7. What is the one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most? (This question applies if you both have lived in or visited your partner’s country/culture)

Greg:
There are a lot of Filipinos in Hong Kong actually. And one thing I love the most about them is their constant smile and laugh! Always very friendly and happy and that cheers me up all the time!

Chel:

He’s very affectionate and passionate.

8. What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own? (This question applies if you both have lived in or visited your partner’s country/culture)

Greg:
To follow the previous answer, it would be being more emotionally expressive. I tend to keep a lot for myself.

Chel:

That’s true, he does but he is getting better now. Which I think is because of me too :) I haven’t been to France yet and hopefully next year it will happen.

Grégoire Tavernier

9. Can you describe a funny situation when you were “lost in translation/culture”? (This can be answered from both parties)

Greg:
I cannot think of any to be honest, I let her respond to this one.

Chel:

It wasn’t really a “funny” one but when we got together he was still referring me as a “friend” when he introduces me to people. I asked him what thats about and he said French doesn’t really use the term girlfriend but I think he felt I wasn’t really comfortable and happy with that so he adapted quickly and got used to the term “girlfriend.”

10. Where do you both plan on living in the future?

Greg:
I want to stay in Hong Kong. I love my life here, I love my job and I am not planning to leave anytime soon. I’ve been with my firm for only a year and 9 months. And I’ve just signed couple weeks ago a new apartment lease for 2 years. But, on the long term, I don’t really see myself having kids in Hong Kong. Well, we’ll see, we are not there yet!

Chel:

Greg loves Hong Kong and I want to keep him happy so I will move there with him.

11. Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international/intercultural/interlanguage relationship?

Greg:
Every single story is different, so it’s hard to say…
Just be open minded and constantly try to put yourself into their shoes. Keep in mind that your partner is not seeing things the same that you do. Their background, culture and language shape them in a very different way than yours. And yours is not “the right way”.

Chel:

Its not going to be easy at first, definitely not a walk in the park but when you look at your partner’s face and see the future with them, then you’d know its all worth it.

Grégoire Tavernier

Extra Questions:

1. What was your biggest fear (or the thing you were worried the most about) before entering your international/intercultural/interlanguage relationship?

Greg:
Rachelle is from the Philippines, so her right to stay in Hong Kong is much shorter than any other countries. When we started to date, I did not want a long distance relationship. But in same time, the fact that she cannot stay in Hong Kong more than 2 weeks and it’s very difficult for her to get a working visa because of her passport, I thought it wouldn’t last long. We are now getting close to our 2 years anniversary so obviously we manage to overcome this fear!

Chel:

The long distance relationship scared me at the beginning but Greg and I really worked hard for it.

2. What has being in your international/intercultural/interlanguage relationship taught the both of you?

Greg:
As long as you have the same values, goals and view of life, you can overcome the fear of the culture difference. It won’t always be easy, but it’s possible!

Chel:

Anything is possible if you love someone.

3. How long have you both been together?

Greg:
We have been together for 640 days now (1 year, 9 months and 1 day)! And many more to go!

Grégoire Tavernier

4. What has been the craziest adventure you’ve embarked on together, or are planning together?

Greg:
We travelled few countries together. We went 3 times to the Philippines, we also visited Sri Lanka, Cuba and a bit of Mexico. We are going to France this year and I am planning on a trip to Madagascar next year.
But the craziest one is definitely our relationship with all the up and downs it brings and see where it brings us!

5. Your favorite phrase your partner says in their language?

Greg:
I don’t know any Tagalog. But the only thing I hear her saying is something like “Aleco” every time she’s being clumsy.

Chel:

He doesn’t say it but he does it with mouth that sounds like pff. Oh haha, I think he meant “aray ko” which meant it hurts in Tagalog haha.

Grégoire Tavernier

6. Your favorite phrase you’ve learned from your partner’s language?

Greg:
I don’t know any… But I can say “Aleco”!

Chel:

Its so cute when he does it haha!

7. What is the one dish that your partner cooks, from their culture, that is your absolute favorite?

Greg:
Philippines are not very famous for their food. That’s probably why their cities are filled with American style fast food restaurants. And that’s also why you don’t find fancy and gastronomic Filipino restaurants all over the world. Rachelle almost never cook, I can only remember she did couple of times. I think she did once chicken adobo and yes it was very good!

Chel:

I love his pasta and salad! I look forward to cooking him more dishes.

Hope you guys enjoy this Q&A. Spread the love!

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