Listen to four foreigners discuss the trials of romantic love in Slovakia.
The Na Slovensku Aj Po Anglicky podcast, with the support of Fjuzn, is continuing its series on the migrant experience with a new episode. This time we are talking about how foreigners find love and what they do to hold on to it.
Naturally, dating is the first place to start when talking about love for foreigners in Slovakia. Some foreigners come to the country already married or with their romantic partners, but many arrive single and looking for companionship. How, when, and where to find it, of course, is no simple matter.
While clubs and social events are still the mainstay for meeting new people, most foreigners come to Slovakia well versed in dating apps. “The first thing I did after moving to Bratislava, of course after unpacking my things, was install Tinder,” Aneta from Poland confessed. Luka from Macedonia, on the other hand, “dated two Ukrainian girls I met on the bus on the way to work.”
Just meeting another single person is perhaps the easiest part of dating. Communication, conversely, is the aspect of relationships, new or old, that causes the most trouble. For those dating, finding the right language can be challenging. Most agree that knowing Slovak can make dating much easier, but it is not essential.
English is the preferred language of many foreigners dating in Slovakia, but it too presents some difficulties. This leaves many foreigners sweating through dates while clutching their Google translate app. Sadly, this was the case for Aneta, whose date went into overtime while watching a football match with a less-than-fluent English speaker. “That was the longest game ever. It was a dreadful time,” she lamented.
If one is lucky, these dates can turn into meaningful relationships. This often leads to marriage, but it is not a decision to be taken lightly. In an instant, the course of one’s life can be permanently altered. At a fundamental level, it is a guarantee that at least one partner must live in a foreign country.
For Rida from Sudan, this was perhaps the greatest challenge in his marriage. His parents found it difficult to accept that he had married a woman (a Slovak) from another country. This put a strain on his relationship with his mother and father. Fortunately, after a year, he could speak with them again, while they had a change of heart after a video chat with his new wife. “They immediately changed their mind when they saw how supportive she (his wife) was,” Rida confessed.
Again, as with dating, communication is the foundation of marriage. Rida had long discussions with his future wife about his culture and his faith as a Muslim. This allowed them to marry with a clear understanding of each other, and they have continued this dialogue successfully for nearly 20 years.
Unfortunately, this recipe for marital bliss is not always followed successfully. People change over time, and a move to a foreign country can precipitate a slow dissolution in shared goals. This was true for Mark from the US, who found that his personal development began clashing with his Slovak wife’s adherence to long-held expectations. This lead to many conflicts and eventually a request from Mark’s wife to end the marriage.
Divorce is a traumatic experience for all parties anywhere in the world, but it can truly upend the lives of migrants. Many have their residency tied to their marriage, which can leave them vulnerable to immigration troubles. The matter is further complicated when the couples have children. Parents can be separated from their children by international borders. Many foreigners may not have strong language skills or knowledge of the legal system to fight for more rights in custody in battles.
Fortunately, Mark and his ex-wife could come to agreements in their divorce that were satisfying for both of them. When asked about advice for foreigners facing divorce, he said that “the last thing you need is to have this battle over custody, threats, and money. You need to be able to communicate on a practical level for the sake of your children and yourselves.”
Love finds a way
This is not the end of Mark’s love story, however. Not long after finalising his divorce, he fell in love with a Slovak woman. Since then, they have built a relationship on mutual goals and sound communication. They now have a child together, and last year they had a modest wedding. Love always finds a way.
Guests: Rida Ramzi, Mark Manney, Luka Brasi, and Aneta Czyszczon