A lot of people have the experience of living abroad for some time. Some stay for a few months to study at a foreign university, others spent a few years abroad for a job and there are people that move permanently to be with their partner. I’ve interviewed a few people who took the chance to move to another country and I will share their stories. Today’s story is the one from 24-year old Marina who moved from Russia to Leuven to be with her Belgian boyfriend.
Marina moved to Belgium for a semester to study at the University of Leuven. But she didn’t meet her boyfriend until the last week of her Erasmus Program. ”We met at a party in a night bar in the city, the bar is called Seven Oaks.” The two of them fell in love and decided to be a couple, even though there is quite a distance between Belgium and Russia. ”We had been in a long distance relationship for about a year and a half before I decided to move to his country in August 2016. I wanted to finish my education abroad and like this, I could do both. Continuing my school and living with my boyfriend.”
When Marina left her country in 2016, she felt a bit weird, but overall very excited. ”I was mainly focusing on the fact that I was going to be reunited with my boyfriend and the fact that I looked forward to a new adventure. I didn’t fully realize that I wouldn’t return to Russia to live there.” Since she permanently moved to Belgium, Marina has lived with her boyfriend and his family. ”Being surrounded by Belgians all the time makes it so much easier to integrate into their society. One of the other things I’ve done to really be a part of the Belgian life is learning Dutch.” She started her language course right after she moved and she still takes those classes. ”The language is still something I struggle with. Right now my Dutch is at B1 level, but it’s very difficult to learn. Of course, people understand English almost everywhere, except for Brussels.”
Living in Belgium is quite different than living in Russia, so Marina runs into quite a few cultural differences. ”One of the things I’ve noticed is the fact that Belgians blow their noses in public places. In my country this just doesn’t happen, so you can imagine that I was totally shocked the first time I saw someone doing that. But right now I am used to it.” Another difference that Marina noticed is the fact that Belgians keep their shoes on when they enter a house, while Russians automatically take them off right away. ”In my opinion, immigrants (I call myself a legal immigrant) have to accept and integrate into the culture of the country they live in now. Not like bringing their own culture and traditions here. It is wrong. They have to appreciate the culture of the country which accepted them, gave them a job, better living conditions etc, therefore try to integrate as much as possible.” Marina tries to integrate by taking part in local activities and learning more about the culture.”I really like Belgium for so many reasons like the fact that it’s a trilingual country and the people are very friendly. The way of life, in general, is so much calmer and gentler, compared to Russia”
At this moment Marina and her boyfriend are living in Belgium and that’s where they would like to stay. ”First of all, my boyfriend and his family live here. And second of all, it is not too far from Russia, (2h by plane). I would love that my kids speak 3 or 4 (+Russian haha) languages freely and living in Belgium makes that a lot easier.”
Marina shared some advice for those who are considering to move to another country for their lover. ”Don’t be afraid! In the beginning, it might seem very difficult and it looks like you leave your home, your family and friends. But no… be open towards the future, new people, cultures, and traditions. You can always make friends all over the world (it is also a good opportunity to visit them / travel). Just do what your heart tells you to do, but always bring your brain with you. I would advise to fight for your love, your loved one and best future together. Good luck!”