"For us, it was an inverted slope"
Meet Mickey and Philippe.
We chatted with them on a Sunday evening over a video call.
They are a quirky Eurasian couple (European & Asian).
Mickey comes from Taiwan (though she was born in Brazil of all places), and Philippe comes from a rural town in France.
These two are also the uncommon match of a finance person with a creative. But they share a mutual love for surfing, and they've been together for an impressive 6 years.
Here's their full story:
Naturally growing into each other
Mickey and Philippe met through a mutual friend while living in Ireland.
They were invited to the same 007 Casino Royale themed Christmas party, so they first saw each other very well dressed in black tie.
Philippe thought Mickey stood out. For Mickey, it was not quite love at first sight.
So Philippe found himself friendzoned in the beginning, but Mickey wasn't in the right mindset to even think about romance anyway. She was on a working holiday visa with an expiry date to leave Ireland at the end of one year, so she wasn't looking for anything serious.
Still, she couldn't help noticing Philippe's kind heart and the way he helped her during difficult times without an agenda.
One thing led to another, and they eventually started to date.
In case we didn't already know Philippe worked in finance, there would be no doubt from how he described their dating history:
P: "I think that's the summary of the relationship, we naturally grew into each other. My view is you can start full on with "I love you baby" and disclose this to the world - that would be the peak and then it would slowly go down. For us, it was an inverted slope. Starting slower, building up the friendship, and moving on to the rest."
The Big Asia Trip
One of the pivotal moments in their relationship was their first big trip together which also happened to be Philippe's first time in Asia.
Besides the usual sightseeing, they had back to back weddings to go to in Malaysia and Taiwan, meaning Phillippe would dive head first into the local culture. He didn't know anyone and didn't speak language, but his openness to all the experiences showed Mickey he could be fine.
This was also the first time Mickey had taken a boyfriend home to meet her family, who were more on the traditional and strict side.
P: "It took a while. When I first arrived they showed me 'my room' meaning 'this is where you will sleep'. They weren't very chatty to me, so I was thinking this is going to be a longggg week.
But I won the heart of Mickey's grandma by taking her to eat pancake and ice cream, she likes sweet things.
I worked my way to the others. 5 years later I get to sleep in the same room as Mickey."
M: "Now hes my dads favourite, my dad likes him more than he likes me!"
Meeting the Asian standards, Philippe noted his stable work at a well known company helped put her dad at ease. Both agreed it would have been much more difficult to win favour if he didn't have a "good job" or "stable income" according to asian standards. Luckily, he could tick dad's list.
A mesh of cultures
When it came to introducing Mickey to family over in France, they found no objections, but instead there were language barriers.
Philippe's parents don't speak English, along with many people from his hometown. This continues to be a challenge for Mickey especially during the holidays where long dinners and gatherings are plentiful. Since Philippe's parents are divorced they also end up having Christmas dinner twice, with each day being a marathon of food. While Mickey admits the endless food can be overwhelming, she has gotten into the French wine and cheese culture. In fact, she joined our video call already with a glass of red in hand.
To close the language gap, they've tried learning each other's languages, but have found it to be an incredible challenge.
Philippe attempted traditional Chinese in the past but with his demanding finance job, it's difficult to allocate enough headspace and time for such a big feat. He still enjoys picking up a new word or two whenever they visit Taiwan. Whereas for Mickey, she feels like it's more important to learn French for his family.
M: "Whenever we visit France for Christmas, I can't really communicate and I really want to. I can see they do too. But its so frustrating - French is just too hard!"
In the meantime, they've created a hybrid language of sorts.
P: "We developed a new language, with one or two words of Chinese or French... it becomes a mutant language!".
In discussing other things different between their two cultures, they mentioned one cultural norm Mickey had to adapt to that was very distinctly European.
M: "The french manner is so different to Taiwanese - like we don't do the European kiss. In the beginning I was like 'I just met these people, this is so uncomfortable!'. But now, I've become fine to do it when I'm in France."
Both cultures also share the love of good food, but enjoy it with two very different approaches: Basically Taiwanese people snack every two hours, and now think about French fine dining.
When asked whether it's important for their partner to be interested in their culture, they respond slightly differently.
M: "YES! 100%"
P: "At least stay open. For example, Christmas, it's an establishment... It would be more important if she didn't like his friends, rather than french culture."
For Mickey its more about having respect, especially as Taiwan has historically had its problems with China.
P: "I now preach about Taiwan to others".
Calling out the bad reputations
Living in London, interracial relationships are fairly common but we explored whether Mickey and Philippe has ever felt judged by others on their relationship.
For Philippe, France is a diverse country with a well integrated Asian community. However, he does note there could be more tension when dating other ethnicities linked to France's colonial past.
While Mickey lived in Australia, she recalls encountering racism. And though she doesn't like to admit it, she sees that sometimes with a white boyfriend, it does makes things easier. However, there are situations where she has felt people see them in a certain negative light.
Mickey gives an example of a landlord that frustrated her by implying that Philippe was paying all the rent between them. While we did speculate on whether the landlord's comments may not be based on race and could be linked to gender or career stereotypes (Mickey as the artist and Philip in finance) - either way, it's not acceptable.
Back home in Taiwan, there's a certain perception that comes with dating foreigners.
M: "If you were a girl dating a foreigner, sometimes you would be labelled, and some labels aren't great.
People would assume you meet in clubs, nothing is wrong with it but its often portrayed in a negative way in Taiwan, so you’d be judged as a certain type of girl if you date foreigners. But nowadays people have cared less, because there are more of them."
Philippe calls out the expats that is making a bad name and reputation for all foreigners visiting Taiwan.
P: "So its down to the attitude of expats... and it would mainly be down to me if we were in Taiwan, I would speak more Chinese.
If people stay in expat groups, you won't break this pattern. But if someone showed interest in the actual culture, you can help to break this stigma."
To wrap up our chat, we asked what was the favourite thing about the other person - they surprised us with a long pause!
M: "I just normally don't give compliments!
He's such a confident person by nature so I need to bring him down to earth... He is very caring and pays attention to everything, even the small things".
For Philippe's answer about his favourite thing about Mickey was:
P: "she is sparkly - a fun person".
Love that description Philippe.
📺 Currently watching: The Crown.
✈️ Next travel plan: They were going to Costa Rica for Christmas. But COVID travel restrictions didn't allow it to happen in the end. Nevertheless, they had a laugh about it as you can see from the photos here!
🍦 Favourite ice cream flavour: Mickey's is matcha and mango. Philippe's is unknown.