“There are still many taboos concerning binational couples“

Nancy and Nils with their daughter

Nancy Bravo Nuñez and Nils Günter, both journalists, are a Mexican-German couple living in Hamburg. They met in Mexico in 2000 when Nils was interning at the TV station Nancy also worked at. Nils still was a student at that time and attended a Spanish language intensive course at the University of Mexico.

What can broader society learn from binational couples?

NANCY: In my opinion, it’s still a taboo when nowadays someone sees a young binational couple that even want to get married. Some people thought that I only wanted to marry Nils in order to get a visa. I interned at Greenpeace, studied German and was already living together with Nils. We were in love and decided to get married. But this happened sooner than planned. Without the right residence permit we were often forced to separate ourselves geographically. And we were not willing to do that anymore.
We human beings are all equal, no matter what skin color, religion, social status, etc. The most important thing is that people understand, love and respect each other. These are the issues that broader society should take into account more often.

How do cultural differences influence your relationship?

NILS: I got access to a whole new and different culture. This is something special about our relationship. Before I met Nancy, I had never been in touch with the Latino community in Hamburg. I didn’t even know of their existence!

What is something “typical German” or “typical Mexican” about your partner?

NANCY: I say it’s typically German to plan everything and not to be spontaneous. Germans need to have the feeling that everything is safe, e. g. by buying many insurances to cover every risk. I also have the feeling that German society is a very individual society.
NILS: It is typically Mexican that little things are steamed up to a huge drama although they’re actually not that important.

Has your belief been an issue for your relationship?

NANCY: We have different religions. He is Lutheran and I am Catholic. We had an ecumenical wedding. Until now it hasn’t been a problem, as we believe in the same God. We respect one another’s opinion. Both of us take the religion in stride. We are open and don’t have to go to church every Sunday.

Nancy, was it more difficult for you to find a job despite having the same qualifications as your husband?

NANCY: Yes, indeed, in my opinion finding a job was a big problem. As I had to start from scratch without any language skills, that was very difficult. I felt cut down to the issue of language knowledge. All my other skills didn’t matter anymore and suddenly I was just a foreigner. Nobody cared about what it meant to start from scratch. I had the motivation, the skills and a profession. But the only thing that mattered was to be able to speak the language.
Although I wanted to work as a journalist, my first job was traffic census in the streets of Hamburg. Then I started to give Spanish lessons. The Spanish language was very “in” – everybody wanted to study it or was looking for native speakers. At the same time, I studied German. In the end I was able to produce my own TV show "Puerto Abierto" – a bilingual Latin program aired on cable TV in Hamburg. Unfortunately due to my pregnancy I had to put this project on hold. Meanwhile I have two good jobs. My dream still is journalism…

In what language do you communicate at home?

NILS: Now we communicate in both languages as both of us speak Spanish and German. We met in Spanish, and later on we switched and spoke in German.
NANCY: Yes, but since our daughter was born almost four years ago, we have been talking in Spanish again so that the little one can hear my mother tongue. This means: My husband speaks German to our daughter, and I only talk to her in Spanish. And the three of us together usually communicate in Spanish. If we’re alone, then we’ll only speak German.

Nancy, why do you speak Spanish with your daughter?

Nancy: I can sing songs to her that I liked when I was a little girl. I can tell her fairy tales that I loved to read. I want to pass on my roots and traditions to her, and the easiest way to do this is by speaking the language. There is no other way I could imagine it could work out. She is being taught a second language, and then she also can communicate with my family in Mexico. This is very important to me.

How do your parents accept your relationship?

NANCY: My parents always gave me free space. They respect my relationship and they agree with my marriage. They supported me when I told them that I was planning to leave Mexico to move with my (at this time) boyfriend to Germany.
NILS: My parents and friends were very open from the start and very excited about the new culture I would bring into the family. My parents stand behind us until today.

What are the advantages of a binational relationship?

BOTH: To be able to practice two languages! Moreover you can discover two worlds and are able to see the world through other perspectives.

Thank you very much for this interview!