Migrants, Multiculture

¡Hola! Do you speak amor?

Despite the cultural differences between British people and Latin Americans, an emotion exists that is universal for everyone.


Ramón Lafée


Laura is a Colombian who has been living in London for nearly three years.  A sound engineer by trade, she spent the first months doing a variety of different jobs until finally getting an offer in a sound studio.

Due to her new responsibilities Laura didn’t have much free time.  She did, however, manage to take a break from her duties and every Wednesday night would go to a little hobby shop near Waterloo station. Here she played board games, a love of hers since she was a child, in sessions organised by the shop.  Destiny wanted her to meet Matt, an Englishman who worked there.  Despite the little time that they spent together during game demonstrations in the shop, they discovered that they had a lot in common and, as they say, love did the rest.

“Beyond the simple attraction and chemistry between them, their cultural difference, rather than being an impediment or a limitation, was a source of mutual curiosity and was a means of getting to know more about one another.”

Laura’s case and that of many Latin Americans who have had a relationship with English people show us that love has no barriers or language, and this is even truer in a city as multicultural as London.

For previous generations of Latin American immigrants, having a relationship with someone who wasn’t Latin American was perhaps a taboo.

But what is a norm for one generation, is an antiquated precept for another.

Nowadays, young Latin Americans in the United Kingdom accept relationships between races and cultures as part of the modern and multicultural world in which they live, without any kind of prejudice. For many Latin Americans, having a relationship with a “native” (British) person is even a symbol of pride and status.

For Laura, going out with an Englishman didn’t only change her relationship status but also increased her circle of friends extensively.

“My friends had always been Latin Americans like me.  The idea of having British friends was something very complicated because of the existing barriers and, above all, because in my daily life I didn’t come into direct or constant contact with any British people.

But once I began to go out more seriously with Matt we went out with his friends, and from then on I was accepted within his group and finally by his family,” says the young woman.  Laura’s case is that of many women, and in her experience, it is also the case of many men.

It is also interesting to note the physical attributes that British men and women look for in a partner.

A survey on a dating website about the physical preferences of English people indicated that English women prefer men with blue eyes, who have short dark hair in any modern style and are over 1.80 metres in height.  Their ideal man is one who shares the housework with them.  As for English men, a woman’s face is more important than her body, they prefer women with dark features, who have long, straight hair and, lastly, women who are younger than themselves.

However, Laura and Matt are outside the parameters mentioned in the results of the survey. “In matters of the heart there are no strict rules.  You never know who you may fall in love with and you generally end up falling in love with the last person you’d have thought of,” declares Laura.  Matt smiles showing that he agrees with her.

One couple that does fit into this survey of physical preferences and are fascinated by the coincidences is Leslie and Nick.

The “international love affair” as they call their relationship began as a discussion about a piña colada on El Agua beach on the heavenly island of Margarita in Venezuela.

“I was sunbathing on holiday on the island with my sister when the waiter brought a drink to this English guy who was also sunbathing on the chair next to ours.  We began to discuss which one of us the drink belonged to as we had both ordered the same one.  In the end we stopped talking and laughed about the subject.  He spoke perfect Spanish and was very nice, so much so that we decided to go out dancing that night,” recounts Leslie.

“I thought that I knew how to dance the salsa and the merengue, but when I saw how they danced in the clubs I knew that I still had a lot to learn”, says Nick, laughing.

“My sister told me that he was always following me with his eyes and that this was a good sign.  Apart from teaching him to really dance, in the days that followed I took him for walks all over the island,” relates Leslie.

After saying their goodbyes, contact by e-mail and video conferences began for several months that resulted in Leslie visiting the United Kingdom.  “By then we already knew that the affair was serious.  I was fascinated with London and, of course, Nick showed me the city.” That visit was what made Leslie take the most momentous decision of her life: to leave her job as an accounts executive in a bank, to leave her family, friends and her life up until then, in order to move in with Nick.

“Leaving everything I had and starting from scratch was very frightening, seeing as my English wasn’t very fluent, but I was convinced that this is what I wanted the most” the young woman states.

It is now a year since Leslie arrived to live permanently in the United Kingdom and her experiences have been varied.  “The language barrier has been a big problem; I began learning English on a course whilst working as a sales assistant in a chain of shops in Oxford Circus.  The climate has been another issue and my first winter was terrible, but I still loved seeing so much snow in the city for a few days.  Despite everything, I am with the person I love and I am happy.”

Nick, an engineer who works for the London Transport System, admires his girlfriend’s tenacity.  “Despite how difficult the first months were, Leslie always stayed motivated.  That iron will is worthy of admiration.”

Nowadays the couple are thinking seriously about marriage.  Today Leslie confesses that the discussion about the piña colada was only an excuse to strike up a conversation with him.  They both drink a toast to the result.

Love in the café

Andrew and Andrea were another example of a case that didn’t need months for Cupid to strike.  “I can always remember that our names were the topic of conversation that broke the ice,” comments Andrea.  “His name is English and he’s from Chile, and I’m called Andrea, which is a name in Spanish.”

Andrea works as an accounts executive in an office in Canary Wharf.  Every Monday and Friday she would enjoy a coffee in a well known chain of coffee shops near her office.  She would always be served at the counter by Andrew.  “We always joked because our names mean the same and he has his in English and I have mine in Spanish,” states Andrea.

“I don’t know why I’ve got this name,” comments Andrew.

“I know that my paternal grandparents were English and I suppose it comes from there.  I knew Andrea by sight and the odd smile whilst I prepared her drinks.  One day I mentioned about our names and I made her laugh.  So at once I asked if she would like to go out with me sometime.  She always dressed very elegantly and, despite being almost the same age, I had been afraid to ask her out, but to my surprise she accepted.” “Our first date was to a Chilean food festival.  I mentioned it to her and she accepted because she loved cooking and discovering new culinary experiences.  I was pleased to show her the food of our country.  Over the following weeks we went out several times until I was “struck by Cupid’s arrow,” relates Andrew.

Today they have been going out for a month and are happy.  “He is very loving and always attentive.  Also, I am learning Spanish and I love the Latin American culture. I’m teaching him to cook.  I want to prepare a good Latin American meal to surprise his parents when he takes me to meet them,” Andrea commented emotionally.

The truth is that cases where love unites two different cultures are common.  We may be of different nationalities, languages or cultures, but variety is the spice of life and we all speak the language of love.

(Translated by Ruth Davies – E-mail: r.a.davies@hotmail.co.uk) – Photos: Pixabay

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