Jacek Strakowski from Poland and Mai Usami from Tokyo have information technology to thank for bringing and keeping them together.
About six years ago, Jacek, who went to Australia to attend an IT college, encountered Mai, then a university student from Fuchu in Tokyo, at an English-language school in Sydney.
Mai stayed for only three weeks and returned to Japan. But the young couple continued to correspond through e-mail. Then Jacek moved to Japan three years ago and began working as an IT engineer in Tokyo and Mai got a job at a transportation company.
In January 2006, the couple held their wedding ceremony in his hometown of Szczecin. Living in Fuchu, they are now busy preparing for the birth of their first child in November.
What’s the secret to a successful long-distance romance?
Jacek: You should be honest and realize what you want to do. So what I wanted to do was to be together. The most important thing is to realize what you want to do in the future. After we had a goal, we tried to reach it.
Mai: We could continue our relationship thanks to IT, like e-mail and chat service. The technology did not make us feel that we were far away from each other.
If we exchanged letters only, it would have been difficult to continue (our relationship). I wrote a lot of letters to him, but he never replied (to my letters).
He sent me many e-mails though.
What food from your partner’s country do you like?
Mai: I like Polish soups like borscht and “zurek.” They are a bit sour. The taste is something I never had in Japan and new to me. Polish borscht is different from the Russian one. It has red beets. Zurek is a soup made of fermented rye flower and sausages, potatoes and boiled eggs.
Jacek: I like most Japanese food, except seafood. I like fish but don’t like “tako” (octopus) and “ika” (squid).
Mai: He likes home-style dishes like curry, pork cutlet, hamburger steaks.
What cultural differences have you found living with your partner?
Jacek: Of course, Asian cultures and European cultures are quite different. I think the biggest difference is, first of all, people’s culture. I mean people are kind. For example, quality of services is higher at convenience stores and McDonald’s.
Mai: I’m not so conscious of my husband being Polish and myself being Japanese. I mean differences between us exist not because we are from different countries but because we are a man and a woman. If there are two people, they should be different. I see differences between us every day, but I don’t take them as problems. For instance, he eats bread every morning, and I just think he likes bread.
What do you like or dislike about your partner’s country?
Mai: (The couple visit Poland once a year.) His family and relatives are friendly and open to welcome me. They like having (home) parties and they are cheerful. (What bothered me in Poland is) that some people in Poland don’t clean up after their dogs and that dogs are not leashed.
Jacek: I like the people’s culture (in Japan). I like Japanese food. Everything at least looks well made. Japanese people care in detail about things that they do. Life here is not easy, but we can earn balanced salaries.
(What bothers me is) the duality of Japanese people. On one hand, they are friendly and try to help. For example, during work, the relationships among people are really good. But after work, for example, on a train, people can be quite rude and don’t take care of other people.
Sometimes I was shocked (at such rudeness). (Adopting) a Japanese working style is “taihen” (difficult). I mean it’s long and not so efficient. It depends on people. (But) even when they don’t have urgent work to do, they stay (at the office) because everyone else stays.
What was your happiest moment after marriage?
Mai: We are expecting our baby. My due date is Nov. 8.
Jacek: More than two years have passed since our wedding. We planned to have a baby. Of course, we are happy, waiting for the baby.
How do you want to raise your child and are there any concerns about raising children in Japan?
Jacek: (Raising the child) is quite a big challenge, I think. Living in Japan, the baby will speak the Japanese language. We will try probably to teach our kid Polish and English.
Mai: I’m a bit worried if our child may be bullied because of his or her foreign features. I’d like to raise the baby so the child will feel positive about being a Polish-Japanese. We’d like to have a Polish name for the kid that is easy to call and sounds like Japanese.
What are the good or bad points about having a foreign partner?
Jacek: We are from different countries, so we can learn about each other’s culture.
Mai: I can have friends in foreign countries. When we travel in Europe, his knowledge helps me learn more about European countries. I can do so when we travel in Asia. We can help each other.
What is your dream?
Jacek and Mai: Like most couples, we’d like to have a good family life with kids. That’s common for everybody. In the future, when we have more time and money, we would like to travel. We’d like to go to Australia again.
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