Originally from Romania, Diana now lives in Cyprus with her Iranian husband.
Diana contacted us through Blogs of the World and we asked if she would like to be featured on People of the World since she has experienced such a variety of cultures in her life.
Thanks Diana for agreeing to the interview!
Was traveling or living abroad something you dreamed of when you were growing up in Romania?
I grew up in Romania while it was a communist country. That meant nobody was able to go abroad except for sailors and pilots, sports people for international competitions. All the other people who wanted to visit other countries were not allowed. People who wanted to emigrate risked their lives swimming across the Danube or crossing the border illegally. Many of them died in the process.
Later on, when communism was overthrown, even if the borders were open, not everybody afforded to travel outside and neither did I. I remember seeing a travel show on TV and the reporter saying something like “never think you won’t travel abroad” and I replied to him in my mind “yeah right”.
Slowly, slowly many people from my country started to go abroad and work, but I did not do anything to be one of them until one day my friend told me to go to an interview about a job in Cyprus. I passed all the tests, and I was so, so excited! I could not imagine how life in another country – an island could be like! I had googled the map of Limassol and saw all the streets and I remember the excitement of thinking I will see this and that street and especially live so close to the sea!
How did you make new friends after you moved to Cyprus? Are your friends in Cyprus mainly Cypriot or other expats?
Most of my friends after moving to Cyprus were work colleagues and themselves expats. The Cypriots are friendly people but mostly keep to themselves and would prefer to have less foreigners on their island.
I have a lot of Indian friends, as I am working in IT industry and many of my colleagues are Indian. Discovering such a different culture was interesting. Bollywood, high pitch songs, spicy food, traditions and festivals which are closely intertwined with religion were all part of my life for sometime. I do remember with pleasure Holi – the festival of colors, when everyone is throwing water and colors on each other, Raksha Bandhan – the festival when the sisters ties a bracelet to the arm of the brothers in remembrance of the blood bond they share, Garbha dance, Diwali – the festival of lights which we celebrated with our office colleagues with beautiful saris and lots of singing, dancing and even kids theater.
How did you meet your Iranian husband?
I met my husband while I was out with the girls celebrating a Romanian festival of spring (by coincidence it was the same day of the Cypriot carnival that year). We went to a restaurant and he came and talked to me and asked my phone number. From the next evening we kept seeing each other daily and soon we got married. I remember walking with him each evening on the seashore from the moment we came back from work until 2-3 in the night.
My husband gave me the opportunity to discover the Iranian culture as well. The love of life, songs, dancing, the help and support the Iranian people give each other in time of need, the hospitality and desire to make the guest feel like a king or queen while they are visiting, the politeness and sweet tongue of the Persian language, the strong family ties even with distant family members. It is something you cannot describe unless you have lived it. It was unexpected for me (with all the bad media going around about Iran). Soon I understood, the speeches of the government do not coincide at all with the ideas of the freedom loving Iranian people.
Did you face any difficulty visiting Iran? Was it how you expected? What do you like best about it?
I took a tourist visa to Iran because at that moment we hadn’t registered our marriage at the Iranian authorities yet. I traveled with my husband’s brother (I call him dadashi khoshghel – which translates as sweet handsome brother).
I have to admit I was a bit scared when I reached the airport (because of all the media), but soon to discover my fears were very much unfounded. I was particularly worried that they would know I got married and did not register our marriage.
I was not given any special attention by the airport authorities and soon met with my parents in law (I call them maman and baba – mom and dad) and the other brother (dadash kuchulu – sweet small brother). I feel so blessed that my Iranian family loves me so much as my own mother does.
On my visit there I had to respect the dress code imposed on all people: cover at least part of the hair and have a long blouse that covers your behind.
Well, I had never been to Asia, or a Muslim country so I did not know what to expect. I knew about the beauties of the architecture and art in Iran and did a thorough research on the places to visit while in Tehran (my husband’s city). But I was still surprised by the beauty of the mosques, about the intricacies of the mirror art, tiles, carpets, jewelry, hand painted boxes, so on.
I cannot forget when I first saw the inside of Emam Zade Saleh mosque with jade floors and walls and ceiling of millions of small tiny mirror pieces making beautiful designs. I had a feeling that I’ve come into a dream world or a fairytale world cause I could not think how one can imagine and build something as beautiful as this. Later I had the same feeling when I visited palaces around Tehran. And I am told I had not seen the best which is in Shiraz and Isfahan! I am really looking forward to going there again.
The best thing that I liked over there was the love of the family, their care and respect of my own culture and my desires. I actually felt they would go to any extent to make me comfortable and to give me anything I asked for.
Now you are expecting your first child (congratulations!). Is it important for you and your husband to pass on both your cultures? What will you do to share your cultures with your child?
First of all thank you! I was just thinking the other day, weather our child would be confused about belonging to one culture or another.
Grasping a culture is difficult unless you live in that country for a while, but I think we will instill in our child the best of the two cultures. We do have features and values from our cultures and more even from our families which we hope will pass to him or her.
I like about my husband’s culture that it respects family and women more than I have seen in other cultures. For example it is not respectful to stare at women, and one that would meddle in another’s marriage would be considered as a very bad person. They call young women daughters, there is no word for young woman, which shows the idea that a young girl is regarded as someone’s daughter and in this way respected. I would love our child to have the same respect and love for us as I have seen in Iranian families. I also like the unconditional love and respect that parents have for the children and support for their life choices. I was accepted immediately into the family as a daughter and had no problems with my soon to be parents in law!
I asked my husband what he likes about Romanian culture and he said he likes the fact that people do not “spy” on each other that much, he also mentioned the happiness and partying which he finds appealing. In Romania we have a way of making fun even of the problems, which I think is a good feature for one to surpass the hardships of life.
Do you plan to stay in Cyprus long term, or do you have another country in mind?
I love Cyprus for its wonderful climate, the beautiful blue sea and the easiness of life. I am not sure though it’s a good country to settle because of my profession and very limited opportunities for work. Also integration as a foreigner is very difficult and finally to do things done, Cypriots still rely on family ties and friendships, so an outsider would not have them. So probably I will have to part with this beautiful island and I will always miss it.
Thank you Lucy for the opportunity to give this interview on your lovely website. (thanks to you Diana!)
About the authorLucy