Ganjkhanloo: My culture, of course, is very different from the one Julia grew up in. The biggest thing that was hard was our values. We had to try to align our values. The kind of relationships Julia has with others is one example. In Iran, for example, my girlfriend would never go out with another guy for a coffee or touch my friends when greeting them—it just wasn’t done. But here, it is, and I had to accept that this culture is this way and there’s no problem with it.
Kwai: Were there also things Julia needed to get used to?
Ganjkhanloo: Yes, there were some things that were hard for her, too. For example, when she went out, the clothes she sometimes wore were a little hard for me to get used to. But in Germany, it’s normal. She was willing to compromise and not wear certain clothes that I might not like.
The Iranian culture is very family-oriented. So naturally, I had to make a lot of time for my own family, who are still in Iran, to talk with them, chat with them, and this was new and sometimes strange for Julia.
Kwai: What do you both connect over?
Pichl: We have the same ethics and moral beliefs and a similar worldview. His [view] is more left than mine, but when I’m done with university maybe I’ll be like that, too. And also his character, he’s very tolerant, he wants to help people, and I do as well. We want to do something with purpose. We’re looking for the same things, like a family, and we both want to travel.
Ganjkhanloo: When we were first getting to know one another, the first thing I told Julia was that I don’t believe in any god and that I’m not a part of any religion. My only god and judge is my own conscience. She feels the same way. Our touchstone, our god, the framework for our life is humanity. Humanity and only humanity.
Kwai: Why do you think that both of you are this way, despite your differences in cultural upbringing?
Ganjkhanloo: Because we’re similar and our thinking is similar. Here’s a funny example: Since I was young, I’ve been attracted to blonde women with light eyes, and Julia, since she was young, has been attracted to guys with dark hair and eyes.
Kwai: Have you introduced Julia to your parents on Skype, or do you have plans to?
Ganjkhanloo: Not yet. But once, she left a voicemail from my phone for them in Farsi. It was great. In the future, I definitely want her to speak with them.
Kwai: There are, of course, people with negative attitudes toward refugees. How do you feel about that sentiment?
Ganjkhanloo: My answer to those people is that less than 100 years ago, during World War II, many Europeans became refugees in various corners of the world. Today, it’s the opposite. Many people are running here from war.
Pichl: It’s terrible and I can see it. Before my parents met him, they were like that as well. They were worried. But they met my boyfriend and now they’re not so worried because they see it’s a person, it’s not a problem. They see [from] his example that he wants to integrate, he wants to work, he doesn’t want to benefit from the state, he just wants a better life. If more people had that perspective, they’d think differently.