I love you because we are so different in our similarities.

February 11, 2021

Azra and Emir have been together since 2018, although they have known each other since 2012. This Valentine’s Day, they will be celebrating what matters to them most: the beginning of a new family, based on what makes them both different and similar.

We met during an internship program in Vienna, in one of the banks in the city center. We are of similar age and I was coming from a town just half an hour out of Vienna and Emir lived already in the 16th district of Vienna with his family. We were each attending university and in 2012 we had to complete internships as part of our education.

The first impression they had of each other was of just how similar they were. They couldn’t help but think that the HR person has selected them because they fit the exact same profile: spoke 3 languages (German, English, and their native Turkish), were studying economics, had completed a semester abroad ( in their homeland of Turkey) and had ambitions to have a career in the banking industry. Also, they were both quite skilled with customer service and sales and had previous short internships in other banks. And to top it all, they were both ambitious, attractive ( they both agree), and enjoyed wearing a suit to work.

They were the only interns of Turkish background in the program and somehow they had managed to also get allocated to the same bank office, which meant they would see each other day in and day out at the first desk, as customer service, for almost the entire summer. They bonded on the spot, but within weeks, their close connection was starting to get slightly disturbing to their colleagues.

I always knew Emir was a more playful, fun person, especially knowing him also outside of work. But at some point, we clicked and he started, so to say, courting me. But this happened also to affect his focus at work. Simply said, he was trying a bit too hard to get my attention and he was not so focused on the customers he was talking to. There were some complaints from some customers, also confirmed by the work colleagues, and by the middle of the internship, we were offered different placements. I got a back-office position in a different town and Emir got to be assistant to an asset manager.

Back then it felt like the company was disturbed by our relationship and couldn’t deal with us as we were. I remember some colleagues said we were too much and even too Turkish. It felt racist. But now I realize how complicated it must have been for them to invest more time in us as interns. In the end, all remorse is gone and I still work for the same bank, says Emir.

But as easy as this was for Emir to accept, for Azra it turned to be more complicated. For starters, her family was disappointed that she now had to do such a long commute every day, because they considered it to be a danger for her to be gone out for so long. So in the end her father was driving her to and from work every day, which created quite some tensions. Secondly, they understood that the entire story was somehow related to a boy and they were not quite prepared to see their daughter waste her future. And also, this boy didn’t seem like good news if they got Azra demoted, as they considered it. And so the family intervened and Azra was set to end her friendship with Emir and focus on her studies and career.

It was a sobering experience for me, I must say. First, because I always imagined that, as we were both Turkish and so similar, I didn’t think our families would be so different. Mine had quite a modern approach to relationships, but Azra’s family was quite different and had very particular struggles since they had moved to Austria. It felt to me that we were meant to be and then, quite suddenly, she didn’t reply anymore and just broke the connection off.

Azra always valued family above all and she would have never taken decisions to upset her parents, who had sacrificed so much for her future in Austria. And so the years went by and they each finished studies, got employed, and moved on with their lives. Until 2018, when everything changed. Emir was working for the same bank and it just happened that Azra’s family was looking into getting a credit loan. And their adviser happened to be Emir, who initially didn’t make the connection because the family name was quite common. Azra’s mother was very impressed with how polite and competent he was and asked Emir, as a match-maker, if he would like to meet her daughter, who happened to be young, Turkish, and single.

I had a bit of a shock when my mother gave me the business card of Emir and said that I should contact him because he was a nice man. I couldn’t even start to explain that he was the same person who got me in trouble all those years before. It felt like fate and I didn’t really mention to my parents that I knew him from before. When I called him he was so surprised, we agreed to meet the very next day. I did find him changed in lots of ways, more focused and more responsible. I actually think I liked him more in our “adult” first date than in any of our “teenager” conversations.

Now they are starting their family and, having traveled such a surprising path, they understand that even cultural values are not universal and that they still have a lot to learn about how to overcome their own cultural biases. Yes, they are very similar, but they are also so very different, and both of these because of being Turkish living in Austria.

I think in the end I just love how different we are in our similarities, it makes us so much better as a couple to share so many common traditions but also to have so many challenging discussions about what we value and why.

We at YC wish you all the best!