Last June, during the Covid pandemic, Andrea graduated from the Erasmus University College in International Relations and International Law studies. The circumstances did not allow her to meet with Ehsan. “Due to the situation in Iran, Ehsan was also unable to visit me. Up until today, he hasn’t set a foot in Europe because they always rejected his visa applications. Besides this, I was unable to find work. Out of a hundred applications only one company invited me to an interview. All in all, I just found myself feeling rather miserable”, Andrea shared.

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No romantic proposal

After a while, the couple still managed to reunite, but this time in Turkey since the country was then open to travellers. This is when it became clear that the only way forward would be to get married and move to Iran. “There was no romantic proposal story, we kind of agreed on it while we were together in the car. There was no ring, no fancy setting, but it was very honest and that’s the most important part”, said Andrea.

Image credit: Own archive

The couple also wanted to be respectful towards local traditions: “In Iran having a relationship is not common, so it brought some peace to Ehsan’s family to know that we were actually going to get married”, Andrea stated. Finally, in January 2021, Andrea married Ehsan and moved to Iran. “We had a wedding in Istanbul under Turkish civil law which is easily recognised in Belgium. Then we had to also do a religious marriage in Iran for it to be legal here. It took three months to complete everything”, said Andrea.

Male shop owners

Moving to Iran meant that Andrea had to adapt to the culture and tradition, while maintaining her background and individuality. It took some time to get used to it: “For example, Ehsan has a rug company in Iran. It is definitely a passion we share, so we decided to work on this together. His company is located in the Grand Bazaar of  Tehran, the capital of Iran. Traditionally, 95 percent of shop owners are men, but I decided right away that if he’s going to work, I’m coming with him. I was welcome, but this was seen as something unusual, I guess there are some different expectations anyway. I do not want to use the word social pressure, but there was definitely something I felt”, stated Andrea.

She always said that she did not want to become a traditional housewife. She did not change her mind completely but became more open and respectful towards the idea. “Maybe in the past I thought being a housewife was just boring, I thought I could do more than that. But then I started being more and more amazed by what I observed. How can these women effortlessly keep their houses clean all the time, put the delicious food on the table? I started respecting this more”, she said.

Some of the lifestyle changes Andrea observed came as a bit of a culture shock. “For example, It is customary here to slaughter a sheep for newlyweds as a sign of good fortune. We had one in our garden. Half of the meat was served to the family and the other half was given to the poor. I know I would never show these pictures to my mother because she really would not like it”, she laughed.

Andrea was also quite surprised to see that locals do not spend as much time on hard work but prefer to relax more. “This is not something I was used to. I can see a benefit to it, but at the same time I caught myself thinking that everybody is lazy. On the other hand, you don’t have the insane rate of burn-outs, depression and loneliness you see in the Netherlands.” Andrea shares stories like these with the readers on her personal blog. “I do not want to be ‘your average travel blogger’, who tries to convince you Iran is the most awesome place on earth and that everything you thought or heard about it is wrong”, she writes.

Emphasis on community

All in all, this life-changing adventure taught Andrea a lot of valuable lessons. The sacrifices she made took her to the place where she wanted to be. She is now enjoying married life and finding happiness in simple daily routines, as well as building a business together. “We live in a society that tells us that we are capable of doing anything, achieving anything. And there’s obviously truth to that, but going through all of these challenges together with Ehsan probably made me realise that you cannot do everything alone. Iran showed me that the general emphasis on the community rather than on the individual can be very comforting. I don’t want to do it alone anymore.”

Do you want to know more about Andrea’s life in Iran or her rug business? You can find her blog here

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