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A couple in a 27-year bilingual marriage shared their best relationship tips

Julia Pugachevsky   

A couple in a 27-year bilingual marriage shared their best relationship tips
  • Peter and Mika Fenn have been happily married for 27 years and have 2 daughters.
  • They lived in Japan and Australia, and can all speak fluent Japanese.

"Introducing…my parents," starts Sharnie Fenn's Instagram reel, which has since amassed over 48 million views. It's a simple montage of a family having fun together, but that's precisely what makes it so eye-grabbing: her parents are goofy and affectionate in ways that feel rare.

"When I was growing up in high school, I would hear my friends say, 'Oh, I have to do family dinner on Friday,'" she told Business Insider. "But for me, and I think for my sister as well, hanging out with Mom and Dad, it just was very natural. We just liked spending time with them."

Peter Fenn, her father, told Business Insider he met his wife, Mika, when she was living in the Gold Coast, Australia on a Working Holiday visa — one that allowed her to temporarily move there from Japan. They were introduced through a mutual friend.

"I'm a little bit kind of quiet and reserved as opposed to Mika, where she's a little bit more outgoing," Fenn told Business Insider. "That's what attracted me to her — she's what I'm not."

Their first dates involved exploring the Gold Coast's beaches and rivers, which were all new to Mika.

After a year, when her visa expired, Fenn followed Mika back to Japan, learning Japanese while he lived there. The couple married about eight to nine months later and had two daughters, who they raised in Japan and Australia.

Peter and Mika Fenn shared their best bilingual relationship tips with Business Insider, and Sharnie provided insight into how her parents' happy marriage influenced her.

Invest in language classes

Peter Fenn said moving to Japan when he was younger made it easier to learn the language.

"Just jumping off the deep end, you're sort of forced to pick it up," he said.

"You put a lot of work in there, Dad," Sharnie added. "I saw all the textbooks that you used to have, so he's very humble, but I think he studied very hard."

Both of their daughters were born in Japan, where the family lived for five years before moving to the Gold Coast. "When we came back to Australia, it was a priority for us to send them to a Japanese tutoring school, just to keep that bond with their grandmother and grandfather," Peter Fenn said.

Mika, whose interview with BI was translated from Japanese by Sharnie, added that she "loves that Dad has so much love for her family and for Japan."

Beyond keeping the family close, all four family members being fluent in Japanese has an extra perk: "It's awesome when we go to shops, because we can talk about people," Peter Fenn said.

Prioritize tight-knit family connection

Peter Fenn said that he's an only child and his family is spread out in Australia, so they don't see each other often. It was a contrast to Mika's family, who he considered "tight-knit" — something he wanted for his own immediate family.

"It was important for me to hang out and do things together," he said. "So for my wife and I, that was a priority." In Sharnie's videos, the family is frequently seen traveling, going to restaurants, and spending time at home together.

In addition to having fun as a family, Mika Fenn said that "respecting boundaries, being transparent, being open, and communicating" were all important qualities of a healthy marriage and family dynamic, which her husband echoed.

"It's important within a family to be open," he said. "It took us a while. It doesn't happen immediately — you have boyfriends and different things that pop up and you've just got to be able to talk about things."

Keep things lighthearted

Sharnie Fenn, who now lives in Japan, said she visits her parents about once a year, spending a lot of time with them when she does.

Part of what makes their time enjoyable is that they're always out and about on weekends, she said. Most recently, Peter and Mika Fenn attended an outdoor blues festival, where they "sat on the grass and felt really old looking at all the young people dancing," Peter Fenn said.

"Just being with him all the time is really fun," Mika Fenn said.

When asked about the secret to keeping things light in their marriage, Peter Fenn said it happens naturally.

"I'm not going to try and pretend that I know everything or I have any profound advice," he said. "Every morning I wake up, I'm surprised my wife's still with me. I just try and make her laugh and make her life easy, because I know I'm a handful."

Sharnie Fenn said her parents' marriage positively influenced her expectations of romantic relationships.

"I often looked to my parents' relationship for guidance, though it took me a very long time to be able to replicate it or to find the kind of real love and respect they have for each other," she said. "I'd be lucky to recreate even half of what they have together."

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