About half a year ago a young Egyptian woman contacted me via Facebook, because she was looking for a native German speaker who also has some decent English skills. Of course at first I suspected some love scam or so, but I'm certain that this is not the case. She studies English and German and students are encouraged to look for some native speaker to practice their skills. Despite the fact that we've only exchanged a few voice mails (to help her with pronunciation), I think we have established quite a good friendship by now and we're equally fascinated by each other and by our cultural differences. (At one point she even put a screenshot of our conversation in her WhatsApp status.) There's nothing romantic about our relationship.

She is 21 years old and a practicing Muslim. As far as I can tell, she's quite tolerant towards other religions and she seems to appreciate conversations about personal faith. She has many siblings and I must assume that her family is to be considered "upper class".

After a while we both started sharing some personal pictures and information, and this is where we get to the core of my question. So far I've received one picture of her niece, one picture of her home (showing little more than a field), a few pictures that a friend of her created and a set of postcard-like pictures of the town where she studies. I also see her status pictures in WhatsApp occasionally showing friends of her. On the other hand, about once a week I send her one or two pictures that I think might be interesting for her: Our Christmas tree, our kids playing in the snow, a milking machine at a farm that we visited, some castle or historic building that we went by, a frozen soap bubble, a polling station, a radar trap, a classroom - things like that. With the exception of my kids, it's nothing really personal, though usually there's a small story behind those pictures which I'm willing (and regularly asked by her!) to tell.

What I'm trying to achieve is basically her doing just that: Sharing some small fragments of her life, her routines, her place, her traditions - anything. Of course, there's always the option for me to simply ask, but I don't want this to be an interrogation and I prefer to let her choose what she wants to share with me. (There is nothing specific I want her to share, though. For example, I'm not specifically looking for a picture showing her.)

Let me elaborate a bit more on this:

Except for the very beginning of our friendship, there's two things we talk about quite frequently and intensively:

  1. Impersonal topics, such as politics, language, science and so on.
  2. Things in some way related to me and my life.

If things weren't going so well, I probably wouldn't care, but as a matter of fact, I'm interested in the person I'm talking to.

Especially when I was younger, people often accused me of only talking about myself while showing no interest in others. I must admit that most of the time this was because I simply had no interest in others. This is different! It's not about showing interest in order to be polite, friendly or whatever - this is one of the (rather rare) occasions where I actually am interested and I'm not really sure how to show it, because there's a huge cultural barrier between us and my social skills aren't generally good, anyways.

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    I don't understand, isn't this already what she is doing?
    – Ael
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 13:47
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    Do you know if the talks you're having with her at this stage are still a part of her assignment/education, or has that been finished? In other words, is she now talking with you because she likes the conversations too, or is she still just fullfilling the criteria of her education? I think whether the conversations are by choice or part of her education can influence a lot about how 'easy' it may be to ask someone to share more.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 16:50
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    @Tinkeringbell That's a very interesting question. Truth is, I don't know for sure, but I think she really enjoys our conversation even on a personal level. At a few occasions she asked me if she's allowed to share some of my pictures with friends and she never gets tired telling me how gorgeous my daughter is, for example. Besides, in order to fulfill any educational requirements, I suppose she needed to do much more of the conversation in German. So, let's just assume that she does have a private interest in the conversation, though I'd appreciate hints on how I could "verify" that.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 17:50
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    It does appear to be contradictory to say there's nothing romantic about our relationship while focusing heavily on getting closer. If someone pursued me to get closer and still insisted that those advances are not romance or sex, I'd think they're lying to me or to themselves. Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 15:46
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    @YosefBaskin I got your point and I've given this some thought, because yes, I've been there, indeed! However, my emotions are more like that of an uncle, a much older brother, a godfather, a teacher, a master, a guardian... None of those fit perfectly, but you should get the idea. This woman seems to be looking up to me, perhaps even adoring me. While I am of course flattered by this, this kind of relationship is an absolute no-go to me when it comes to romance or sex! It's not something I secretly wish for but deny it because it's immoral - it's something that's simply not there.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


Ask her to share something after you've shared something. Keep the request vague, like if you just sent a picture of a cool building, ask her if there are any interesting buildings she's seen lately. If she describes a building, simply say you'd love to see a picture of it. There's no pressure in that, you're only expressing interest, and it's easy for her to simply never have a good occasion to take a picture of the building. That approach has always worked well for me.

If you do this regularly and she still never shares, then she's probably not interested in doing so. The way you stay polite instead of pushy is by expressing your interest only occasionally and focusing on that instead of an action on her part, e.g. "oh that building sounds cool, I'd love to see a picture of it" rather than "oh you should take a picture of it so I can see". Note the complete lack of the word "you" in the first sentence. You're expressing your feelings without telling her to do anything or giving her any reason to be defensive. If she's interested in sharing pictures, she'll start to do so. If she's not, she can escape it with conflict.

It's also possible that she prefers to write text over taking pictures. I personally have a friend who enjoys taking videos of things (such as his pets being silly) and sending them to me. I never reciprocate because I don't have any interest in taking videos, but I do send pictures and texts. So it could be she doesn't send many pictures because she doesn't take many, but she'd be happy to share about her life in other ways.

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