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:
- Impersonal topics, such as politics, language, science and so on.
- 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.