Monday, June 24, 2013

Advice for other intercultural couples

(Our 2nd wedding - indo-western style)

7.5 years & 1 kid later...looking back, what advice would I give to other intercultural couples?

If you think you've found your soulmate on this earth...and he just happens to be from a completely different culture - with different customs and a language barrier?

Guess what...IT'S NO BIG DEAL!!! 
Every marriage takes work, compromise and commitment. But intercultural relationships are on another level.

(2010)

Here's some advice for people who are just starting on this wild ride:

1) It's never boring!!! That's the good news. There's always something to learn about. It's such a flavorful way to live life.

(visiting Washington, DC, 2007)

2) There will be lots of misunderstandings. Get over it. Accept it. Keep communicating.

(Me in Salwar Kameez - I would never wear this color combination in Canada, but in India - it works!)

3) Immerse yourself in your spouse's culture (and have fun doing it). Learn about everything. Read books. Watch movies. Listen to them as they conversate. Visit their homeland at least a handful of times. Observe the customs. Watch closely. Ask questions (my mother-in-law thinks I'm the biggest question-asker!)
Examples -
"Why do you touch the elder's feet?"
"Why do you not call an elder by their given name?"
"Why do you not openly say boyfriend/girlfriend?"
To make an effort to understand their culture is to respect it.

4) Their culture's way of dating is probably completely different than yours. Plus, a couple will have their own pace of dating based on that mixture of the individuals.

(Us in Venice...note the Indian staring at us in the background!)

5) Get used to people staring. It gets worse when you have kids!

(Valentine's day 2011 - I cooked mirchi bhaji, aloo fry, and kheer)

6) Focus on strengthening your relationship so it is unbreakable. Everyone else will come around.

(our feet, wedding day 2011)

7) If your spouse's family doesn't approve of you - be patient. You're not going anywhere. Don't let it stress you out. They probably just don't approve of the idea of you. Your spouse's family is not your problem - let your spouse handle them.


(visiting cousins in Seattle, 2011)

8) Don't let your cultural differences define you. Accept and admire each others differences.
There are some fights that are mostly about differences in culture, but then there are some that are about goals, jobs, priorities, families, money, sex, personalities - know the difference.


(With my husband & his two best friends, our biggest supporters)

9) Have a support system. Everybody in your life should be rooting for your relationship. And find new friends who are in intercultural relationships who can really get it.


(Us and our perfect little daughter)

10) Fact: you're a foreigner. You will always be seen as a foreigner. Accept it and use it to your advantage. Any effort you make to understand their culture will be appreciated & raved about (example: Indian cooking or Indian dress). But you can play the "foreigner" card in situations that are unpleasant and you want to be left out of (example: family melodrama)

The one thing to beware of is that an intercultural relationship will not work if you care too much what other people think. You have to have balls to be in an intercultural relationship. Balls to deal with the stares and comments. Even from your own family members, if worse comes to worse. 
If you have the balls to stay in it, be committed to it & show it off proudly - then you'll be in it for life!

Only worry about you and your partner. Anybody else you cannot control. Don't waste one single fight over external influences such as your MIL, SIL, husbands family, friends or strangers on the street. It's not worth it. Don't give them the satisfaction. Some people will try to break you up, create drama, and make you upset. Only you will get satisfaction from the fact that whatever others do, can never affect your relationship.

Many (ignorant) people will assume that you will get a divorce, just because you're of different cultures. Every time anybody doubted our relationship, I said inside to myself, "I'll show you"..
When "old school" Indians think of westerners they think of a flashing billboard that says "divorce" just because the divorce rate is high in western countries. And I do know a lot of westerners who come from divorced families. But nobody in my family is divorced. I don't believe in divorce. My MIL still says to me "Marriage should be forever!" And I'm like, "duh! Of course!"

The cultural thing IS a valid excuse for a lot of miscommunications. There are deep cultural mannerisms that are deeply ingrained in the psyche. Those things you cannot change. No matter how frustrating it is, you have to say "it is what it is" and leave it at that.

(Our daughter's 21st day punyajanam)

It's not as hard as it seems. You don't have to choose one side or the other. A blended family is a wonderful family to have. Christmas does not fall on the same day as Diwali - do both! Have 2 weddings...it's more fun!

(Maya in Indian lehenga on her 1st birthday with Pati/Thatha)


Click HERE to read my article about the best marriage advice people have given me. This goes for all the intercultural peeps too!
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25 comments

  1. This is excellent advice. I can really relate...I am from Brazil and my husband is from Nigeria and we have 3 children. It is not as hard as everyone thinks!! Both our families opposed our union, esp the mothers. We are just like any other couple and we have so much love for each other. If I had listened to everyone's advice, I'd have made the worst decision of my life. I believe in love against all odds!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good luck to you, u have a beautiful family!

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    1. I totally agree...to NOT follow your heart is the worst decision one can make.

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  2. I love your advice for other intercultural couples. My boyfriend is South Indian and I am Caucasian, so we can relate well to your advice. From day one, we have had to blend our cultures and customs and although there's been a few bumps along the way, we both know that in each other we've found our forever. Best of luck with your beautiful family!!

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    1. Thanks for reading & I'm glad you liked it! Woo Hoo - another South Whindian couple! :D represent!!!

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    2. Yup my boyfriend and I are another South Whindian couple lol

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  3. Thanks for writing such a great post. I shared it with my better half as well (He's American, I'm Nepali). It really helped us deal with a rough patch.

    Wish you all the best for your journey. :D

    Love your blog btw. :)

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    1. OMG that makes me so, so happy...I'm so glad that you worked it out, I'm rooting for you two!
      Intercultural couples have so much more pressure than the average couples - with misunderstandings (if there's a language barrier), people staring and making comments, etc. It is not easy and it takes strength even in the most vulnerable of times.
      I'm so glad this post helped you. That is the exact reason why I write :)
      I love your blog and I've been reading it for a long time!

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    2. Thanks Alexandra. It's great to know you read our blog. :D

      We are currently facing a lot of challenges from within the family rather than outer forces. [A new blog post is in order ;)] Your post did indeed strengthen our resolve to not let that deter us.

      Thanks again for such a great post. We look forward for more.

      K :)

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    3. Thank you so much, I am so happy. I'll be reading your blog and waiting for your new posts!

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  4. I agree with everything you write on here 100% as I'm a non indian married to an indian man. One thing I think that we fail to do is take a moment to recognize and admire the bold move that our indian spouses made in deciding to be with us and make a lifelong commitment. As I've gotten to know indian culture through reading about it, spending time around my inlaws and their family friends, I can see that doing something like that for them is a HUGE deal and takes a strong person. I think it's a little bit easier as a westerner as we are all about individuality and personal happiness. Even if others may not agree or understand, they will at least respect a westerner going down a non traditional path if that's what makes them happy. As an indian, they are used to eyes always being on them and having to serve as a representative of their family--I would think it would be harder to be in their shoes in some respects.

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    1. Yes, I totally agree. It is the Indian spouses who are risking the most of all. They are so courageous and brave...and in some instances they have to deal with negative family members, and in all instances we have to deal with the constant doubting from others, even after marriage.
      The way my hubby was - putting me on the phone with his mother the first day - made me love him even more :) In many ways he is stronger than me. His confidence in me as his choice was something that nobody could argue with, and some family members sure wanted to! I've never had to deal with anything like that with my family, it would be really hard. Hat's off to them...

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  5. My daughter's thatha is coming to the U.S. For her 1 st bay (grandma passed away 3 years ago. :(...... I am both excited and a little scared. Guess we can hope for the best. I should add that ive met thatha when i went to get married in india, but having him come here means we will all have to adjust in some ways...and doing so without losing your identity is always scary. Just thought abt it after seeing your pic of your daughter with the grandparents.

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    1. That is so great, how exciting! Don't worry, it will be wonderful to be all together. There will definitely be some adjustments of course, but to have the sense of togetherness is so meaningful. Happy 1st birthday to your baby! xo

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  6. Reading your post is instilling positiveness in me. I am a south indian married to a north indian(punjabi)... yet we have so many cultural differences and hence have lot of fights over it :( last week was very painful as we have just returned back from visiting our in laws... we fought a lot and hurt us so much... we started thinking negatively about our decision to get married 3 yrs ago...but i must say, hats off to you for such posts and the adjustments u have made...that too being from an entirely different country... I will try to follow your advice... thanks..

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so happy you liked my advice.
      South & North Indian are like night and day, it almost feels like another country! You guys must have a lot of intercultural-isms, just like us too.
      Visiting the inlaws can be so stressful, just take some space and recover. It is very hard to deal with external pressures like that, and one always sides with one's parents out of defense.
      Intercultural relationship is hard at times with so many adjustments, but love makes it all worthwhile....Love is our #1 culture :)
      Remember, tough times pass, they don't last forever... and remember the reasons why you got together in the first place. Wish you two the very best, and lots of happy times to come...

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    2. Thanks Alexandra.... thanks for the advice... will try to follow it... but i have a question in mind since i read some of your blogs....it seems though only you have adjusted to indian culture like dress,puja's, giving your daughter an indian name etc... how much has your husband compromised? hope u dont take my question otherwise..

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    3. @anonymous - that's an excellent question! I'll write more on an in-depth on a blog post. Hubby probably had an easier time due to the fact that he was more Westernized before I met him, even though he had just left India. He is very different, and modern-thinking, and in a way I am more Indian than him! I think the biggest ways that he has adjusted is definetly with food; he is crazy about celebrating our holidays; he is very close to my parents and always helping them out; and also as a father he is more of a Western-style parent - he helps me out equally with baby care, which was conditioned in him since I was pregnant by attending each doctor's visit, prenatal class, and cutting umbilical cord, etc. He is very involved in caring for the baby - like diaper, bath, feeding, etc.
      It probably feels like I have adjusted more because I'm the narrator....LOL! I think I have more outward displays like dress, etc, while his is more inward.

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    4. Tats really good to know Alexandra.... looks like you two r "made for each other" couple... gud luck to you :)

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    5. Thanks so much....we try! :) Good luck to you too, I really hope things work out. Love is worth it...

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  7. I absolutely love your blog! I have been dating my boyfriend for two years and we are planning to be married. Your posts about the mother-in-law have been especially helpful. I am from the US and he is originally from Indore. Seeing another couple experiencing the same things with a strong loving marriage is very encouraging. I cannot wait to read more of your articles!!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so glad to meet you :)
      Aaaaah....the Indian MIL.....once you get her on your side, it's smooth sailing!
      When are you guys getting married? In the States or in India, or both?
      You'll make a beautiful bride!

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  8. Hi! I love your blog. Is giving me a lot of insights. I am born and raised peruvian living in the US and my boyfriend is indian living in India. We have a long distance relationships and he is moving to the US by end of year. Trying to plan with him how to meet my future MIL as she is suspecting. She knows we are close friends. Hoping for the best.

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    1. That's great! It will be lovely to be reunited. Don't worry about the MIL, if she thinks you're a friend she already knows ;)

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  9. Hi Alexandra,
    Hope you look into my mail and advice. And cheers for being a wonderful person

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  10. Wow! I love your blog and I found you by looking for answers to myself... I justo got marry with an Indian boy but in secret of his family! jeje well, I sent you my story thru mail.

    Thanks for the advice and for sharing your experiences for us to learn! Greetings from Ecuador

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