Friday, September 6, 2013

Did I Westernize my Indian MIL?

(My MIL, beach picnic, 2010)

When you live in a blended, multicultural family as we do, you're bound to pick up some behaviours from your spouse's culture. It seems like the more time we all spend together, the more time we all blend to each others' cultural mannerisms. 

I've noticed this in myself quite a lot, as I've sort of transformed into this Indian Stepford wife, with picking up many little daily gestures like feet-touching and head wobbling, among many other things. It's kinda fun to see all the things we adopt from each others' cultures! It's never boring, that's for sure!

Lately, my Indian MIL - who is a very traditional Indian lady (from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh) has adopted a love for Western culture...who would have thought? She is definitely not the typical NRI anymore (who only talks to Indians & does everything as if she were still in India)

Each time she visits us, she loosens up a bit more from the role of the traditional Indian wife/mother by participating in so many different fun activities with me. At first she was always hesitant to try different things with me, but I keep pressing her to at least try - after all, if she doesn't like it, she never has to do it again. When my MIL first came to stay with us, she was nervous to even watch an English movie because she thought she wouldn't understand the conversation. She is always nervous to meet new people and she would rather stay at home than go out, which has been a real struggle. Also, she didn't understand the concept of just going outside and getting "fresh air" for good health (we Canadians live by this mantra) But once she comes out with me, she always has a great time. I don't ever want to change her dress or her personality, but when she comes to stay with me, my goal is that she has a lot of fun and gets to relax too.

Here are some random Western things my MIL is obsessed with:

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She is in love with Liam Neeson and Detective Stabler
My MIL has a big crush on both Liam Neeson and Detective Stabler from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She has seen every single episode on the entire 15+ seasons! She fell in love with Liam Neeson from his movies Taken and Unknown (she liked his Irish accent). I think she has a type! (Don't get jealous, FIL!)

(Img via)
She loves Keeping up with the Kardashians, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Big Brother
My MIL says she only likes to watch the shows where the characters are attractive - and out of all the Real Housewives series, she thinks the Beverly Hills ones are "the most slimmest and attractive" by her standards. Although she gets totally grossed out on the episodes where they show the plastic surgery getting done - she can't believe that some of these women are her age! She also really likes Big Brother because it's similar to Big Boss on Indian TV. And she loves the Kardashians because they are "more good-looking" and she thinks it's funny how the sisters fight with each other, but she pronounces Kardashian as "Car-DASS-yan"!

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She loves Woody Allen movies
I was actually surprised by this, because some of his movies can be really racy - if ya know what I mean! My MIL laughed so hard during To Rome with Love and she also loved You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger too.

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Her favorite author is James Patterson
No matter how many Indian novels I give her, she loves to read James Patterson mystery novels the best. She is addicted to the Women's Murder Club series - where a group of women solve the crimes.

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She likes mexican food...A LOT!!!
She is obsessed with having tacos and Burrito bowls. Once I introduced her to guacamole, she was hooked forever!!!

She likes to eat "outside food"
A lot of our Indian family prefer home cooked food because many of them are extremely picky vegetarian Brahmins. At first she used to complain about how many restaurants I used to take her to, but now she gets food cravings and asks me to take her to restaurants! 

She loves my gay uncles
I have two gay uncles who have been married for 10 years (since gay marriage became legal in Canada), and as homophobia is still rampant in India, I was a bit nervous as to how she would interact with them. I don't think she had ever met a gay person before (that she knew of!) She thinks my uncles are so hilarious, and they are big foodies too so they have a lot in common.

(After the first trip to the hair salon, 2010)

She likes to get pampered (secretly)
My MIL pretends that she doesn't, but she totally does!!! My MIL never went to a hair salon or a nail salon before I took her. She loves the massage they give at the salons and thought it was so relaxing. She thinks it is too costly because she's always doing the rupee conversion in her head - so she won't let me take her as often as I would like. My MIL sometimes refuses to go, but then she will want me to dye her hair with this Chinese hair dye that I use. She's always bringing beauty products back to India that I recommend for all the ladies - like Moroccan Oil shampoo (I'm the Indian family's beauty consultant!) She even wanted me to do her makeup last Christmas (the first time since her wedding day!) and she looked so pretty - even FIL said she should do it more often!

(Christmas with Maya, 2012)

She loves Christmas
Her favorite Western holiday is Christmas because she loves the family celebrations, the huge family dinners, decorating the Christmas tree and all the presents.

She loves girls' night's out
My MIL is the hardest-working member of our family - she does the work of 20 people, as well as all the delicious cooking - so sometimes I like to kidnap her and take her out for a fun girl's night out and leave the baby with husband-ji

Looking at the above list, she sounds so Westernized! Of course, my MIL will always be an Indian lady at heart, and I definitely wouldn't want to change that whatsoever. But it's sweet to see how she's also adopted & enjoyed many things from my culture too - even Christmas! Who would have thought? It is nice for our relationship, and it makes me open up to her too. I love seeing her having fun and being free - it lets me know that she is comfortable with me.

In our family, we all adapt to each other. Most of the time I have to make the first step with my MIL, but it is always reciprocated from her side too. She has really made an effort for me too, and I think she'll have no problem adapting to life in Canada, as my inlaws will be moving here in a few years.


What do you think, dear readers? For those of you in intercultural relationships - has your MIL adopted some of your culture too? What parts of your culture has she adopted?



  1. Mine is the stereotypical NRI. 30 years in the UK and only Indian food, Indian tv and Indian friends. The other day she asked why my white American mother didn't teach me how to cook Indian food. She also says she is going to teach me how to be an Indian wife. It's nice that your MIL tries to adapt for you.

    1. Ugh, I feel for you, girl. That is soooo typical. I swear 90% of NRI's are like that!
      I notice my MIL reverts back into her "Mother India" shell when she is having health problems. I try to keep her busy to keep her from being homesick, and most of the time I do let her be, if she wants to watch her Telugu serials, I just let her. Making an effort to include her in my daily activities, whether it is meeting my aunts or watching TV with me and discussing, has really helped. I feel like she wants to be included and she is happier when included, so she won't get lonely.
      Elder Indian ladies are notorious for their stubbornness though, and when I'm at my wit's end with her, I have even resorted to "guilt tripping" - sometimes I say, "I do everything your way in India, I've adopted so many Indian customs even outside of India, why can't you try just one thing?" and then she comes around.
      The biggest advocate, which I believe is the main reason why she is able to experiment more, is my FIL. He always encourages her to try new things, as he has lived outside of India for over 15 years. He has been a great support to me to encourage her whilst at the same time supporting her.
      It is almost near impossible if they don't have somebody like that.

  2. I warped my MIL a little. I have pictures of her wearing western shirts (which FIL laughed at) and my sunglasses. She started cooking some western foods that FIL loved too. She still does that even now that I'm gone.

    1. Awwww, that is so cute! My MIL hasn't started wearing Western clothes, but she loves to wear leggings with kurta's. She has only started to cook some pasta things this past year. Also she had to get some closed-toe shoes (flats) to wear in the winter.
      One time at Christmas, my mother made this carrot-turnip mash that is a family recipe, and my MIL took the leftovers and made samosa's out of them with ravioli makers! LOLLLL! :D

  3. Hi - My MIL would become American and do everything American in a heartbeat if she could. She is obsessed with the US. She loves Judge Judy and like your MIL, loves Law and Order - ALL OF THEM!!!

    When she visits she mostly wears western clothes and loves to get lots of products from Bath and Body Works and The Body Shop. She also takes bedding (a little ridiculous because of the size and weight) and pots and pans. One time she took a 52 inch flat screen tv, a blueray DVD and CD player back to India. My hubby hates that she buys so much stuff from here and spends so much money in junk.

    I think is mostly the fascination of bragging to people "I got this in America" "No one in India will have this and that"... She also said that the quality of things in the US is better including meats. She loves cooking non-veg here because of the quality of the meats.

    She likes to get in the kitchen with me and learn what I am making. For her kitty parties back home she cooks tortilla espanola and brags to all the ladies that "this is my bahurani's recipe" Oh well, as of me, the only thing that I do Indian is cook Indian food and I am damn good at it if I may say so myself :) I cook Indian food maybe once every 2 weeks. That is pretty much it as my husband behaves more American than me! He doesn't celebrate any Indian Holidays and loves to eat all sorts of different cuisines which I also cook. I don't wear Indian clothes as I honestly don't like them. The only time that I wore and Indian outfit and loved it was a heavily embroidered and sequined turquoise chaniya choli. That thing weighted a ton!!!

    Mille B

    1. Hahahahahaa!!! Judge Judy!! OMG our MIL's need to be friends! My MIL also likes the paternity test episodes on Maury! :D
      That is so funny that she takes all that back to India - her bags must weigh a TON!!! Does she come with very few clothes?
      I think it is the bragging too...the US does have an excellent selection of things, it is the best place to shop!
      My MIL has started trying to learn Italian food, so I think when she visits next I will take her to the cooking class I did with hubby for our anniversary.
      That is so awesome you're an excellent chef!!! Your husband is a lucky man :) What are your favorite dishes?
      Do you find some of the Indian relatives are shocked that you can cook Indian food? I've come across that a lot within our family. Sometimes they are shocked that I like Indian food lol!

  4. Your mil is so sweet. It was only 2 nights ago my husband and I were going to a wedding and my mil said that it would be fine to wear jeans as long as I am comfortable!! I laughed so hard. As if I was was going to miss out on the opportunity to get all dressed up in an Anarkali !
    I love how your mil likes woody Allen movies...very alternative ;-)

    1. Awesome, post pics! You would look great in an Anarkali! I love dressing up for weddings too :)
      I know, it's totally alternative for her to like Woody Allen! She has seen all of them! Who would have thought? Cute things like that I keep discovering about her :)

  5. I think you are slowly unleashing the woman your MIL wanted to be (without societal bonds) and that which could never be expressed because of social restrictions. *sigh* how many women were lost because of this :(

    1. It is true...I feel like she feels more free here because nobody is judging her. I also tell her all the time that nobody cares what anybody does, she feels more confident.
      A few years ago she came with my aunts & I to do folk dancing in the park, and at first she refused because she thought everyone would stare, she sat on the sidelines. But then, when she realized how much fun everyone was having, and that nobody was watching or judging her, she jumped up with us. We had SO much fun together. That's one of my favorite memories together.

  6. D's family was very sheltered and probably never thought they would have anyone Indian in their family.They some times try Indian food I cook but most of them say it is too hot for their standard. D's dad and bro are more open to try and they like spicy food. Other than that they are not very much exposed to anything Indian. Also because I am busy with my tests.
    In the beginning of our relationship D ate only a spoonful of any Indian dish I made. Now he loves many more Indian dishes.He craves for eggplant curry and papad. He thinks papad (Kichiya) are magic because they puff up as soon as I drop them in the oil.
    I feel like for many issues D has more Indian values than me. That might be because he is an old goose you know lol.

    1. It will take time, they will get slowly introduced to your culture, as people adapt and blend. Just wait, in a few years, they'll be eating & cooking more Indian food than you! ;)

  7. Hats off to you Alexandra. You have achieved the near impossible task of winning over your mil's heart - a job at which most Indian dils fail miserably.

    After nearly 17 years of married life, all I have managed is a kind of uneasy truce of the "you do your thing, I do mine and have only as much interaction as is strictly unavoidable kind".

    Am really delighted to read and see pictures of the wonderful time you have with your mil. You have worked really hard towards it and you deserve it fully. Kudos also to your mil for having made an effort to come out of her comfort zone.

    1. Thank you so much. I think I would have never been able to have a friendship with her if she had not made attempts to bond with me also. My MIL often says that "Indian MILs must remember they were also DILs once too" and for that I am very lucky. Although we are from different cultures we strive to include each other in everything. Sometimes I think because we are both Librans, our astrology must also work in our favour ;)
      It would have been very hard if my MIL did not want to build a relationship with me, or has seen me as unequal, or not part of the family. These types of MILs do so much damage not only on the DIL, but also on their own son.

  8. It is great that you and your MIL have such a healthy & respectful relationship with each other . It looks like you both put in effort as one has to in making any relationship successful. Also you come across as a really mature person who doesn't like to get into any power struggles and has a lot of empathy . Your MIL must be appreciating you more and more as she gets to know you better as any wise woman who loves their children would.
    I learnt to co exist with and tolerate my MIL for 22 years because I was so immature when I got married and our personalities just clashed too much. Reading your blog I wish I had been more patient and smarter in dealing with her , anyway too late for that now as she is no longer in our lives. Hopefully other ppl who read your blog can take all the positives from your life and relationships and use them in theirs to make it better as I will surely try to . Thanks for sharing !


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