Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Jocelyn & John


Jocelyn writes an amazing blog - Speaking of China - and lives in China with her wonderful husband, John...

Introduction....
My name is Jocelyn Eikenburg. I’m a white American with a lot of different European nationalities in my background (French, Scottish, English, Swedish, Italian, German, Croatian and even ones I’ll never know because my grandmother was adopted). I've often joked with friends about being a white “mutt”. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and now live in Hangzhou, China, which is also my husband’s home region.

Three words that describe you...
Determined, creative, romantic. 

Favorite childhood memory...
Standing at the rim of Bryce Canyon in Utah with my parents, gazing upon the celestial beauty of the Milky Way and an endless night sky filled with stars. It was definitely a “wow!” moment that I'll never forget. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
My husband is a huge inspiration for me in so many ways – from my writing to my blog to even my business. Some of my greatest ideas have come out of conversations with him, often while we’re walking together in the woods or the park. Plus, he has an extraordinary talent for cheering me up when I’m feeling a little down! I feel fortunate to have married someone who inspires me in some way every single day...

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We started out as an office romance, actually! Once upon a time, we were coworkers in the same company. He was a translator and I used to proofread his work. We collaborated fantastically back then, as we still do now. ;-)


How long have you been together?
Over 12 and a half years! Last year, we just celebrated being married for 10 years

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
I really admire his shining optimism. He’s the kind of guy who doesn't take “no” for an answer about anything. He’s incredibly idealistic, he believes in dreams, and he never gives up. He also generous to a fault and extraordinarily kind. And on top of that, he makes me laugh and smile all the time!

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Our first kiss beside the West Lake. It was a sultry summer night when the bats were dipping and swaying over the surface of the lake and the cicadas hummed in the background. We were sitting on a bench side by side, just talking, and then out of nowhere, he asked if he could kiss me. And wow....was it magic!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
By the time we met, I had already lived in China for two years, so I was pretty accustomed to the rhythm of life in his country, including the culture. During that time, I had studied Mandarin Chinese, so when he and I started dating, we were actually able to converse together in Chinese and English, setting a foundation for the bilingual relationship we still enjoy

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
John wasn't my first boyfriend in China, so friends and family back in the US weren't surprised to learn about our relationship. Everybody was really supportive about my decision to date him, as well as my decision to marry him. In fact, for our first wedding anniversary (which we spent in China) relatives from the US sent us countless greeting cards congratulating us on that important day. It was really heartwarming to experience that support from so far away. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
One of the most enlightening (but also unfortunate) things about my relationship was experiencing racism and discrimination for myself. Before I met John, I knew these problems existed in the US. But being with John helped me understand how they actually play out in the real world, and want to do my part to raise awareness of these issues and fight for justice. 

Who proposed and how?
He did, over a long-distance phone call! I was working in Taipei for a couple of months and he would call me during the evenings from Shanghai. And this one night, he came right out and asked me to marry him. I didn't hesitate – YES!

On top of that, he also drafted this sweet little love poem for me, which he sent to my e-mail. I still have a copy of it and every time I read it, it makes me blush in the best possible way. 



Describe your wedding...
It was definitely a “big red Chinese wedding”! Imagine a huge whirlwind summer wedding in the midst of the sweltering July heat, with over 150 guests, three dresses and a full day of waltzing around town followed by a loud and sumptuous banquet in the evening. It was actually kind of exhausting too (I ended up losing my voice the day of the wedding!). But as imperfect as it all was, I loved it in the end. Without his family’s support, we never could have had such a big and beautiful wedding day. I still cherish the photos and memories of the day. 

What does being married mean to you?
It’s a partnership. You might say I inherited that from my own parents. They walked through their marriage together as equals, supporting each other in work, family and achieving their own dreams, and that’s what I've always wanted in my marriage. I’m fortunate to have found a husband who wants the same thing – a man who wants his wife to succeed as much as he does.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We’re kind of at a turning point in our lives (which also makes it difficult for me to publicly share some of our current dreams and plans). That said, my husband and I have always had this dream of touring Italy together, especially since he’s a huge fan of the Italian soccer league. Besides, who doesn't love Italy? One of these days, he and I will be sitting somewhere in a stadium in Milan, clinking glasses together as we celebrate finally making our travel dreams a reality. 

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
One of my uncles told us to always cherish each other. It’s good advice for anyone in your family, but especially a spouse (one that I love very much).

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
My parents taught me self-reliance, and I've definitely brought that to my relationship – just the sense that it’s important to work hard and take care of the things that you can in your life. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We flirt almost every single day, often like teenagers, and it makes every day fun! We also try to spend quality time together during the week, whether that’s taking walks in the park or watching movies. And sometimes we’ll do simple but loving things for each other, like I might give John a foot massage or he might make me breakfast. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I love drinking loose-leaf green tea now, and I was raised on the bagged kind as a kid. I like wearing slippers indoors. When it comes to dinner, my stomach feels so much better when I've had white rice with my meal!

I also have to admit, the color red was always a favorite of mine, but since marrying John – who comes from a culture where red is the most auspicious color – he gives me even more reasons to put it on!


Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
My parents have really come to embrace Chinese New Year. Last time we celebrated with them, they bought red couplets for their doorway (which are traditionally hung at the new year) and even a gorgeous red tablecloth to go along with our huge Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
In China, marriage and children go hand in hand, and that’s something that’s a challenge for me to accept. We don’t have kids right now and people – especially relatives – pressure us about it at times. 

I am a rabid nonsmoker and definitely struggle with things like family members (generally men) smoking around the table. That would never happen in the US! Sometimes I've had to just leave tables mid-meal because I can’t take the secondhand smoke. 

And speaking of smoking, that often goes hand-in-hand with over-drinking, which is another thing I don’t particularly embrace here. There’s a very aggressive drinking culture here among men, and I've seen people in our family get so drunk they had to be carted off to the hospital! It scares me! But fortunately, my husband agrees with me on this one (and even uses the fact that he has a foreign wife as a “get out of drinking” card!). 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
One time when I was living with my in-laws for a summer, a neighbor came over with her grandson and the little boy was aggressively batting at this mobile we used for my sister-in-law’s new baby daughter. I knew the baby loved that mobile and of course didn't want it to be destroyed by a careless one-year-old boy. So I said something about it to them; the grandmother looked embarrassed and left soon afterwards. Then I learned from my in-laws that it’s not polite to tell guests not to do something in your house (even if, apparently, they’re potentially breaking your stuff!)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
When we first moved together to the US, without a doubt. The two of us were both struggling to find our place in America at exactly the same time, but in totally different ways, and it led to some really difficult times for us (reflecting on this inspired a post about the 7 Challenges After Moving from China to America with your Chinese Spouse). Looking back, I’m just grateful we overcame it all!

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is having a relationship that can span two cultures. Being with John has enlightened me in so many ways and expanded how I see the world. I’m grateful for that. The worst part is that a LOT of people out there will not understand you or your relationship, especially if (like me) your choice is quite nontraditional – and sometimes, they won’t be so polite about it...


What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That intercultural relationships can never work. While culture and language are important and never should be overlooked in a marriage/relationship, I think your relationship – as in, who you’re married to – matters a lot when it comes to whether you’ll stay together. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women? 
A lot of people here in China assume we’re sluts who like to sleep around – which of course, also means we’re definitely not marriage material (or, on the flip side, we’re just home wreckers). 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
When I lived in America, I definitely did, but a lot of it was very subtle. Like when I would speak to my husband in Mandarin Chinese in public places, people might shoot me dirty looks. Or just the way I’d see someone staring at us in the grocery store or something. In these cases, we just had to ignore it and move on with our lives. 

The most blatant comments I've heard have been through my website, including how a racist hate group once linked to my blog as an example of the “growing threat” to whites. It made me sick to my stomach, but also a little scared to think that I was on their radar, so to speak. I remember discussing it with some of my friends, but ultimately made the decision not to post publicly about it (as I did not wish to give the group any additional attention). I just continue to blog about the AMWF community and interracial/cross-cultural couples, which I think is a great way to fight back.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
I think reciprocity can go a long way in smoothing out some of the most difficult cultural clashes. My husband and I once clashed about what to put on the table, because I’m a vegan and he still loves his meat every now and then. In the end, we compromised by having dinners that might involve my favorite vegan treats and his favorite Chinese-style meats. (I even learned how to cook all sorts of meats, like Chinese red-braised pork, all out of love for him.) I've discovered that sometimes the smallest kindnesses in a marriage can lead to the greatest goodwill between two people, and help the two of you safely overcome a lot of misunderstandings (cultural or otherwise).


(All photos courtesy of Speaking of China)
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Tamil mother has threatened to commit suicide because I want to marry a white woman"

Sharing a letter from a reader...

Hi,

I am currently dealing with a very big dilemma. I am from Canada and of Tamil Sri Lankan origin. I'm 26 and I am still living with my parents because they are getting older and need my help with things. For about a year now, I have been in a relationship with a woman who is white. We are very much in love and talked about our future together including marriage and kids. 

I kept this relationship a secret from my family for about 10 months and then told my sister. However, 2 weeks ago, my parents found out and completely forbid me from continuing this relationship. They talked about all the nightmares they were having, my mom threatened that she felt like committing suicide and my dad said he was having chest pains. They said I would be a disgrace, what would people think, how can I be so selfish, she's just going to find someone once she is bored with you, you are going to run off with her and just forget about us. After going through a lot of emotional blackmail I decided it might be best if I just ended it even though it hurt. When it was time to tell my girlfriend, she was devastated and said that if I really loved her I shouldn't give up that easily. When I explained the whole situation and asked if she wanted to have that in her life, she said that she didn't care and that she wants to help me work this out and that she will be there for me because she knows that she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. The fact that she did not just run away scared and still wants to be with me reassured me that I would regret it the rest of my life if I ended it. 

As it stands, my family thinks we are currently broken up. They are not interested in meeting her and when she tried calling my mom to explain, my mom's response to her was "we don't want white people in our culture". However, I have told them that I will not stop loving her and am not planning on doing an arranged marriage just to make them happy. We are still seeing each other but more discreetly. She said she will wait for me to try and work it out. I know I want to marry this person and plan on asking her in about 6 months to a year. I plan on telling my parents that I've decided that I can't let her go and I know I want to be with her. 

However, I really want to make sure my parents aren't going to do anything stupid once I tell them. Ideally I would want their approval but even if they don't, I want to make sure that I don't cause them to hurt themselves. Recently, my father got so stressed that he assaulted someone at work and got suspended from his job. 

My girlfriend has told me that if the situation gets really bad, that I can stay with her. I also feel horrible for my girlfriend because I'm putting her in a position where she knows that I'm being honest when I say I want to be with her, but in the back of her mind she has the feeling that as much as I love her, my parents will put me in a position where I would choose them over her. However, she says that regardless, she wants to wait and go through this because she will regret not trying. I don't have anyone on my side right now or anyone to talk to who can talk to my parents. Any advice anyone can provide me will be great on how to go about this situation."

-------

Dear readers, what advice can you give to this brave young man?
How would you handle this difficult situation, if you are facing such extreme emotional blackmail?
Has your family ever forced you to choose between your loved one and your parents?


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hiring a good driver in India


One of the things that is non-negotiable for me when we are in India is hiring a safe driver. I do this for two reasons - the first is because husband-ji is the worst driver on Earth (I literally refused him to drive me to the hospital while I was in labour); and also so that he can relax and enjoy our time in India, rather than being aggravated by being stuck in traffic. But honestly, the real reason is because everybody knows that we are less likely to be killed if we are sitting in the back seat!!!

India is an absolute mess when it comes to driving - Hyderabad in particular is incredibly dangerous. I honestly don't even know how people even survive going to and fro to work each day. It is totally overpopulated, drivers are aggressive, and people are in such a rush that they will not hesitate in running you over as they get to their destination. There is a serious problem with road safety. Now Hyderabad is building a metro, so hopefully that will ease up on the traffic - but as of now, it is a friggin' urban jungle that is spread thin to the maximum, both in people and patience! 


We have known several friends and family who have been in car accidents and even killed because of it. Not only that, but I am a bit skittish on the road in general, because my maternal grandparents were murdered in a car accident; and my paternal grandmother was left permanently disfigured by a car accident as well. I grew up with these stories, which is why I am a consciously safe driver. I do NOT want to die on the road!!!

Naturally, returning this time as a parent, had me a little freaked out about road safety...

In North America, there are rules. There is a road etiquette. Not to mention, every single child is required to be strapped into a car seat until they pass 65 lbs. If you do not put your child in a car seat, the police will fine you and they can even accuse you of child endangerment. It is taken very seriously.


In India...not so much! There are no seat belts required, and as many people can pile into a car as they want. There are traffic police standing around, who are notoriously useless crooks. They do absolutely nothing for road safety - they are just decorated and uniformed beggars! Ugh.

So, for me - it is crucial to find a good driver....for our family's safety.


On our previous trips to Delhi, we found an excellent driver. His name was Singh, (I called him "Singh-ji" of course..) and he was an elderly Sikh man who drove the most perfect white Ambassador car. He was an absolute gentleman and such a kind soul. He drove extremely slowly and everyone honked at him like crazy. He was a bit eccentric too - he drove with his pinkie fingers up in the air! I was very thankful that he kept us safe and he became my mother's personal driver on her business trips.


On this most recent trip to Hyderabad, we got another amazing driver named Ashok. He was a young handsome Telugu guy, who - in my opinion - was the best driver in Hyderabad. The way he dodged other cars was an actual talent. He was an incredibly mature driver for his young age, and he also became part of our family, in a sense. We hired him for 8 hours a day, for almost a month. He adored Maya and always got her presents and sweets. He loved to listen to Akon, which I thought was hilarious. He also drove me places by myself and really took me under his wing. By the end of the trip, we were really sad to say goodbye to him. He was like a brother to us.
(Note: If any of you need a driver in Hyderabad, I will gladly give you his contact information!)

I will never forget these drivers, as they kept our family safe. I think of them as part of our family.

Unfortunately, on this recent trip to Hyderabad, we got into a frightening car accident - on the one day where we used another driver who was not Ashok. Just like that run-in with the awful tailor, I can't stress how important it is to hire a safe driver!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Tamil family reunion in Hyderabad


One of the main reasons why we took our daughter to India was to meet all her elderly relatives, who probably won't get a chance to visit us in Canada. This was really important to me because Thatha died last year before we were able to make it to India, which is something I will forever regret.

While we were in Hyderabad, we arranged a "family get-together" and rented out a small function hall so we could have a mini family reunion. "Mini" being of course like 30 people, which is a very small percent of our Big Fat Indian family. Having a "get-together" like this was crucial because we just didn't have enough time to visit everyone's house personally. That in itself would take like 1 year to do!!!

On the Tamil side, husband-ji's grandparents each had 13 brothers and sisters, so that means Maya has A LOT of great-grandmas and great-grandpas!


During December, quite a few of our relatives who live abroad were also visiting Hyderabad, so we invited them all to our "get-together". Husband-ji hadn't seen these cousins for over 15 years, so it was great to reconnect. It was quite colourful to have extremely old-school relatives in the same space with the new generation of kids - who are uber modern. It was like old India and new India were in one room. You can just imagine the funny conversations!


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Hand-feeding in India (and why it's not bad)


As a Firangi Bahu, one of the aspects of my husband's culture that has been difficult to understand is the concept of hand-feeding your kids, well into adulthood. I have really struggled to grasp this concept, as it is one of those things that we just don't do here in North America.

The first time I witnessed it was on my MIL's first visit to Canada. I went to take a bath and came out to the living room, only to discover that my MIL was mashing up food and stuffing it in husband-ji's face, while he was sitting there looking completely satisfied (like the pampered Indian prince that he is!!!) I had never seen this before (not even on our previous times in India) and I was a little shocked that a then-30 year old man couldn't possibly lift his own spoon and feed himself dinner. When I walked in on it, it was pure awkwardness! I stood there with my jaw open and didn't know how to react. Then my MIL held up a handful of food and said, "Want some?" She wanted to stuff my mouth too! Like literally put her fingers IN MY MOUTH. "Uhhhhhh no that's okay...."I said, and fled to the other room.

In my culture, hand-feeding is something that you only do for babies and toddlers so that they don't make a mess with their food. Once the child is about 3 years old, then they feed themselves and it is a milestone that we encourage to make them independent. We believe children are capable and we feel proud of them when they assert their independence and autonomy. It also makes things easier for the parents who are living in nuclear families. So seeing my adult husband being hand-fed made me feel like he was being extremely babied - and I struggled to understand this for YEARS...

Being in an intercultural relationship, you will be faced with many things that you don't simply understand. It is important to remember that the way other cultures do things are not wrong - they are just different.

I began to understand this hand-feeding concept around the 7 year mark in our relationship. I began to notice that hand-feeding was an expression of love and affection towards a younger member of the family. And a sense of togetherness. However, understanding it did not mean that I wanted to participate in it - I wasn't ready yet. And the more I saw of hand-feeding, the more I normalized it and learned the reasons behind it. In typical Indian families, love is shown by actions - by thoughtful gestures.

On our most recent trip to India, we spent a lot of time at husband-ji's aunt's place, a joint family home. With every meal time, my MIL (the eldest sister) brought a large plate and husband-ji's cousins (ages 14-28) all sat around her in a circle while she mashed the food and fed them each one by one. They all chatted jovially while they were being hand-fed, and my MIL relished in her job of nourishing all of the kids. 



As a mother, I feel like I understand things differently now than I did before. I understand that joy that you feel when you put a spoon in your child's mouth. I understand that feeding your child is very much a bonding experience. And plus, Indians are totally obsessed with food. Whenever we phone MIL, the first thing she asks husband-ji is "saaptiyaa?" [translation: "have you eaten?"] She gets great happiness in cooking meals and then watching her loved ones devour the food. It is practically orgasmic for her!

We recently visited our Tamil relatives in Seattle, and I found myself doing the exact same thing. When it came time to feed the kids, Maya and her cousin would sit in front of me like little birds and I would feed them one by one. The kids would say, "my turn!" and take a bite - being both slightly competitive AND learning how to share. I literally took on my MIL's role of "elder sister" and relished in the responsibility of feeding the kids. She would have been very proud of me!


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Teja & Landon


Teja & Landon are a beautiful Masala couple who live in Atlanta, Georgia. These college sweethearts have fought through thick and thin to be together, and have just celebrated their first wedding anniversary!


Introduction....
Name: Tejaswini (“Teja”) Indian, (Andhra - Telugu)
Husband: Landon (American - Georgia)

Three words that describe you...
Dependable, Goofy, Understanding

Favorite childhood memory...
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, we had a giant family road trip which included aunts and uncles and cousins. We drove through Bangalore and Mysore, in Karnataka, India. It was an awesome trip!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired while I am people watching. Whether it be at a mall, or at an airport, there is something very poetic about the experience.


Where/how did you meet your spouse?
My husband and I met when I started to work part time at a big box electronics store while in college. He was assigned to train me as a cashier.

How long have you been together?
In 2015, it will be 7 years, married for one.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
I love that he is very kind and loyal. No matter who is in trouble, he will be there to help. On a superficial level, I love how tall he is! ;)


Favorite memory together as a couple...
We took our very first vacation together in 2012 to Savannah, GA. One evening we strolled through Tybee beach and sat in a swing on the beach and watched the sunset together. That will forever be ingrained in my memories.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I grew up in US since I was 10, so I was very assimilated to the culture already. I would be comfortable in saying that I knew my way around his culture very well before we met.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
When I told my father, he freaked out. We had a big blow out fight, which ended with me moving out, and not talking to my family for 3 months. But after about 3 months, we missed each other too much. It ended with my sister asking my father, “who is going to be good enough for your little girl?” and he had no answer and that’s when he realized he was being unreasonable. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It has taught me how to see the good in people. How to look past someone’s culture and look into someone’s soul.

Who proposed and how?
My husband proposed on Oct 4, 2012. We usually hiked a mountain that is close to where we live. We hiked up on that Thursday, and reached the peak right at sunset. It was odd that no one else was there, but as I looked at the view, I heard him call me and when I turned, there he was on one knee, professing his love to me and asking me to marry him, as the sun set behind him.


Describe your wedding...
One word to describe our wedding is: “stress-free”. It was a small affair, 60 guests. But I distinctly remember that planning it and executing it, I had no stress at all. It was February 8, 2014, and we had just gone through a snowstorm. But it was a perfectly clear day that day. It was very relaxing, and everyone enjoyed it to the fullest.


What does being married mean to you?
To be honest, being married gives me a sense of accomplishment. As weird as that sounds, it fills me with pride to say that he is my husband. It also gives me a sense of comfort in knowing that he will be by my side for the rest of my life, no matter the circumstances.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Our dream for our future is the same as anyone. We would like to have children and move upward in our careers to be able to provide the best care for our children. Our goal for our marriage is to be 90 years old and still be able to prank each other and laugh.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
-“Watch what you say, even in the heat of an argument. Words are like bullets, once you shoot them off, it’s impossible to pull them back.” 
“Take things slowly and cherish every day”

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)?
The importance of family. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We make it a point to be in each other’s presence everyday. It doesn't matter if we are doing 2 completely different things, we will make sure we are in the same room. We also do date nights every week and text throughout the day to see how each other’s day is going.


In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I have completely assimilated to his culture because I, myself, grew up here.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
My family still holds strong to the Indian way of life, but only to the extent of food. They have been here long enough to assimilate as well.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
The most difficult aspect has to be….how broken his family structure is. It has ended up the way it has for extremely good reasons, but it is difficult for me to see the strained relationship he has with his sibling.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
In India, you are taught to be seen and not heard in the presence of elders. I am trying to break that habit, but it can be that I tend to be very quiet and some people take that as being rude or stuck up.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The most challenging time was when my dad and I had the big blow out fight and I moved out. I moved in with Landon and his mother (my future MIL). But it was difficult because I was not living in the home I was used to, and I was also struggling with a lot of personal issues with my father at that time.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Best part: you get the best of both worlds (language, culture, food, movies, etc.)
Worst part: you get the worst of both worlds: (racism, bigotry, general hatred. etc.)

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
I think the biggest misconception is that when you are in an interracial relationship, one party loses his/her cultural identity. I think that is absolutely untrue. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian women?
That we are submissive. No way in hell am I submissive to anyone! I am a person with my own thoughts and opinions. 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
I live in the American Deep South, so of course we have. We have seen KKK members fly their flags in front of us disapproving of our union. We have had Indian people look at us like we are zoo animals. But in the end, our family and our friends support us and that’s all that matters.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
In the end, you need to decide if your relationship is worth fighting for, if it comes down to it. Only you can make your life better/happier and only you can choose who is in your life. CHOOSE JOY each chance you get. Don't let other people bring you down!


(Wedding photos credited to: Abby Breaux)
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "If I don't marry him in 6 months they will force him to marry his cousin!"

Sharing a letter from a reader...

"Dear Madh Mama,

I'm a Northern-European girl and I've been reading your blog ever since I started dating my South Indian boyfriend 2.5 years ago and now I'm in desperate need for advice and have no one else to turn to - as this is a problem my friends nor family have never faced.

We met on the internet and chatted for about a year on and off before meeting face to face for the first time, even though we only lived two hours apart. Back then I was very depressed, distrusting and didn't think I deserved anything good, so he actually had to keep begging me for another date for weeks. Somehow he managed to convince me (thank God) and after a rocky start, we started our relationship, and within the first three months I had basically moved in with him. He helped me get my confidence back and come out of the depression and I was happier than I had ever been before. We talked about marriage, but he was a bit apprehensive because of my age, since I am eight years younger than him and had only recently begun my studies and he was already finishing up his. 

About a year and a half into the relationship I noticed he was spending a lot of time with a certain girl, and after a couple of fights he admitted he had been feeling neglected by me and he liked how the other girl was more outgoing and cared for him, but he said he had not physically cheated on me with her, because he loved me and had only wanted me to pay more attention to him. He said he would not see the girl again and I promised I would try to be more affectionate. A month passed and I thought everything was fine, until I found out he had been at the girl's party. I confronted him, and he denied it and kept lying to me, which made me completely lose trust in him. I tried to forgive him, but after three months of me being unable to trust him again and questioning his every word I had had enough and decided to leave him. But...we still chatted every day, and after a lot of convincing on his part, I decided to give him another chance, whilst making it very clear that it would take time for me to trust him again and that I could not promise him I would marry him in the future. 

Now we have been back together for three months...and this is where the real trouble begins...

He recently got back from a month-long trip to India. Previously, his family had said he could choose his wife, but as he is already in his thirties his parents were growing concerned about him and had tried to force him to marry his cousin. He had to argue with them for weeks to cancel the wedding. I do not think I need to expand on how difficult this was... Now his cousin's family is furious and does not want anything to do with his family members, and his parents told him he has to get married by August!!! His parents are all alone and suffering, my boyfriend is suffering and I feel like it is all my fault. I know it was his decision to stand up to his family, but I do not think he had fully comprehended how many people it would affect. If it was not for me, he would not have said no to the marriage and he and his family could have lived happily ever after...

I am extremely touched that he would do that for me but I feel so guilty, because I still can not say I trust him and I still have not decided whether I want to spend the rest of my life with him. It is hurting me so much to see him and his family suffer and I can not help but feel all the suffering might be for nothing. What if I decide I do not want to marry him? Then all of this suffering would be in vain... I do not want to lead him on. All of this has made me feel like maybe I should just let him go, even though he says he does not want me to do so. And even though I do not really want it either. 

I am feeling very conflicted, because I do feel like we could be happy together, but it would take a lot of time and effort. He does not have the time, and I can not marry someone I do not trust completely...


Should I stay with him, basically making him and his family sacrifice their happiness, or should I leave and tell him to marry another girl?"


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Dear readers, what advice do you have for her?
Have you ever felt rushed by your family to get married?
Have you ever had trust issues with your partner? If so, how did you resolve them?

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The return of the Indian Aunty Detective

---Read part 1 HERE---
---Read part 2 HERE---


As many of my readers know, we have a peculiar Indian Aunty in my neighbourhood who is extremely nosy. I call her the "Indian Aunty Detective" because whenever we see her it turns into an awkward interrogation. She works as a cashier at this take-out restaurant which is on our street. Previously, she has demanded to know from me what caste husband-ji is and where he works.

Ever since my interrogations interactions with her, I try to avoid this place at any cost. But sometimes, I send husband-ji to go pick up food from this place on my lazy days - because he is clearly more dominant than me and can easily handle such a type of nosy Aunty! In fact, he was born to handle such a type of person!

A few weeks ago, I had the most lazy day ever which I just couldn't get out of my pajamas and just felt like watching films on Netflix all day. So, husband-ji went to go pick up food at the take-out restaurant where this Aunty works. She does not work full time, so it is about a 50/50 chance that we won't see her...if we get lucky!

......And the Indian Aunty Detective struck again!!!

Apparently, when husband-ji went to pay, the Aunty gave him a weird look and said, "ARE YOU MEXICAN?"

Husband-ji looked her dead in the eye. He paused for a minute, for maximum power. Then he said, "NO, I'M ITALIAN!!!" The Aunty had the most confused look on her face. He walked off with his food like a boss.


When he got home, he told me that he had a run-in with our notorious neighbourhood Aunty. When he told me what happened, I said, "Mexican?!?! Oh come on, how can she not know that you're an Indian, being an Indian herself! Your moustache itself is inherently South Indian!"

Husband-ji said, "She DID know I am an Indian, and I'm almost certain she recognized me from before. She said it just to MESS with me. So I decided to MESS with her right back!!! I mean, who does she think she is?! She is not the Chief Minister of Vancouver!" Then he winked, and gave a giggle.


Oh, the games we play!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Our Valentine's Day (2015)


We had a really quiet and sweet Valentine's Day this year. The only difference between last year and this year was that Maya is in school now. I vaguely remember celebrating Valentine's Day when I was a child so I kind of forgot that she would be celebrating it too.

In North America, kids celebrate Valentine's Day by designing cards for each other and giving each other candies and cookies - quite like every other holiday (Easter, Christmas, etc). The one difference is that Valentine's Day is heart/love themed. It is a really cute celebration. For adults, it is a romantic celebration where couples get each other cards, little gifts, candies, and share a nice dinner together. It is really quite an innocent festival that celebrates thoughtful gestures to each other.

*Ahem*....meanwhile in India.....

It is kind of hilarious when I see on my Indian news channels all the protests against Valentine's Day. I was seeing reports that a few right-wing groups were SO angered by this innocent celebration that they threatened to catch unwed couples on February 14th and forcibly marry them. I mean, come on, people. Really?!?! Way to take a simple little festival and blow it out of proportion to the absolute extreme. SIGH. With that mindset then Maya would have been a child bride...!!! Of course, it was all baseless threats, just to scare the crap out of young lovers and remind them of their "moral duties" (or what ever that means!)

ANYWAYS, back to our celebrations....



Maya came out of school on Friday and she was thrilled to show me all the Valentine's Day cards all her classmates gave her. She also got two Hershey's kisses and 3 heart shaped cookies. Most of the cards were pretty generic, except one of them stood out. It was from a little boy named Aaron, who apparently is one of Maya's many friends. It seems Aaron has a little crush on Maya...ha ha! We all had a big laugh about it. (But secretly I am going to be checking out this boy at next week's parent event and make sure he is from a suitable family...j/k) Now Maya is absolutely obsessed with Valentine's Day and she made sure to hand out all her cards to her stuffed animals. I don't know what I will do if one of those cards goes missing! She will have a big fit! She wants to take her cards everywhere she goes, even to the bathroom!


I told husband-ji not to get me anything for Valentine's Day, since he has really pampered me too much this year (while I have been a lazy bum). For our anniversary, I only got him a card and that was it! So I told him to take a break - and to let me pamper him for a change...

I got him a nice gift basket of his favorite chocolates (in a heart shaped box), a new cologne, shower gel, a leather bracelet with studded silver (for his swagger!), and a new pair of undies (just to embarrass him). Even though I told him not to, he got me some pampering bath products - from the exact same store that I picked up his gifts - on the SAME day! We literally only missed each other by half an hour - how crazy is that? (Clearly, great minds think alike...!)


In the evening, I made Pudina Rice and we had to get on Skype with family for thatha's Devasam (1 year death ceremony). It was fun seeing all of his cousins who are all abroad - nowadays nearly everyone is all spread out over the globe. I wanted husband-ji to show his new bracelet to my MIL but he thought she would be offended because they had just done a pooja. I was confused. He was like, "Um, duh! We worship cows, and you have given me a dead cow to wear!" Then I felt embarrassed - yet another cultural faux-pas I did - after 9 years - still!!! OOPS. He noticed my sad face and then said, "I DO love it, but I can't show Amma just after she has just done pooja. I will show her next time, don't worry." 

(Vancouver / Seattle / Hyderabad / Munich / Chennai)

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Dear readers, how did you celebrate Valentine's Day?

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Monday, February 16, 2015

How to survive a visit from your Indian inlaws


If you are a Firangi Bahu living abroad, the day will come when your Indian inlaws will come to visit you for a months-long visit.

A lot of people who are not in "masala" relationships do not understand this. They may say, "Are you kidding me?! I can't believe you're letting your inlaws stay for THREE WHOLE months!" Many Westerners would not even host their own parents for more than a weekend; much less their inlaws! 

But as a Firangi Bahu, your inlaws may visit with you for a few weeks to several months - 3 months being the norm. And guess what? You can't really say no. With Indian inlaws, your house is their house; and you can't keep them away from their adult children. And if you are married to the eldest son, they'll be setting up camp for good, or at least fantasizing about it. (Note: In traditional Indian culture, the eldest son is responsible for his parents' in their old age.) If your inlaws are coming all the way from India, they are not going to visit for a week. They are going to stay for months, because it is just too costly to come all that way for a short visit!

For a Firangi Bahu, the first visit from the inlaws is a major test of knowledge, adaptability, and co-operation. It sets the tone for all future visits. Will you be able to make your inlaws comfortable? How will you get along? Are you compatible with your inlaws? Will they feel comfortable to return? Meanwhile, your Indian spouse would be loving the attention (especially if your Indian spouse is male - a prized son - usually pampered by the mother!!!)

Even more than the Firangi Bahu, the Indian inaws will be extremely nervous for this visit. They are coming to a foreign country and sharing a house with their foreign DIL, which is a nightmare they could have never imagined! It is extremely out of an Indian elder's comfort zone. There may be language barriers, they will wonder what they will eat, and many many cultural differences. Especially if they are not well-traveled. Plus, all their friends are going to be dying to know of the gossip when they return - what was it like sharing a house with your foreign bahu?


My MIL's first visit to Canada was before we were married. This was enough to make her feel uptight - staying with her eldest son and his foreign girlfriend who were "shacked up" together. It was also a few months after I was publicly shunned by her at a family event in Hyderabad, in which I fled the country. Perfect timing, right? To say that I had mixed feelings was an understatement. She was rejected for a Canadian tourist visa many times, but we kept applying. When she got the visa, I had to welcome her into our home for a 3 month long visit. Our "home" being a 700 square foot tiny apartment, in which she slept beside us - like a threesome, in which I was constantly being woken up by her snoring. AWKWARD!!! Not to mention, I had to dress conservatively (no more walking around naked) and pretend like I wasn't having premarital sex with her prized son. It was like a 3 month long course in Indian celibacy!!!

I could not say no to her visit because she wanted to spend time with her son, see Canada for the first time (scoping out her future home country), and also start to subconsciously train me as a Bahu. When my MIL arrived, she was extremely anxious. She was totally out of her comfort zone. She didn't know how to use the microwave or the bath. She didn't want to go outside because she swore everyone would stare at her. Seeing how nervous she was completely trumped my own apprehension - and I started to feel bad for her.

I decided to use the opportunity of her visit as a fresh start - to leave the past behind us. To build a proper relationship between us. I had to plead with her to come out, just so I could take her sightseeing. I took her under my wing (outside the home), she she took me under hers (inside the home). It was the beginning of a healthy relationship with my beloved MIL. We also discovered that we had so much in common. It was kind of like I had an arranged marriage - with my MIL!


Til date, I have hosted my inlaws 11 times. Nowadays, my MIL comes to Canada for a longer visit about once a year. Sometimes we fight, and sometimes we get along - but I eagerly await her visits as if a good friend is visiting me...


Here are some practical tips to survive a visit from the inlaws:


Before the arrival
- Find out their favorite Indian TV networks (Star Plus, NDTV, Gemini, etc.) and order them for the duration of their visit
- Find a nice Indian classical music radio station or make a CD
- Get basic spices from the Indian grocer (turmeric, chilli powder)
- Buy a copy of an Indian newspaper or magazine for them to read (either local Indian or an imported Indian - speciality newsstands have these)
- Arrange for a house cleaner to come and deep clean the kitchen every 2 weeks (that way you don't get resentful when you are scrubbing off oil spatters) and (Note: use the opportunity to take them out of the house on a fun outing while the house cleaner is there)
- Stock up on their favorite sweets (gulab jamun, rasmalai anyone?)
- Tidy up the house and make room for their things (clean out a drawer or closet)
- Ask them if they need any specific toiletries and stock up (do they like Rose/Jasmine/Sandalwood scents? Stock the bathroom with a nice soap)
- Save up money (you may be expected to pay for everything)
- Put fresh flowers in their room & water bottles by the bed
- Make sure there are framed family photos of them & their child in key spots
- Make sure you have a phone service provider with cheap international calling (like Vonage) and be prepared for this line to be completely hijacked!
- If they are devout, then you can set up a pooja corner with Gods/Goddesses their family worships (North West corner of the home)


When they arrive
- Make them a delicious chai (true Firangi Bahu test that will earn Brownie points and convey to them your potential!)
- Give them a tour of your home and show them where everything is and how to work it (every single thing from the stove to the microwave, the bath, laundry and where the towels are located)
- Be prepared to surrender your kitchen - completely (everything will get re-arranged)
- Take them to the Indian grocer in the few days post-arrival so you can buy them their unique regional spices/vegetables (Note: going to the Indian grocer together can be a bonding experience. Don't forget to ask questions)


Special things to do during their visit
- Take them to museums & for sightseeing around your city
- Do a day-trip to a nearby destination
- Go to a local cultural event (Chinese New Year, Fourth of July celebration, food festival, dance performance, etc.)
- Set up a time for a "cooking lesson" so that you can learn to cook your spouse's favorite foods from your MIL
- Try a cooking class together of a cuisine where you are both beginners (or baking class)
- Take them to your favorite restaurants
- Take them out to a gourmet ice cream shop after dinner
- Go to see an Indian movie together (even if you find it boring); and then take them to a Western movie (make sure it doesn't have any nudity) (Note: Indians love cinema!!!)
- Get them addicted to a Western TV show (for example: House Hunters, Real Housewives of ___, Lost, CSI)
- Go for evening walks (especially if they don't get out much)
- Attempt to pamper them (hair salon, nail salon, buy them new moisturizing shampoo)
- Go to your favorite local bookstore together (Note: you can locate some books by Indian authors they may want to read - do this ahead of time)
- Show them photo albums of your childhood (so they can get to know you better and your Western "family values")
- If they are religious, you can go to a local temple and introduce them to other elderly NRIs
- Show love to their child in non-physical ways (serving him a plate of food, giving him a quick hug, and generally being nice to him like saying "have a good day at work" - no kissing!!!)
- Plan a family get-together so they can get to know your side of the family
- Ask your MIL to give you a tutorial in draping a saree (and take video for future reference)

(Note: You don't always have to wait until your spouse is home to do something with your inlaws. A lot of bonding can happen WITHOUT your spouse there!)


If you are going to have a meltdown...
- Take a break by going for a walk in nature (my psychic friend says that trees absorb negative energy!)
- Communicate GENTLY your needs and feelings ("I am feeling a little stressed today because...")
- Go out with friends so that you can openly complain about your inlaws and release some steam
- Do NOT fight openly with their child - they will already be freaked out about divorce!
- If you have a big issue, then talk to your Indian spouse privately and ask for tips on how to approach the situation (they know their parents' best)
- concentrate on your work/studies (this is actually a good thing because it will make you appear to be hard-working which is a quality that many elderly Indians admire)
- If you need help with a household chore, ASK nicely (it may not occur to them that the dishes require to be washed, or if you are feeling swamped with something then simply ask for help!)
- emotionally separate yourself from the situation (if serious negativity is going on, then you need to take yourself to a higher plain to protect yourself emotionally)


Even if you get along with your inlaws, the constant togetherness and unsolicited advice may push you to your breaking point - this is totally normal. Before reacting, identify the meltdown and take preventative measures!

Also, remember that this is a temporary visit. Three months may seem like forever, but it will be over so quickly. Focus on making good memories that they can take back with them. In Indian culture, "guest is God" and you should try to embrace that cultural aspect as much as possible.

Bonding with the inlaws is kind of like dating. You have to think of what things you can do to make them feel loved. (Note: In Eastern cultures, it is typical to show love through thoughtful actions) They will already feel strange being in a foreign country so sweet gestures will mean a lot to them.

A visit from the inlaws is a make-or-break situation. It is not only a major test in your relationship with them, but it can also positively or negatively affect the relationship with your Indian spouse. You have to make a conscious decision - every single day - that you are going to come out of this experience positively.

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Dear readers, have your inlaws visited for longer periods of time? What were your experiences?
What tips do you have for fellow Bahu's?

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Simi & Sergio


Simi writes one of my favorite blogs - Boiling Wok - a witty, feminist diary that chronicles her life living abroad in Singapore....AND she also just got married to her super handsome European soulmate!


Introduction....
Simi: Indian Tamil, from Hyderabad.
Sergio: Southern European/Mediterranean.
Both currently living abroad in Singapore.

Three words that describe you...
Simi: I find it so difficult to encompass all of me in three words. The top words that come to my mind are organized, highly sensitive and passionate.
Sergio: Three words only? Can’t fit into three words so let me try like this: politically incorrect proud owner of a potbelly ;)

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Simi: Inspiration can strike me anywhere from when I am reading books, cooking, listening to podcasts, walking, or in the bathroom. 
Sergio: Most inspired? Hard to say really. For one, teachers can inspire me. Besides that, perhaps a good book or a well written speech.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
Simi: The University I studied in had a program where students could volunteer to pick up new international students from the airport and bring them around campus. I was free one Saturday afternoon and went to pick up an unknown student that day. The new student was Sergio and we met at the airport for the first time :) I used to show him around the campus and we used to hang out a lot together.

How long have you been together? 
Simi: 3.5 years

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Simi: Sergio is funny and is makes me laugh a lot. Direct and honest. Very warm and affectionate….
Sergio: Speaking truth to power, cute laughter, intelligence… 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Sergio: Our Saturday ritual - we wake up late without an alarm, I have coffee and Simi has chai, while we surf the internet. Then we go out for lunch and spend our afternoon in cafes having coffee & cake and reading books/blogs/internet. We go for a walk in the evening and watch movies together at night.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Simi: Nothing specific. Honestly, I used to view all westerners as a whole and Europe as one entity, not a continent with different cultures. 
Sergio: Not much per se, except that Indian culture is still conservative and traditional. As I had lived in similar cultures before, I had a general understanding of what to expect. Having said that, I have to emphasize that I never perceived Simi through the lenses of her culture. She was not conservative or traditional in a way that many other Indians I met were. In fact, that is one of the reasons I found her attractive. Let me elaborate further - when we first met and started socializing, culture (or technically, our different backgrounds) did not really play a role between us. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
Simi: I kept Sergio a secret from everyone as long as I could. I ended up telling my family when arranged marriage came knocking at my door. Initially, they were speechless and shell-shocked because I had never even mentioned him earlier. After a day or two of silence, they accepted it without drama. I was surprised by that and really happy about it too. Indian families need not always be full of drama as we always expect them to :) They had their apprehensions which were cleared when they spoke to Sergio. My close friends were non-judgmental about it. I think it did not really surprise them considering my personality and views.
Sergio: Simi was not the first non-European girl that I had dated. My parents and friends are very liberal. Nobody was shocked. I am very proud of my family and friends in this regard.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Simi: I am definitely more expressive now. I used to suppress my feelings until they exploded! I definitely do that less often now. Also, Sergio was the one who gave me the idea to start my blog - Boiling Wok!
Sergio: Enlightened is maybe a too big of a word but I can say that I have learned a lot (and I am still learning!) both about her culture and about myself. The latter is, in my opinion, equally important as the former.

Who proposed and how?
Both: We did not really have a conventional proposal with a ring. We were dating for over three years and getting married and a future together came into our discussions organically.

Describe your wedding... 
Simi: Our wedding was very unconventional from start to finish. You can read more about it on my blog...

What does being married mean to you?
Both: Safety, security, being able to rely on someone, togetherness, sharing the good and bad, the little and the big things like laughter over time. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Both: We wish to find a nice country to settle down in with stable jobs that we love. We want to have a nice spacious house with large windows and lots of natural light. One day, we might have a cat (Sergio), a dog (Simi) and a kid ;) 

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Simi: Recently over Skype, my mum told me “marriage is you keep him happy and he keeps you happy”. That struck me as simple and yet profound.
Sergio: Clearly nobody gives me advice! I prefer to advise everyone - Simi calls me "The Indian Uncle"!

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Simi: Sergio brings his directness and warm heart (he discusses problems openly, instead of brushing them under the carpet). Southern Europeans tend to be more friendly which Sergio definitely is.
Sergio: Simi is more of a cosmopolitan Indian rather than a conservative one. Simi's tolerance for things not working and dirt is definitely higher than mine!


What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
Both: We communicate a lot, spend quality time together, and enjoy watching movies and TV series.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Both: Though we both come from technically very different cultures, we are not really different in terms of values and worldview. We are basically liberal Westerners. In addition, we are also not nationalists and that same world view is one of the key reasons why we get along so well. Perhaps globalization of values is not such a bad thing after all! 

Having written this, clearly there were things that we did differently. For example, Sergio was appalled that anybody would make pasta in a wok! Also, some differences arose when we went shopping for kitchen utensils and Sergio was looking to buy what his mom had and I didn't want them because that was not what we use in Indian kitchens. 

Simi:  I have adopted a lot of things in terms of food. I definitely eat more bread, pasta, cheese, olives, olive oil and Brussels sprouts than before. I had never tried olives (except on a pizza) or Brussels sprouts or so much European cheese before I met Sergio! Also, I bake bread, pizza, cakes more often - now that I have Sergio to finish them off!

Sergio: I definitely eat a lot of Indian food now and I love it! We watch Indian movies and I discovered Mahesh Babu. I am his biggest European fan! In addition, I also learned how to win an argument, Indian style – be the first to start guilt-tripping! ;)

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Both: No and we don’t live with either of our parents.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Sergio: Formality, too many rituals and traditions. But we do not face it too much because we don’t live in India. 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Sergio: Saying no when I should have said yes. I say no in situations where Indians would have said yes out of respect for elders and this is is something I LOVE to do! So, yes, I do it knowingly ;)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Both: We have been through a lot together. We both had a lot of issues with our Master’s degrees - research, scholarships - it was one hell of a time. Also, when Simi was unsure that she wanted to date a non-Indian.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Simi: We are in an intercultural relationship, simply judging by our backgrounds. To me, it is not really intercultural because our values and worldview are the same. I definitely get along with Sergio better than I get along with a lot of Indians!
Sergio: The best part is the food and the worst part is the formalities.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
Both: How every intercultural relationship needs to be difficult or challenging in terms of adaptation.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian women?
Simi: That everybody has an arranged marriage.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Southern European men?
Sergio: That we are lazy. But I would call it ‘la dolce vita’!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Simi: I have had some conservative Indian acquaintances who were prejudiced against Westerners/liberal Indians. They were afraid of Sergio and avoided us when he was around. We ignored them and are not really bothered by them. I cannot see myself hanging out with someone who has problems with Sergio just because he is a white guy.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Simi: Stop building monsters in your head and don’t assume things. I spent well over 2 years going through my family’s reaction to Sergio and it was nothing like I imagined. Might as well have saved myself from the anxiety! Always remember that you and your spouse are a team and act accordingly. Put your spouse above family/friends/society. Many people will not stand up for their spouses in front of their families even when the the family is clearly wrong.
Sergio: As Frank Sinatra sang “I did it my way” - do it YOUR way. Rebel all the way! Stop listening to other people and do what makes you happy. Very Western advice :)

(All images courtesy of Boiling Wok)
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