Saturday, May 9, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Stephanie & Harpreet


Stephanie writes a blog about their fabulous adventures between Australia and Amritsar! Balle balle!

Introduction....
My name is Stephanie and I'm Australian. My husband's name is Harpreet. He is Punjabi, from Amritsar and brought up in village Jhanjoti. We live together in Perth, Western Australia.

Three words that describe you... 
Caring, Fun, open minded.

Where/how do you feel most inspired? 
By spending time with family and friends who are honest and down to earth.


Where/how did you meet your spouse? 
We met at a mutual friend's birthday party in Perth. We had a small argument at the party and he messaged me the next day to apologize! We became friends for a couple of years before we started our romantic relationship.

How long have you been together? 
Since September 2012 (2.5 years)

What qualities do you admire in your spouse? 
He is very caring with a kind heart. He is very helpful, understanding and supportive.

Favorite memory together as a couple... 
Our honeymoon (we went to New Delhi, Varanasi, Goa & Mumbai). We got a chance to spend time together alone after a crazy few months organizing our wedding! It was nice to get away just the two of us and travel together for the first time and just relax. 


What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship? 
I didn't know much about it at all, but there is quite a big Punjabi community in Perth. My husband took me to Punjabi concerts, Kabbadi games, we went to the Gurdwara together, we spent a lot of time with his friends, and they taught me some Punjabi words and how to cook Sabzi! But it was not until I went to Punjab that I really learnt about the culture and way of life.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
My friends didn't have an issue with it and accepted him straight away, however my family were not overly happy about it and when we got engaged they were outraged and there were a lot of issues which went on for months. However as they got to know him they slowly accepted it, and after they attended our wedding in Amritsar I think they understand him a lot better now and where he has come from, and that he may not have a white collar high paying job like my sisters husbands have - but that he has a good heart, comes from a good family and makes me happy. 

His parents did not accept me straight away. They were worried, and thought I may turn up at their house wearing a bikini! Once they got to know me as a person, everything was fine and now we are very close. I love his family very much. Some of his other relatives had a lot of opinions about us being together, however his Dad seemed to shut everyone down and we didn't hear much more about it! His brothers and cousins were very accepting of me, got to know me very quickly and looked after me so much when I was there.


How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
After spending several months in Amritsar together with his family - living the village life - it has completely changed my outlook on life. It has made me really appreciate what we have and the life we are so privileged to live in Australia. Some people in Punjab only dream about having the things we have. It has also made me stop wasting so much - money, food, everything!


Who proposed and how? 
He proposed to me at Kings Park, in Perth. He took me there on Christmas night and we were walking around and he kept complaining that it was too busy. Then he suddenly asked me, "when people get married which finger do they wear the ring on?" He asked me in an extremely nervous voice and I said yes! It was really dark so I used the torch on my phone to get a look at the ring! Ha ha!


Describe your wedding... 
Stressful!!! It began at 4am and it ended up at 2am the following day - with several last minute changes. His family could never stick to any sort of plan! Wedding rings were lost and then found again, people were taken to the wrong locations then brought back again, we forgot to pick up the wedding cake and then picked it up at 9pm! It was one drama after another! When we look back now, it is just a day full of funny memories and lots and lots of dancing. It was so fun with both our families together for a never ending party!!!


What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends? 
Never go to bed angry and always have respect for each other.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse? 
We go out together on dates, we drink together, we go out with friends, we go on holidays together, we give each other gifts....and we hug every single day!



In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
I am slowly learning Punjabi so it is easier for me to speak to his family on the phone. Now I can now understand most of what everyone is saying when they are talking, but I still find it hard to speak full sentences back. When I was in Amritsar, I also wore Punjabi suits a lot. I went with his family to visit relatives and to the Gurdwara frequently. I also wear a Karra bangle and when his friends come to visit I make them chai tea! 


Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
When we have Indian for dinner at my mum's house, we get out the cooking tools we bought in Amritsar and we make chapati's and we talk about memories from when we were there having dinner with his family. My family is very accepting of him and his culture now, having experienced it first-hand themselves.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace? 
I find it difficult when we go to friends houses who are quite traditional, and if there are a lot of boys there, they will tell all the girls to sit inside together because it's "not good" to be around the boys (in case they are rude in front of us). There are only a couple of people who do this, but it really annoys me. With all other friends we mix together and everyone is friends no matter whether you are male or female. I don't need someone hiding me inside - sitting with girls all night...which can be incredibly boring! In Amritsar, I found I tended to be a lot closer friends with the boys in the family. I could talk to them about anything and we never had any issues. We could all hang out together and always have a great time; whereas I found I had very little in common with most of the females - they were all vegetarian non drinkers and very religious and never left the house and had very small minded views on the world. If there was ever an argument, the women would say that "god will fix it". I found it hard to believe in that, and be able to just let an argument go by saying that!


What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Visiting hundreds of relatives before and after we got married! Living in the village sometimes was very difficult - after coming from Australia having my own space and independence, then going to a place where I had to always ask someone to take me somewhere. I bathed out of a bucket daily. Several family members smothered me on a daily basis - and as much as I loved them - some days I just needed space! We would be going to visit more and more relatives and I just felt so overwhelmed. This put pressure on our relationship because I mostly took it out on him, as I had no one else to tell that would understand it. That is their way of life, they didn't see any issue with it.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them? 
Yes, we have had a few people from my side and his who disapproved. It hurts and you feel rejected, but then after a while you just think "who are they?!" They don't know us and don't know our relationship and haven't bothered to even try - so it will be their loss. They are missing out on being involved in our lives, and it is not a loss to us! In general, I have found people who disapproved changed their mind over time, but it is hard for us to forgive and forget because we have been on the receiving end of it.


Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Follow your heart. Don't let anyone's judgemental opinions interfere in your relationship. If people are difficult or unaccepting, it is only because they most probably don't know you or your partner well enough to make a informed decision, once they actually get to know you both and the amazing relationship you have together they will wake up and realise that they need to accept it and it's not such a big deal after all!

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3 comments

  1. Living several months in the village must have been quite an experience ! I believe it's very important to do this to really understand one's partner. Nice pictures. (Padparadscha)

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  2. I have read the blog and its quite hilarious with the many interesting months Stephanie has spent in Punjab!. Nothing could be more better than getting to know and spending so much time with in laws from such a close proximity. Loved all the posts on the blog and steph certainly has a way with words.
    What amazes me is how she mingled with so many people, laughed and hugged them in such a short span of time. More importantly she was enjoying it quite thoroughly. India never ceases to surprise me! There are so many states, languages and each is so diverse its like almost reading about a different nation every time.
    Also the blog is a very nice travelogue for those wanting to know more about Punjab.

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