Saturday, May 2, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Tans & Sat

This beautiful Afrikaans/Malayalee couple respect each other's individual cultures equally and celebrate the differences!

I am South African (Afrikaans) and Sat is Indian (born in Mumbai to a Malayalee family). We first met in South Africa when Sat came there on a work secondment in 2009. Two months ago, we moved from South Africa to London UK, where we are currently living now. We also have a cat and a dog who unfortunately had to stay in South Africa when we suddenly moved.

Three words that describe you...
Curious, bibliophile, wanderlust.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Away from the noise and rush of city life is where I feel at my most peaceful and inspired. I get very frazzled being around too many people for too long!

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
My husband and I met at the office. We are both chartered accountants by profession and he was seconded to the same firm that I had joined one week earlier. We ended up in the same induction training and just hit it off.

How long have you been together?
We started dating immediately after we met - we were just immediately attracted to each other. It felt more like I recognized him, rather than meeting him for the first time. It was a case of thinking: "Oh, here you are; I've been waiting for you!" Now we have been together for 6 years, of which we have been married for one and a half beautiful years.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He is sweet, charming, intelligent, a good cook (both Indian and Western dishes) and has a very kind heart. On a lighter note…his weirdness matches my own!

Favorite memory together as a couple...
There are many amazing memories from our travels, but my favorite memories would have to be at our house in South Africa, having a barbecue in the garden, drinking champagne and having our two animal kids with us.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Not much at all. The area where I grew up did not have many Hindu Indians, therefore it was quite a learning experience once we started dating.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
It was not a big deal telling either of our families, as they were all quite open minded. They took it well and just once expressed concern that things may be a bit difficult for us. We got to know each other’s families quite well when we were dating, so they were happy when we finally decided to get married!

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I've learnt to be a lot more tolerant of people’s different ways of doing things and I had to accept that one way is not more correct than another.

Who proposed and how?
Sat did the traditional romantic proposal at one of our favorite game farms in South Africa. He proposed after dinner doing the whole thing with red roses, chocolate, down on one knee... He has never been so romantic before or since!

Describe your wedding...
Well, we actually had three weddings:
- South African Christian ceremony: traditional white wedding, elegant and formal.
- Indian Hindu ceremony: a large, colorful and exuberant wedding reception.
- Legal marriage: this was just to get us formally married.

We were very lucky that some of our family members and friends were able to travel with us and attend the weddings in both India and South Africa.

What does being married mean to you?
Being married means having your best friend by your side - throughout life.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
To travel and experience as much of the world as we can.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
The best advice that I received was from my mother and grandmother, who told me not to rush into marriage. Both of them got married quite young and they regretted not having had more adventures and experiences before settling down.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
At least once a week, we go out for dinner, have some wine and just talk. It is great to get away from distractions at home such as the TV, iPads, internet, etc. We also try and take regular holidays or weekends away, so that we don't get too stuck in a dull routine.

 In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I understand a bit of Hindi, and can cook some Indian dishes. When in India, I do wear appropriate dress for the functions we may attend. Within our own home we both recognize that we are from different cultures and neither of us needs to lose ourselves in the others culture. I will always be South African and Sat will always be Indian.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
No, there is no need as one family is Indian and one South African, so they have their own distinct cultures.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
I find it hard to embrace the community style of thinking, which sometimes can come across as the lack of respect for individual choices.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Earlier in our relationship, I felt that I needed to fully understand Indian culture and their way of doing things. I was also concerned that my partner would get tired of the “difficulty” of being with a Western woman. It finally got better once I realised that he fell in love with me, not an Indian girl, so I did not need to change my personality or habits to be more “Indian”.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is that it is always interesting and we get to have the best of both cultures (e.g. Christmas and Onam). For me, the worst part is when people judge us based on certain preconceived notions that they may have.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
I think that some people feel that you have to give up on one of the cultures, in order to fully assimilate in with the other. My experience is that it is not necessary, as long as you balance and respect the requirements of both.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Western women?
The usual stuff such as not being able to cook or keep a household. The one that really gets to me though is the idea that Western women are selfish and do not care for their children very much and that is why they keep working after having kids.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian men?
Some people have ideas that all Indians treat their wives as second class citizens and don't give them any say. I was even warned that an Indian husband would mistreat me and not allow me a divorce!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
We have met some people from both cultures that did not appreciate our relationship. Luckily, it is usually limited to stares and comments. In the beginning it used to be annoying, but we both learnt to just ignore it.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Be proud of who you are and don't lose your own identity.



  1. Best wishes Tans & Sat! You both are an adorable couple. Stay blessed!

  2. I loved this interview. The last advice is spot on. Both look gorgeous too. Too bad you don't write a blog as well.


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