Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Jai & Ellie

(Img via Georgie Pauwels)

This fabulous Punjabi-Australian couple have lived in three continents (so far!) and blend their international, multicultural lifestyle effortlessly!

My name is Ellie and I am Australian. My husband is Indian, born and raised in Delhi. We have a 7 year old son and a new puppy. We lived in Australia, then moved the Delhi for 2 years and currently live in Dubai together.

Three words that describe you... 
Quirky, energetic, adventurous!

Favorite childhood memory... 
Summer time in Australia. Running under sprinklers when it was hot and rolling down the front yard hill. Spending a whole day at the beach!

Where/how do you feel most inspired? 
I love watching live performances of any kind. Whether it is a theatre, street dancing, musicians, a clown, public speaker or singing. It takes a lot of guts to perform in public!

Where/how did you meet your spouse? 
I met my husband in Sydney, when we worked for the same company.

How long have you been together? 
10 years of marriage this year (and 12 years in total).

What qualities do you admire in your spouse? 
He is very strong minded, loyal and always puts his family - us - first.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Sitting outside in our backyard in Australia, sipping chai and talking about anything and everything. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship? 
Very little! I knew what I mostly saw on TV - colourful clothing and beautiful prints, big weddings & spicy foods!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
I told friends and family like any other relationship. I only had positive feedback from others.. I come from intercultural family myself (I am half Australian/half Chinese) so our mix wasn't even questioned. Even my husband's side of the family were positive and open minded. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life? 
My husband talks about certain parts of the history and culture of India with such passion, it has really opened my eyes to such a diverse and different way of living. At times I question the way things are done in India, and fail to understand why. In many ways, I have adopted both the Western and Indian way of living into our multicultural lifestyle.

Who proposed and how? 
In one of our many long chats together, marriage came up naturally. By the next weekend, we had bought our engagement rings to make it official. 

(Img via Nishanth Jois)

Describe your wedding...
We ended up having 3 weddings. Our first was a court wedding in Australia. Our second wedding was a typical 4 day big Hindu wedding in New Delhi. This was fun and also overwhelming, since this was my first visit to India and I was meeting most of the family for the first time. I wore a very heavy lehenga that was handmade. About a month later we had a 'white wedding' in Australia with a small group of close family and friends. 

What does being married mean to you? 
Having a partner and best friend for life. Growing together, confiding in and trusting each other. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple? 
We would love to own a small, yet successful business together and work HARD at it, and then be able to semi-retire together so we can travel more! Also, my husband would like to own a small boat and to go fishing!

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)? 
When our son was born, I kept to what I know. I put him in a very routined sleep/eating pattern which was different - but admired - from my husband side of the family.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse? 
We like to travel regularly to get out of the routine!

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
I can confidently cook a full Indian meal for our family or when we have guests around. My husband's family are Punjabi and they love to cook and serve extravagantly. When we first married, it was important to me to learn how to cook Indian food authentically. 

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture? 
Nothing really - but when they come to our place they request me to cook certain Indian food. 

(Img via Meena Kadri)

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace? 
Formalities! This really only happened when we were living in India. When you have guests around and depending on how 'important' the guests are, the more drama there is! First, you serve the water on a tray (which I always forgot!); then you serve at least 3 different snacks along with chai; then you have a loooong chit chat; and then the main meal which consists of 4-5 dishes to choose from; you keep serving them and asking them to have more, meanwhile chiding that "you haven't eaten anything!". Then, there is dessert, possibly more chit chat and then you give them a gift - which is usually pushed back at you. I am not used to forcing a guest to take a gift! Even though now I am used to it, I used to get nervous and worry I was doing the wrong thing. It's a big procession!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
I think I unknowingly did this many times! One instance, during my first trip to India (when we got married there) I went next door wearing shorts and casual flip flops and my mother in law was shocked and embarrassed that I met the neighbours without dressing nicely! In India, when you get married, the daughter in law must always look her best, wearing makeup and dressy clothes everywhere. Now we laugh about it and she is used to me dressing down on these occasions. I just never felt comfortable over doing the make up, jewellery and heavy suits. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship? 
When we moved to India and lived with my in laws for 2 years. I am so used to having my own space and being able to sit quietly! Being an introvert, it was weird living in India and doorbell starts at 8 in the morning, followed by a number of people entering the house. Whether it was the maid, dhobi, electrician, the driver, or the neighbour - something was always going on! 

However, it was totally worth it for our son. He now speaks Hindi fluently and understands his other half very well. Now he is able to connect with both India and Australia.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship? 
Best: learning and appreciating the way other cultures live. 
Worst: formalities! 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships? 
That the marriage won't last. My parents were married in the 70's in very 'white' Australia and were stared at constantly and criticized for being mixed. Now, it's is much more common and not even questioned. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about Australian women? 
I still get asked very innocently if I eat Indian food. I find this funny that after 10 years of marriage and the fact that I cook Indian almost every day! 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Understand more about your partner's culture before getting married. Be open to doing things that are important to the family, yet remember who you are and let them know if you are not comfortable. Make it clear to each other what is expected and not expected of each other. Enjoy learning about each other's culture and the differences!


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