Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Rohit & Kristy

Kristy has written an amazing blog for years called American Punjaban PI, about discovering Indian culture through her Punjabi husband! 

I'm Kristy, and I'm American – mixed German, Dutch, Scottish and Gypsy, from Virginia. My husband is Rohit and he is Punjabi from Amritsar. We currently live together in Virginia, with our 2 cats, Foxy & Rainer. We have kids, but don't discuss them online.

Favorite childhood memory...
I have many and they all involve spending time with my grandparents. I loved walking in the woods with my grandfather and enjoying nature and I loved being spoiled by my grandmother!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel inspired whenever I’m happy, but I think most of my great ideas come to me while I'm driving in my car.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met online and became friends, then I went to India and we met in person. We had our first meeting at the airport in Amritsar and it was like a scene from a Bollywood movie!

How long have you been together?
Since 2008 - a little over 7 years now.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Perseverance and his ability to remain calm. I really like his family values and ideals he has about married life in general.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
Riding on the motorcycle home from Alpha One mall in the rain!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Barely anything! I knew some Gujrati’s growing up and they seemed just like everyone else to me. They were really nice people, but that was all I knew.

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
I hesitated telling my mother. I knew she would take it the hardest, so I broke it to her in small pieces. First I let her know I had a friend in India. Then I let her know how much we talked. Then I told her I was going to visit. She freaked out a little. I think the unknown scared her more than anything.

 How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I now know for sure people really are the same all over the world. I always treated people from other cultures as if they were no different than I was (I grew up in a very culturally diverse family so I didn't believe people were any different than me). I also now better understand how much culture affects personality and habits too, though. While people may all be truly the same, cultures are not. I was pretty naïve in that sense before I met my husband.

Who proposed and how?
 I made him propose! This isn't Indian culture traditionally, but I wanted something romantic and meaningful to remember and I got it! One night, on my first visit to India he took me out to the MK Hotel and picked a seat that was in just the right spot so there were flowers around us and we could oversee the waterfall display. Just before dinner was brought out to us he had the waiter go and get a single red rose. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Describe your wedding...
Long!!! We had the full, traditional Punjabi Hindu 10 day long wedding. The only thing missing was that my husband didn't ride the white horse – he refused. Actually he argued with his parents and refused everything but a simple wedding and they agreed, but instead planned a big wedding with all the details and ceremonies. That’s when I really knew I belonged in this family because I would have done the same thing had I been his parents! Hubby ji was quite the groomzilla in those days!

Before the wedding, I got to experience Chunni Chadana (the groom's family blesses the bride) and get mehendi, hubby had his haldi ceremony, we both got Kangna Bandhana (the red sacred thread on our wrists), chuda chadana (bangle ceremony), sehra bandhi (the groom's turban and veil ceremony) and probably a few more things I didn't realize were happening. I feel like my wedding was unique in that I got to witness everything on both the bride and the groom's side. (I lived in the family home before the wedding as well!)

We had our jaimala (flower garlands), saptapadi (7 steps around the fire – the actual commitment portion of the ceremonies), and lajahom (puffed rice sacrifice) ceremonies at an Arya Samaj temple in Amritsar with about 40 of our closest family members one afternoon. His family members had to stand in as my family because my own family was in poor health and unable to travel that far to attend. Upon returning to our home, we had all the traditional festivities including showing of the bride (where the in-laws shower the new DIL with gifts), pani vaarna, kicking over the pot of rice before entering the house, and more.

That night tradition stated I was supposed to sleep in a room of the new house with all of the women in the family around me but I chickened out of that one. I couldn't keep up with all that went on for the next few days - I just knew it all ended with a grand reception and ceremony around some special tree that I had to take a blessing from. The whole thing lasted a total of 10 days and there was family there for all of it. That was the best part. I didn't need to know what was going on to enjoy the festivities and to feel special! Though it was exhausting, I got to keep that new bride feeling a lot longer than most do.

What does being married mean to you?
Marriage to me is more than just being in love. Love is a nice part of it, but it won't get you very far in life. Marriage is about two people working together toward common goals and helping to keep each other happy along the way. Marriage is about joining two lives in such a way that your souls unite.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We both want to travel, something we already do but we plan to kick it up a notch in a few years by adding in more international travel. We both want to experience the life and culture in other countries.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
If you can live on your own, then you should.” I know that sounds like strange advice, but I took something from that which many may not think of. I can live on my own. I can pay my own bills, I can entertain and soothe myself just fine. I don’t need a man in my life. I want one. I want to be with my husband and I want to be in his company, even though I don't necessarily need him. So all the pressure is off. I've never felt stuck in this marriage. I've always felt like it was a place I wanted to be, and that I am here by my own choosing. There’s a level of peace and contentment with knowing that - it helps me on days I'm wondering why I chose to enter into such a complicated relationship.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)?
Just today my husband was telling me that he’s decided to adopt some American traits! One is that of humility and service. He has a friend who he gives a ride to work two days a week. He told me that this isn't part of his culture, Indian’s don't typically do these things because there is a level of burden to it, but he likes that Americans do because he feels good helping someone else in need. Another cultural aspect I think my husband needed in his life is the carefree nature of Americans. There are very few social stigmas that he must avoid here. There’s a lot less ways that society will look down on you where we are, than in his hometown. From a personal standpoint, he’s adopted my love of purple....hahaha!

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We have date days (not nights because we like to go out during the day). He also does little things for me randomly like picking up my favorite candy bar at the store or coming home with flowers. He also cooks food for me during the day while he’s home and leaves it out for me so I'll have dinner when I get home.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I've changed my style of dressing, mostly. I wear more colors and patterns than ever before! I am more modest with my clothing and I'm more likely to dress for his compliments than to feel content on my own. I've also adopted some of the ideals around food and how we eat. I quit eating beef before I met my husband but now we abstain from other foods as well. I also have integrated some of the ritualistic ideals similar to pooja’s but I've developed my own style with it. I also now engage in different medical practices – like taking straight turmeric instead of cough drops. I think we've blended so much, there’s just too many things to list!

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Some of them have really taken to the eating habits of my husband’s culture, especially the vegan and vegetarian aspects. We're all more likely to make more holistic choices and we've broadened our palettes.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
The negative talk. I just can't wrap my head around being so negative all the time –evil eye or not! It drives me nuts! I just can't fathom always pointing out the flaws in other people's lives. I also don't care for the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality. I don't care what other people have - I just want/need to be content with my life. I am not going out to buy a Lambo when I would be much happier in a Jeep!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
I commit tons, I’m sure! I don't keep track, to be honest. I think the only one that was ever brought to my attention was when I bought a pizza with the intention of sharing with the kids in the house. I had half of it boxed up as soon as I ordered it and when I took it home to the kids it was not received well at all. In fact it was given back and my husband got scolded for giving them "used food". So much for sharing eh?

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
When my husband first came to America and the culture shock hit him hard. He struggled significantly with not knowing how things worked here and he got frustrated when he tried to approach everything the Indian way and it didn’t work out.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The worst part is having to choose whether you live in your country or his. Ideally I would love to live with both of our families close by, and I like joint family settings which we can't have with our families on two different continents! The best part is that you're never bored with the relationship. There is always something to learn about your partner's culture.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
Many people think intercultural relationships are not as valid as same culture/same race relationships. People always want to ask you if he married you for a green card or you get disrespectful looks and tones when they find out you met online. They can’t seem to understand that people can be attracted to something more than they're used to seeing. They can't fathom people are willing to work this hard for a relationship and they can't understand how it is worth it when there are plenty of men locally.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Southern American women?
That we're all hillbilly idiots with little education and all we do is discriminate and make racist comments all day long. In reality, most of the racist news reports you see every day come from everywhere but the South!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
 I may have, but not anything obvious. For the most part I don't care what others think of me so I don’t ask for their opinions. I can't be bothered to notice how others perceive us. I'm too busy with my own life and happiness!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
There’s always going to be haters in your life. Intercultural relationships just tend to bring out the more vocal haters. Do your best to educate their ignorance, as long as it doesn’t create negativity in your life. You are not obligated to maintain a relationship with any friend or family member who can't respect you (even if they don't agree with you). They're simply not worth keeping in your life if all they do is make you feel bad. You're going to face enough challenges without having these people to kick you when you're down.

(All photos courtesy of American Punjaban PI)



  1. I have followed Kristy's blog for sometime now and her struggles during her Indian stay. I have found her to be remarkably intelligent women who understood the intricacies of Indian society in a very short span of time. She lived in Amritsar which is a small town and that is as Indian as it gets. That was sure fast learning. She is also fairly level headed and mature. She comes up with regular posts on inter cultural relations and religious affairs which show how much she has understood India. Her troubles with her past marriage and how she survived it, makes for an inspiring story.

    1. I replied to this comment once before but it looks like it got lost. :(

      I appreciate the support and the kind sentiment. I think my head is going to swell a bit over the "remarkably intelligent" statement. :)


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