Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Vikash & Desiree

This masala military family lives in the Pacific Northwest and have 4 beautiful children!

My name is Desiree. I’m American (of British, Belgian, and German ancestry). I am originally from Southern California. My husband is Vikash. He is Indian, born and raised in Fiji and has never been to India. We have 4 kids and have lived in the Seattle area our entire married life. I also write a blog called Desiree Dabbles.

Three words that describe you...
Creative, Kind, Nerdy!

Favorite childhood memory...
Going to the beach! I love the ocean. I have lived near the water my whole life, and can't imagine anything different.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Out in nature. I like to go hiking and camping and just be out in the wild.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We were in college together in Hawaii. One of my best friends was dating his friend, and we met hanging out with our friends one night.

How long have you been together?
We knew each other for a little over a year before we got married, and we've been married for 13 years in total.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He is a people person and loves to make friends. He is loyal and loving, even when the military sends him thousands of miles away.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
When we bought our first house. We drove up and just knew it was right. We signed papers the next day!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I knew very little. I had never even had curry before!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I just told them. I was 18 and it hadn't occurred to me that people might have a problem with it. At the college we went to there were lots of intercultural relationships, so it seemed pretty normal. My husband told his parents outright, once we were serious about each other. By the time I met his family in person we'd already been married 2.5 years and had our first child.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It has been educational to learn how different my husband’s upbringing was from my own. I think I have changed for the better for trying to mesh our cultures and values into one family. I feel like I have grown more open-minded as we go through life and I see things from his point of view as well as my own.

Who proposed and how?
We talked about getting married after knowing each other for 4 months, before we went on our first formal date. He bought a ring about 6 weeks before proposing, and I knew he had it (I was with him when he picked it up but he wouldn't let me see it!). He finally proposed to me on my 19th birthday, at the beach in Hawaii, at sunrise.

Describe your wedding...
We had a small ceremony with just my family and a few old friends in our friends backyard. His family couldn't afford to come. It was a typical basic western-style Christian wedding (we were both raised Christian). I wore a white dress, and he wore a dark green suit (the only one he owned at the time). I had a bouquet of daisies (my favorite flower). My mom made a small cake vanilla/chocolate swirl cake for us to cut, and we had cupcakes for everyone else.

What does being married mean to you?
We got married young, so being married has meant growing up together. It means I have someone who is always willing to take a road trip with me (and be the driver!), and make ridiculous pit stops so I can take photos. It means supporting someone else’s dreams, and knowing yours are also supported.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We hope to keep traveling and seeing the world with our kids. We both want to go out and see things and experience different places and cultures.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Imagine what it’s like to be married to you, and adjust accordingly”.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Family comes first. In my family and our religion, I have always been taught about the importance of family. I also think a positive value I bring is being charitable. I love to serve and help people, and to give people the benefit of the doubt as well.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We squeeze in a date night every so often when my parents can babysit. We take time to talk to each other, especially when apart (thank goodness for skype and facebook!).

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I have learned to cook and eat the Indian foods that my husband likes. I have learned to tie a sari, and we sometimes celebrate Indian holidays. We make a point of teaching our kids about Indian history and some Hindi words/phrases. Indians in Fiji tend to be more relaxed than those from India, so my husband isn't even always that into the ‘culture’.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Not really, but they have eaten Indian foods and sweets, which we never did growing up.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
My husband doesn't ask for things - he demands them and expects to be obeyed. It’s like he has never learned the words please and thank you! I find it difficult with the kids, especially because I am trying to teach them to always be polite but dad doesn't say it.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
When his parents came and stayed with us for a month. Partly it was tough because his parents are divorced and they came at the same time (awkward!). But mostly it was hard to deal with their expectations and my reality. My husband had figured out how to adapt to American life, and couldn't understand why his parents and I had a hard time dealing with each other.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is getting an up close and personal view of a different culture than your own, and getting to share two cultures with our kids. The worst part is when our different cultural ideas clash (like saying please and thank you to a child).

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
People think that being in an intercultural relationship is more difficult than other relationships. But, I don't think everyone realizes that every family has a culture, and when you get married each culture will clash and you have to work through it. Just because my marriage is more outwardly intercultural doesn't make it more difficult than any other. I have actually found our relationship to be fairly easy compared to many!

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about American women is that we are promiscuous or have no family values. I fully disagree with this idea. I have also heard that American women can't cook or don't like to cook. I love to cook, and think I do a pretty good job of it!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
I haven't noticed too many people disapproving of us. But every so often we see some older Indian ladies staring at us (sometimes disapprovingly). We get a chuckle out of it when they look surprised that we are together or when they see our kids. We've been pretty lucky I guess!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Relationships are hard, but they are worth it. If both partners work on it, learn to compromise and be humble, and genuinely want to make the other happy you can work through just about any cultural difference and make a happy life together!


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