Advice: Serving Food to my In-laws Feels Degrading 52


Hello Lauren, I am going to also be an English wife in India soon and I keep having a recurring argument with my Indian fiancé. His family has help to do with the house work, so he has told me the only thing I have to do when I move to India is cook, stand and serve the food to him and his parents. I feel serving food to my in-laws is degrading.

I’ve tried to explain to him if he’s working all day and his parents are out or ill, I would serve them food, and if I’m out vice versa. I told him I find serving demeaning and when I’ve seen his sister serve I felt really uncomfortable. especially as his parents aren’t old and his mom doesn’t work. I tried to explain to him what I meant by demeaning, but I don’t want to come across as a b**** and just keep being negative and saying no. I feel like he just won’t compromise or try to understand why I might feel that way, and I don’t know if I’m being out of order but it’s a gut feeling.

I do respect his culture, I don’t mind touching feet and the sindoor, but I just can’t get my head around standing there serving food. Would you have any advice?

Anonymous Reader

***

It is traditional for an Indian daughter-in-law to cook and serve food to everyone else in the family, some must even wait for everyone to finish before she can eat. Why? Some would say it’s because a daughter-in-law is at the bottom of the family hierarchy, while others would try to justify it by saying it’s simply a gesture of love. Of course, a loving gesture isn’t compulsory…

I believe a daughter-in-law entering a new family (especially a joint family) should be made comfortable. This is a huge change (not only for foreign brides, but for Indian brides too). Everything is new for everyone, including the expectations everyone has for each other. It will take time to feel at home. For everyone to feel comfortable with each other. I know, I had a difficult time when I first moved to India and into a joint family. It takes a lot communication, discussion and determination to understand from both sides.

Your fiancé will need to be your advocate because your Indian family will have little idea about your expectations of an in-law-daughter-in-law relationship. He will have to explain the difference in culture to them and in turn, express their feelings about it to you. Your fiancé really needs to understand how you feel and respect those feelings. He should be ready to mediate and negotiate to find a middle ground that works for everyone.

I suggest you ask your fiancé why he thinks it’s necessary you to stand serving food to the rest of the family. Perhaps he hasn’t ever thought about as being unfair or maybe he wants you to do it to impress his parents? They might nervous or even upset about having a foreign daughter-in-law, you should keep in mind that they probably didn’t expect to have a firangi bahu.

When you start married life, you should feel like an equal member of the family, and if serving food makes you feel less than that, please express your feelings. Let me assure you, this isn’t something every Indian family does. Explain to your fiancé how important this is to you, because you don’t want to start life in India resenting your in-laws.

***

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About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


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52 thoughts on “Advice: Serving Food to my In-laws Feels Degrading

  • Bhagy

    I agree with Lauren that this isn’t something that every family does. For example my mum did it for her in laws which are from town but in city it is not a common practice. I would suggest to talk to your fiancee and explain how you feel. You should be made welcomed in family and they should understand that you are from different culture so may feel uncomfortable to do certain things.

  • Bibi Maizoon

    I’m kind of curious as to what “stand and serve the food to him and his parents” exactly entails.
    I cook for our extended family and serve them by putting the food on the table before them.

    • Padparadscha

      I think I would do the same as you, Bibi.

      When we go to India, although I’m the last DIL, my SILs serve me first because they still see me as a guest, and my MIL’s house is very tiny, so we have to eat in turns on the floor. This makes me feel really bad. If I lived there permanently I would buy a table and (plastic) chairs and have everyone eat at the same time, the French way. I guess they would find this weird…

    • Chris

      How is standing and serving food to him and his parents different from cooking for the family and serving them (by putting the food on the table before them)? In either case, the daughter-in-law is cooking and serving food. Doesn’t matter how it looks, it’s the same concept, no?

      • Priya

        In one case she is just putting food on the table and eating with them, and in the other she is expected to be a waiter. Big difference, trust me… It happened once to me in India with my ex, we were visiting some friends of his. Nuclear family, parents our age, but the wife didn’t eat with us and kept plying us with food. The whole meal was in silence. I couldn’t understand, to me it was backwards. I served the in laws tea, but my culture is to be enjoying dinner with my guests and with an emphasis on conversation. I had great times with most Indians of my age, but could never properly get used to interaction with the older generation. It’s a massive cultural divide. So many obligations and traditions. So much sweeping of things under the carpet. Then they get so bored and frustrated that they create a big fuss with pseudo family drama. To entertain themselves…

    • Southern girl

      I’m Swedish wife of South Indian guy and at least here serving the food to the family actually means that you are scooping the food and putting it on the plates, serving more food as they eat, filling glasses with water, running to pick up more rice from the kitchen etc. So it CAN feel kind of um… Strange at least, like you would, be the servant. My mother in law does this to my father in law and after living in India for almost a decade and getting really close to my parents in law I love doing the same to my parents in law and other members of the family as well, when we are visiting them. But I don’t think I would love to do that every single day if it would be my job and duty I can’t choose out from. I also find it rather difficult to estimate how much they want to eat… Nowadays I see it as a sign of affection and love and truly feel like that when eating together.

  • Katharina

    First of all, let me say that it’s a very smart move to say what you’re uncomfortable with in advance. That’s something I didn’t think through before getting married to my Indian husband and it only caused problems.
    I totally understand you being uncomfortable with serving them food. My in-laws expected it from me, too. Even though you understand the cultural background on an intellectual level, you feel awkward when serving someone without hearing a ‘thank you’ even… As not saying thank you and please is also considered normal in Indian families and a sign for a close bond. I regularly fell apart after cooking a meal, serving my mother in law and having her tell me nothing but “paani cahiye” (“I want some water”) in return. For someone who learned to say thanks and please from childhood on it feels like the most rude thing imaginable. A thought that kept returning to me while serving the in laws was “I really didn’t have to get that Master’s degree for this”.
    ….sorry, this is no distinct advice, just please listen to your instincts. Xx

  • Luma

    This is not common practice in my family either. Maybe you can ask to be excused from this at the beginning, and say that you will maybe try adjust to it a bit later on, and then you can see how it goes? If you still are not comfortable with it, they will probably be used to it by then anyway. Hopefully your new family will be lovely and after time you will be happy to do some loving gestures, but the issue here definitely seems to be choice. I fight to be the one to help my elderly mother in law, but I doubt I would have the same feeling if I was being forced to do so.

  • Juliana Lopes

    Maybe it’s a matter of being there and understand all the context around it.
    I was served many times and then I also served. We have differences on traditions around the country, what I’m talking about here happens in Cochin, where my husband is from. When we have a sadhya for example – that is a kind of banquet – it’s not possible to put all the pan and vessels in the table, and since we are eating with the hand it’s difficult to serve yourself, for this reason is very common one woman will serve all and then she will also be served and enjoy the meal with everyone. The first woman that finishes her meal will serve this woman that is serving. It doesn’t mean she will eat alone in the end, nor she will eat only the left overs, nor that Indian women can’t eat on table with men, and all this things people think that happens… Also make sense for me that this woman that serves is one of the youngers in the house, right? Back in my parents house I use to cook or when not cooking I use to come and go from kitchen with the food, to give a bit rest to my mom, to help her, we always worked as partners, I use to serve my dad when mom is busy, so it’s an act of love I see nothing wrong. And again, maybe I had this mindset because I had this experience growing up.
    It’s all about receiving respect and love from them in order to don’t feel degrading.
    After some times being served I think you will handle it better and don’t get too much attention on this point… I’m pretty sure we will face bigger challenges in out lifetime as a intercultural couple.

  • Ruxandra

    I know what you feel because I am European and my husband is Indian. Although his family was very understanding and I didn’t have to be the last one eating or serve to all, I had to serve a lot and eat on turns which, because in European culture where no one eats until everyone is seated, eating on terms of eating while someone is serving is kind of disrespectful. It is their culture but you have also a culture. For me my last trip to India almost broke the marriage because of those small small things that are so different but mean so much. My advice make rules. Do not get married until they accept your rules and of course you will have to accept some of the things, but if you accept some things they have to accept also. Make your rules and stick to it, otherwise don’t marry, the cultural difference is huge. Express yourself and if they don’t understand you better don’t marry.

  • Maria

    I guess my mom taught same values as Indian families and I come from Puerto Rico. I saw my mom served everyone even my fathers mom. She cared for her when she came to visit us. This traditions was embedded in us as we grew up, my sister cater everyone when she has family reunions and always she’s the last one to eat in my family is just a respect doing so. My nieces and nephews and myself we all learned from our mother. It feels such a pleasure when you cook a meal for everyone and see the family enjoying it. I guess I saw my mom cooking and never complaining. I don’t see any defeating in serving it will be a pleasure and happy time see everyone enjoying my cooking

  • Manish

    This is a very old tradition and not something that even modern Indian brides follow. My lone surviving grandmother — in front of whom all three of my aunties still cover their heads out of respect, told her daughter in-laws she expected them to do as they wished or wanted after they got married — and she is very old skool. As a result THEY choose to abide by the old traditions. Two of my aunties opted to continue their university studies (post grad and Phd) after getting married — something my gran actively encouraged and supported. Ask your reader to ask her fiancée and future in-laws how they would feel about her going to an Indian uni on her own without being chaperoned by her fiancée or anyone else? If the answer is a no then it is an indication of the values of that family and ask your reader if she is ready to plumb to the depths of such a deeply culturally backwards family? Behaviour such as your reader is being asked to follow is controlling, outdated and akin to other outmoded practices such as asking for a huge dowry before marriage etc Also, why it is such a one way street? Ask your reader to ask his fiancée what parts of her culture will he adopt? Finally, let her know that there are modern enlightened Indian/Western men out there for her if she doesn’t get the right answers and it’s better to be miserable through a heartbreak now rather that suffer for a lifetime in a foreign country. India is constantly evolving and is known as a melting pot for a reason — where the old ways meet new and a different way of doing things is born. Your reader’s fiancee’s family should do the same.

    • Jelly

      Manish, if the world had more people like you in it, it would be a better place. What a wonderful statement. India is indeed a cultural melting pot. Most countries are incredibly multicultural these days. In order to peacefully co-exist there must be tolerance and understanding.

      To the asker- In ANY relationship, multicultural or not, there must be understanding and compromise. There must also be deal-breakers. Decide what you are willing to assimilate and what you will not. Then decide if this marriage will work. There must be give and take equally in a relationship.

      In my opinion, the unbending branch is the one which snaps off in a storm. Be the branch who bows and bends, but never severs from the heart of the tree.

  • Meg

    I completely understand feeling like the maid when it’s described like this. If you are the only one serving does this mean you then have to eat by yourself once everyone else finishes? My husband’s family tends to have a few people serve because we are 10 people when we’re all together at my in-laws. This works well because people don’t have to eat by themselves and everyone helps to serve. I would suggest that your husband also help you with his parents. Why should you be left by yourself? He needs to bridge the cultural gap and help you feel comfortable. You and he can eat together once parents are finished (that is probably something his mother will have to get over as they tend to want their precious prince to eat first before the wife, but he’s not marrying an Indian so she needs to adjust as well). There has to be a compromise on both sides. Giving you an ultimatum will just make you feel forced to behave a certain way, rather than wanting to help out of love or kindness.

  • honeyleafs

    Hello dear, since you didn’t mention your name I don’t know how to address you. I agree with Lauren regarding the fact that not only foreign brides but also Indian brides have to struggle hard to accept and get accepted in a new family. India is not only diverse in terms of culture and language, but also in terms of mindset and tolerance. Let me share with you a little piece of my experience. I am sorry Lauren that this comment is going to be a little long. Anyway, I am town-bred girl who got married in a patriarchal village,where educated wives are not desired but the ones expert in house works. All the achievements of my husband was looked down upon because he belonged to a lower caste. My parents were disheartened at the sight of the village Kuccha house with no house maid ( house maids are not easily available in villages) I was terrified how my life was going to change drastically. But all I received was warmth from the new family: my in-laws shifted the entire reception to a nearby town so that my relatives would feel comfortable, I was allowed to roam about in housecoats in my in-laws place and served along others. Then, one day when I was asked to cover my head while stepping out of the house I was taken aback; I felt so bad. I did it anyway because I felt that they have also made efforts to make me comfortable. My MIL sensed my feeling and said she could give me all the freedom in the house but outside there is a society to answer.
    So basically why I am trying to say is that both sides need to make small efforts to make a relationship work. I am not telling you to demean your moral or values but at least try to comprehend why you are asked to do so. Communication is sooo important. You cannot change the staunch society or mind-set in one blow. Be patient and talk to your fiancè about any doubts arising in your mind. Try to understand that is the other side willing to adjust with you as much you are willing to adjust with them? I am telling all this because that is what I did. But despite all these you would find several things in the family difficult to adapt to or even revolt against it; I know I do. But at the end of the day, I know my in-laws care for me 🙂 All the best to you and have a good life.

    • Luma

      This is such good advice – I second this. My new family are also very understanding and accommodating, and a few times they have requested the same thing (that I cover my head when guests come). I felt a bit uncomfortable with being told what to wear, but they were so understanding and accepting of me that I decided it was fine to compromise on something like this for them. I think it depends on the family relationship. If they are kind and accepting of you, then you feel happy to compromise for them. If they are demanding, then even a small request will feel like an unreasonable demand.

  • yachna

    Someone commented they didn’t get a Masters Degree to serve. What does ones level of education have to do with respect and love? It is not demeaning to take care of your family, if one embraces them as their own. But I do understand that if one is pressured to do something against their will it might feel demeaning. There are many traditional families where the daughter in l is a doctor or engineer but that doesn’t take away from them being respectful.
    My Advice: Do what you do out of LOVE but don’t allow yourself to be exploited/ abused. Set your boundaries diplomatically without leaving a bitter taste in anyone’s mouth.
    Eating last doesn’t mean you are not valued. If we host a party don’t we offer our guests and make sure they are taken care of or do we grab the plate and stand first in line for the buffet?

    • laurenrebecca

      I think that is the cultural shock why it is difficult, in our european culture we all eat together at the same time at the table, and we dont start eating until the last person who cooked is sat, this is disrespectful to us. I think the best thing would be to make a compromise around love and respectful gestures, but mutual respect and love for the whole family to find a happy medium. As that’s the most important thing out of the two cultures.

      • yachna

        I agree Lauren with the love and respect part. One example doesn’t define all of Indian tradition. There are a lot of traditional and old fashioned families who do it that way. When I was newly married an visited my in laws’ in laws they served me first with a lot of affection 🙂 I never entered their kitchen. When friends and family visit I love cooking for them. All food is laid out on the island for everyone to serve themselves. I have had some unpleasant experiences with western culture but I know that two examples don’t define the entire west. You won’t believe it, but a friend invited us over to celebrate her husband’s birthday. It was a small gathering. She called me a few days earlier to tell me that she is cooking non veg (since I’m a vegetarian). I said I’ll bring my own food and she was thrilled by that. Yes I showed up at her hubby’s birthday with my own food. It was very embarrassing and insulting to me as everyone was seated to begin eating I had to go microwave my food. I felt totally unwelcome.

    • Ladystar

      I feel your comment is from an Indian perspective and not understanding the reader’s Western way of life. I totally get the ‘I have a Masters degree..why should I be doing this’ comment. If women in India are expected to get an education and work, then why does she as an engineer or doctor be expected to still cook and serve?? Just because she is female? Why can’t the males help out as she is working just as hard as them? Being forced into these old fashioned roles doesn’t feel like love or respect – it feels like an expectation placed because one is female.

      In the Western country I live in, people don’t serve food in the first place. People have two hands…they usually just serve themselves. My Mother is traditional and still cooks for everyone, but she doesn’t stand there and serve like a doormat. We all eat together. In my own house my (Indian) husband and I take turns to cook (& we serve ourselves).

      Also if one cooked a buffet, no one would care or be shocked if the host served herself first. If she has asked everyone to “come and help yourself” & people are still sitting around chatting, she (or he) can serve themselves first. People would think “oh well the host/s cooked all the food so it’s fitting they serve themselves first”…but mostly they wouldn’t judge and think anything negative at all.

      My husband and I visted some Indian friends recently for dinner. The (engineer) wife cooked way too much food, she was exhausted, yet she still waited for her husband to eat. He was too busy drinking & chatting with my husband and still hadn’t eaten by 1am as she was still waiting for husband to eat first! How ridiculous! Is that showing her love and respect? He should have thought of her being tired and hungry, than expecting her to wait up until the early hours of the morning to eat. Sorry but this is backward, outdated customs to keep women down.

      • Priya

        Hear, hear…

        About that husband, another annoying tradition in India is that you do not take your drinks to the table. And eating puts an end to the evening. Like coffee in the west.

        • samrandomnumber

          God, yes, I struggle with this with my partner. He suffers from health issues that I feel would be greatly improved by a) not drinking on an empty stomach and b) eating dinner at a sensible hour (like, not 11pm). But he won’t budge because eating marks the end of his evening and his drinking session. We never eat together because I refuse to insult my digestive system by eating less than three hours before bedtime. That’s a tradition I’m be keen to see re-examined….

        • GS

          coffee is so expensive here thats why most of the indians cant afford it.It would be a huge help if you people i.e nri kindly
          help us poor indians with huge supply of coffee so that we can also drink coffee like the westerners before going to bed and be civilized like you people wish so that it wont embarass you nri people.

      • yachna

        I think my short response to this post might have been a bit confusing. I should have gone into greater detail.When I said that engineers and doctors lovingly serve their family, it was to drive home the point that degree of education should have nothing to do with love and respect. Regardless of one’s level of education no woman should be treated like a maid. hence the advice- do what you do out of love and set your boundaries early on. All families are different. All individuals are unique. As for the Indian lady who refused to eat until her husband-trust me a lot of indian families have a very heavy tea time which is why they eat dinner very late. Plus with drinks Indian families serve very heavy appetizers which are almost as good as dinner. Some Indian families take turn eating because the families are large and seating space is limited. Also most Indian meals are best served hot and at room temperature they are inedible.

      • Indian By Birth

        I am Indian by birth. I completely ‘get’ the Masters degree reference. And it does not have to be just a Masters degree. The way I look at it, what’s the point of getting an education if you are still going to be forced to do things you do not want to do? Education is supposed to open your mind, expand your horizons and bring positive change in the world. If you are being forced to do something against your wishes, you should be able to voice your concerns and if your partner is not willing to work with you on these differences, he is probably not the right choice. Also, a lot of Indian men (not all), with their poor interpersonal and communication skills, and a immense tendency to avoid conflict with the parents, tend to take the easiest path out of a tricky situation, rather than take the time to introspect, communicate and act as mediators between the wife and parents.
        You could play the emotional game and say that you would feel very sad and lonely eating by yourself, so could he please join you in serving the in-laws and then when they are done, eat with you? I think his answer will help you know more about him.

  • Cschadeli

    My in-laws do not require me to stand and serve them food. Actually them are super accommodating however, my husband made it very clear from the beginning that although I would try to be respectful and understanding of the customs I am not Indian nor will I ever fully be Indian. He told them that he had chosen to marry me because of who I am. During our wedding ceremony it is custom for the bride to cook and serve food to the family. To take a spin on this custom my husband and I both cooked and served. When we were questioned my husband joked that he was not marrying me to be his servant, but his equal. Maybe this is someway that you can get around serving. I do agree that you and your husband need to be on the same page.

  • Chloe

    Hello dear. I am a foreign bride. My in laws do nothing of that sort, I made it perfectly clear I was not going to be a maid. They live in a village. Luckily my in laws are loving and welcoming. My MIL sensed I was a little nervous and told me not to feel uncomfortable and actually served her husband only I served my husband as she wanted BOTH us kids to eat first. Sounds harsh but tell your husband if he really loves you he will understand your nervousness if not end it before you are miserable.

  • anenglishwomaninmumbai

    I love cooking for my Indian family! The especially go crazy (in a good way!) if I make them English roast dinner with all the trimmings. I don’t live with them however and I can imagine that if I had to do it every day I would tell them to get a cook!
    Take the opportunity to learn some new recipes – not everyone takes pleasure from cooking and serving food but if it is something you have not done before no harm in giving it a try! Ask your mother in law to share some of her recipes with you and get her back in the kitchen – it will be a bonding experience and maybe even great fun! It all depends on what else you have going on in your life, but if you are on an x-visa and unable to work until you get an OCI then it can get pretty dull sitting at home. You could start a cookery blog, become a cookery YouTuber! There is nothing to lose by trying out the tradition on your own terms and you may well gain from it – you will certainly gain the respect of your family for giving it a go. However I agree with Lauren, your husband needs to mediate and explain that it is not something you are used to or happy about being forced to do. Ask them why the tradition is important to them and what are the reasons behind it. Show them you are trying to understand their culture. Find a middle ground. Suggest they get a cook and that maybe one day per week you will impress them with some foreign recipe. Encourage them to participate in some of your traditions also as you are willing to try theirs. Cultural exchange is a fantastic positive thing but sometimes it involves participating in activities out of your comfort zone and questioning your own traditions and beliefs. This will be true for both you and your new Indian family. It can be a hard journey but one that is worth making!

  • samrandomnumber

    I disagree with the notion that ‘it doesn’t do any harm to try’ – cultural exchange is important and edifying, but I don’t think you should feel under any pressure to dabble in a tradition that makes you uncomfortable, and this one would make me uncomfortable too. I enjoy pampering those I love; I do not enjoy pandering to gender-based expectations that cast women as subservient beings (I get that there’s a degree of showing deference to age coming into play as well – India is light years ahead of my country when it comes to respecting elders – but I think gender is more at the heart of the matter: how many son-in-laws to be are told they need to wait on the household every mealtime as a mark of love and respect?). And this one is particularly hard, I think, if you’re coming from a culture where we all muck in together – cooking together, eating together, passing the serving dishes around, helping ourselves or taking it in turns to cook and plate-up. To have one person always taking on the roles of chef and waiter rather smashes up our notions of equality. Love and respect are earned … not role-played.

    I think openness is definitely the way forward. Your in-laws need to understand your perspective as you need to understand theirs. But I do wonder if your fiance is being unnecessarily anxious. There’s a good chance your in-laws have never had cause to examine their expectations – it may that, when your point of view is explained to them, they’re not as rigid as he assumes they’ll be, and may in fact be quite agreeable to modifying their ideas. Has he even raised the subject with them? He should – he owes it to all of you. Perhaps they’d welcome the idea of sharing out these tasks – perhaps it’ll turn into a fun opportunity for you all to exchange recipes and kitchen skills. And if, in time, you’re happy to cook for them on your own terms, with your dignity intact, that’s great (and it sounds as though you’d be doing your sister-in-law a favour as well). But the conversation needs to happen, and there’s no point prejudging anyone’s reactions before it does. Good luck building your cross-cultural home!

  • Ranjana

    I think your fiancé might be trying to convince your would be in laws by telling them that you will do everything that traditional Indian women do. Well most indian men are mamma’s boys and you will have to take stand and say you will not do this and ask him to figure out how to manage his parents. Trust me girls in indian cities have a very independent life and do a lot of fun stuff beyond serving their in laws.

    • Allyce

      Did you read ANY of the multiple comments from westerners explaining why it feels that way to us? In case you can’t figure out where to find them in this page, here’s the simple answer. In our culture it is considered very rude to sit and start eating until everyone is seated. Only waiters/servants serve during dinner. It makes us feel like a servant instead of a family member

      • GS

        yes i have read all the comments here , but the problem regarding those comments are that most of them solely put emphasis on the girls perspective totally ignoring the boys perspective. Every body who knows the nature of an indian family knows it very well that the amount of pain indian parents have to bear and the amount of sacrifices indian parents have to make to raise their progeny to become a successful human being in terms of earning stable secure well paid livelihood is humongous. The sacrifices that these indian parents make for their children does not stop when their children turn 18, most of the time it goes far beyond that. AND THE BEST PART ABOUT THESE SACRIFICES IS THAT IN A COUNTRY OF 1.28 BILLION PEOPLE THEY ARE ABSOLUTE NECESSARY , THAT MEANS IF SOME PARENTS DOES NOT MAKE THE SACRIFICES FOR THEIR CHILDREN IT IS VERY LIKELY THAT THEIR CHILDREN WILL HAVE A VERY TOUGH TIME AHEAD. so after taking every kind of help that is humanly possible from his/her parents and that too for 24- 25 years you really expect that it is easy for an indian child to ignore their parents request that too a harmless one that their daughter in law would serve them food . In most indian families it is seen as a display of respect towards the elderly people .

        • Allyce

          Parents make sacrifices for their children in every country around the world. Yes, the answers are from the perspective of the girls because the question is from a girl. Intercultural relationships take compromise from both sides but it’s hard for someone to do something that in their culture is seen as a major insult. She wasn’t asking for reasons why she should do it, she was asking for help explaining why she can’t and how she feels.
          Love and appreciation for parents can be shown in many different ways than making yourself into a waiter. A smart person won’t marry a person from a completely different culture and expect her to be exactly like a traditional Indian wife.
          Another thing I’d like to point out is that if the boys parents make so much sacrifice for him why isn’t he the one serving them?

        • samrandomnumber

          ‘…he has told me the only thing I have to do when I move to India is cook, stand and serve the food to him and his parents.’ Note him and his parents: she’s expected to serve all three of them. Surely if it were about deference to age, the young couple would both be serving his parents. Seems to me it’s a pecking order, and she’s right at the bottom of it.

  • Lata N

    Hi Lauren I read all your posts and I really enjoy them .
    Yes Lauren It’s not something every family does, My mother did not do I never did nor my SIL( Brother’s wife does) , but whenever many guests ( more than 10 people )are invited ,it depends how to carry put, for example,for traditional functions generally woman of the house serves the food and ensure everyone is fed properly and if anyone needs something more she happily provides and when every thing goes well she feels proud of herself ,and does not feel below others. (Yes if guests and other senior family members appreciate her hard work , there is no limit to her happiness)
    2 When it is casual lunch or dinner with guests or extended family members food is kept on the table and all ,including the DIL/ wife eat together.
    As far as daily routine is considered every one eats together ( should eat together). Sometimes new DIL is examined through these small ,petty. so called customs ,at least for some initial period which personally I don’t like, but once , trust is built , she is equally pampered.
    Now it depends how an individual looks at it.
    And it is obvious that two different cultures (To that matter even two different individuals) are to be understood by both sides, before concluding or judging each other.

    • Rebecca

      What? Once trust has been built after adhering to these customs, then she is equally pampered. That’s exactly the problem, I don’t understand how a westerner feels about these customs. Western culture has a political philosophy and a social outlook on an individuals moral worth. If just because she is female she has to follow these customs to gain trust and respect, that is taking away her worth, and is not right. There are other ways and gestures of gaining mutual trust and respect. Were everyone’s worth is still intact

  • friend

    I agree that there are a lot of things which remain unexplained. What is meant exactly by standing and serving? Is she supposed to serve everyone food and then join in later or is she supposed to eat later when everyone has eaten. If she is supposed to eat last then I think there is a problem. We really don’t know.

    Usually in such meals, people appreciate the food and say “such and such dish was good”. That is way of appreciating and thanking the effort being put in. Since it is family, nobody would say “thank you”. This is an indirect way of saying thank you. Nobody is going to say thank you for a lot of things. This does not mean that they do not appreciate you. A lot of these indirect communications happen in Indian family. Sometimes nothing would be said.

    This whole maid business, is matter of cultural interpretion and what actually takes place. I personally don’t like the spin that is being given something which needs to be analysed and we really do not have adequate information.

    • samrandomnumber

      To be honest, I’d be put out if I were expected to do *anything* simply because of my gender, which seems to be at the root of this expectation. Cook, serve, wait till everyone else has eaten … anything. If I were told I’d do my fair share of household tasks alongside the rest of the family, fine – in fact I wouldn’t need to be told it. But not ‘You’re female; females do this’.

  • Tindrums

    The anonymous reader is still in ‘I’ mode. The discomfort is because the family is operating on ‘we’ mode. Would she be uncomfortable serving food to her son/daughter?

      • Tindrums

        because in traditional households the woman is the boss of the kitchen. You may have to live with it till the in-laws are with you. The young wife upstairs is in shorts most of the time. But when her MIL comes, she is in a sari with a ghungta (veil!). Make some adjustments, they are not going to be there for a long time. In most houses this system is already gone. It usually is seen when there are too many people at the table and some sort of rotation has to be established. In ceremonies where there are servers or in a buffet system this is not seen. expect it to die out in a generation.

    • Allyce

      Yes, she probably would be uncomfortable serving her children too because in our families the food is placed on the table and everyone sits together and eats at the same time.

  • Sabrina

    This happens in Indian families outside of India too. One aspect of the culture I really hated growing up was seeing my mom being treated like a servant by my dad’s family. When we got together as a large family, the older girl cousins and daughter in laws were relegated to the kitchen. People ate in shifts – the men first (always). We made them plates, constantly refilled their food and water, and stood there while they ate. Often, by the time we girls sat down to eat, some items had run out. Mind you, this was in the 1990s in the US. It is very family and culture-specific.

  • Maria

    I have been in India for 22 years, having come from Ireland and I have made so many mistakes. I would say, on balance, make being a foreign DIL your USP. Don’t even try to compete with Indian DILs. You will fail miserably as you cannot measure up to girls who have been trained from birth to go to another house and serve their MIL like a goddess. Let everyone know that you are ready to do your share and take your turn. If you’re living jointly, suggest that each wife in the house take a turn at doing the serving. Otherwise, maybe the women can serve together, this is how I have seen it done in many houses. When some compromise is required from all sides, the results are generally better and everyone is happier. If you try to step in and compete with the Indian women in the house, you will fail to measure up and will probably get some very harsh criticism for not meeting up with the standard required. All the best with your plans.