A-Z of Intercultural Relationships (Pros & Cons)

Want to know more about intercultural relationships? This is my complete, compact A-Z guide, the pros and the cons of falling in love with someone outside of your community, country or colour.

 

Acceptance

The first obstacle you may have to overcome is that your family, and maybe even some of your friends, will not accept your relationship. It may take a while for the people you love to overcome their prejudices or get used to the idea, but have patience.

If your family or friends are struggling to accept your intercultural relationship, read this.

Breaking boundaries

Interracial marriage didn’t become fully legal in America until 1967 and intercommunity marriage in India is still quite rare. When I first came to India, my cousin-sisters-in-law thanked us for breaking the boundaries. They have since married men from different states and castes.

If you are in an intercultural relationship, you may find yourself an inspiration to others like you!

Communication

Every relationship requires quality communication, but when you have cultural differences, communication is even more important. Values and traditions will need explaining, so you can understand why your partner or their family do certain things, and vice versa.

Decisions

An intercultural relationship may force you to come to some tough decisions.

Which country will you live? Which language will you speak? Which religion should you teach your children?

Exciting

Falling in love with someone from another culture has an extra dose of excitement because not only are you discovering another human, you’re discovering a whole new way of life.

Food

The food we eat says a lot about our lifestyle, our heritage, our culture. This could be a revelation to your taste buds, or you could end up eating separate meals at dinner.

Gossip

From “he’s only using her for a green card” to “why is he with her?”. When you enter an intercultural relationship, it will surely set some nasty tongues wagging.

Happiness

If you’re in an intercultural relationship, you put your happiness and love for your partner above the fear of prejudice and cultural conflict. When you combine two cultures, you may have extra things to argue about but with good communication, these things usually are resolvable .

You followed your happy!

Immigration

Immigration may become a huge, life consuming, soul shattering part of your life. It’s getting even harder for those in international long distance relationships to unite with stricter border control.

If you need to bow down to immigration, prepare for your relationship to be thrust under a magnifying glass, every detail dissected. This is not for the faint of heart.

Jokes

You may not share the same sense of humour. My husband definitely doesn’t have a British sense of humour, but we still make each other laugh. We just don’t enjoy the same television shows.

Kids

Multicultural kids are gorgeous (okay, I am bias) and can grow up enjoying the best of both worlds. Diwali and Christmas, for example.

Languages

For some it’s great opportunity to learn another language, others come up against a frustrating language barrier.

Language barriers are toxic to relationships. You and your partner may communicate well, there more often a barrier between you and their family. This can cause conflict and misunderstandings, which can result in problems in your relationship.

Misunderstandings

Language barriers and cultural differences can lead to a myriad of misunderstandings. Speaking a common language doesn’t mean the language barrier doesn’t affect you. If something is translated literally, it can result in misunderstandings. For example, if Marathi is translated word for word into English, it can mean something different.

Nonsense

There are some traditions, habits, or values that may feel like nonsense to you. However much your partner has tried to explain them. Sometimes you are just not going to “get it” and respect that it’s gone over your head.

Open Mind

Not only do intercultural relationships blaze the trail for others who fall in love, you also help educate people who hold negative stereotypes. An intercultural relationship is a symbol of the progress we have made.

Connecting two cultures in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise. Two families come together who otherwise would never have met. With exposure and education, stereotypes and prejudices slowly slip away.

Personal Growth

When you find yourself immersed in another culture, you are thrown out of your comfort zone and into a situation where things are done differently. If you stick around for long enough, your ideas of what is right and wrong are challenged. Here, you have an opportunity for personal growth.

Questions

You will get asked the same questions over and over, ad nauseam. Friends, family, waiters, people in the queue for at the airport. People’s curiosity will follow you around like a hungry dog.

“Are you allowed to celebrate Christmas?”, “can you speak Marathi yet?”, and my personal favourite: “how did this happen?”.

Religion

If you are in an interfaith relationship, some of your partner’s beliefs may contradict your own. It may take a lot of soul-searching and honest communication to resolve some of these issues. However, you may find yourself spiritually rejuvenated by your partner’s faith.

Alternatively, you may both follow you own religions separately without any issue. Reaffirming that religions can life together peacefully, even in the same bed!

Social etiquette

Taking my shoes off before you enter someone’s home, touching the feet of elders, eating with my right hand. These are all examples of social etiquette I had to get my head around when I first joined an Indian family.

You may have to learn a couple of things to avoid seeming rude to your partners family, and you might have to teach your partner a couple of things before they meet yours.

Travel

Oh, the people you will meet and the places you will see.

Your intercultural relationship doesn’t have to be an international one for it to expand your travel horizons. Even if you both were born in the same country, if either of you have roots elsewhere, you have more of an excuse to go out and see the world.

Unity

Intercultural relationships help us see that our similarities out number our differences. Beyond the food we eat, clothes we wear, language we speak, habits we grow up with, we all have similar hopes and dreams.

Values

Whilst all cultures value similar things, some may hold certain values higher than others.

For instance, in India it’s traditional for a son to live with his parents and a daughter to go and live with her husband’s parents. In England, children leave home and start their own family in a separate house. Therefore when this English Wife started her Indian Life, it was pretty difficult to get my head around joint family living.

However, our personal values don’t always reflect our cultural identity. You may share the same values as your partner and that may be one of the reasons your intercultural relationship words so well.

Weddings

You can have a fusion wedding, or even two weddings! I know several couples who have had both Hindu and Christian ceremonies, and others who have had beautiful fusion weddings!

Xenophobia

It’s an ugly word but the chances are, if you are in an intercultural relationship, you will experience xenophobia at some point. It may come from an aged family member or a stranger from the street. It hurts and something you, sadly, have to prepare for.

Your Own Culture

You can create your own culture with your favourite parts of each others, the best of both worlds. I don’t think there is any need to continue traditions purely for tradition sake if it isn’t fun, functional or life affirming.

Zoo Animal

You may occasionally feel like a zoo animal because, even in multicultural societies, intercultural relationships are not the norm. People will stare, and may even take photographs.

Remember: by being seen, you are normalising intercultural relationships. You are opening minds to the possibility that people from different cultures can love each other and live together in harmony.

That’s a beautiful message to spread, one the world needs.

***

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Love Story: Garba Love

This girl has some of my favourite eyebrows, a weird thing to say, but it’s true! Beautiful Nicole is from Illinois and she fell in love with a Gujarati. They knew they were made for each other and nothing could stop them being together. Please remember, it’s Nicole Pithva, not Nicole Patel…

Life before meeting my husband was a struggle, I’m the type of person who likes to get things done my way and by myself. I had been in a relationship for seven years and we had lived together for five of them. During most of our time together, he didn’t work. A few years into our relationship he decided to go to college, but that still left me paying the bills. I had to work an insane amount each week just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. My family and friends told me many times that I deserved better, but I had not met anyone else that I could see myself with. I was stuck in a rut.

That was until a few loud “Gujju” boys moved into the apartment across from mine, I could tell they were Gujarati as I had been a nanny to a Gujarati family for three years. I found them rather annoying; smoking on their balcony, driving fast through the parking lot and playing loud music and dancing at all hours. They were, however, very courteous and always said hi to me. They would even invite my ex and I over to hang out with them. My ex was the type of person who hated everyone and just wanted to stay in the house. So aggravating, I was 25 and wanting to go out and have fun!

One of the annoying Gujju boys started talking to me more and more and I found him to be cute and interesting. He seemed more mature than the others. We began talking everyday in passing, when returning or leaving our separate apartments. He would recommend Hindi movies (most of which I had already seen) and Hindi songs. The more we talked, the more I wanted to see him and be with him. We connected on so many levels, it was crazy. That is when I decided to leave my ex. I kicked him out of my apartment, and Mitesh, who had dated a Gujarati girl for a year, decided to leave his girlfriend too.

Once we ended our relationships, we decided to go out for a date. We did the normal dinner and shopping, but it wasn’t until we attended a Garba event (Gujarati folk dance), that I knew he was the man I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. We had such an amazing time, a night I will never forget. We went to the Garba with friends, danced until one in the morning and then headed downtown to Chicago’s Devon Ave (“Little India”, as I call it) for some late night food. We didn’t get home until three in the morning!! Hands down, it was the best night of my life. I loved that Mitesh was so outgoing and spontaneous.

nicole gori amwf love garba romance garba

That was October 2012, and in March 2013 Mitesh asked me to marry him. Of course my family were SHOCKED to say the least. Well, they were in for an even bigger surprise, because Mitesh and I decided to elope on June 5, 2013. He and I went to downtown Chicago and got married in the courthouse. No friends or family attended, it was just the two of us and it couldn’t have been more perfect! I loved that we didn’t have the stress of planning a wedding and didn’t have to worry about money to pay for it. It was very special for us both, I love the way we did it!

However, our family and friends were not very happy that they couldn’t see us get married, so we promised them we would, one day, have a wedding. We are planning a vow renewal on our fifth wedding anniversary, together with our friends and family. It’s been two years since I met my husband and just over a year since we got married, and I have to say I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. We really do complete each other.

My family has come to love Mitesh as their own. And I am so happy that his family has accepted me. The first time I met his parents was after we got married! They came to visit us in August 2013 and stayed in our house with us for six months. Most people I know were worried about how his parents and I would get along, but I absolutely loved them! His mom and dad are my parents too and I wish that they could come back to the US to see us again (they live in Ahmedabad).

I have yet to get to India. I know I will love everything about it. I love Indian food, clothes, attending the temple, watching Hindi movies and dancing to Hindi songs! I feel that I was a desi girl in a past life. My husband always tells me that we got mixed up; I should have been born in India and he should have been born in America. I think that’s why our relationship works so well, we have the best of both worlds and get to experience each other’s cultures together.

I look forward to many more happy years with my one and only husband. A side-note: I’m also so very happy that he is not a Patel! No disrespect to Patals, it’s just there are so many, and I am happy that we are Pithva. I might be a gori but I have that Gujju pride. I am learning to speak Gujarati and even make Gujarati food daily (maybe that’s why my mother in-law loves me so much, I feed her son well).

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Love Story: Life As I Know It

Gorgeous Sarah is 29 years old and lives in Canberra, Australia. We started speaking a couple of weeks ago, during our first conversation I hadn’t laughed that much in ages!! Sweet and funny, Sarah also as a pug baby, called Apu (you know, like the monkey in Aladdin)!! Even though she has been married for over two years, Sarah only recently started speaking to other western women with Indian husbands. She has made some interesting observations since falling in love with an Indian and speaking to other ‘gori wives’… 

I have been married to a Punjabi man for just over 2 years now. I met him when I lived in Darwin, we both worked in the same shopping centre, and I was crazy about him from the first moment I looked at him.

My friends immediately said, “you do realize he is an Indian don’t you, that’s disgusting” and well, no I didn’t realize. I didn’t really know anything about India or Indians; I thought they all wore turbans!! The only thing I knew for sure was that butter chicken was an Indian dish. I didn’t know why my friends were disgusted, I thought he was beautiful! It was then I found out about the stereotypes of Indians, as a person who would never judge someone because of their race, that didn’t stop me from fancying him!

While we lived in the same state, neither of us had guts to talk to the other. It wasn’t until I moved to Sydney, and he moved to Townsville, that we come across each other again, this time on Facebook. I couldn’t find him at first, I spent ages looking for him on his friend’s Facebook page (my husband was super jealous when he saw that I had added his friend!). So anyway, the rest is history.

The first time we lived together, we had to share house with other Indians, it was quite uncomfortable. I remember feeling that I didn’t belong there, they spoke their language and looked at me as if I were an alien. I had already falling in love with this man, so I stuck it out.

There was a lot of tension and jealousy between me and the housemates, especially when I first moved in. They had lived in an empty house, with nothing but mattresses to sleep on. I arrived to the house, a stranger from another culture with a king size bed, big flat screen television, washing machine etc. The guys of the house watched me as I unpacked, they’d never experienced living with an Aussie girl before. It wasn’t long before we moved out and got our own place, thank God.

Eventually we got engaged, and then married. We’ve had my in-laws stay with us a couple of times, my mother in law has taught me have to cook my husband’s favourite dishes among other Indian things. I have been so blessed to have been accepted by them with open arms.

 

gori gori gori gori gori wive punjabi

One night, after a few nights of having my in-laws with us, my father in-law started crying, which instantly made me cry, but I had no idea why! He then started to tell my husband how they are all so lucky to have me as their daughter-in-law, so I cried even more!! My in-laws are amazing, and I have such a close relationship with my brother and sister in-law. Earlier this year, I spent six weeks in India, was wonderful.

When we were first married, I was living in a bubble, I thought I was the only white girl who married an Indian. I didn’t think it was a big deal, I don’t think my marriage is superior because it is an intercultural one, we are just two people who love each other. Then I started coming across other western woman who have married Indian men, these ‘gori wife communities’ started popping up. I was so excited to find other women who could relate to me and my marriage.

I soon realised that there were strange dynamics going on between some of the ‘gori wives’. There are some who I adore and could share my deepest feelings with, but I have also stumbled across a whole heap of woman married to Indian’s who have shocked me, and I cannot help but laugh at their behaviour! Living their life to try and convince the world that their relationship is the most perfect, that their husband is the best and viciously gossiping about the other ‘gori wives’. Why are some of the ‘gori wives’ behaving like this? I believe they are trying to prove to everyone that their husband really does love them and they aren’t just being used for a visa. I honestly think that these are the women who  aren’t sleeping at night because they have doubt themselves!

My life isn’t perfect, and I’ll never try and convince you otherwise, I’m just an Aussie in love, and he happens to be Indian (as pointed out by my ‘helpful’ friends the first day I saw him!).

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Love Story: My Hindi Heart

I first spoke to Crystal after she sent me a message, telling me that she was moving to India from America! We started speaking regularly, became good friends and she even attended my wedding!! A beautiful girl with a beautiful soul, she also found love in India. I am proud to introduce my first ‘Your Stories‘ post, an inspiring love story which shows that dreams do come true…

It started with a love for the Hindi language. The melodic flow of words, the speech pattern, the way Hindi sounded like a language I have always known but couldn’t remember. I wanted to speak it more than anything. Second to that was culture. Beyond the colors, the language, the spirituality or values, was a place that seemed to beckon me. Little did I know, the one who sparked my love for India would become the one I now call my true love.

About three years ago, I was working three jobs at a time. I lived on my own, supporting myself, in an ugly peach house in Blue Springs, Missouri. My full-time job was an overnight stocking job, my day job was part-time and I worked as a teacher, and finally, my weekend job was working as a barista at a coffee shop. It was lonely working nights, but I at least had the company of my online Indian friend, and we would talk at every opportunity. I was unhappy with my life, working so much and having no time for the things that were important to me, but at least I was making enough money to support myself, and enough to save for traveling. I was making plans to go to India.

Unexpectedly, I lost my full-time job, and my other two jobs were not enough. I couldn’t support myself, even with my savings, and went into a financial crisis. India was far out of my reach and I felt hopeless. After that, friendships began to crumble and even relationships with my family were falling apart. I moved in with my best friend and her husband. Though I was happy to have her support, I was at an all-time low.
One night, moments before falling into a deep sleep, I wondered where my life would take me. I closed my eyes, tears falling down, and not long after, Lord Ganesha appeared in my dreams. Without a single word, he spoke to me. His presence was warm and comforting, but in a way, he was pointing me in a particular direction. When I woke, something became very clear to me, but I couldn’t figure out the message I was supposed to understand. Three days later, I received news that I would be going to India and that someone would be sponsoring my trip. 

I worked until the day before I had to leave for India. My nerves were shot as I packed my suitcase and backpack. I questioned reality several times, because it just felt too good to be true. Reality didn’t fully sink in, until after I crossed the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t sink in until I saw the sun rising over a dusty field in Hyderabad. This is where my adventure really began.

crystal my hindi heart 2
My travels took me from Hyderabad to Jhansi, where I met my online Indian friend, DN. Immediately, we both felt a spark between us. We felt as if we met a thousand times before. Despite what we felt, we remained as friends until the day I witnessed Lauren and her husband marry. Though at a distance, it inspired him, and we forged an unbreakable bond and made an oath to each other. I traveled back to Jhansi and then moved on to Delhi, to work with DN. Our relationship flourished, and despite the fact that we lived apart, we went everywhere together.

I knew that our relationship would come with mutual sacrifice, and there was so much for me to learn. The youngest of his elder sisters lived in Delhi also. She and her husband approved of me and approved of us. They helped him break the news to his parents. His parents were shocked, and they did not approve. They had dreams of his future, and didn’t understand why he wanted to be with me. It was scary to them, that I was a foreigner, and they had several doubts and fears. They offered to find him a nice Indian bride, but DN stood his ground.

He assured me that they would understand with time, that they would come to know I was nothing like the stereotypical westerner they feared me to be. I learned a hard lesson of how much I was judged in India, but it made me want to prove myself even more. I would meet them MORE than half way, by learning Hindi and carefully studying society and culture. I struggled with not being accepted by a culture I was in love with, but found balance between being myself and learning to be like an Indian.

By the time I had to leave, I found it almost impossible to say goodbye to DN and impossible to leave India. Struggles aside, I found a place that truly felt fulfilling to me. It felt like home. I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to make things work between DN and I – but knowing our story would go on, did not make it any easier to leave. It all hit me at once. The realization that I accomplished my biggest dream, made many friends, had an amazing adventure and fell in love. India was everything it was meant to be, even the challenging parts.

crystal and dn

Currently, I am preparing to return to India in less than two weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited! Currently, DN’s parents seem to be more accepting of the idea that we are together, but I hope to strengthen our bond when I return to India. I’m ready to face every challenge. I’m ready to see me and DN’s relationship flourish. I’m ready to embrace India and free my soul once again. To think this all started with a love of the Hindi language, inspired by my first Indian friend many years ago… It’s been an incredible journey so far!

Crystal writes an inspiring blog at MyHindiHeart.com

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