The Indian Culture has by most part been rewarding, albeit certainly challenging at times. Just when you thought you had come to terms with all the cultural aspects, alas you hit another speed hump in the road. Even after a few years I’m still overcoming challenges thrown at me. Now I know I can’t be the only one who still faces challenges as an interracial couple, more specifically a foreign wife married to a Punjabi. So I reached out to others who also shared their biggest challenge integrating into the Indian culture. In the interest of privacy, I’ve changed their identities.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their biggest challenge integrating into the culture. This should serve as a reminder that we all face difficulties, though it is these challenges that only reinforces our relationships. Learning another culture means nothing is taken at face value which only makes interracial relationships that much stronger. I can tell you that my husband and I have our fair share of disagreements, yet we always find a way to overcome these challenges.
Here are the major challenges I’ve faced integrating into the culture, including the biggest challenge that other real couples face. I’d love to hear your biggest challenge faced integrating into the Indian culture, so be sure to leave a comment below!
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Mum Will Always Be Number One
The Indian Culture is very family oriented with the mother caring for her children till the day she dies. She will always serve them no matter what she is doing, and be sure to do it with haste. So don't be surprised that your husband will always go to his mother before his wife if he needs something.
If my husband asks me to make him a cup of tea and I am in the middle of something I will tell him to wait until I’m free. If he were to ask his mother the same she would happily oblige and drop what she’s doing. So as you can see there is no competing with an Indian mothers affection. It is best to accept that his mother will always be number one.
Sarah Says:“My husband and I have been together for 10 years and married 7 of those. My biggest challenge I have in our lives are my in-laws. More specifically my mother and sister in law, I don't really have an issue with my father in law or brother in law. My SIL and MIL started our relationship out with being very nice to me, I spoke with them weekly and we had good conversations each time. But the minute we got married EVERYTHING changed!! My in-laws went from being very nice to me, to being very manipulative and telling my husband things about me that were just not true. They tried to get between us as much as possible on a daily basis. I didn't know how to cook Indian food when we first got married so my in-laws would send me recipes but they would leave out like a main ingredient or tell me 2 cups of water when it should have been 5 cups or tell me to use an avocado when it should have been a tomato. But I didn't know any better because I truly had no idea how to cook Indian food and I trusted them. Then when my husband would call them and ask them why they said to use an avocado instead of a tomato they would say I was lying and that I was trying to make them look bad!!
Over time I have had words with them and I have confronted my SIL over the lies she spreads about me, or tells my husband. But it doesn't matter what I say they will never truly like me. My MIL once took my deep fryer and put potatoes and water in it, then put it way down in a back cupboard before she left our home one time. We dropped her off at my sister in laws home then we went on vacation for 2 weeks. We got home and had ants all over our kitchen and our home smelled like dirty still water. I cleaned and cleaned, called an exterminator, a plumber, bought ant traps and NOTHING worked!!! Finally I pulled everything out of my entire kitchen and found what my MIL did. Then the next time we went to my SILs home she asked me "so have you used your deep fryer lately?" Then laughed. That just reinforced to us what she had done and that she even went back to my SIL and bragged about it. I never wanted my husband to not speak to his family, but I can see him one day not speaking to them at all. He talks to them 3 or 4 times a month now, but it's all surface conversation; small talk.
Furthermore my SIL and BIL (not my MIL or FIL) also feel the need to always be better than us. We bought a home for $120,000 then they bought a home for $240,000, we bought a car for $15,000 then they bought a car for $30,000. It's kind of a joke now between my husband and I that we will tell my in-laws things like we are going to go to Hawaii for our anniversary just to see what they will come up with that's better than that. I do want to say that I would love to have a relationship with my in-laws but neither I nor my husband see that ever happening simply because of how jealous my in-laws are.”
There Will Always Be Something Important Going On
Indians are innately social beings; they highly value friends and family and have a calendar full of occasions to celebrate. Friends and family are always calling on my husband to accompany them. Anywhere from a friend's wedding or funeral, to a visit to the dentist or workout at the gym.
No matter the occasion it will always be of utmost importance. Even if I’ve made plans with my husband there’s usually some important event that suddenly pops up. It might be anything from a friend who needs to borrow his car, to a friend who’s broken down or needs a lift.
You Are Married To The Family
Everyone in India is your Brother or Sister and are treated just as so. At times it can be confusing when anyone from friends to your distant relatives are all referred to as direct family.
Don't be surprised when your Cousin tells you how much your husband loves you the day after you just had an argument with your husband. Or your Aunt comes to tell you your husband can't make it home tonight as he is in hospital with your brother. Or your Brother brings home the box of tampons that you had asked your husband to buy the other day. Essentially everyone will know your business! Even if you don’t tell anyone your business, they have a way of finding out.
Not only that but most Indian’s, especially Punjabi’s, tend to live close by to their family. This could mean that you might even have your mother and father in law living next door, your aunt and uncles living around the corner or cousins down the street. So you’ll always have a home full of love and warmth, though that can also bring with it drama with lack of privacy and the family always gossiping.
Courtney Says: “We’ve been together going on 5 years, married almost 3 of those & live in a joint family. My husband comes from a large Punjabi Sikh family, who nearly all live here in the USA. Not only in the US but all in the same state or same neighborhood. They’ve all built houses close by also living in joint families. In our neighborhood/local area we have well over 100 family members including family & friends. Our biggest challenges, next to convincing them to let us marry in the first place (took over a year of dramatics & endless road blocks), would be the amount of unwritten rules that apparently exist that I learn as I go. For instance the language barrier, the separation of men/women at events, & the gender stereotypes that seem very backwards to me. These are the first things that come to mind.”
Men & Women Don’t Traditionally Socialise
It’s the social norm that men and women socialise amongst their own gender, particularly if you live in rural Punjab. So it shouldn’t be surprising if your husband still does the same abroad. This also applies to daily errands such as doctors appointments, tax appointments or going to the mechanic. Whereas in the west it’s the social norm for husband and wives to attend to such things together.
When my brother was injured in a motorcycle accident my husband visited the hospital with friends everyday whilst I was left at home alone, helpless to do nothing. Even errands like having immigration documents attested at the courts my husband will call a friend. It can be difficult at times to sit aside and watch everyone else in your life support your husband.
Even at social gatherings, weddings or any other special occasion, it is the norm to have men and women separated. For instance at weddings it’s not uncommon to have men and women seated separately. It’s so embedded into the culture that men and women will tend to be separated at any social gathering whether it’s a casual catch up over dinner or a lavish party. Don’t be surprised if the group ends up separating into men and women even if it wasn’t to begin with. Or if you’re the only woman you may be in for a lonely night as the men will most likely unintentionally ignore you.
Living in India I don’t recall ever seeing my mother and father in law ever socialising with one another apart from when we visited family. Though even then the men would go their own way whilst the women sat and gossiped over tea. Even when going to social gatherings or weddings they would go their own way with other men and women. Therefore it’s understandable that this behaviour is still engrained in your partner.
This can be super challenging when you just want to spend time with your partner when at social gatherings, yet you end up spending your time drinking tea and gossiping with the ladies instead. This is definitely one challenge I’m still trying to overcome with my husband as it drives me crazy. Particularly when we’re in my home country and everyone speaks English, there really shouldn’t be a need to keep such an outdated practice alive.
Michelle Says: “We’ve been together for 3 years and the biggest challenge for me is how the men and women are basically separated at parties and other social gatherings. The first time I experienced this was a couple of months into our marriage, we were celebrating my husband’s friend’s birthday. They went to a restaurant without me and without even telling me (I found out from a friend). Then when they got home I was completely ignored, despite being invited to join them drinking. A couple of days later I told my husband, that how I was treated and what he had done really hurt my feelings and wasn’t something that we do in the American culture. At first he tried to say that it was just part of their culture, but a few days after that he apologized and said that he didn’t realize I was really hurt by it. Now it doesn’t happen as often but it does once in a while and he makes sure to try and include me whenever he’s with friends.”
The Culture Is Very Traditional
Being such a historic culture has both it's positives and negatives, unfortunately for some it means having traditionally minded parents or family. This can add an immense amount of stress to a relationship especially if his/her parents are against love marriages, let alone an interracial love marriage. As a result of this it can lead to some couples being kept a secret for fear of being ostracised from the family.
As once the relationship is out in public it can bring a lot of drama and chaos to the relationship, or worse yet lead to being completely cut off. There are many cultural reasons why parents have such a strong affliction against love marriages or interracial love marriages. In most cases an arranged marriage is a family affair with every member being satisfied with the marriage. It can also be beneficial for their social standing in the community. With some families also relying on astrology to determine their child’s prospective partner.
Therefore it’s no surprise why some families cause such drama when their child goes against their wishes.
Ashley Says: “I’ve been dating my man for nearly a year. Our biggest issue that we are yet to overcome is I have a 4 year old daughter to another man that his family doesn’t know about yet. He says his family will hate me and tell him to get rid of me before giving me a chance as they are very old fashioned. It is hard. But I love him and trust his plan.”
Jessica Says: “We’ve been together for 5 years and there’s definitely been a lot of challenges. My partner has struggled with depression and was fighting with his parents a lot. They are traditionally minded as they are from India and he is born here in America so he has a very different perspective on life. It hasn't been easy but I'm so grateful for him and learning the Punjabi culture. It is so beautiful and I'm glad I get to learn some from him. I’m 21 and still have a lot more to live so for now I'm just enjoying life with him.”
Megan Says:“My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. We live together in America and by far the biggest challenge has been keeping our relationship from his family. They don’t know I exist or that we live together. It’s so frustrating! We’ve come to live with it, though, by me telling him honestly what I think about the arrangement and conceding that it’s his family and therefore his decision on what to disclose to them. I definitely feel like I’m complicit in a lie of omission sometimes! It surprised me that this was our biggest challenge and not food, religion or values. We have smaller issues come up all the time as a result of our cultural differences but I think it only makes our relationship stronger and more genuine.”
You Are Marrying The Culture
Those endless jubilant dance numbers in Bollywood Movies sum up the essence of the Indian Culture. There is an infinite number of exuberant cultural traditions that are celebrated with much enthusiasm and gusto. It is this culture that makes him the man he is.
Amy Says: “The biggest challenge for me is when my husband now says “It’s a culture you need to understand it!” for anything that I question. I feel like sometimes he forgets I am from Europe and we are also culturally minded with many traditions.”
Katie Says:“I'm just new to this, my boyfriend is Indian and I'm European living in Israel. We have been together for 6 months now. I’ve started to get to know the culture and love it. Thank you for your blog it helped me a lot breaking the stigmas of the cultural views and made me stronger because I knew I'm not alone. Many people when they heard I'm dating an Indian said "what Indian..oh no" and started telling me all kinds of ghost stories about intercultural problems and so on. Our love is strong and these differences make us so much stronger.”
Erin Says:“I am from the U.K. and I have been with my partner whose family are from India for 3 years. We are getting married in October so we are in the middle of arranging our English/Indian wedding. I feel privileged to share my soon to be Indian families traditions. I have two children from a previous marriage and my partner also has a child from his previous marriage so I guess the biggest challenge we face as a couple is the reaction we sometimes attract when out and about. It’s hard to build a bond with my mother in law due to the language barrier but she is a beautiful person and we have managed to build a fantastic relationship without speaking the same language. Although our families are originally from different counties we actually share the same family values. My interracial relationship experience has been extremely positive for all of us.”
What’s been your biggest challenge integrating into the Indian Culture?
I’d love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment. Or I always welcome you to reach out to me directly.
Related Article: 5 Challenges Of An Interracial Relationship