In the age of globalization, relationships between people from different countries are becoming more popular. Internet and other communication methods have brought the world closer than ever. But, these ‘Inter-cultural’ relationships are not as easy as one might think. In this post, we are going to talk about the tricky parts.>
This post is not an attempt to write senseless rant or self-made facts. The topic of relationship is a sensible matter. This article attempts to provide the basic information about the Indian tendencies and possible difficulties. Please note that we are talking about only difficulties in this post.
Sad Story #1
Reena met Mike six month ago when she visited her brother in London. Eventually, Reena returned to India but they remained in touch via phone and internet. Soon they reached the point when their Facebook relationship status had to be changed to ‘In a relationship’. Then Mike decided to come to India to go on a vacation with Reena. Goa seemed suitable for the reunion.
That evening they were sitting in a beach side restaurant in Goa. They sat together waiting for their Veg Biryani, when their hotel room neighbours Steven and Johnny joined them. Steven and Johnny both were from the US. After the dinner they took beer while Reena sat silently sipping her cola. Very soon, a good large amount of beer was consumed and the three men were in the different zone. Then began a session of boasting. Johnny boasted of his past encounters with women. Steven followed the suit. Mike, now fairly drunk, could not contain himself and began boasting about his own encounters. Reena had sat quietly without paying much attention to the drunk foreigners so far, but she began to turn bewildered. Words were coming out of the mouth of her boyfriend and her heart was sinking deeper under the ocean of dismay. The man was too drunk to realize he was sitting alongside her girlfriend. Feeling his dominance over the other two men, he did not stop boasting. It did not take long when Reena found her eyes full of tears. She rose sharply and strolled out of the restaurant to disappear in the darkness. Mike was still too drunk to sense the change in the atmosphere.
Next morning when he woke up and knocked at the door of Reena, he was told by the manager that she had left leaving him a note. In the brief note, she told him that their relationship was over and he should not look for her.
Sad Story #2
Emily and Rakesh met on the internet. After a yearlong interaction in chats and video calls, finally Emily decided to visit Mumbai where Rakesh worked for an IT company. The plan was to stay with Rakesh for a month in his apartment. When she arrived, everything was as expected. She always wanted to feel India.
The problem began on the fourth day of Emily’s arrival, when they began discussing their past and present. Rakesh was shocked to learn that Emily had several past relationships, including a two years long living-together relationship. His shocks were extended when he heard about Emily’s western uptown lifestyle.
Rakesh struggled to digest the information he was fed; while Emily felt better after having discussed the matters. She was enjoying her stay. But, in the evening of the fifth day, Rakesh told Emily that he could not continue the relationship. Further, he asked her to leave because his mother was to come over for a couple of weeks and he did not want her mother to see a woman staying with him.
Feeling betrayed, Emily packed and left his apartment in the night even though Rakesh requested her to stay that night and leave the next day. She felt severely broken and she was thrown into depression.
Let’s talk about the Sad Story #1
Most of the unmarried Indians want a virgin boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. Since the society is changing, now a small portion of younger generation may accept someone who had one or two ex-boyfriend/girlfiend in some cases. But the way it is in the modern culture of the western world, it is too much to be accepted by Indians. Reena knew that Mike had girlfriends before. But she was rather oblivious to his actual romantic and sex life. Count of more than 10 romantic/casual partners is way too much to an Indian.
And the Sad Story #2
Rakesh had all of the problems Reena had, plus some more. He found it odd that she had too many male friends and she went out in night and got drunk with them often.
Rakesh had given thought to marriage. He was expecting Emily to integrate with his family and his family to accept Emily. However, after studying her closely, he understood that she couldn’t be a daughter-in-law his parents would accept. Eventually he realized he did not want to marry her anymore.
Our world bears a number of cultures that hold similarities and differences to each other. Things that feel absolutely normal and logical to a person, do not feel the same to a person from another different culture. Lifestyle is one of those things.
The modern generation of Indians is getting more modernized everyday, as it is the normal way of the cultural progression. But yet many bits of the modern lifestyle of western world can shock Indians. Just for the sake of example.. a woman in the habit of frequent drinking, having many good male friends (yup, you read it right), night outs, having flings, is likely to give a shock to an Indian boyfriend at first.
Although, India lives with multiple cultures, from very modern to very conservative, the average of the huge middle class of India tends to be conservative, if compared to the west. Parents want their daughters and sons to marry someone who belongs to the same caste. If they feel modern, then this limit could be extended to different caste but this caste must belong to their religion (learn more about the Indian caste system). One important point is: for first time marriage, virginity is a must.
Considering these points, a non-Indian daughter-in-law or son-in-law becomes undesired. As a result, Indians tend to keep the relationship with the non-Indian unknown to their family. When the relationship comes to the knowledge of the family, the family exerts pressure to break the relationship in most cases. There have been cases in which family attempts to break up the relationship even after the marriage.
It should be noted that the financially poorer classes of India are relatively more open to such relationships. However, the lifestyle gap widens causing other problems.
What to do?
Intercultural unions are good thing. Relationships that break national and religious shackles are good for the world peace. But a relationship with someone who belongs to different culture can become a soar matter. Before one walks along that path, she/he should consider following points attentively:
- Relationship is something that affects you as well as the other person. Even if you are willing to adapt yourself to their culture, make sure they are able to or willing to adapt your culture.
- Talk about the cultural differences. Talk about your past and present. Talk about your lifestyle. Talk about their past and present. Talk about the lifestyle.
- Talk about the future when the time is right. Indians look for a long term relationship and marriage (when they are not looking for an easy fling. A fling is very hard to have with the fellow Indians, so they tend to looks elsewhere).
- If you are having a relationship with an Indian, then it is very likely that the relationship of your partner with his/her family is going to suffer. Family bonds are strong in India. Talk to your partner about this issue.
- Make sure you can manage the geographical distance.
- There are stereotypes about western people that are taken as fact by many people. Besides other problems, it may cause lack of trust (and faithfulness).
The Last Words
This article may look sad overall since it does not include any happy story. However, there have been many happy stories of relationships between an Indian and a non-Indian. Once again I would remind that in this article, we discussed the difficulties only, so don’t just give up.
Intercultural relationships should be encouraged, but proceeded carefully.