Family and parental influence in intercultural relationships

Many people I know say that in an intercultural relationship you can’t underestimate the importance of keeping good, close relationships with your partner’s parents.

In a marriage or relationship with someone from Asian culture, parents are often very involved in the relationship.

In the west, we view that in a healthy marriage, parental loyalty should never exceed spousal loyalty but I would say that in south-Asian setting, that view is fundamentally challenged in society.

mumbai

It’s very common for a couple to have to get the family’s acceptance of the marriage or relationship which is why we hear so many stories of western women being kept a “secret” for many years in intercultural relationships.

And there are reasons for that- there have been countless stories of parents threatening their children that if they marry a foreigner (or even a Nepali from another caste!) then they are disowned from the family.

This concept that “parents need to approve” of the relationship is widespread in South Asian culture where arranged marriage is the norm.

The definition of marriage in Nepal varies widely compared to the West.

Things like social status, family reputation, caste influence, education levels and advancing a family’s financial interests are all considered when deciding on whether a family approves of a relationship.

In western culture, we do not need to get our parents explicit approval of our relationship- decisions are much more independent and it’s not common to cast our family’s views before seeing if they approve of the relationship.

You would be hard pressed to find an Australian, European or American person who will get their parents’ “approval” of their partner.

In an intercultural relationship with an Asian, it’s important to understand how much parents and wider family members are going to be involved in your life and in all kinds of decision-making.

I would say this is not the case for every Asian family but, yes, the vast majority. Interference with extended family is also very common.

You may or may not have heard of the influence of “Filial Piety” . It’s a Confucian philosophy which is a huge influence  in Asian culture.

Filial Piety regards respect, obedience, and care for one’s parents and elderly family members as the most important duty in life.

This influence cannot be underestimated in Asian culture and it impacts relationships and families.

As a result, there are strong expectations that you must live with parents and look after ageing parents (especially in much of Nepali culture it is the oldest son’s responsibility to look after his parents and please them/make them happy).

In Western culture, while respect for parents and grandparents is important, it’s not engrained so wholly into our culture.

The rules about living together is also influenced by this philosophy.

It’s a social norm to have four or five generations of families living under the same roof in many Asian cultures.

Big, joint families are common in Nepal and India and also China and Japan.

In South Asian culture, it’s the norm for the sons and the son’s wives to stay living with their parents their whole life under the same roof.

So if you were in a relationship with your Nepali partner it would usually be expected that if you were living in Nepal with your husband you would also be living with his parents, his grandparents, his brothers, his brothers, their wives and their kids.

As we know this is so different in Western culture. Who you live with is really a non-question- you live with your husband/ wife and your kids only.

A reader of my blog, a European lady, got married to a Nepali man and it wasn’t until later when she was planning to move to Nepal with him that she told by her husband she would have to live with his entire family permanently and if she didn’t it would be considered so rude because his family could never get over it.

She was shocked because she didn’t know enough about these expectations of Nepali society and he didn’t trap her because he genuinely thought it was so normal that you don’t even ask questions about it. It ended up in divorce.

These examples go to show how important cross-cultural communication is in a relationship.

I also often get asked by white women: what should I do if my partner is keeping me a secret from his family?

I was also a ‘secret’ for many years and it caused a lot of angst in our relationship as I thought he was not serious about me as a partner. I did not want to be a secret.

At the beginning of a relationship, I believe you should understand the cultural differences of why he can’t tell his parents.

He is still getting to know you and wants to be sure you are the right person for him (as I have explained before on this blog, Nepali and Indian men usually do not introduce their boyfriend or girlfriend to their parents).

But as time goes on, and the relationship progresses, it’s time to start pressing him more.

If you are clearly in an intimate relationship and if you are thinking about marriage and children, I think you should give him the ultimatum and ask him to tell his parents about you.

I have seen far too many examples of men who will not fight for their foreign girlfriend when it comes to their parents and the poor girl has ben strung on.

Just because they know there is some hesitation to the relationship from his parents or family though doesn’t mean you have to put up with being treated as the ‘secret’.

Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your partner- you have every right to know where you stand in the relationship.

 

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Brown girl poem

This poem is for all the amazing Nepali women! In fact – it’s for any woman who has ever been taught to feel shame just for being born a girl. For any woman who has been told that you:

-should not smile and laugh in public;
-should not expose your legs and shoulders because it will lure men to attack you;
-should not go outside at night;
-should not go into a place of worship or receive a blessing because you are bleeding for human life to be born;
-should not socialise with males;
-should not have sex before marriage;
-should not work because you’re a housewife and mother first; and
-should not speak up and have a voice, even in your own home.

Instead, as a good girl, you should:

-lower your eyes to the ground when you speak to a man;
-have lighter skin as what man will want your darker flesh;
-study hard but not be too intelligent as what man will not want to marry someone who is brighter than he;

And, lastly, that you should just be less because you weren’t born a man.

Shame is a powerful thing, don’t let someone else silence you or change you just because they have a problem with your fire, brains and beauty. You are all magnificent🙂

-Casey

This is the poem by Pavana and art featured on the berlin-artparasites art website:

berlin-artparasites | Facebook
berlin-artparasites shares compelling artwork that alters the way we live, love, work, play, think…

Brown girl
lower your gaze.
Didn’t anyone tell
you that modesty lies
within the eye of
the beholder?

Brown girl
study harder,
put the stories away.
What man would want
to marry a girl with a
head so heavy with clouds?

Brown girl
be quieter.
Have you ever heard
a flower bloom?

Brown girl
stop giggling.
Laughter is for
shameless women.

Brown girl
smile more.
Haven’t we given
you everything
you’ve ever needed?

Brown girl
stay out of the sun.
Keep your mouth shut.
Head down. Fire smoldered.

Brown girl
we pray you have a son.

Brown girl is witchcraft.
Brown girl is wicked.
Brown girl holds the
power to heal.

Brown girl
you are smoke from
an incense stick.

Brown girl,
brown girl.
You were always
meant to disappear. —Pavana

artwork by Dadu Shin from Brooklyn,. Source: http://bit.ly/1KrZjbL

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Kanchhi

A powerful story written by a Nepali on the tragic and very real story of a Nepali girl shunned by her family and society. Topics include #Chores #Democracy #Menstrual Cycle, #Nepal #NepaliWomen #Period #Rape #Sexual Assault #Suicide #VoicelessWomen

Nepali Chhori

By Sanju Baral (Originally posted on Drishtanta)

We are the advocates of equality. Freedom is our mantra. We believe that we are free to choose our own paths, priorities and way of living. We are proud of our discovery of democracy, that says all people are created equal and all have equal rights to lead any kind of life they want. But, this song of democracy is still unheard in many places of world. One of them is my country, Nepal. The story I am about to tell is of Kanchhi, a real female character who still walks in a Nepali galli and still doesn’t know what ‘democracy’ is.

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Talking to kids about sex – cultural comparisons

This is a video of parents talking to their children about sex and how babies are made.

In Western culture, it’s more common to have this ‘awkward’ but necessary conversation at a young age with either our parents or through school curriculum.

Sex education is compulsory in Australia and that’s how I learnt it about it at the age of about 10 years.

You will also find a lot of mothers teach their daughters and sons at teenage age about how to put on a condom and how to access the contraceptive pill (for women).

But I know from speaking with Nepalis, this is not usually the case. Many people in rural villages in Nepal especially are not educated about safe sex which leads to unplanned pregnancies (among children too) and abortions.

I think it’s healthy for kids to learn about this from their parents or through sex education in school rather having to discover it through porn or other unhealthy ways.

I believe it encourages healthy attitudes toward women surrounding respect and consent, and of course because it educates children the right way about safe sex, pregnancy etc.

I would be interested to know if it’s part of the school curriculum nationally in Nepal as it is here. 

In the separate video of the young boy with the Chinese mother and American father, the father says “and mumma didn’t know how babies were made because in China they don’t talk about it, she has to figure it out herself” and the little son says “oh poor Mummy” and he pats her on the back. I’m pretty sure most Nepalis have to figure it out for themselves!

Who else has noticed cultural differences about how this topic is raised in Asia compared to the West?

How will you teach your children about ‘the birds and the bees?

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A conscious man

This is a bit of an add-on to my last post more generally about relationships and not specifically about culture. It’s about finding a ‘conscious man’.

I have pulled together based on conversations with friends and my own experiences.

A conscious man replies to your messages once he receives them, even if just to let you know he is OK.

A conscious man won’t ignore your feelings or tell you shouldn’t be having those feelings.

A conscious man won’t play games with you or your emotions.

A conscious man is honest, tells the truth, and doesn’t lie.

A conscious man will not just open the door for you and give you romance, but he will be passionate, intimate and will move earths to be with you if he wants you.

A conscious man won’t be creeping around behind your back using his words and moves on every woman he meets.

A conscious man tells you the truth when you ask him how he feels about you.

A conscious man comes home when he says he will be home and on time.

A conscious man can have a bad day, or a bad week, a bad month just like you but you still make each other your world.

A conscious man is a man who is willing to open his heart to your love and you have to take tender care of his too.

A conscious man is a man who makes you feel special, like you’re the only girl in the room.

A conscious man makes you feel like you’re his girl, his queen, his world.

“Be with a man who not only bends and licks your soul, but isn’t afraid to love the hell out of you.” – Elephant Journal

All else is a waste.

So, are you with a conscious man?

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Nepali baby clothes

How cute are these baby clothes??

nepali baby clothes

For anyone with a Nepali baby these are perfect.

Designs include “50 per cent Nepali” and my other favourite is “Yes I’m bilingual. I can cry in both English and Nepali”.

On the weekend I went to my friend’s baby’s rice feeding ceremony and I bought him the cutest little jumpsuit which said “I can’t wait to have my first momo”.

I searched for weeks to find it the perfect gift for him and as momos are a right of birth for us people connected with Nepal, I was so happy with it. He loved it too and so did his mum and dad. I’ll be making him momos when he’s big🙂

They have jump suits and t-shirts for little toddlers as well as some for us adults (I would never wear such a thing though haha)

You can buy them online at cafepress.com they ship from America and are slow and expensive but if you’re keen, check them out J

Here are a few links http://www.cafepress.com.au/mf/24862026/50-percent-nepali_bodysuit?productId=206072215

http://www.cafepress.com.au/dd/24862026

Happy baby shopping J

 

P.s. no babies for us just yet, these are just for friends🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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White girl in a sari is now on facebook! Like my page

White girl in a sari is now on facebook.

I’ll be posting interesting links from around the world on intercultural relationships, Nepali culture, Australian life, cross-cultural communication, politics, humanity, parenting, feminism and all sorts🙂

Like my page here or visit https://www.facebook.com/whitegirlinasari

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