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.


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.


Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 6 Comments

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 🙂


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:

Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 1 Comment


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.

View original post 1,117 more words

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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?

Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 5 Comments

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?

Posted in Intercultural Relationship | 1 Comment

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 they ship from America and are slow and expensive but if you’re keen, check them out J

Here are a few links

Happy baby shopping J


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






Posted in Intercultural Relationship, Nepal | Tagged | 3 Comments

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

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Nepali – western weddings some inspiration

Planning a wedding that incorporates both your cultures on the most special day of your life is really difficult.

The culture, ceremony and traditions are completely different and of course the bride’s dress couldn’t be more different!

In Nepal, a bride wears red and in Australia, America, England etc, the bride wears white!

That’s why I thought I would give you some links to inspire any of you planning a fusion multicultural wedding to your Nepali partner.

It’s totally up to you if you want to choose one wedding ceremony that incorporates both Nepali style and ‘the white wedding’ (what I did) or have two weddings (many couples have one white wedding and one Nepali ‘red’ wedding) or only a white wedding or only  a Nepali wedding.

With our wedding, it was logistically hard to incorporate a full traditional Nepali wedding into our Australian marriage ceremony. We would have either had to have a second full day for the Nepali wedding (virtually a second wedding which was hard to do because of location, the need to light a fire for Nepali tradition and also with so many out of town guests who couldn’t attend for two days) or we could have done something in Nepal separately (which we still haven’t ruled out!)

So we did our best at a fusion Australian Nepali wedding.

We took tikka (blessing) from our elders, played Nepali songs at both the ceremony and the party, my bridesmaids wore saris and we had a separate photo shoot of me in Nepali wedding dress where my mother in law dressed me up in Nepali sari. It wasn’t a traditional Nepali wedding by any means.

Another big issue with the white wedding dress is that in Nepal, white is actually what is worn to funeral burials as it signifies death which is why I didn’t choose to wear white with red Nepali veil or anything. This makes it so hard to include red accessories on a white dress but some choose to do it anyway.

So here is some visual inspiration for a beautiful multicultural wedding.

What do you think? Which one is your favourite? Please share any links if you have any more

 How did you incorporate both your cultures on your wedding day?

Couple 1

English girl and Nepali boy, Sarah and Sudaman

This is an absolutely stunning wedding. Seriously how cute are they.


Photo credit: Camera Hannah and link to more photos at the Rock N Roll Bride website is here. 

Couple 2

Sarah and Amit’s second “white” wedding in Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo credit: Emily Adamson Photography. More pics here.

Hello, can you say stunning!

pic1 pic2

Then again Sarah and Amit’s first wedding (a Nepali wedding) in Wanaka, New Zealand. Photo credit: Emily Adamson Photography. A link to more photos of their wedding is here.

pic4 pic3

Couple 3

Cindy and Kris’ multicultural beach wedding

This couple decided to do one fusion wedding of both cultures, not two weddings like Sarah and Amit.


Photo credit: Michael Giragosian. More pics of their wedding at The offbeat Bride’s website here.

Couple 4

Videos: Clare (Australian girl) and Bish’s two weddings. The first is a Newari Nepali wedding in Nepal, watch it here and the second is their Australian wedding in Sydney, watch it here.

Posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Intercultural Relationship, Interracial, Love, Nepal | Tagged | 6 Comments

Why a Nepali bride should cry on her wedding day

**Note I am not an expert on this topic or Nepali culture. I want to know what Nepalis know about this tradition of brides on their wedding day as I do not know a lot about it.

In every culture, weddings are joyous celebrations for the couple and family.

A few years back, though, I had a conversation with some Nepali friends and Rabindra about Nepalese weddings.

Most Nepalis have told me that when a woman is married in Nepal, it’s not good for the bride to look happy or be smiling etc and they should be looking down to the ground a lot, not making much eye contact.

Obviously this is not the case in all weddings in Nepal but it’s interesting because I’ve heard this explanation from many Nepalis, both from the village and from the city.

My first thought was “oh my, this is shocking” then secondly I thought this must be a forced marriage of some kind which she is clearly distressed about because surely every bride should be happy on her wedding day 🙂

But you see in Nepal, when a woman gets married, it signifies that she no longer belongs to her own family and instead she now belongs to her husband’s family and must live in his home instead.

Generally, Nepali society says women should be crying because they have to leave their family and go live with their in-laws permanently.

A newly married woman would most likely be worried about moving out of her parent’s home and taking on their new role as a ‘buhari’ (I can totally understand this, I would be too!)

Even my own mother in law made a comment about this as obviously I was so happy on my wedding day.

My husband translated what she said and that was “in Nepal it would be unheard of to see a bride dancing and being happy on her wedding day” (she didn’t say it in a bad way toward me, more of a ‘this is so different’ way.)

I asked other Nepalis about what they thought of this and they said, traditionally, yes a Nepali bride will cry and be unhappy because they are leaving their family.
Some also said that in Nepal, any bride that was happy and having fun on their wedding day would be labelled as “crazy”. Geez how things are different with the western way and the Nepali way….

It may also have to do with the fact that in arranged marriages (the way most weddings are done in Nepal), that brides don’t know their future husband too well and have never lived with him before, so there would be apprehension and nerves about how they will get along now that they are married.

Most of my Nepali friends who have had arranged marriages look sad in their wedding photos.

I honestly don’t know what to feel about this. Surely, if you want to be married then you would be happy on your wedding day. Right? Yes? No?

Maybe they were upset because they were unsure about being married at that age. To me, I think, well it’s probably not a good idea to be married if you are not ready but there is no such level of thinking like this in Nepal.

I’ve been told that by crying (in a bad way, not like happy crying like I was) on your wedding day, it doesn’t mean they are sad to be married. Really?

But then I think, most women in Nepal are expected to marry quite young even though that’s not what they want and surely they would not fake cry.

I can’t help but think that surely if you are happy about being married, that you wouldn’t cry on your wedding day ??

I’m not sure if women who have love marriages cry as much or at all. That would be interesting to know if anyone has insight on this?

To my readers, is it true that in Nepali culture, women are expected to cry/look sad in photos on their wedding day?

Do they cry because they are unhappy or just apprehensive about moving out of their family home for the first time?

Do you think if a bride cries unhappily that she should be getting married at all?

Do women who have love marriages cry too? If so, why?

Posted in Cross-cultural, Differences, Intercultural Relationship, Nepal, Women | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Do I celebrate Teej?

Teej is a Hindu women’s festival celebrated in Nepal and some parts of India. The origins of Teej and its real significance is a topic of debate depending on who you talk to. You can read one version of the definition of Teej by Wikipedia and an alternative version of its modern day meaning by Indra Adhikari here.

During Teej, women celebrate by dancing and feasting then they fast and pray to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the hope of blessing them with ‘marital bliss’.

It’s also been explained to me openly by Nepali men and women as a festival by which married women fast and pray for the long lives of their husbands and single women fast and pray in the hope of ‘finding a good husband’.

After a day of feasting on delicious foods, singing and dancing, women will then fast for 24 hours by not eating anything and some true followers won’t even drink water during this time.

They will then go to the mandir, (usually the next day after feasting and dancing)  and pray and give offerings to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Traditionally, it’s thought that women who fast and pray will ensure her husband’s life is longer and that his health will be enhanced.

Adhikari who holds a Phd from Jawaharlal Nehru University writes:

“People mistakenly think that fasting during Teej will prolong the husband’s life and enhance his health. Such an understanding not only insults women but also society as a whole. By prioritising ‘living for others’ instead of one’s own progress, women are deliberately placing themselves below others. Fasting during Teej is common among practicing Hindu Nepali women but we still have not been able to make progress on the Teej discourse beyond conservative and outdated religious beliefs.

She continues…“The truth is, most women still have no say on where, when and with whom they are going to marry. Their choices and interests are still sidelined by parents who choose a husband for them. Only societal prestige, family lineage and maturity from every angle are the criteria for choosing a prospective bridegroom. This is done with the anticipation that the man will then control and take care of the daughter.  So, for parents, marriage marks freedom from their responsibility of taking care of their daughters, both socially and legally. In this situation, praying for an appropriate life partner for marriage is the only option for girls. And this supposed ‘right’ to choose an appropriate partner is linked to Parbati’s struggle to get Shiva as her husband. This central message is still relevant in Nepali society. Addionally, the mobility of women is still largely restricted after marriage.”

“Similarly, there is no doubt a close relation between the progress and the well-being of the husband and the happiness of a wife. But there is no objective, scientific correlation between a woman staying hungry throughout the day by harming their health and the well-being of her husband. So women need to prioritise their own selves to be self-dependent and influence society. Festivals should aim for the well-being of all humankind, society and civilisation.”

I agree with almost all statements made here by Adihkari. I find it ludicrous that I should fast for my’s husband long life. Of course I want him to live long but I don’t think by me not eating that I could make him live longer. Plus I think it would be different if you were not just fasting and praying for your husband, but for yourself and your children as well.

Adikhari also writes that Teej is actually a symbol of liberation and a form of rebellion, rather than submission “Teej is also a time for women to express their suffering through songs and dance. These songs and dances are a way to voice opinions about existing evil practices in society. Women, then, sing of the feelings they have suppressed for long and rejoice.”

To be honest, I hadn’t heard that side of the issue before.

Another article by a Nepali lady who does not celebrate Teej because she does not believe in it says some women want to fast for their husband and some feel forced too”.

She also did some research on the modern day Nepali woman’s observance of Teej and wrote “one article that said maybe the wives should encourage their men to go to the gym and cut down on greasy food, smoking and alcohol if they want their men to live longer. Amen to that writer.” You can read her article here.

Usually during Teej, women will leave their in-laws home and return to their maternal home (mother’s home) and celebrate with her sisters, brothers’ wives etc.

This is another school of thought on Teej; that women enjoy Teej because they get to return to their own family during Teej and get a break from the rigours of daily chores.

I think it’s up to a woman whether or not she celebrates Teej and I don’t judge others because I see both sides of the story but my personal belief is that Teej, in its traditional form, is another example of women being treated less than men. As Adhikari points outBy prioritising ‘living for others’ instead of one’s own progress, women are deliberately placing themselves below others.’

The first thing I said to Rabindra when I was told about Teej is “I will fast for your long life, if you fast for my long life. I mean, what’s the point, if you are living longer and I die younger. You will just be alone.” He laughed and agreed.

Rabindra does not believe in the overall idea of Teej. Why? He is not overly religious and believes there is no way that he will live longer as a result of me fasting and praying for him.

However Rabindra’s family celebrate Teej and he did grow up with the festival. Being abroad for as long as Rabindra has, it’s also important to maintain Nepali culture and festivals are a great way to do this.

Being abroad and in the modern day, men will usually celebrate with their wives enjoying dancing, drinking, feasting and playing cards (but not fasting or praying).

texasnepal.comPhoto caption: Nepali women celebrating Teej. Image credit:

In the modern day, there has been other criticisms of Teej.

Many women nowadays in Nepal use it as an excuse to acquire more gold, more saris and they celebrate for weeks on end with endless dancing and feasting.

Nepali women who travel abroad also question the roots of the festival because they have learnt more about women’s empowerment and women’s rights.

Nepali women abroad, my friends included, celebrate Teej but they will eat fruits and yoghurt on the fasting day because they are working in physical jobs.

They have also adapted the fasting and praying to not just be about their husband, but their children and family as well which is their way of taking of a traditional festival but modernising it their own way.

I’ve asked Rabindra in the past what he thinks about me fasting and he says it’s stupid and that I shouldn’t do it. Because I am not Hindu, I also do not pray to God however I do support him being a Hindu.

But he did say that he would like it if I dressed up in sari (he loves seeing me in sari 🙂 and that if I want to I could dance and sing to Nepali songs with other ladies as well/

I liked the idea of this and that is how I have celebrated the past few years. Like others abroad with no family, Rabindra’s friends celebrate with their husbands too, not just females.

So there you go, yes I do celebrate Teej and like many other modern Nepali women, it’s not in the traditional sense but it’s in a way that me and my husband have agreed on where we can still enjoy the festival and celebrate our links to Nepal but be comfortable about what the significance of the festival means for us rather than shunning it all together. Some might say, it’s missing the entire meaning of the festival, but anyway that’s a choice that we, and other modern couples, have made.

To my readers, do you celebrate Teej? Do you celebrate Teej the traditional way or have you adapted modern ways of celebrating Teej?

What do you think of Adihkari’s comments on Teej? Are they too harsh?

Posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Festivals, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments