Over the past few months I’ve subscribed to quite a few inter-cultural relationship blogs. My focus has been on those between South Asians and Western women. And while this is not a scientific survey by any means these blogs tend to be written by women, and mostly younger women in their mid to late 20s. There are a few older women. Most of the relationships are a few years old. Many of the couples are either living together (before marriage) or they’ve just recently gotten engaged and/or married.
In terms of world views it appears the women in these relationships tend to be white and very liberal in their world view. Liberal defined both politically and socially. They have a very post-modern view of the world and are open minded. In face they place a high value on being open minded. I’ve read of some who are even “secret Muslims” – in a fun and cute kind of way.
In terms of family dynamics this white liberal woman is very assertive and opinionated – whether this is expressed openly or passively. Many seem to have tension with their new mother-in-laws or soon to be mother-in-laws. Some are very argumentative in their approach to their relationships and even to the new culture that they are about to be so integrated with. Somehow their man is above all this stuff but his culture is certainly something that cannot be tolerated or needs to be changed.
In many cases I see many couples as being overly naive in their assessment of what it takes to make an inter-cultural relationship with South Asians succeed. It’s one thing to be in love in your 20s with an exotic man from a far away place, but its quite another to stick it through for 60+ years. While I am no expert in this, I do think some sober thinking is needed – because the practical and the mundane become reality at some point and once the “love-bubble” fades you have to make choices.
I bring all this up because the South Asian culture is inherently conservative. It is religiously and socially conservative. Family is supreme. Relationships are king and social norms are extremely rigid. Family dealings are long term and require much work. In-laws are really not in-laws, they’re in-your-face. Family expectations from cousins-thrice-removed are real. Communication is very different – more passive aggressive than direct for the most part. Ideas are diametrically different – of course the daughter-in-law needs to serve tea and so on and so forth.
One day every inter-cultural relationship needs to deal with this – not in a theoretical love will carry us through kind of manner – but in a practical kind of way. Then there are children and their upbringing – and interaction between their grandparents (on both sides).
What I’m saying is not that these relationships will not succeed (I’m in one and have a personal stake in its success) but rather, the liberated post-modern liberal white woman will need to realize the extent to which her liberation, her post-modernism and her liberalism will be challenged by a culture and tradition older than most civilizations on earth. I have seen many walk away because their ultra-feminist ideals were more important than family peace and harmony.
Overcoming this is a tall order. It can only be conquered when you recognize how tall the order is and ensuring that you have a worldview strong enough to carry you through.