Category Archives: Intercultural Relationships

Our Intercultural Sleeping Dilemma

Our baby has been sleeping in our room since she was born seven months ago. We have a cradle on my side of the bed – and for the most part, she has slept there. At first, I was very adamant that I wanted her to sleep in her cradle and not in the bed with us – because I had fears of her getting suffocated in our blankets or hurt if we rolled over onto her. However, as she’s gotten bigger, I have gotten more lax, and now most mornings she ends up in between us in the bed – so we can catch an extra hour or two of sleep. It has been working pretty well, but recently she has started waking more in the night, and generally not sleeping well.
So, we decided to seek the advice of our family. When I asked my mom what she thought, she said, it sounds like she’s ready to move out of the cradle and into her own room and crib. However, when I asked my husband’s mom, she said, the baby should stay in our room – that she was too small to put in her own room! Hmmm… should I be surprised that I got complete opposite responses?
Now we have to make our own decision. She is almost too big for the cradle, so either she sleeps in the crib in her room or full time in the bed with us. Neither one of us are completely taking one side or the other. But we ended up deciding that we wanted to see if we can get her to sleep in her own room in the hopes that we will all sleep better.
Night one did not go so well…we were up several times in the night and had one crying spell for a good half-an-hour. At 4 am we finally caved in and put her in our bed in between us. She slept like a… um… uh… baby for several more hours. And when she did wake up, she cooed and played happily while we dozed in and out for a few more minutes. Well…Miss A has cast her vote loud and clear!
The next night, we decided to try “camping out” on the floor in her room. This went better… she fell asleep next to us and then we moved her into her crib. She slept for most of the night, only waking once. Then around 6 am, she woke up and we again laid her next to us for that extra hour of sleep.
There is a great debate in the USA about the pros and cons of co sleeping with your kids…. it is very common in India. Generally the kids are 3, 4, or even 5 years old before they would ever dream of them sleeping on their own. My husband doesn’t remember sleeping with his mom and dad, so he isn’t sure at what age they moved him into his own room. I was sleeping in my own crib by the time I was 2 or 3 months old. We both turned out just fine, so in the end we have to do what works best for us and Miss A. I think we’ll only figure that out by trial and error. Here’s hoping that we all have sweet dreams tonight!
What about you? Have you run into any issues/dilemmas where you have gotten complete opposite advice from two sides of your family? Anyone have any thoughts on the pros and cons of co sleeping? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Interracial Marriage a Status Symbol?

Do you feel that your interracial marriage is a status symbol?

I’ve never thought about it in those terms until I came across this blog post today:
Stuff Desis/BrownPeople Like: #54 Placing People

“But to get yourself placed in a totally uber category, you should be dating/married to a white person or at the minimum having lunch/coffee with a non desi.”

I know this blog is tongue-in-cheek, but I guess there’s a truth behind it. For my husband, being married to me (a white girl) isn’t much of a status symbol – he didn’t go out looking specifically for an American or a white girl. He didn’t “need me” in order to get somewhere in life. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time and things worked out.

However, some of my husband’s Indian friends have expressed their desire to find a white girl to my husband. One friend (from India – who recently came to the States) actually said to my husband, “Wow, you’ve got it made, I have to find a white girl like you…” And he was serious!

Oh and people who I knew before I moved to India actually warned me not to get involved with an Indian man. I heeded their advice – until I realized that it was a bunch of baloney! I mean yes, I was careful not to fall for the first Indian man who showed any attention to me… and yes, I was sure that there were no ulterior motives (a green card, or FAIR skinned babies, or $$). And yes, I did have a couple of guys hit on me for the wrong reasons, and I had to put them in their place (but that can happen anywhere!). But my relationship with my husband grew out of actual friendship and mutual respect and common goals. Not because he wanted a green card!

In fact, when we tell people that we want to move back to India at some point, they give us the strangest looks and say, “Man you’ve got it made, why would you want to go back?”

All this to say that, yes, there are people who are disillusioned and want to marry out of their race for reasons other than love. But to those of us who are in it for the right reasons, what others think really shouldn’t matter. We shouldn’t get any more or less satisfaction from our relationship because people think one way or another about our choices. We might have to endure a few jabs in the ribs or sly comments about how we “scored” but in the end it comes down to just two people and their happiness.

Indian Hospitality

So from my time spent living in India (almost 3 yrs), and being married to an Indian for almost 4 years, I’ve learned that hospitality is a big thing in India. We recently had Indian guests over, and even with all my “experience” there are still things I forget – or at least which I have to remind myself of.
Here are a few things on my list, maybe you guys will have more to add…
  1. Always offer – no actually insist - on offering your guests a drink (a cold drink or hot tea/coffee – depending on the time of day). We had sparkling pink lemonade with our Indian guests today. But many Indians like chai in the morning and at mid-afternoon tea time as well.
  2. Your Indian guests may not like much ice – especially if the drink is already cold, so it’s better to ask.
  3. Have some snacks on hand to offer your guests. Today I was caught off guard – we’ve been trying to eat healthier, and so I’ve been buying less “snacky” foods. I had to really dig (when reminded by my husband!) to find something appropriate. What did I end up serving? I found some Trader Joe’s Oriental Rice Crackers, and some digestive biscuits, and some spicy peanuts. Whew, I pulled that one off!
  4. Presentation is important – don’t serve the drinks in recycled plastic 7-11 cups! Dust off your nicer cups and it is considered polite to serve drinks (even just one drink) on a tray of some sort. Don’t ask me why – but in almost every house I’ve ever been to (as a guest) I have always be served drinks from a tray…
  5. If you’re serving food, it is better for the hostess to wait until everyone has been served. In some houses the hostess won’t eat at all until everyone has eaten.
  6. You should insist that your guests have more to eat – even go so far as to serve more on their plate – even if they say no. You have to give a very forceful no if you really are full – otherwise everyone will just assume you’re being polite!
  7. When you go to someone’s house and eat, be sure to take very little at first – so that you’ll have enough room to have seconds – that is a compliment to the hostess – otherwise they’ll think you don’t like the food or it’s too spicy or something.
  8. Try to always have something on hand in case unexpected guests show up – depending on the time, you might need to invite them to stay for dinner - better add some more water to the dahl!
In my intercultural marriage, I’ve had to remind myself to be a better hostess. My husband is big-hearted and will invite anyone and everyone home – at any hour of the day. So when I cook I always plan to make enough in case someone stops by… cause you just never know! And anyway, we like leftovers. I think I’m gonna stock up on some more of those oriental rice crackers, they last for quite a while and they were a big hit today. I don’t think any of our guests had had them before. At least that’s one feather in my hostess’s cap!

Indian. Dot not Feather.

So the guy at the pharmacy the other day was a really nice older man. He started chatting with me while filling my prescription. When I when I handed him my credit card to pay – he commented on my last name. I have to give him props because he actually said it right. Some people don’t even try – but it’s really not that hard – it’s phonetic people!

Anyway, to my surprise, he looked at it and said, oh your last name must be Indian… I smiled and said yes, it sure is! I was thinking how well-informed this pharmacist must be – he probably meets all kinds of people… and who knows, maybe he’s even come across our last name before!

I guess I got excited too soon… because the next thing he did was scratch his head and say… “Now is that Cherokee or Apache…?”

I give up.

Say What???

So I have not had to deal personally with much racism in my life. Even being in an intercultural relationship with a guy from India, I have not ever really felt out of place or uncomfortable in any given situation – even when I’m the only white person in a room or when my husband is the only non-white person in a room. I’m really thankful that this hasn’t ever really been an issue. In a perfect world, it would never be an issue! However, our world isn’t perfect, and today I got a taste of a racist comment that hit home…
I was in a group setting and there is a person who is usually on the grumpy side. But personally I’ve never had any problems with this individual. So I’m doing my own thing, my back to the conversation that was going on in the room. This person starts complaining loudly about this and that, and something to do with a bank account and customer service…then says something very degrading about Indians (referring to customer service lines overseas). The other person in the conversation tried to walk away but the offender continued with several more remarks – none of which I care to repeat here! I suppose this person forgot that my husband is Indian (even though they’ve met on numerous occasions) or didn’t realize that I was in clear earshot of the remark. Hello! We’re all in one big room here!
As soon as I heard the remark my eyebrows shot up and I really couldn’t believe what I heard. I’m a non-confrontational type, so I gritted my teeth and quickly finished what I had to do and left (thankfully I had a good excuse to leave anyway). But the thought struck me, why do we insist on stereotyping everyone???
Racism & stereotyping are born out of ignorance and arrogance. Whoever said that ignorance is bliss must have been happy in their own little corner of the world. In this day and age – in a country where we have our first African-American President – how is it possible that people are so ignorant?
How would you have reacted? Have you ever faced such a situation?
I hope that my future kids never have to face such a thing (although in reality it probably will happen at some point). At least now I know how it feels and can prepare for that moment.
As for me, I can easily let it go – I actually feel sorry for someone like that who is missing out on all that this world – and all of its cultures have to offer. My life is so much richer – and I wouldn’t trade my global perspective (or my intercultural marriage) for anything!

Carrie and Sujeet’s Intercultural Relationship Love Story

Happy Valentine’s Day! What better than a love story to get you in the Valentine’s Day mood?

I recently recalled this very inspirational story that I read two years ago in Time Magazine, A Very Special Wedding. I was looking through my husband’s aunt’s magazines while we were visiting her house in Chicago and found this article. I was so amazed at this story, and it was even better because he’s Indian and she’s American.

I looked it up again, and thought I’d share it with you. Read Carrie and Suj’s story: An intercultural couple…with Down Syndrome.

Their parent’s are totally supportive of their children, and have done everything they could to help them reach their full potential. Sujeet plays several instruments and Carrie does public speaking, and both are black-belts in martial arts! Check out Sujeet’s website for more information on the couple.
Carrie’s mother Peggy became concerned about her daughter’s social and romantic needs as Carrie entered adulthood. “When the loneliness began to loom around 21 and she saw her sister and brother having relationships and getting married, she longed for it,” says Peggy. Group discussions at a nearby resource center for people with disabilities brought “some comfort,” she says, but Carrie continued to talk about meeting her “Mr. Right.” Says Peggy: “We never dreamed it would happen.”

Sujeet’s mother Sindoor, however, says she “had marriage in sight straightaway” once Sujeet expressed interest in Carrie. “We come from a different culture,” she explains. As India-born Hindus, Sindoor and Sharad Desai, both dentists, “don’t expect dating and breaking [up].” Nor did Sindoor wish to expose her vulnerable son to the emotional upheavals of serial entanglements.
Click here to see the couple’s wedding photo album. (The link at the end of the article seems to be broken).

Indian Birthday Party

Friday night, we were invited to a surprise birthday party for one of our close Indian friends. We had a wonderful time, but I couldn’t help but observe some things that I thought would be interesting blog material…
  1. IST (Indian Standard Time/Indian Stretchable Time): Invitations sent out said the party was starting at 7 pm… got a call a couple of hours before the party saying it had been pushed back to 7:30. It was all good, we had to drive across the Canadian border, since the party was in Vancouver, so that gave us more time to get there. We figured the party wouldn’t start on time anyway, so we arrived at 7:45 (maybe even a little closer to 8), and you guessed it – we were the first guests to arrive! Thankfully the next guests arrived about 10 minutes after we did. But the birthday boy didn’t arrive until 9.
  2. Food: We weren’t told ahead of time whether we would be having dinner or just snacks. Our guess was that there would be dinner – because most Indians eat dinner late (between 8-10 pm) and what is an Indian party without food? My husband was concerned, because he was starving, but I felt sure they would have dinner. So we took a gamble and went with empty stomachs… and we were happy we did! There was a full Indian dinner – totally fabulous – veg & non-veg.
  3. Guests: All Indian, aside from me (American) and one girl from Thailand. I don’t mind being the only white person at a gathering, especially when I’m not singled out. Often times in India I would be offered a spoon or fork when everyone else was eating with their hands – which at first was a nice gesture – but eventually I just wished I could blend in better! Thankfully, we know these friends really well and they always tell me I’m “like an Indian in disguise.” I choose to take that as a compliment.
  4. Conversation: We got lots of questions from guests who we were just meeting for the first time. They wanted to know how we met, where we’re from, etc. A couple of the guys were talking to my husband and found out they had been in North America for approximately the same amount of time. They were like, “Man, how did you get such a great American accent so soon?” I have to laugh at that one… my husband does not have an American accent…nor does he try to fake one. He grew up in an English speaking home and studied in English schools. If anything he sounds more British than American. But I think because he’s married to a white American girl, and because he does speak English very well, these guys assumed that his accent has morphed in just a few short years.
  5. Birthday Cake: If you’ve been to an Indian birthday party before, you might have seen the birthday boy or girl cut the cake and feed it to their family (much like a bride and groom do at an American wedding). This party was no different, the birthday boy fed his wife first, then went around the room and fed all of us a bite (from the same piece of cake – with his hands)! It was….interesting. We did sing “Happy Birthday” but only after the candles were blown out and the cake was cut.
  6. Customs: In India, on a birthday, usually the birthday boy/girl is expected to “treat” his friends. In school, you might provide cake/candy for your classmates or when you get older you might be expected to pay for your guest’s dinner on your birthday.
Regardless of cultural differences, we had a great time with great friends. Indians are known for their hospitality and I hope that I can learn that art and apply it to my own intercultural marriage.

Blond, Brown and Black Hair

Trivia Question:
What is the most common hair color in the world?
Depending on where you come from, your first answer might have been brown, or blond, but if you think about it, the answer is black!
My hair is brown. My two best childhood friends had blond hair. I was always described as having “dark” hair. But while living in India, I had to get used to being described as having “light hair.” I guess it’s all relative. In fact, a few of my Indian friends would even go so far as to call my hair blond! Now I can get over the fact that I have “light hair” compared to their beautiful black hair, but come on, BLOND is a bit too far! I tried and tried to convince them my hair wasn’t blond, and finally they compromised by saying my hair was “half-blond.” sigh.
Most of my American friends get married and like to daydream about what color hair their future kids might have. One spouse might have reddish brown hair and the other spouse have blond hair. Will the kids have red hair, brown hair, or blond? Will it change colors as they get older? All perfectly appropriate questions. But it is funny, in India, no one ever questions what color hair their son or daughter will have.
Last week, I was out shopping with a friend. She has 3 young boys all under the age of 4. All of them have blond hair. My husband met us around lunch time, and since we were still trying to make a decision on what to purchase, he offered to take the boys to Wendy’s for lunch. Imagine the surprise that the onlookers had when an Indian man parades in with 3 small blond boys in tow. He managed to keep track of all of them and got them settled down to eat. When finally one woman’s curiosity got the better of her, she leaned over and smiled and said, “Now those can’t be your boys, can they?” I wonder what she would have done if he’d have said yes?!
Since my husband is Indian, I assume that our kids will have dark brown to black hair, but that remains yet to be determined. Genetics can be a funny thing I guess! If our children take after my husband (with a darker complexion and dark eyes), will I have the same reaction from onlookers when I take them places without him? That prospect doesn’t really bother me, I think I’ll be amused…

Intercultural Marriage: Rajiv & Sonia Gandhi

In light of the recent elections in the USA, I am reminded of India’s colorful political history. If you do not know the story of Sonia Gandhi and her Indian family, you are missing out!
Sonia Gandhi was born in Italy in 1946. In 1964, she met and fell in love with Rajiv Gandhi (son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and grandson of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru). Sonia & Rajiv met in the UK, where they both were students.
Sonia and Rajiv were married in 1969. They lived and worked in India. Their two children, Rahul and Priyanka were born in the early 70s. Sonia acquired Indian citizenship after she had been married for 14 years.
She married into a very influential family on the Indian Political scene. Sadly, tragedy struck when her mother-in-law, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her own bodyguards in 1984. Sonia’s husband Rajiv, followed his mother’s footsteps and became the next Prime Minister of India (the 3rd from his family to achieve this position). Tragedy struck again, when Rajiv was also assassinated in 1991.
Following the death of her husband, Sonia refused to have any part in politics. But in 1998, she joined the effort to try to revive the Congress Party, and was soon elected as the President of her party. In 2004, Sonia lead her party to victory in the national elections, and despite much protest, she was the first foreigner to be eligible to become Prime Minister. She eventually declined the Post. However, she continues to be named among the world’s most powerful people by Forbes and Time magazines.
Sonia’s life story sounds like a movie, with many triumphs and tragedies. It is encouraging to know that India not only accepted her as a foreigner married to one of their “princes,” but embraced her in her own right. Although she remains a Roman Catholic, she has become Indian in many ways, she wears sarees, speaks Hindi and has raised her children in her adopted country. I find her story an inspiration! To read more about Sonia Gandhi, check out these books.

Understanding Indian English

If you are in an Indian intercultural relationship, or if you have plans to visit India anytime soon, you might expect that you can communicate effectively by just knowing English. That might be true – but only up to a point. There are a few differences, especially if you speak American English. Because of it’s history as a British colony, India has retained the British use of many English words. In addition to British words, there are some Indian expressions that are unique to India.

In the beginning of our marriage, I found myself having to “translate” for my husband at times. Now, he has learned most of the American words for things, but on occasion I still have to poke him in the ribs when our friends look a little perplexed at something he’s just said! Of course, when we’re in India, he gets his turn to make fun of me too!

I thought it would be fun to make a list of a few of these words. The Indian use of the word is on the left, and the American meaning is on the right. If you have any words to add, please leave a comment!

  • Auto – Auto Rickshaw
  • Biscuits – Cookies
  • Bunk – Strike, Absent without Permission
  • Cool Drink – Soda
  • Crore – 100 Lakhs – 10 Million (1,00,00,000)
  • Dickie or Boot – Trunk of A Car
  • Dustbin – Trash Can
  • English-Medium –Schools Taught in English
  • Flat – Apartment
  • Flyover – Overpass (Highway)
  • Football – Soccer
  • French Beard – Goatee
  • Fringe – Bangs (Hair)
  • Full Stop – Period (Punctuation)
  • Geezer – Hot Water Heater/Tank
  • Hash Mark – Pound Sign (#)
  • Holiday – Vacation
  • Homely – Someone who is Domesticated
  • Indicator – Blinker/Turn Signal (Car)
  • Lakh – 1,00,000
  • Lift – Elevator
  • Met with an Accident – Had An Accident
  • Nappy/Nappy Pad – Baby’s Diaper
  • Petrol Bunk – Gas Station
  • Queue – Line
  • Ring-Up – To Call Someone
  • Rubber – Eraser
  • To Let/To Hire – To Rent
  • Torch – Flashlight
  • Windscreen – Windshield
  • Zip – Zipper