Archive for June, 2016
Quora Question: How is Indian Dating different from that practised in the West? What are the starkest dissimilarities?
This is from the perspective of a British woman born to immigrant (Southeast Asian) parents.
How does Indian dating differ from the West?
Without question, this plays heavily on our conscience when dating.
In Southeast Asian cultures, the family is an individual’s religious, economic, political, and social core. Parents are a big influence on our lives. You only have to look on Quora and there are a plethora of young people with dating woes:
- My parents won’t accept me dating someone from another caste
- I’m a Hindu in love with a Muslim
- I’ve got a PhD but he/she isn’t educated
Let’s be honest, we all worry about whether our parents will accept the person we fall in love with. There’s an enormous pressure we face balancing wanting our own happiness with acceptance from our parents, to the extent that it can tear us apart.
For those of us that are born/brought up in the West to immigrant parents, this East/West culture conflict is harder to reconcile, and makes dating us more complex.
Respect for our family is of the upmost importance to us. There is a great fear of disobeying them, and a lot of complications and heartache if you do. My best friend (British born from a strict Hindu family) dated an English guy for a few years. She cried because her parents told her they would never accept him, but despite this he persevered and won them around. He was clever enough to know to never antagonise or disrespect her parents. Eventually they got married in a Hindu ceremony, and I admit to shedding a few tears when I saw her mother kiss his forehead. All those years of hanging on in there paid off 🙂
My brother married an English woman initially to my parents dismay, but they love her like their own daughter. Both my brother and best friend were lucky that their parents came around in the end, sadly that’s not the case for all, with those that are strict disowning their children. The consequence of not being able to fall in love with someone of your own choice is heartbreaking. This is not common in the West, there’s freedom pretty much to date whomever you like.
My boss (Caucasian) said it straight. “Abi, you’re lucky, any guy that’s interested in you is more likely to be a serious dater, because of your ethnicity. Guys looking for one night stands wouldn’t even consider you.” On the whole, I think that’s a fair statement. The men I attract tend to be cultured, well-educated, older; they assume we’re more family orientated/respectable.
Asian girls tend to take dating more seriously. I admit, even on the first date, if I don’t consider him longterm/marriage material, there won’t be a second one. There are exceptions to every rule (due to strict upbringing, rather than openness in western dating, some girls/boys go wild/cheat). I could sleep around if I wanted to, but it holds no interest to me, despite how open western society is, personally, I’m more conservative, sex is special. There is a big stigma attached with being pregnant and unmarried, to our parents it’s brings shame on the family. In the West, co-habitation and being a single parent is becoming increasingly common. In our culture, it’s frowned upon to live together as a couple unmarried. My brother once had a girlfriend for 5 years, in the West this is normal, my parents thought it was weird, and was always asking, “when are you getting married?”
Perhaps we come across as ‘prudish’. Being older, I’m not ashamed, in this day and age, having self-respect seems to be a rarity. In the UK, we are bombarded with trashy programmes where women demean themselves by having sex on TV, and celebs who constantly take naked selfies, then have the audacity to complain when they’re not taken seriously, or someone has leaked their sex tape. It’s not classy, and not an example I want setting to my future daughter. You know the world has gone mad when you can be convicted for revenge porn, thankfully, you won’t find me taking naked photos and videos of myself 🙂
For us, marriage and children is our goal. We don’t see it as “just some piece of paper” However, unlike the previous generations, we are pursuing higher education, and are more progressive, juggling careers with family (similarities to the West).
Marrying someone of the same religion or caste is important to most families to maintain their cultural traditions & identity. When a couple come from different religious backgrounds: Muslim & Hindu, either they’re not allowed to marry outright, or it’s such an issue that one has to convert. Loyalty is paramount. One must never bring dishonor or disgrace to the family. In the traditional Southasian family, parents define the law and the children are expected to abide by their requests and demands. Failure to do so results in disownment.
In the West, men & women won’t have such restrictions imposed on them. They’re highly independent in contrast, and don’t fear parental approval like us. They will marry who they want, a partner’s cultural & religious background isn’t a dealbreaker.
Meeting the family:
Bear in mind, I grew up in a small town where everyone was White. School friends would date a guy, and they’d be quickly introduced to their parents, sleep overs in their parents house, go on holidays. Relationships in the West are open. Asians are more reserved, we will introduce someone only when we’re serious/ready to marry, particularly girls. This is hard for non-Asians to understand, with only men that are in love with us able to accept that they aren’t fully part of our lives until we’re sure they’re the one. A man will know I’m serious, the day I introduce him to my older brother (father deceased).
I have a few British born Asian friends that had arranged marriages, but it’s nothing like that of my parents era. My mum & dad knew each other’s families, but they didn’t even date, they got married first. I know it sounds crazy, but nevertheless, they had a successful, loving marriage.
These days, a lot of parents realise that doesn’t work for the modern generation, and they will allow the couple to date for a period and get to know each other. I agree with this, personally, I would need a minimum of a year/two before committing to marriage.
My overall thoughts:
I have a lot of respect for Asian culture: loyalty, primary obligation (caring for elderly), importance of education. Someone that shares the same core values will end up being my lifelong partner.
There are downsides; Southeast Asian parents are significantly more controlling, restrictive and protective of their children than Anglo parents. The one thing that I would like to see change is tolerance and acceptance of one’s sexuality. I have a good friend (Asian/Hindu) who has been shunned by his family for being gay. They haven’t spoken to him in years. You should never be made to feel afraid for being who you are. That makes me sad. In general, the West are more understanding that one’s sexual preference is something we can’t change, nor should we want to.
Thank you, Arka, for the A2A.
I was in a longterm relationship, but she left me over four years ago for another man. They are now married and have a child. I can’t get up from under the bedcovers, and don’t want to delete her number from my phone.
Four years! I think this lack of acceptance and unwillingness to move on is emotionally holding you back.
In the past, I used to dwell on missed opportunities and failed relationships, but a culmination of growing older and the death of two important people in my life has made me more pragmatic.
Whether you wish to believe this or not, the truth is that each and every one of us share this in common: we’re born alone and we’ll die alone. There’s ultimately only a limited time we have to fulfil our goals in life. However morbid this sounds, without question, I know in X time in the future, my fate will be realised, and I will be in some box underground.
The journey between birth and death is all about taking risks that only you can choose. Those people you welcome to join you along that path may cause heartache, disappointment and sadness, but there is also the opportunity for friendship, passion, commitment and happiness.
I’m afraid there’s no way of predicting which direction your relationship takes, that’s the uncertainty of life. Failures we learn from: I’m never going out with someone that has a,b,c instead the next one will have x,y,z. Overtime, you’ll recognise within a short period of meeting someone whether they’re right or not, a skill that comes with age old wisdom (making mistakes + learning from them).
The problem with ruminating over your ex is that it has led to depression, your ‘hiding under the bed covers’ tells me this. Your behaviour is understandable. You are alone in your comfort zone. It all stems from our childhood, being put to bed at night by our parents, given special attention and kisses, and our duvet cover tucked in tight around us. We feel safe. You can see nobody else, and on a subconscious level you think nobody that might want to harm you, can see you either. In reality, all you’re doing is burying your head in the sand.
Sometimes you need a proverbial kick up the backside. That’s what my close friends do, never sugar coat a situation to make me feel better, they offer advice that will benefit me in the longterm even if it hurts. When women have problems we talk about them. Men complain that women “always want to talk about things” – yeah, because it’s a healthy way to work through emotions! Half of my close friends are male, they probably feel more comfortable talking to me than another man. That’s what I’m going to do to you. Your ex girlfriend has moved on with her life, she’s married with a child, in years to come she may also have grandchildren, while you grow into a lonely old man, not letting anyone that has the potential to make you happy be part of your life. Don’t you think that would be a real shame? I don’t even know you, but I feel it would be.
Keeping her contact details. I’m sure many of us can relate to this. For me, it was about sentimentality. One day, I saw the dress I wore when I switched my dad’s life support off, it was in mint condition, but everytime I looked at it in my cupboard it made me sad. So, I put it in a bag with the rest of the clothes I’d never wear again and gave them to charity. My dad was gone, keeping hold of something I was never going to use again was pointless, instead I was giving it away to a new owner.
The same analogy applies to phone numbers. My phone has no trace of any past ex’s contact information, I delete anyone I know I won’t ever see again. I genuinely wish them health & happiness, but those doors of getting back together are firmly closed. In any new relationship I start, I don’t want to bring s*** to their doorstep. I think it’s important to always look forwards than to remain stuck in the past.
Despite leaving you, the memories will always be in your head & the love you felt for her will still remain in your heart. Your ex maybe gone but she’ll not be forgotten. I’m not cynical but a realist, I don’t believe there’s only one “soulmate” rather that there are a number of “companions” out there in the world that share the same aspirations as I do.
The “one that got away” is a myth that allows us to hang around feeling down on ourselves, instead of going forth into the world and meeting new people. Do yourself a favour, kick those covers off, place one foot in front of the other, and start living again… (think of those young innocent people who lost their lives in that horrendous Orlando gay club massacre. They had no idea that would be their end. You’re still alive with the world at your fingertips, don’t waste a second more wallowing in self-pity!).
“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again” – Alex Tan
Thanks for the A2A.
I’m interested to get the general consensus. When I asked male friends it seemed that it was a big “No” Their comments were, “if a woman expects half of what I own then she can’t expect to keep her maiden name.” I was told, “get used to a life not getting married if that’s your attitude” 🙂 Abi
But over time, I came to realize that feeling, for me at least, came from a place of insecurity. I felt, for some reason, that having a woman take my name made her mine. As if I had some claim to ownership.
Once I saw that part of me, I didn’t like it. It’s rather an ugly sentiment. Don’t you think?
So, I set out to change my perspective. I reinforced my values that were built upon my desire for a partner who was a true equal to me, rather than someone who was a treated as a belonging of some sort.
It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I ever felt that way. I feel shame when I think about it. But I have changed. I no longer feel that way. Any partner of mine would be free to choose what they felt was right for them.
If the man wants to “own” his woman, he probably will expect her to change her last name. Some men might expect the change to take place not due to any personal reasons, but from a wish to conform to social norms.
There are some men who will see not changing the name as an affront to their ego. Those who see the marriage as a business transaction are probably the ones who expect the change as payment for ownership of half of what they own. If, however, he respects her and sees her as a person and not as property or a trophy, he will not force the issue.
A name is part of our identity. It is a marker of how we see ourselves; of what we see when we look in the mirror; the linchpin of our ability to say “I am”. Does marriage radically change a person’s identity overnight? I think not. Bottom line – no one owns you. Do exactly what you are comfortable with; no more, and no less. If something as trivial as a name can turn a man away, they are probably not the kind of person you want to be with.
My wife has her maiden name. I’m married for nearly five years now. I personally don’t like it, I don’t see the need for her surname to be changed to mine. She didn’t bother either. My child carries my surname, that’s significant for me, since I carried my fathers.
I personally believe if she really loves you, it would not matter if she changed her name after marriage or not. Also keep in mind that changing name does not ensure that she would be a great wife and Not changing her name will not make her unfaithful.
Again, can you say that I would be a good husband only if you agree to carry my family name? You can not. If you say you are just degrading yourself.
Having said that you can always tell her that you would like her to change her name after marriage. Leave the decision to her and save your dignity.
It is easier sharing the same name, frankly if my wife hadn’t taken mine I would have taken hers. Its not important to me which way it goes, merely that we become the same.
I know a few women who’s family’s name was significant in their industry so they keep it after marriage, the guys didn’t seem to care.
It was the week preceding Father’s Day. I usually find this a sad time reflecting on another year without mine.
The office cleaner is South American, and cannot speak much English. It was a Friday evening, and I was working late, it was about 8:30pm, and the cleaner arrived. He’s normally smiley, but he seemed off sorts. I was packing my stuff away, his phone vibrated with a message. He looked startled. I asked him what was wrong, and he showed me his mobile. His wife was in hospital, her waters broke, she was in labour.
Immediately, I told him to leave, but he said he can’t afford not to work. I asked if it was his last job, to which he said, “yes.” Me: “Throw me your gloves, I promise to clean the office, but please go be with your family (it was his first child).” Time was of the essence, so I used my account to get him an Uber to the hospital, a bus would have taken him ages.
By the time I finished cleaning, I got home around 10pm.
When people you love leave this earth, they take pieces of our heart and soul with them. Losing someone of such great importance, like a parent, changes us as a person. I’m a lot more humble. Although losing mine was painful for me, I recall the happy memories I had, and recognise the importance of those for others.
The next time I saw the cleaner he sat down with me and showed me pictures of his new born son. We didn’t need language to communicate, his face said it all. A proud father. I smiled intently at him, grateful that his son gets to make memories with the first man that has his heart. Priceless.
Somethings in life money can’t buy…
Clearing out my desk draw found a book gifted by the author, Simon Singh through work years ago. Very pleasant chap to deal with in a professional capacity. Might go re-read it again.
Quora Question: I am a Hindu in love with a Muslim girl. She wants me to convert. I love her a lot but don’t want to accept Islam. What should I do?
Obviously I can’t tell you what decision you should make, but I can offer you some guidance.
Life experience shapes who you are:
Most people assume given my name and parental heritage, I’m a Muslim. Truth is, I was born and brought up in a rural village as the only ethnic minority family, apart from my parents & brothers, everyone else was Caucasian. There were no mosques.
My father survived the partition as a young child; his witnessing of death, including that of his childhood Sikh friend by the hands of Muslims changed his perspective on religion. He saw the ugly side of all religions (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all fighting). He still retained his faith, for him the thought of Allah existed very much in his heart, but he didn’t believe it was necessary to have to follow the daily traditions and pray/go to mosque. Instead he spent his life doing charitable things. When his younger cousin came to the UK to study, my father was a young graduate in his first job, but every month he would give him money to help him out. Never once did he ask for his cousin to repay his debt. He also went on to buy computers for the school in the Pakistani village he was brought up in, and sent money to a widowed woman who needed Hepatitis medication.
As a parent, his philosophy was that his children were to integrate and respect the religious faith of the country they were to be brought up in. We celebrated Christmas, Easter, I would sing in the choir. Then one day, I was to make my father very angry. He found out that I’d stopped going to morning assembly for prayers. He asked me to go to my room and come out when I realised what I’d done wrong. I was at a difficult age intellectually and emotionally. My passion was Science, my understanding was that there no valid evidence proving the existence of God; so there was no reason to believe. However, I realised after sitting in complete silence for over an hour, regardless of what I believed, what I was lacking in was humility. I was able to figure out his anger, it wasn’t my lack of belief, it was my arrogance to not want to understand & learn why religion is important to others.
The first time I stepped into a mosque was for my dad’s funeral. It was one of the hardest days of my life thus far. I couldn’t read the Quran, my brothers were in a separate room, and as a woman I couldn’t be present for his burial. An elderly woman who was a complete stranger was sat next to me in the mosque. She assumed I couldn’t understand Punjabi, but she made a rather crass comment about my sister-in law (White/English) that a White woman shouldn’t be allowed in a mosque. If someone had said that about me in a Church, you could imagine the outrage, how was this any different to being racist? That’s when I realised that being religious doesn’t make you a better person or give you the right to judge others. My sister in-law was wearing a head scarf paying her respects and mourning the loss of her father-in law. I too witnessed the ugly side of religion, where’s the humanity, tolerance for other human beings?
Religion and spirituality is a very personal thing. I’m not going to suddenly start believing in God/Gods, just because my partner does. I’ll certainly respect their faith, and I’d be fine with altering my diet or lifestyle to make them more comfortable, but my beliefs won’t be changing. Isn’t it illogical to expect someone to believe in something they don’t? Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of giving any man an ultimatum of “it’s either a life with me or a life with your faith, you can’t have both.” Who the hell do I think I am telling someone how they should think?
One of the people I love most in this world is my best friend; in fact, I’d go as far as saying she’s my sister. She’s a devout Hindu. If there was a choice between her and me living, I would sacrifice my life. I’d give up eating beef, and I’d be happy to celebrate religious festivals with her, but I wouldn’t convert for her.
To me being in a relationship doesn’t mean abandoning your sense of individuality. To be a genuine Muslim must come from the heart (exactly in the same way you feel as a Hindu), true conversion can only be done out of love for Allah. I know the difference between when someone loves you unconditionally, and when someone loves you only when you’re the way they want you to be.
My favourite quote from Gandhi: “Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take a different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?”
Make what you will of my answer…
Thank you for the thought provoking A2A.
Note: despite my lack of faith, I’m currently practicing Ramadan with my Chinese colleague. Both of us are agnostic, but we like the thought behind it – showing compassion & empathy for the poor. If only we could see the world from other’s eyes, surely it would be a better place…