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.