I’M IN AN INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIP: HOW TO NOT FEEL LIKE AN OUTSIDER
I’LL NEVER FIT IN…
Have you thought or murmured this before? Or felt this way while being in an intercultural relationship? I know, I have! Early on and even after getting married, I’ve often felt like an outsider in the midst of my husband’s Indian family. It is almost as if I was a spy infiltrating a secret society/culture. A culture that I was not born into (as an African-American woman) but one that I’ve married into. I think that this is a common sentiment shared by many in intercultural/interracial relationships and marriages. It does get easier with time, interaction, and involvement on your part. Although, and of course there may be hiccups along the way because you are learning about a new culture and/or religion that may be different from your own. And if you think about it your significant other and/or their family may also be learning about a new culture and/or religion when they are with your family. This has definitely been the case for my family and my husband’s family.
Outside of the culinary and language differences I’ve found myself confronted with a difference in religion, holidays, traditions, customs, and rituals etc. My in-laws are Hindu and their religion, holidays, traditions, customs and rituals were like walking in the dark blind to me. From poojas (prayers), to saying hi and goodbye (Namaste) by putting the palms of your hands together, marriage ceremony (vivaha), to festivals, and holidays (Diwali and Holi etc), to differences in worship and depictions of God being everywhere to all things. How did it/does it get easier?
Here are our 6 tips:
1.) Wear clothing appropriate for a festivity or event etc. You will feel apart of the festivity or event that you are attending and it will help your significant other’s family see that you are making an effort to be included in their family.
2.) Open communication/talk with your significant other about their family’s religion, holidays, traditions, customs, language, rituals etc. It is a mouth full, I know. This will give you a head start of what’s to come and when an event, festivity, religious event or holiday occurs.
3.) Storm/research the internet and books about your significant other’s religion, language, types of food eaten during a holiday, customs, rituals etc. This way you will have a complete understanding of the why, what, when, and how etc.
4.) Get to know your significant other’s family better and ask questions about these topics. If you are inter-religious make sure you know everything there is to know about a religious practice and if you don’t feel comfortable say so. I have quite often found myself listening in more so than partaking in a religious ceremony or holiday activity that is in conflict with my own Christian beliefs. The fact that I am willing to listen in has gone miles in building a better relationship with my in-laws.
5.) If your significant other’s parents or family is talking in another language that you are still learning or don’t know and you want to know what they are talking about then politely say I want to understand what you are talking about too. You know, I am still learning Hindi or whatever language you are still learning. This has worked with my in-laws countless time and they will tell me what they were saying in English.
6.) Ask your friends that are of the same religion or from the same cultural background as your significant other’s family about these topics. Or someone in your significant other’s family that you are close to as well about these topics. **This works if your significant other isn’t aware of something you want to know more about or if your significant other’s family won’t take the time to explain things to you. Furthermore, this works if there are barriers due to language/differences in language.
Don’t give up hope! In the beginning being immersed in a new culture and/or religion is shocking, hard, confusing, and questionable but overtime as you learn more about the culture and/or religion things become easier. And of course lines can be drawn in the sand when needed.
Are you in an interracial/intercultural relationship or marriage? Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Write us. Post a comment below. Like our content share it and subscribe.
Want to know more tips on being in an intercultural relationship/interracial relationship? Find them here in our new book the Art of Interracial Dating.