Are We Ready?
Author by Zach
Thirty odd years ago, my mother had this conversation with me when the then 20 year old was about to embark on a flight to the US for higher studies. She asked me when I would be back to settle down, which is the old Malayalee way of asking what my plans are for a job and to marry a good girl from a good family. Sound familiar? I am sure if you are a first generation immigrant from any part of the old country, you have had this happen to you. Well she wasn’t that lucky with me, I happened to stray and found a partner in another culture, which is why I want to address an issue which will face most of us sooner or later.
We all agree that our culture is a strong one with behaviors steeped in tradition and guided by strong religious and cultural influences. When we go to our social events and churches, temples and mosques, it is mostly about nostalgia and the chance to remember the old ways. Don’t we all enjoy a few hours to walk down memory lane? I do it and it gives me great satisfaction to re-live the past. We also do several other seemingly unwise things like buy homes in India which we will never live in or invest in businesses or ventures which we cannot control or have any input, all to lose the hard earned money or have one of those unpleasant exchanges with a family member before we decide to fold up and get back to the relative calm of our suburban homes in the new world.
How many of us know of the acronym, ABCD? As I was told by a friend years ago, it stands for “American Born Confused Desi” and we all know a few of these in our circles, sometimes, it is much more closer to home. Friends, our children who are born here or came here when they were young are products of the society we live in, they may not have that deep connection to the old world, many times they live their parents wishes and participate in activities. I know many of them enjoy everything our culture has to offer and they are proud of it, but they are also proud Americans.
They will also live a totally different adult life in choosing a profession or may want to choose a partner of their liking. This brings us to the question “Are we ready?” for this cultural change or for the fusion, intercultural or mixed family we might be part of in the next 5 to 10 years. Think about it, not only will their lives be impacted, but yours too will have profound changes in adapting to the new choice. We must begin to ask questions like, how can I accommodate a different religion in my family or a person of another color or race? How do we maximize our family experience with this new family set up? How can I love this new member or what can I do to help my child to cope up in living with a partner who did not have the same upbringing as we did? I am talking about developing a set of skills we need to master to have a fulfilling life. My story is not without ups and downs, there is the language barrier, priorities in life issues, but these are present in any family regardless of culture. The cultural differences throw an additional curve for us to master and manage it. Friends, embracing the differences, learning and understanding people will create such a deep appreciation for what God has created. We will be part of it whether we like it or not, in the words of the great broadcaster Walter Cronkite’ “that’s just the way it is.”
Now, let me suggest a few things I have learned by trial and error from my own marriage to a Cuban American. In terms of social behavior, my wife’s family expresses their feelings quite loudly in family gatherings; this might come as a shock to some of us who tend to live a quiet life. Latinos approach life with a whole lot more fun and excitement than we do. Language, food and religious holidays are important to my spousal family. Annual vacations with siblings might be another area I had to get comfortable with. As you see, there are a myriad of areas we need to be comfortable in order to manage the relationship. It will take time and effort, but in the end it is all worth it, because we create great memories as we get ready to depart from this world.
There are successes and failures on this topic all around us. We tend to tolerate less when it is an intercultural situation, so let me suggest some practical tips I use when confronting differences. Have patience, try to understand the other person’s point of view, show interest and appreciation, have a close friend advise you or to get a third party’s view, anticipate needs, figure out what is important to them, teach them our culture, praise them when you have a chance, read books and articles on social etiquette, and above all have an open mind.
I hope you found this writing something to ponder on as you go about your daily chores and watching your daughter or son grow up – and they will certainly grow up soon.
Zach is a mortgage lender by profession and advises many of his clients in creating a balanced life. His passion is teaching others to confront reality and do better in life. Zach can be reached at 305-439-2460 or by e-mail, Zach@bmfl.net.