This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in June 2014 issue.
Nepal is a country of “Char jaat and chhattis barna” and our ancestors were very proud about it. They even made a song about this fact and we learned about the great history of Nepal in our school years.
People were happy and understanding when you had friends from different castes and they seemed to advocate equality and brotherhood between castes. But falling in love outside the caste was a different story. Every parent of single girls and boys feared their child might marry outside their own caste. That was a century ago.
These days, the fear has moved from inter-caste marriage to international marriage. Now almost every home in Nepal seems to have someone living and/or studying abroad so the parents’ fear has shifted from inter-caste marriage to intercultural/international marriage. More and more people from Nepal are abroad and more individuals have crossed racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries to marry someone. I bet you know someone in your close circle who has married a non-Nepalese. Marrying inter-caste is very common in Nepal and acceptable in most families these days but most parents are finding it difficult to accept someone from a different county, culture, religion and background.
The thing is these intercultural relationships and marriages are meant to happen. What do you expect when you send your kid aboard to mix with international society, learn their culture, meet new people but then never think about them falling in love with anyone other than people from Nepal? Even typing these words right now I can see straight away how ridiculous it sounds. Similarities and connections with another person isn’t limited to someone of your own culture as love sees no boundaries and connections can be made with individuals from all backgrounds and experiences.
I find it funny when a guy/girl returns to Nepal with a foreigner friend; the parents show them off as a trophy. Saying, “Mero chora/chori ko ta American sathi cha.” But if the same person was introduced as their boyfriend or girlfriend, they change their tone completely.
I know so many friends who had a hard time making their parents understand that their love is real and they are serious about their relationship. Some parents have even gone to the extent of bribing them or using emotional blackmails as a tool to separate them form their love.
Australia has the highest rate of intercultural marriage in the world, and it is increasing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of mixed marriages has grown from 39% in 1974 to 60% in recent years. I am sure the numbers in Nepal are increasing as well.
I do understand the few genuine reasons why parents are opposed to intercultural relationship. The first one is the society. In this instance, they always think about what people will say and think, without thinking about their child first. Their social status seems to be more valuable than the love for their children.
Then there are the communication issues, whether that is between them and their son/daughter in law or the future grand kids. Parents think these barriers mean that they will have a hard time understanding each other’s feelings.
If they are religious people, they are worried what religion and culture their future grand kids will follow. In addition, many people in Nepal are Hindu and they are against eating beef while most of the westerners live on beef.
However, these are the issues which could be easily overcome with communication and understanding. Therefore, parents first must take the first step of acceptance if they want good relation with their kids and their partners.
One of the biggest misconceptions parents in Nepal seem to have is that if you marry a foreigner, they will divorce in the future. I am serious that most of the older generation have this in mind and tell you about it openly. I know it is not true but looking at few examples, they put everyone in the same pigeonhole.
To all the parents, please think twice before you go against the marriage of your kid. They are still the same kid you used to worry about when they got sick or didn’t come home on time. Then how can you be OK when they are heart broken and hurt by your action.
The world is changing, let’s embrace it. As our world becomes more accepting of differences, individuals will continue to find attraction and love with others from outside of their own culture. Let’s look beyond the differences that confuse or frustrate us, and look for the value we can find in these relationships. Let us educate our children in recognizing human beings as human beings in spite of their race, colour, or ethnicity. I will just be very happy for my kids one day to marry someone honest, loving and respectful.
Would you prefer your son/daughter to marry someone nice, honest, hardworking and friendly but from a different culture or someone stubborn, lazy and annoying but from your own culture? I am sure everyone has the same answer so why are we so bothered by where this nice, honest, hardworking friendly person comes from. Believe me, nobody’s status declines because of intercultural or inter country marriage.
While every romantic relationship can bring its own set of challenges, intercultural relationships can bring unique challenges and during this stage, support of family and friends is very important to the couple.
To everyone who sees their future in international/intercultural marriage, don’t expect things to be easy but also don’t give up. The best way to overcome this issue is by learning each other’s culture, religion and traditions so you can understand your partner and in laws better. Ask questions and try to understand why your partner has a certain perspective or why s/he does things a different way. Learn to accept and understand the differences without changing your own beliefs or behaviors, this way you would be able to pass this knowledge down to your kids. Just to be clear this is something a couple have to do regardless of whether they are in an intercultural marriage or from the same culture because each of us has our own perspective in life. For couples from intercultural background, they will just have a little more work to do to understand the differences.
Let’s make this world a big happy family and let’s all live in harmony.
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M from nepaliaustralian