10 Challenges that NRI brides have to face
Challenge for the NRI bride, would she take it?..
Challenges make up the third and most sought after part in the series ’Why you should not marry an NRI’, before I go any further let me specify here my disclaimer again that neither am I promoting nor demoting the NRI groom I am just sharing some facts that I can stand by.
In this post I want to tell brides-to-be, and some other people who might be interested in knowing, about some major challenges that NRI women/families have to face living abroad.
1. Loneliness : This is the first thing that strikes you, unless you have come here on a project and/or start with a job almost as soon as you arrive. If you are joining your husband who has a job and you don’t have one at that time, loneliness would strike you hard, before you had planned. This demon will keep visiting you on festivals on some lazy Sunday afternoons, on special occasions, your birthday or when you are home alone doing the job search drill or in your maternity leave when you have the task list of a baby and home and whatnot, in the middle of all that workload around you, this can be very painful. You may feel alone even as a couple, when there is hardly anyone else that cares about you, shares your happiness and so on.
2. Language : If you are coming to a non-English-speaking country (like me, I am in Switzerland) language would be a monster, it will follow you everywhere, it will become the first biggest challenge for you, bigger than loneliness and adding to it exponentially. So your option is either to start learning that language, it could be fun don’t get me wrong, but let me know 3 months after you started learning.. if you are continuing learning, if you are getting there, or can you speak fluently already, then kudos to you. Language is a vast subject, it’s really hard to cover it in matter of days, you can become a basic speaker fast but the bitch is getting to the advanced level. Business communication in a foreign language is very tricky business. It’s hard, but it’s doable, many have done it so can you. Just mentioning it here so that you can mark it in your mind as a major challenge. Some of my friends have moved to an English speaking country where the accent got the best of them. Sure, in the long run you will get the accent, you will understand it and may even acquire it but it would be quite a challenge at first.
3. Culture : Yes the vulture of the culture is one god you will have to bow your head in the awe of. To understand a new culture is not just demanding but also indispensable. And if you have plans to settle in a foreign country permanently then you don’t just want to understand its culture, you will have to adapt to it. Culture is a deep-rooted thing; it’s a way of life. It relates to experience, beliefs, values, concepts, the way you communicate, the way you react to something, it’s how your mind is programmed. Now if you see all these words separately you will find that each in itself is much complex and has value of its own and if you add all these together it makes up your culture, it is the basis for all your behavior. Now changing these complex chattels is not easy, adopting is not a cakewalk consider this as a big big challenge, be ready to face it.
4. Local integration : This is just another side of the multifaceted coin called ‘Culture’. To integrate with other people from a different race and background, to accept everything and to be accepted is a challenge that just cannot escape my list. It’s for sure fun to know different people and talk to them, be friendly to them or be treated friendly by them but to be really friends with them and be invited over and be made a part of their society, and become a happily accepted part of their society, where they happily involve you in their lives, their society, in their country is not a breeze. You look different, speak differently, style differently (and sometimes also strangely), your ways are poles apart, then how can someone just let you in? It takes time and much-needed effort. Many of my friends that live abroad, have a good life, no problem there, but their only friends are the other Indian families. They haven’t integrated locally in the new country, not that they don’t want to, just because it’s not easy!
5. Added Child Challenges : For those who are coming abroad with kids, or even those who will have kids in a foreign land and would raise them there, it’s always an added challenge to keep the kid aware and trained for understanding two different cultures. Many belief, reasons and values clash when you are trying to follow two cultures together, it’s like travelling on two boats at the same time, as much adventurous as it might sound, you will have your share of complications. If the kids are born abroad, the first but not the only challenge would be language. You want your child to be able to speak to everyone in India (your local language) and you still would want the child to be perfectly comfortable in his current environment. If the kids are bit older when you shift, the problem of uprooting them from their lives and planting them elsewhere is quite tricky, the education format might be different the language in which subjects are taught might be different. From finding friends for your kids to making them travel in the new transportation system all could be small challenges to face every day.
6. No Family support : Just as I was writing about child challenges this one came to my mind and has to be in the list. Going through a pregnancy when your mother is not around to help you or see you or to long for a hug from mom or dad in those times can make you feel like crying, err.. will make you cry! Sometimes you are having your first delivery and parents cannot fly to be there. Sometimes grandparents get to see their grandchildren only after months. There would be no family to do shagun (good luck or baby shower) ceremonies for you. Raising children without the rest of the family means that children will never be able to receive their share of love from their grandparents, no uncles spoiling them with candies, no aunts pampering them with gifts and everyone misses the childhood of your kid. The family integration for these kids takes a total toss. I don’t know which cost is bigger, paying for high crèche charges or devoiding your kid of all the love and care from the family but living abroad you will pay both these costs. Growing the kids alone, with small or no help and guidance from family is a sad challenge we all have to face.
7. Job Search : Yep, let’s talk about the elephant in the room now, you are here, you are well educated/skilled and you want to work. Job search could be a seriously difficult and disappointing task when abroad. If you are looking for a job in a non-English speaking country, the challenge doubles itself up. If this is a desk job(programming, testing, finance) still chances of you getting it exist, but if it’s a client facing job with lots of meetings and negotiations or includes being the face of the company and go outside company for presentations and stuff, these people want natives, really! Unless you speak their language fluently and have a pleasant personality according to them and come with an edge that they have been missing, you stand low chances. One time my friend, who is a very smart and intelligent girl but soft-spoken and petite looking, got through a couple of rounds of interviews for a job, but she was not selected. In the end the management thought the kind of people that she has to deal with will eat her up, it’s her culture to be soft-spoken, it’s her genes that make her so petite but in the middle of the wall street wolves what has a soft-spoken petite person got to do. Sometimes language, sometimes seasoning or skills or market situation and sometimes native competition make job search a true challenge.
8. Dressing up : Imagine a girl who always wore just salwar kameez or who has never been allowed to wear any western dresses, she’s suddenly in a European country where its summer and other women are wearing skimpiest of dresses, looking like calendar girls. Won’t she feel out of the place? Won’t she feel weird and feel that she doesn’t belong here, might even feel complexed. On the top of it if husband criticizes her for having a poor dressing sense, it’s quite a scathed situation for her. Then to try these different styles and adapting doesn’t come easy. In the beginning many Indian girls cannot carry the western outfits well, exactly the same way that many European or American women cannot drape and carry a Saree as gracefully as an Indian woman. Believe it or not many many Indian women abroad vouch that altering their way of dressing was one of the biggest challenges for them.
9. Understanding Choices : Some people have strange pets, like a snake, or a duck/chicken, a chameleon, this is so unlike India(especially in the cities) where a pet mostly means a dog. Shrieking in disbelief “Oh my god, how can you have a snake for a pet” doesn’t help! People do whatever they like, there is much less social stigma, they eat whatever they like such as meat from ostrich, peacocks, reindeer and what not. We don’t usually do that in India but that doesn’t mean no one is doing it. We have to understand this. Other challenges include understanding that some people live alone, some people live in tents, some people live in caravans, all are acceptable even if they can afford normal homes, they choose to live like that! Some people don’t get married at all, if they are married they never have children. These are all choices people make, the challenge is to understand that they are just following their wishes and not see them with India-coloured goggles on your eyes.
10. Rules of the west : Learning Social rules and understanding laws from the new country top this chart, a vast subject again but one has to know and learn. For example, stopping at zebra crossing for pedestrians, driving and parking rules of the new country. Some of my Indian colleagues in the office told me that keeping noise levels low and minding children according to rules in Switzerland also is a challenge for them. Another one is being accepting towards ideas and things that also exist in India but remain hidden like sex before marriage, live-in relationships, gay partners, cross-dressers, teenage pregnancies and so on.. Things that are crucial for many of us in India are non-existent in many foreign countries like horoscopes, following gurus, taking off shoes before entering a sacred place like a temple, taboo of eating cow’s meat, wearing gem stones and many other topics. Things no one discusses with us or things that our elders have been looking down upon and mark as ‘unacceptable’ in India are sometimes totally ordinary abroad. Understanding all this is challenge, challenge , challenge!
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