I’m very excited to join up with Lauren from English Wife Indian Life to share our stories. We’re sharing how keep culture alive in our multicultural families. I share how we keep my husband’s Indian culture alive in the US and she’s sharing how she’s keeping her English culture alive while living in India.
How To Keep My Culture Alive While Living Abroad
When I married an Indian, I remember thinking how lucky our children will be to belong to two extremely different cultures. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I spent hours researching baby names that would fall easily from both tongues. Then I started to worry, my own cultural identity has been questioned numerous times, from “you should be more Indian now you live in India” to “it seems you are not proud to be British anymore”.
Will my child have a similar experience? Will my child feel British at all growing up in India?
India is the country I have called home for three years. Since leaving England to start a new life with the man I love, I have been learning about Indian values and traditions. In fact, I made it my mission to learn as much as I possibly could so I could understand my new family and the world around me. There are so many amazing things I want my son to learn and enjoy from Indian culture, but what about his other culture?
I thought about the ways I have managed to maintain my culture in India, what parts are so important to me that I couldn’t leave them behind when I took off from Heathrow. I don’t want to force either culture down his throat, but I do want to give him the opportunity to experience both sides of his heritage.
Enjoying a Full English Breakfast
The food we eat says a lot about who we are, our lifestyle and our heritage. In a couple of weeks, I going to start weaning my son, which has put the emotional aspect of food in the spotlight. I can’t predict what his tastes will be, but I would hate for him to have the same problem I have.
I’m so attached to English food that I daydream about it! It has a huge sway on my emotional wellbeing when I am unable to indulge in cheese or bread. Finding quality cheese and bread in the city I live has been a struggle. I want my son to enjoy a variety of cuisines, give him as much choice as I can. I would hate to be visiting England and have to make something separate for him because he has the same emotional attachment to Indian food as I do to English food.
Celebrating Christmas, Easter and Pancake Day
Every Christmas morning I woke up with a stocking on the end of my bed, stuffed with small presents from Father Christmas. If we were living in the West, we would be surrounded by Christmas, but living in India, it’s my job to cultivate the spirit.
I don’t want to lie to my child about Father Christmas, for starters we don’t even have a chimney, but I don’t want to lose one of the very few family traditions I have (especially when my husband’s family have hundreds). I still remember how disenchanted I felt with the entire world when I found out Father Christmas wasn’t real. It broke my heart. I’ve thought about this extensively (probably too much) and found a solution.
There is a ten day Hindu festival celebrating the elephant God, Lord Ganesh. The tradition is that families bring a clay idol of Lord Ganesh into their home, bringing his spirit into the house, and enjoy their time with him. I thought of Father Christmas, and he is the symbol for the spirit of Christmas (jolly, giving etc.). I’m sure my children will understand it this way, and avoid the minor breakdown I had when I was about seven.
Please and Thank You
When I first moved to India, everyone laughed at me for saying “thank you”. Hysterical laughter that made me feel uncomfortable and insecure. Still, I continued to say thank you, it’s not only a habit. It’s a compulsion. It’s not that Indians are rude, concept of politeness is vastly different in India. I would say by Indian standards, I can be (unintentionally) very rude sometimes. I want to encourage my son to say please and thank you, avoiding the disapproving looks when we visit England.
Making the Most of Trips to Britain
We may not have as many traditions and festivals as India, but our little island has beauty, history and fun things to do. It dawned on me as I was flying to India, my son’s childhood will be drastically different from my own . There are so many things I remember with great fondness, and I want him to have the opportunity to experience them too. Therefore, I have promised myself that when we do visit England, we will not waste a moment.
Bring my Culture to India for my Son
When I started to write this post, I thought about the ways I have brought British culture to India and it made my stomach turn. Britain ruled India for almost 100 years before India achieved freedom in 1947. After all the bloodshed, enslavement and stolen wealth, the British retreated after the independence movement, known for its nonviolent philosophy. The actions of some of my ancestors in India were awful and inhumane. I feel ashamed when I read about the brutalities and injustice.
That being said, I believe that people cannot be blamed for the actions of their ancestors, religion, nationality or race. It’s also important we don’t wipe away history from our consciousness, to learn from mistakes and treat everyone equally, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality.
In the end, that is what I hope most for my son (and any future children we are blessed with), that they are kind, open minded and respect all living things.