While reading The Namesake, I felt close to Gogol as he dated girls that had grown up in different cultural backgrounds. Now, arguably, everyone enters into an intercultural relationship, even if you are the same race. At least, it feels that way in California. Everyone grows up with different parents, in a different home. So, just dating someone is already asking for a change in lifestyle, at least for the hours you’re with that person, if not more.
There’s one relationship in particular for Gogol that seems to hit close to home. He dates a girl, Maxine, who lives with her parents, and has an open relationship with them. Gogol’s Bengali family surprises her, with their arranged marriage, their exclusivity within the Bengali community, and their lack of affection.
When I started dating my boyfriend (a loooong time ago), I was taken aback by how open and receptive his parents were to me. Not that a Bengali mother wouldn’t be receptive to me, but she wouldn’t be ebullient about it. I freaked out at the mention of “I love you” everywhere. That seemed to be reserved for rare occasions in my household. So many things were different, and so many things I liked and appreciated, but there were similarities too. It was hard to find those similarities, but when they made themselves known, I was reminded how we may have been raised in different cultures, but our cultures still overlapped at some points.
Dating must be some big social experiment. Some people choose not to partake, as in arranged marriages. Let your parents decide. My parents did not have an arranged marriage, and I won’t either, but a lot of my family will have arranged marriages, and will continue to. And it’s rarely a bad situation. It just produces another culture to be raised in. And to be fair, I hardly call what I did dating. I have only had one boyfriend, and I will continue to have said boyfriend, until said boyfriend wants to become said husband. So, I haven’t played the field, but I’ve learned a lot from his culture.
Things I have learned from my intercultural relationship:
1. It’s ok to show the affection you feel for someone, with taste.
2. Rice comes in several varieties, and it is a side dish mostly eaten on its own.
3. There really is no cooking like your mom’s cooking.
4. Poking fun at a person’s shortcomings is a sign of affection, and not to be taken as an insult.
5. Christmas stockings are not just decorations. People actually put gifts in there!
And the list goes on, but that’s a pretty good sample of what I’ve learned over the past seven years. I wonder what he’s learned from mine.
Anyways, time to wrap it up. Please, leave your thoughts here. They’re welcome. What is your intercultural experience?