Marrying an Indian doesn’t make me Indian


Believe it or not, there are hundreds of non Indian women married to Indians living in Mumbai. In fact there are something like 300 Russians alone! Now there are some foreigners married to Indians all over India and even more living outside India. But, being married to someone doesn’t make you “them.” Taking their last name (something I didn’t do, partly because my pronunciation of Sanskrit-based words is all out horrible and partially because I am who I am… name and all) doesn’t make you fully part of that culture either.

foreign wife
India has diverse religions, regions and cultures. Marrying an Indian doesn’t make one Indian either.

One can learn about a culture and live in it, enjoy it and embrace it but it doesn’t entirely mean you are “that” culture.

Cultures are always changing and when you mix two cultures things change. Like there is no one Indian culture there is no one way in which a foreigner and a local mix. You cannot step in the same river twice. Thus, we can’t expect two families to be the same.

When you marry you blend your backgrounds, your expectations, your lives. When you have children, you can’t teach them just “one” thing. In fact, what you grew up as, even if you still live in the same community and marry someone from the same community will never be exactly the same.

In the group of women “married to an Indian” there are a variety of sorts. None better or worse than the other… but they do different things, may or may not enjoy some traditional Indian culture. They may or may not reject some of their own culture.

foreigner as a wife
Types of foreign wifes. Not all inclusive.

Types of foreign women married to Indians

The I didn’t even know he was Indian and he also has no intention of living in India again. They tend to live life in their home culture and may have made a visit to India after the wedding happened and then may visit again…or maybe not.

The in-law pleasers who try to be an Indian daughter in law. Making perfect roti (or upma). Wearing Hindu marriage symbols or becoming putting their sister in law’s to shame all to show they can be the daughter in law they think their husband’s parents always wanted. They tend to try very hard to make things right even if they still keep some of their own culture alive while they live in India or interact a lot with their inlaws.

The accidental Indian wife. Often these are yoga and spiritual types who came to India to embrace Buddhism or Yoga and later became an Indian wife. These then tend to become high fi yogi families or blend cultures amd spirituality back in their country of origin. They tend to habe a fusion life. Spirituality of the East while keeping some more progressive thinking.

The I am more Indian than he is. These ones aren’t necessarily doing it for their in laws (though they may be) but they take it the next step. They don’t care about acceptance from inlaws but they really change first and last name and take on Hindu or Muslim cultural norms and then work to make their husbands more devout as well. They often believe their native culture has too many faults and glorify all that is India.

Of course there is a definite blend among all of them and people may cycle through them all. But what is important is that both partners are able to have free expression and are not suppressed from interacting with their own family. It is also important to note that Indians may not see a non Indian wife as “them” so saying something like “we know all about this” and speaking about Indians may seem offensive. You can learn a lot in a cross cultural marriage like this… but it doesn’t make you am expert on all things Indian.

What type of wife are you?

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    1. Thanks! The thing is with the merger of PIO and OCI, some women are having issues. We could previously get PIO, but now with no PIO, those who had cards in process have had them rejected and have to start over.

  1. This is such a funny and true article! I have met many of these types of wives.
    When I first met M I always thought I would be the in-law pleaser but I suppose as we have both grown and matured our cultures have blended more. I do not know which one we would fall under now though!
    But I do think it is a lot easier to see the wife that has changed everything to be more like her husband and that is so glaringly obvious and there might still be many things she has kept the same as her culture just less out of the public eye.
    It would be interesting to see the type of foreign husbands! and whether they can be neatly categorized hehe.

    1. I think many of us start out thinking it is easy to just go ahead and do what they ask and then everything will be okay. But even if that does work (and often it doesn’t) we lose a lot of who we are and can easily become resentful. It is always good to have balance.

  2. this is so interesting – I have a coworker married to an Indian doctor here in the US. She didn’t take his name either. The only time I hear of cultural differences becoming any kind of issue is in her relationship with the mother in law, who is not accepting of my blond-haired, Caucasian friend.

  3. Amanda.. this is a very well written article.

    The one part that is fascinating is I think Indians really want foreigners to say they have become Indian… I think many feel it would be great to see a person take up their culture as so many from India leave and adapt to other cultures. Not that it’s a status symbol.. but something like that.. like ‘Look even though India is complex, a foreigner can adjust.” It makes them feel proud. But, India is not really known as a country immigrants come to settle, like the US. In the US, we just assume everyone Americanizes though they may or may not. We don’t assign any status or pride to it in the US… as maybe we assume it’s easy to Americanize (not true), but Indians realize it’s not easy to Indianize or get used to living in India. Thanks for making me think! Good topic to ponder.

    1. PS. For your readers who don’t know me.. I am an American married to an Indian. I have a long relationship with India. I lived in India 98-2001 and earned my Master’s degree from an Indian university. In the past 15 years I have flown in between the US and India roughly once a year. I liked India before I got married to an Indian. Personally, when people say I am Indian, I feel they are happy about it.. it helps them relate to me better, it breaks a lot of barriers. I am happy they see me that way. But, for those who talk to me more about it, I say yes parts of me have become Indianized, but I am American by birth.. so there are parts of me that will always be American…I am happy and proud about both sides of my personality, culturally. No country is better than the other. I like both India and the US. Both have an equal place in my heart :D.

      1. So I am interested in marrying an Indian national that I met in India. How do I go about the procedure of marriage to him. We also want to stay in India not US. Is this possible for me?
        I came across this blog before I have done any investigation into it and your post sparked an interest in me. Thank you.

        1. The big thing is being legally able to be in India. I’ve asked a few others to help out. We married in India (there’s another post there in my blog), but done so on a visit. We also both were American citizens at the time, so it will be different.

        2. indid get married in India, and stayed here. But it was ages ago, I have no idea if things have changed. Be prepared to face a lot of beureaucracy. Once married, your tourist visa needs to be converted to a Multiple entry X visa. I got mine converted while in India but as I said it was a decade ago, I heard some had to go out of the country to get it converted. Once you have your multiple entry X visa you can renew it or extend it in India itself fo as long as you are eligible for it. Now with the OCI having replaced the PIO you can apply for OCI after 2 years of marriage at your local FRRO in India. Once you have that document you can work in India and come in an out visa free for as long as you are married to your Indian spouse.

  4. Hello Amanda

    It was really interesting to read this post.
    It is not easy to marry a person of different religion, region or culture. I think mostly expectations are from female to adjust with. You have described different types of cross culture marriages but have not written about the type you think you fit in.

    India is a big country with variety of languages, I think it is hard to know about whole country and its customs in whole life. But the life after marrying an Indian can be interesting and bit tough too.

  5. This was a very interesting read. I live in the US and I am very much so part of the “melting pot” and don’t have specific cultural background unless you want to define me as a Southerner. However my husband is Italian American and his family has maintained many of the Traditions. By marrying him and taking on those traditions, we are an now an Italian Family.

    1. I am from India my parents were Indian and Irish/Welsh father. I came to the US for higher education at Berkeley met a nice blonde girl who was luckily a vegetarian. Every SundayI went to an Indian restaurant or an Italian restaurant and believe me I often met Laura and both dated and fell in love with her. Married her beget two children who are now in university. I am a professor at an ivy league and Laura teaches at an elementary school. We love each other and believe me we travel to India and to MA where my in-laws live.

  6. I married a man outside of my race but he is American like me. Wedo have our differences because we were raised differently but we get along well. I am a wife that is just myself. I dont try to please the in laws or anything like that but we get along well. Great post!

  7. I am single, never married but have been in long term relationships with men brought up in different cultures. I never had any problems-we both adjusted and combined the best from both!

  8. This is always an interesting subject when one marries another from a different country with a completely different culture from our own. At first we just want to be liked. Thats just natural human nature. The bad thing is, we tend to lose ourself in the process, much like the list you’ve shared here.

  9. I think if I were to marry into a different culture, I would participate in their traditions, but would not let them define me. I’d still stay true to my own roots, and hope my husband would support that.

  10. I’m a bit late to the game but I don’t think I fit any of these categories. I’m an over-achiever by nature so I did …and probably still do… some over the top things to try and gain approval but that’s my personality and that exists outside of my relationship with my in-laws as well as with them. I only wear Indian clothes that are in line with my style, which I’ve found is very different from what the typical Amritsari woman prefers and I rarely cook Indian. I like having an odd relationship with my husband that doesn’t conform to any one culture. I like to partake in his culture from time to time and I like having him remain true to his roots while I’m still as American as I ever was. Things are interesting to say the least. :)


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