Bridging the gap: love and relationships in the USA
Emigrating from one country to another changes many aspects of life.
Love and relationships may be one of the most confusing things to get used to.
It’s hard to predict the exact amount of years you have to stay in the United States to be fully integrated. It really depends on the degree of willingness to accept and tolerate the values and norms of the new culture.
For children and young adults, it’s relatively easy to feel comfortable with the new system. For older folks, it’s almost impossible to detach themselves from their conservative cultural values. In may refugee and immigrant families, different generation lives under the same roof, and their beliefs can differ drastically. Consequently, these differences can be the primary cause of family conflicts. There are many examples of those conflicts.
However, I just want to focus and talk about the issues with dating and relationships in the United States.
Love and relationships from two perspectives
In my quest of expanding my knowledge on for this subject, I encountered Rohan [name changed]. Rohan, a 15-year-old 9th-grade student, came to America with his family of six back in 2008, when he was 8 years old. Being a person who has spent the first half of his life in a refugee camp and the second half in the USA, Rohan mentioned that his values are mixed. He does believe in some core Nepalese culture, such as being humble, However, he rejects those which he thinks are outdated, such as caste system. When I asked him about his views on dating, he smiled and said:
“Well! Being an immigrant, and living with relatively conservative parents, it’s hard to find a suitable person to date. My parents think that I am too young to date now but when I get older they said it’s my religious and cultural obligation to date within Nepali Hindu community, preferably someone within my own caste. On the other hand, my friends at school considers single guys like me as ‘losers’ or ‘undesirable’ or ‘nerds.’ This constant peer pressure sometimes can be intolerable.”
Rohan’s paradoxical situation stunned me. To get more insights on this topic, I went to see Chattra Rai [name changed], an 82-year-old grandfather, in his apartment. I wanted to see his perspective on dating, love and relationships in the United States. To start my conversation, I asked him about his life and how he met his wife. He promptly replied, “I never saw my wife before marriage! My parents talked with her parents and our date was fixed. She was 7 and I was 13, so I don’t recall all details.”
Do you think one should meet before their marriage? I asked.
“No! That’s not necessary. Everybody’s parents know what’s best for their children and the relationship they choose will be more durable,” he responded with a very serious look on his face. I didn’t want to ask him further questions because he doesn’t seem comfortable having an open conversation about dating. I talked for a while about other topics and left his apartment.
From my chat with two resettled Bhutanese of different generations, I learned that the notion of dating doesn’t even make sense to older generation refugees. Conversely, for young adult refugees, there’s strong pressure from their peers at schools on finding dates, while intense pressure from their families to avoid relationship outside their confined social groups. However, it’s hard for young adults like Rohan to find a date that qualifies their family preferences within their city or even state. As a result, many upper teenagers have used social media as a tool to find their date- of parent’s preferences- and established an online long distance relationships.
Internet dating has its own sets of issues.
“It scares me”, says Ram Tiwari [name changed], who is 44. “My daughter is always locked on her to her bright little iPad, and who knows who she’s talking to,” Tiwari adds his frustration about the easy accessibility of the internet and social media. His family had moved to the United States 4 years ago when his daughter was 12. He works six days and his wife works five days a week. Tiwari continued, “So it’s hard to constantly monitor her and who she talks to because I don’t understand today’s technology. She says she’s doing her schoolwork, and we have no choice but to believe her.” He said he had many hopes on his daughter and those dreams are the reason for him to sacrifice everything and move to the United States. He took a deep breath and added, “I wish she just understood me. These technology and Facebook is just a temporary distraction.” I certainly was able to understand his frustrations and worry about his daughter.
After all my interviews, I pondered on this topic. I questioned myself, what’s the best way to promote a healthy relationship and avoid a relationship that might be harmful?
After a few hours of thoughts, I think the best ways to enrich our relationship is to build a connection within our own family members and peers. There are certainly differences among all of us, whether it’s generational, linguistic or cultural differences, however, those differences shouldn’t separate us.
We should be open to conversation about love and relationships, even if we don’t like the topic.
We should have the patience to listen to others with differing viewpoints. Only open communication can bring a bridge between the generational gaps in our community. Thus, let’s sparkle the conversation on this topic, in our community and in our family.