Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to Be a 'Good Gori'

I was doing some web surfing in my downtime today and read a forum posting that said (not to me) "you must be the good gori." Now, of course this phrase struck me for more than one reason. First off, it shows how some desi's think of 'westerners.' But it also got me curious what is a good gori. I googled and didn't come up with much. I wasn't surprised.

As a combination of what I found and what I personally feel, you need to possess these qualities to be a 'good gori:'
  • Respect your husband's culture regardless of whether or not you understand it, believe in it, like it, etc. 
  • Respect your husband's family (in your own terms...not the standard desi definition of respect). No, you don't have to touch their feet but you should at least respect their beliefs, ideals and standards of living. I didn't say honor and obey them, just respect them. You don't have to touch the elder's feet if it offends or bothers you but don't go showing your cleavage if they believe you shouldn't. It won't hurt you to wear a dupatta over your girlies if the need arises.
  • Stand up for yourself within reason. No one will respect you if you constantly bow to their demands. Be mindful of what is requested of you and if it is reasonable and you can accommodate it, then there's no harm in doing it. If it's unreasonable, politely refuse. 
  • Learn to understand, accept or relate to his culture. You don't have to do the things he does but don't chastise, ridicule or defame his culture.
  • Set boundaries in your personal and home life. This includes with in-laws and it is important whether you live in a nuclear or joint family. If you don't have boundaries you'll find you get very frustrated and fed up quickly. Many Indian families share property and if there's something you don't feel comfortable sharing then say so. 
  • Be accommodating. Everyone does this in marriage but in mixed cultures you will likely have to make bigger stretches to accommodate someone. For example, one gori made individual labels in Hindi for everything in her kitchen before her MIL visited.
  • Don't be afraid to engage in or try out parts of your husbands culture. Attend the karva chauth ceremony, light the diya's on diwali or allow your MIL to do puja around you before you enter the home. These things can be exciting experiences or a chance to learn and they offer you unique chances to bond with your new family without saying a word or doing anything. 
  • Make an effort to cook your husbands favorite dishes. If you hate cooking you can skip this but if you don't hate it then try the dishes. They only look scary with all those ingredients but they really aren't difficult and you can always find shortcuts to make them easier. I venture to say that just about anyone could make a roti - it may not be round but it will be edible - and that's all it really takes to make an effort. Same with rice if your desi prefers rice. It comes in instant and it's really hard to screw up instant rice. 
I'm sure there are a lot more things I could add to this list but you get the idea. Being a 'good gori' isn't much different than being a good person in general. I only tailored the list above to include desi terms. Any wife should make an effort to love and care for her husband in ways that make him happy. Likewise, the husband should do the same for the wife. If the husband or wife in a relationship isn't making an effort then the marriage will not be happy and may not survive.

This is true no matter what race, culture or religion the couple are - even if those are mixed. A woman is not a servant to the husband while he does nothing for the marriage nor is a husband his wife's servant. Marriage is a partnership in both Indian and American cultures. It was never designed to be one sided or a slave type relationship.

Share your best tips for being a 'good gori' or even a 'good pardesi' with me in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


  1. Hi,

    Whatever you said your marriage does apply to all marriages. However, Indian marriage are a little more complicated due to the curious interplay of relationships. In Indian marriages, more often than not its the in laws on both sides who create more trouble for the couple. Keeping them apart from each other, become the greatest struggle for the couple. Men and women are both become victims of this "social conditioning" defining stereotypes. The time which should be spent on understanding each other is lost in resolving issues between inlaws. Both the sides are equally responsible for the mischief, but the girl's side more often than not slip under the radar after committing mischief, Sometimes feel that if we were to be more individualist in our relationship, it could save us a lot of trouble. More than half of our troubles would be over if do not make marriage such a big deal.

  2. Desi pardesi marriages have a unique advantage over Indian marriages. As a pardesi we are often not expected to adhere to the same standards as an Indian woman would and the drama you mention doesn't apply to these mixed marriages. The woman's family doesn't start drama with the man's family and most of the time language barriers prevent them from even trying. Many pardesi's also don't allow their parents interference in the relationship. We also have a lot more freedom to be individuals. Typically a pardesi wife does more to adapt and change herself to fit into the relationship than an Indian woman would because of our circumstances and lack of understanding of the culture.

  3. These are really good tips on how to be a "good gori". Patience it definitely up high on the list for a gori wife to have. Especially when you have sit with Desi in-laws talking for hours in another language and no one translating!

  4. Thank you. I remember sitting with family members and they would talk and talk and talk, then look over at me and smile and talk some more. It's difficult to sit through these things.

  5. Yes, It's extremely hard to deal with. It happens all the time and when it goes on and on it makes me feel like crazy that I can't understand anything. My husband told me about a Spanish woman that married a Bangladeshi man and she got so fed up with not knowing what everyone was saying around her all the time, she made herself learn his language and she actually became fluent so she could be sure no one was talking about her! Sounds wild but I think I'm going to get to that point soon with Urdu and I'm going to need to learn so I can understand the conversations. Do you understand your husbands language at all?

  6. I did learn to speak it some. I'm still learning but very slowly. I found the teach yourself sets in Books-A-Million a while back and they seemed to be good. At first I wasn't sure which language he spoke (lol, long story) and I picked up Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi. Urdu and Punjabi are *almost* the same language btw. Urdu is the Pakistani version of Punjabi (or so I've been told by Punjabi Pakistani's). You can find plenty of good resources online for free if you want to put off spending the money. Language sets are not cheap and even if you have it, it's so hard to spend that much for such tiny books. I intend to learn more, I just can't seem to find the time and I don't think I've made it a priority like I wanted to.