Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Coping with Culture Shock as the Primary Care Giver

"Care giver" may not be the best term but at this time I'm unable to think of any better way to put it. I'm clearly not a babysitter in this situation but as the resident American, I have some additional responsibilities and more burden to ensure the safety, well-being and happiness of my immigrant husband.

I know I had a very difficult time in India but I went through a lot of things willingly in the best interest of the marriage. While I was in India, I worked and did my best not to ask them to do anything for me - including small things. I took it upon myself to learn about my culture shock and to do my best to deal with it in a manner that wouldn't hurt him.

If I had to ask for things, I did my best to make sure I was as little burden as possible. The last thing *I* wanted was to be remembered as a royal pain in the *ss or to have my in-laws think I was some sniveling brat who wasn't willing to try and take care of herself. Of course, little did I know you can get away with this in some homes and no one thinks lesser of you LOL. Oh how I wish I had known I could be a drama aunty and still be loved and appreciated.

It's okay though, my self-respect remained intact because I know how I behaved and there's a lot of gratification in knowing that. As hard as things were for me there, I feel I successfully maintained a healthy, caring relationship with my MIL and FIL.

Anyway, that's what this blog was for. I could vent my frustrations here and get help/advice without taking things out on my husband or his family. I talked to people online who had been in similar circumstances and I made a conscious effort to watch my words when talking to him or his family. I made it a point not to be a burden on them any more than I had to. I respected the rules of the house as much as I could without sacrificing my sanity.

My husband was very good to me in India. We had a fairly equal relationship. We both worked, combined our money and both enjoyed the benefits of having it. I never made him feel inferior because he had an Indian income and I had an American one. I never made him feel like it was my money. It was always our money, our lives, etc.

I did things I didn't want to do, ate foods I didn't want to eat and I suffered in silence over a lot of things. I tried to find ways to deal with the issues I was having so that if I had to go to him with something, I would at least be able to offer a solution along with the request. Of course, we can more rationally discuss all of this now that we're here in the states and we both agree that I was a pain in the *ss LOL. These are funny discussions now. Hindsight is 20/20 you know.

So when my husband was coming here, I decided to try my best and do what I could to help him through his upcoming culture shock. These are some things I found that worked:

  • Stock up on Indian foods, spices, and anything else you know of your spouse likes. Include packaged roti's and naan bread until they familiarize themselves with how to navigate an American kitchen if they will be doing any of their own cooking.
  • Spend the extra money on uniquely Indian items like linens, pillows, cookware, and decor items. Yes, I know in India they're dirt cheap but all imports are expensive regardless and here in the US it's easy to forget they're imported items. (I know, everything we sell is made elsewhere it seems but these weren't just made for South Poe or Polo, they were specifically imported.)
  • Put extra blankets on the bed, especially in the winter.
  • Provide special closet space or an empty cabinet just for their belongings. While many Indians live communally, this combats the disorientation of not knowing where everything is at first.
  • Set up Indian TV channels through your satellite provider. This could take time to accomplish depending on where you live and who your provider is. Make sure you check into this at least 30 days before your spouse's arrival.
  • Designate a quiet space just for them. They may need a place to go and sit just to get a break from all that is unfamiliar. It's hard on the psyche to constantly be overloaded with the differences and trying to learn it all.

And some things I found didn't work:
  • Ready cooked Indian meals. These are so far from tasting like real Indian food they quickly become a gross disappointment at first. Hubby likes some of them now, but in the beginning he thought they were the nastiest things ever and I didn't blame him.
  • Going shopping too soon. After their arrival, hold off on the shopping for things they still need until you have a chance to truly gauge what they have already.
  • Too many side trips or vacations. It's common for an immigrant to want to see the new host country and all it has to offer but try to remember how tiring travel is. Slow down a bit and your travels will be much more enjoyable.

Other things you can try that didn't apply to us:
  • Set up a Hindu temple in your home. The small ones like some people place on a shelf or in a cabinet.
  • Designate a place for religious items like prayer rugs if your spouse is not Hindu.
The bottom line with all of this is, know your spouse and what they will want or need to feel more comfortable in your home. They may not consider it their home right away and as such, try to be a little more giving and doting in the beginning until they have a chance to settle in. Do your best and communicate about everything until you both find a middle ground where you both feel at home and at peace. 

What are some things you did to help your spouse through their culture shock? Did they work?


  1. These guidelines are good even if the spouses are from the same country, because everybody has different family and upbringing. I hope more people make so much effort to bring harmony in life...

  2. Thank you! It's not always easy but when someone is suffering from culture shock, they can't control it and we have to make allowances for it.