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Weathering The Cultural Change

August 26, 2011

There are believed to be as many as 30 million NRIs across different parts of the world. As a second generation NRI myself, I have experienced first hand, the trials & tribulations of adjusting in a foreign land, first hand. When my parents came to the United States about twenty five years ago, they were reluctant, vary, and excited, all at the same time. But what followed was not just a fulfilling life, but also a long and hard period of adjustment. And it is this period that I wish to share with you today

We Indians, especially our parents’ generation, were brought up on a certain value system. This was often times a strict and staunch moral code. Generosity, brotherhood, helping people in need, and abiding by an inherent code of familial & societal conduct; that are all concepts a country such as the United States challenges. That is not to say the West as an entirety shuns any protocol. Its just that our value systems are very different. Let me give you a few examples of the things that my parents had to deal with when they moved.

For starters, they had to adjust to eating non-vegetarian. Then, back when they moved, India and Indians were still perceived as second grade citizens. Not that they encountered any direct discrimination; but there was always a very real undercurrent of being frowned upon. Then, as kids when we were growing up, a newer set of cultural shocks, followed by more reluctant adjustment came about. The dating philosophy, the education philosophy, challenging one’s teachers at school, public display of affection, live-in relationships; all alien concepts to my parents, were now being taken on head on, because we as Indian kids, were growing up in an American system.

It was very difficult, to say the least. But together, we all coped. The flip side was, that simultaneously, there was also developing a larger & larger community of NRIs around us. Add to that America intrinsically being a land of foreign settlers; it helped to make our own adjustments and despite the cultural differences, be able to follow our own hybrid kind of value system.

Today, we have a lot to be thankful for. To the United States, for giving us the opportunity to build successful lives and livelihoods for ourselves, but to our Indian roots, for keeping us grounded and level headed. Its been the best of both worlds really for me, but its all thanks to the sacrifices and adjustments my parents made, when they left India!

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