Indian-American Culture

I am completely ignorant, but very interested in Indian-American culture. I assume like all american ethnicities that there really isn’t too much difference from the traditional american mold. What I would like to know some more finite details. Like how is the family structure set up? Customs that you observe? Relationships, either within your culture or out. I know the answers will not represent the majority, but it will give me a clearer idea.

I found a couple of surveys on the internet, but the majority of them were male respondants and I am curious as to how females feel. Any answers are very much appreciated.

You better specify if you mean East Indian or Native American.

On the basis that Indian-American sounds more like Polish-American while the indigenous peoples to the Americas tend to be called American Indian, I’m going to guess East Indian.

On that basis, I will suggest a search of IMHO and MPSIMS (and, perhaps, GQ and Cafe Society (for food)) on the terms desi or ABCD. You should be able to glean a certain amount of information from the conversations that they have shared among themselves on this board.

The thread Any resident Indian (from India) Dopers here? might give you a few insights into other terms to search or users to look up.

East Indian, not Native American. Did a search prior, but nothing extensive enuf.

Ok, well I guess I’m Indian-American, although I have never thought of myself as anything other than American.

Born in India, I came over when I was four. I’m an only child.
I have visited India four times, when I was 10, 15, 16, and 18.

Let me see if I can answer your questions.

It is different from the traditional American mold. Indian parents try and raise their kids sort of blocked off from the American world. My parents were *very * strict, but even my friends’ parents preferred that India kids hung out with other Indian kids and less white kids.

My parents were adamant that i not date before marriage, and that my marriage would be arranged to not only a Hindu but someone from my very state in India (Punjab). I dated behind their back, but not until i was nineteen and in college.

We celebrated many major Hindu holidays but we always celebrated Christmas as well. When I was younger I used to get gifts for Easter, too.

Maybe if you could ask some more specific questions I’d be glad to answer. It’s difficult to answer such a vague question.

Make a me a list of questions you want answered, and I’ll answer them tomorrow at work (I’ve got the day off! wheee). Ok?

Talk to you then.

Thank you for the answers Elenia28. Here’s couple more questions if you could please.

(By and large) Are parents being strict the norm or rather just in your case?
How would of your parents of taken it if you did date a non-indian person or even if you married them?
Would you do it even if you didn’t have their approval?
How many of the ways of your parents do you still follow? Specifically beliefs and not spiritual beliefs?
Is the family structure set up as a Patriacrch?
What roles do first born males/females have within the family if any?
One Boston University survey stated that 76% percent of Indians believed in Hindu and 8% were Christians. From your perspective, is that a fair cross section?

That is all I can think of at the moment. Appreciate the answers.

I hope this answers your questions:

Well, I’m an Indian-American born in America to Indian immigrants. I’ll answer some of your questions.

First off, you should note that I feel that I come from a very atypical Indian-American family.

My father and mother knew that when they moved to America, they would have to make many sacrifices in bringing me up. In fact, they brought me up with very little Indian culture and language (a fact both them and I regret). They also raised us in a non-religious household (a fact only my father regrets). My father even quit smoking when he had his first child, so he was very, shall we say, accomadating to his children. I think they really made the effort to integrate us with non Indian community. But they really didn’t have a choice, since the Indian community was really small in my town.

My parents brought me up in a very educationally-oriented household. If I did poorly academically (i.e. anything below an A), I was punished. Otherwise, it was pretty much free reign, as long as we didn’t cause trouble. They pretty much spoiled us rotten.

I was never actually forbidden to date. But since I never did before I essentially moved out, that was never a problem. Drugs, tobacco, and alcohol were strictly forbidden. When I lit a cigar for my high school graduation, my father went furious. But when I turned 21, my dad was happy to shove alcohol down my throat.

Sex is probably one of the more interesting things to talk about. I suppose most parents are frightened/embarrased to talk about sex. But I feel Indian parents are often especially bad. I know of many of my peers that never had any sort of talk about sex with their parents. My parents at least made the effort to tell me the bad things about sex at some point.

My parents would be supportive of anyone I chose to marry. They’d naturally be more supportive of me marrying an Indian, and especially an Indian from our state (in India). I think this is largely because they feel that Indian marriages are much more stable. Caste would make no difference to them. And neither would religion.

As the middle child, I’m certainly the black sheep. Both my other siblings are following the same profession as my parents, but my parents are somewhat supportive of what I do, as long as it’s a somewhat stable profession. My elder brother really has no special status within the family - we’re all treated equally.

I don’t think of my family as patriarichal or matriarichal. Both of them consider themselves as equals. At least they wouldn’t take shit from each other.

I personnally think 8% of christians is too high, I think that % is too high for India itself. I personally only know of one christian indian (married to a hindu). But I don’t go around asking people’s religions, so I could be very wrong.

Oh, sex. I forgot to mention anything about it.

From time I was born to the age of 19 my parents never mentioned the word sex to me, nor anything about it. I remember my mother yelling at me once when I said “pregnant”. (!)

At nineteen my dad baffled me and scared me a little by asking me if I knew how to use condoms. It embarrassed the hell out of both of us.

That was the total extent of my sex talk.

Oh and one other thing:

When my mother found out I was living with my boyfriend, she called me a whore (in Hindi) to my face. It was the first time I had ever heard that word out of Hindi movies. One of the most hurtful moments of my life to this day. :frowning:

Thank you for your insight alanak. I ask these questions because at my work we recently had several Indians come in for some job training, mostly recent immigrants. I would ask them, but their English is not to good yet. It has nothing to do with the cute Indian girl who cuts hair down the street from my house whose always flirting with me. :slight_smile:

I just had one question left really and that is about little nuiances. Social mannerisms or cultural tidbits of an interesting nature that are unique to East Indians.
For example, the Hmong here in the Twin Cities: (Generalizations ensuing)
-Shoes outside a house (one men’s wear, one female) signifies that the couple inside are married.
-If a man places his shoes on or by a womens shoe that means he likes her (or something like that)
-You typically address the man of the house first.
-Hmong with the same last names will typically not marry.
-Although they are pretty much free to marry whomever they wish, its not uncommon for the man to still pay her family for the right to. The price will vary from hundreds to upper thousands depending on factors. Specifically, if she is well educated, a “good” girl, etc…
Again, I appreciate the answers.

I confused as to why you bring up Hmong in relation to (east) Indians. Because, frankly, we seem to be entirely different people. (And don’t get me started on lumping all of South Asia into one demographic either).

But anyway, I’ve never encountered any meaning about shoes in regards to Indians.

But there still are dowries in India (but usually no longer in the US), but my understanding is that the practice is being done less, but still common. But that’s only my understanding, which could be entirely incorrect.

Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure where the Hmong are from. And like Alanka said, please don’t confuse South Asia. We only just got away from the idea of *Asia * as one big culture.

In answer to your questions:

We don’t have similar things with the shoes. You don’t wear your shoes in the house, and NEVER in the kitchen. Also, when you take them off you’re not supposed to just toss them, you have to set them up right. Or an important task will be left undone.
Also, during the weddings, the girls sisters/friends will steal the groom’s shoes and hide them, and then ask for money. This is customary and expected, the groom’s Uncle will usually give him some money or little gifts (the last wedding I was at, he wasn’t rich but we got little silver rings). It’s great fun
Those are about the only customs I can remember relating to shoes.

Addressing the man of the house first is a male-society thing, you see it everywhere. I don’t know of any specific injunctions to this effect, though.

The last name thing doesn’t hold. Indians will mostly marry beyond first cousins, but I have heard of first cousin weddings occasionally.

Dowries: Well I’m sure I could write a treatise on dowries, and I’m sure people have. This is the way it seems to work now: The educated folk don’t pay dowries. On the contrary, you are getting a fine, educated wife who will live as an equal.
The uneducated folk definitely pay dowries, and in many cases more than they can afford. It’s a curse to have too many daughters in rural India. I don’t like it…but you are taking into your house an uneducated non-provider, so I guess I can kind of see it.

Bride-burning still happens in rural India. And not 50 miles away, there is probably an educated, smart woman who chooses her own husband the way you would choose a sari. I think India really has a lot of promise, just needs to finish dragging parts of it out of the Stone Age. (personal high horse)I know a lot of people think Mother Teresa is a wonderful woman or some crap like that, but she has really put India behind with regards to birth control, etc. She didn’t believe in it, and taught many people it was wrong. it’s no longer a case of wrong or right but a case of: can we feed the children that are already born, let alone the ones still being born? (/personal high horse)

Sorry, wasn’t meaning to compare the Hmong with Indians, rather they were given as examples of the kinds of things I would of liked to know. I should of reworded it. I just wanted to know some subtlies of your culture and gave some not well known ones of the Hmong. Thats all I meant by it. We have a large population of the Hmong here in the Twin Cities and just threw it up here. Thanks again :slight_smile:

I’m not Indian, but there is a very large Indian population in my city and I’ve worked with many. I really like Indians (and I often wonder if that would be considered a form of racism!). I have found them to be funny and honest, sometimes quite provincial, and generally nice people. I would suggest making an effort to get to know them- you will be rewarded in many ways.

I have loads of silly stories involving Indians. For example:

I worked with one guy who was stuck between cultures- he really wanted to be ‘westernized’ but was very conflicted with his family demands to remain ‘in the culture’. He had a huge crush on me and even made me an offer of marriage following his brother’s arranged marriage (he was next in line). He actually told me that if we married, he would buy a business and I would work 5 to 6 days a week for 5 to 6 hours a day and in return he would buy me a new Audi -and then added “Now, I don’t think and Audi is a very good car, but I know your like it so I’ll get you one”. He also wanted to let me know he had seen some women in bikinis at a pool in another state so he was “experienced”. He wanted me to take him to a bar for a drink and also wanted me to get him a cigarette to smoke, but freaked out once when someone put ham on his sandwich by mistake. Althought I didn’t take him up on his offer, he was a very nice guy and I hope he found a suitable wife. He did open a jewelry store!