- Be well aware of cultural, social, and legal aspects of entering into a marriage away from your home country.
- Prepare yourself for a married life, which is going to be in a new and unfamiliar environment in another country.
- Try to know your spouse well, learn about where he/ she lives before you arrive there and develop reasonable expectations. Communication is the key to a successful marriage. Understand what you are getting into.
- Blindly getting into a marriage may cost you both financially and emotionally.
- It is very important to know about current laws related to Indian marriages. Indian personal laws are strongly applied even in the case of marital discord outside India.
- If for any valid reason, one spouse wants to come out of marriage (even in the first year), it can lead to several years (typically over 5 years) of a rigorous legal battle, if the other spouse contests the case.
- Do not misuse laws to get a foothold in another country or to wrongly punish somebody.
- Most importantly first it is highly important that you consider and equip yourself to adapt to the foreign countries’ way of living –
Even though English is the international language, it is not the official language in many countries. Learning a new language takes a significant amount of time, effort and practice. The social circle may get very limited on account of different culture and language and may lead to feelings of isolation. One should be mentally prepared to adapt to it.
Many people who move to a foreign land initially have difficulties adjusting to the availability of ethnic food. The number of stores and their accessibility vary depending on the place. This may lead to initial health problems and adjustments in food preferences.
Adjusting to a new culture takes time for different people. Venturing out into the world, to a certain extent, requires the ability to communicate and be open to new people and new ideas. This ability needs a willingness to let go of certain ideas that are irrelevant or counter-productive to one’s life in a new place. In other words, not being too conservative is helpful. All these possibilities should be borne in mind while making decisions regarding marriage to an overseas Indian.
One’s attire does influence the way one is perceived, and therefore one’s interactions with other people. One may even feel uncomfortable wearing western outfits or socializing with foreigners hence one should be prepared to adapt to different dress and behavioral requirements depending on climate, social and professional environments.
The way daily chores are performed in different countries depends on local climate and resources, which may differ significantly from how people are used to in India. For instance, in a country like the United States domestic servants are rare and extremely expensive, and therefore can be afforded by less than 1% of the population. Western cultures do not think it beneath their dignity to do their own household work including cooking, washing dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, etc. This necessity for self-sufficiency might pose a serious challenge to women who may have had domestic servants back in India.
In some cultures like that of the U.S., while people do recognize and acknowledge one’s presence in the neighborhood, they may not be inclined to involve in personal relationship with neighbors. While Indians do form and maintain social groups such interactions are quite infrequent compared to the amount of social interaction one is used to in India. In addition, the sample size is too small to choose from. So, one might be caught between the need to socially interact with people and the unwillingness to interact with specific individuals. This perceived social isolation adds to the stress of adjusting to a new environment away from family and friends.
- TIME ZONE DIFFERENCES
Moving to a different part of the globe means being subject to sudden change in the time zone. A bigger challenge is to connect with relatives and friends in different countries. One needs to realize that they may not be able to have telephonic or online conversations with their kith and kin as and when they desire because of the time zone differences. This may result in psychological stress for some women, especially housewives/home-makers, who feel deprived of communication with their loved ones.
Leaving one’s friends and family behind to travel to a distant place can be stressful. A person must be enterprising and try to find things to keep themselves occupied with and learn new things. Not finding anything that interests the mind may make life in a different country very unexciting and constraining.
Large parts of countries such as the U.S. and Canada have harsh/depressing winters compared with the tropical/ sunny climate of India. This not only is a challenge to one’s health, but also imposes restriction on lifestyle. During the severe cold weather, spending time outside one’s home is nearly impossible. Staying home for prolonged periods of time can result in boredom and feelings of isolation and depression.
- FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL PRECONCEPTIONS
One of the misconceptions about Indians living in foreign countries is that they are able to earn enormous amounts of money, relatively easily. This may not be the case always and one should be ready for a very high cost of living and long hours of work.
Men and women interact differently in western cultures. Hence one must familiarize oneself with the nature of interpersonal relations in a foreign county to avoid feelings of insecurity.
As a foreign citizen, the ability to earn a livelihood is limited by the immigration rules. Depending on the type of visa, employment may or may not be permitted. For example, in the U.S., a student visa and a tourist/visitor visa do not provide the opportunity to take up a job. The categories of H-1 and J-1 are meant for employment. The spouses of Indians living in the U.S. often arrive here on the basis of a dependent visa. With the exception of a J-2 visa (J-1 dependent), all other dependent visa holders are not permitted to work. Attending an academic degree program requires a transition to an F-1, which takes time, money and admission to a program. These conditions obviously hinder one’s economic and educational freedom. For a young person who had the freedom to work and earn a livelihood in one’s own country, being in a restrictive situation such as the above is likely to be quite disagreeable.
- MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INSURANCE
Most of the developed countries of the world are perceived to have excellent health-care facilities. While this may be true, access to such facilities is not easy or uniform across the population. Enrolment in an acceptable health insurance plan (most of which are usually expensive) is a necessity for seeking medical consultation and treatment. Visiting a doctor requires making an appointment, and few clinics/hospitals offer walk-in consultations, as is the norm in India. Many medicines that are available over-the-counter in India, are only available by prescription in other countries, which can only be obtained from a licensed doctor (both require additional payment).
- TAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
The difficult experience that are associated with all the above problems are a significant strain on any marital relationships, let alone a new one. A relatively painless transition into one’s new life is highly desirable for a marriage, while the lack thereof can cause damage that is sometimes irreparable depending on the temperaments of the spouses. A failure to adjust to a new life and to be open-minded about new ideas can be a direct cause of marital strain; hence one must make an informed decision, taking future possibilities into account.