Cross Cultural Relationships and the Things Nobody Talks About

** This post is in no way meant to insult or belittle any particular group or culture. I hold no bias or hatred towards anyone and loved and appreciated many parts of my cross-cultural marriage. Every culture is different as is each family/relationship. No two relationships, regardless of culture or race will look the same. **

sunset sky over rippling sea
Thoughts from a divorcee

Cross cultural relationships are becoming so common place nowadays and it is a thing to be celebrated. Relationships outside of our own culture can be incredibly educational and really open our minds to things we never considered before. Every relationship is different and it is a beautiful thing to see people from all different cultures come together in love as society celebrates our differences.

We don’t realise that through our upbringing, we are conditioned to think certain things are normal from an early age. Therefore it is so important to learn and respect each others culture. We don’t know any different than what we are taught, so be willing to learn and embrace your cross cultures.

When you enter a cross-cultural relationship there are certain things I will warn you of. (I am by no means instigating hate towards any other culture, and every culture is different. I am merely telling my story and what I learned as a result of it!)

My experience in a cross cultural relationship

My ex-husband was a first generation American from South Asian heritage. And I am from Scotland, from what I would call a very typically Scottish family. My family are not religious, despite being raised Catholic. My ex was a self-labelled “westernised” American. He was an atheist, despite his muslim upbringing and he did not identify with his heritage much at all, other than his love of the food (which we both shared.) The fact that neither of us were religious was something important to me as I did not want to run into problems in the future.

photo of masjid during daytime

Due to our differences, our relationship ended in tears (and divorce papers). Here are some things nobody talked about before we got married in terms of crossing culture.

You will feel like the odd one out sometimes

Although more and more people are dating and marrying outside of their culture, it is still not that common. My husband was the only person in his family and friend group to marry a white girl. And the same goes for my family. Nobody had married outside of their culture and so this was a learning experience for both of us.

Although his family and friends were very accepting, sometimes I felt like the odd one out. The food I made was bland and basic in comparison to the delicious meals his family and friends wives could whip up (although I learned a few recipes!) and my wardrobe was completely different.

When we went to south asian weddings, I felt out of place. Despite wearing the traditional dress and embracing the culture, everyone stared at the white girl and I felt isolated. Most people were super welcoming and loved to see me embrace their culture, but as an introvert, sometimes I just wanted to blend into the background.

platter of foods

Societal Pressure

Although we lived in the USA without many hiccup for the first few years, when we moved nearer the South Asian community my ex husband grew up in, in Brooklyn, pressure got to us.

Although he was not connected to his culture in the traditional sense of religion, he felt the need to behave himself in the community so that people would not talk. This meant “act like everyone else.” As someone who didn’t understand what it meant to “act like everyone else”, things got difficult.

I remember going to our Pakistani friends bbq in the height of summer and my husband insisted I wore leggings under my summer dress. It was 32C outside and I protested. He told me, “what do you think everyone will say about you?” Societal pressure can be a real problem in cross cultural relationships… no matter how compatible you both are. My ex husband didn’t care if I wore a dress when we went out together as long as nobody from the community saw me.

You Will Be Ignorant

Whether or not you educate yourself and take the time to learn, there will be times you realise just how ignorant you are. It’s okay to admit where you have work still to do. And you’ll never stop learning. It’s important not to judge each other for your differences and learn to embrace them. I loved teaching my ex about my own culture and seeing him interested.

We’ve been conditioned to think a certain way and follow certain social rules. When those norms are challenged, it can feel like an attack on you personally. We like to think we were raised “the right way” or that we know what is best. But sometimes, you have to realise there is no right way and that our differences are what make us unique. It is important not to take things personally and to take the time to understand your differences rather than get defensive.

Family Expectations

a mother arranging tulips in a flower vase
What are your family values?

Let me preface this by saying, I grew up in a very tight-knit family. My mother lived with her in-laws as they grew older and sicker, as well as her own parents. She still lives with my grandmother today. I hope to do the same for my own Mother as she grows old.

Every family is different. However, in certain culture, the in-laws of a woman are the head of the household. Whether her son is married or not, his duty is to look after his mother first and foremost. No matter how demanding they are. This burden also extends to the daughter-in-law.

Now, not everyone’s experience will be like mines in a cross cultural relationship. My ex husband was the eldest sibling and only boy in a Pakistani household. All of the expectations fell on his shoulders to take care of his mother and sisters. This was something I understood before marrying him, although the boundaries were pushed to the limits. We financially supported his mother and sisters and were expected to open our home to then whenever they felt like it. Our house was, as his mother told me “our second home” and she could do as she pleased here.

Tradional Gender Roles

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Being an educated working woman is something I am proud of

In these modern times, society is challenging gender roles, particularly in the western world. Women are finding their voices and pushing back against what is expected of them (although there is still a long way to go).

However, not all cultures will be so accepting. I worked in a male dominated field so this was not my experience. However, many women in South Asian households are expected to stay at home in a traditional housewife role. Men are more often than not, the financial providers. And they expect a woman who cooks, cleans, looks after their parents and children in return.

My ex husband thankfully did not fall into this category, however, his mother often made comments like “my son bought this home with his hard-earned money.” She knew fine well that we had split our savings to pay for our downpayment. Yet she seemed to refuse to accept, that I was also an educated, working woman who earned a good living, as well as being a good wife to her son.

Another example of ignorance towards women that I experienced was when my husbands uncle visited our new house. He was an older traditional Pakistani man but I did not expect to be completely ignored in my own home. I tried to interact with him several times and offered him food and drink. I even addressed him in his mother tongue out of respect. However, I was left red-faced when he ignored my existence and continued to address my husband as though I was not present… all because I was a woman.

My ex husbands “suck it up” attitude caused a huge argument when I voiced how I felt about they way I had been treated. If this had happened to my ex husband, I would have leapt to his defense.

Celebrations and holidays will be different

top view of a family praying before christmas dinner
Holidays become a hybrid of cultures and it’s fun!

Holidays, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Eid, Hannakah or something different entirely, will become a bit of a learning experience. My husband had never celebrated Halloween, so we wen’t all out and decorated the house. And sometimes holidays become a bit of a hybrid of both cultures. I never expected to see pakora and samosas as a starter on my Christmas menu, but that is cross culture right there!

The Second Woman In Your Husbands Life

This is probably not the norm, but was ultimately the reason for my marriage failing. My Mother-in-law was my husbands number one priority. And he made that clear. She could do no wrong and I could set no boundaries with her. That was his mother after all. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my own Mother. We talk everyday and I would never stop my partner from spending time with his loved ones. However, it’s so important to set boundaries of what you will accept. In certain cultures, saying no to your mother-in-law is cause for divorce. This was absolutely the case with my ex husband and his mother.

Now that I have given some insight into my cross cultural relationship, I would love to hear from others about their experiences. I had many positives and learned many things that I will carry with me for life, although my marriage did not work out. I always try to focus on the positives and learn lessons from my past. I’d love to hear your feedback if you have any similar experiences! Thank you as always for reading!

Written by Jade @talkthirtea

Being a Pakistani Divorcee in 2021

I just want to say that not all Pakistani women and families experience whatever I have. Sometimes the stigma behind the south asian culture can cause a rift of what is and isn’t so it’s important to say that my experience is entirely my own. If you relate in any way just know you are not alone and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

I don’t know about anyone else or if you’re able to relate, but don’t you feel like you’ve had enough of being silent & hearing others bullshit about your marriage? The marriage you tried so hard to save and make work? The marriage they so happen to have the most opinions about?

If you happen to be south asian like me then this might be a hi5 moment as I discuss my experience as a Pakistani divorcee in 2021.

My Parents

Where do I begin? I remember being told at the age of 12 years old by my mother that I needed to learn how to kneed the dough, cook curries and clean my house to please my husband and just in case I lived with my in-laws.

My mother had the privilege of being born in the UK. However, my father was born in Bahrain and raised in Pakistan. So, he was called to the UK, 3 years after being married to my mother. In this case, my mother didn’t live with in-laws, however my father was very cultural and opposed certain laws onto my mother such as not going out on her own, covering her face if she ever visited a certain part of Birmingham and being a housewife. But, soon as we grew up and my father got with the times and watched the generation change where women became more independent and were out there working hard and striving to meet their goals, my father changed.

When it came to my divorce, after me constantly trying to make my marriage work and my father watching me day and night, watching me cry and not eat, he would speak words of comfort to me. Now, not every south asian man or woman gets this treatment and till this day we are hearing and seeing people commit suicide or suffering at the hands of their husbands/wives/in-laws. But, not my parents.

All praises to God, my parents are so supportive.

The following words of comfort and encouragement are some of the things my parents said to me when I was broken and ashamed of whatever was happening:

God wanted you to be happy and that’s why he removed the one thing that wasn’t making you happy.”

Aslong as we are alive, no one can say anything to you or question you about whatever happened.

Live your life and if you want to work and travel the world go for it.”

A good man will enter your life and will support you and love you for the good woman you are.”

My Friends

My friends have been so supportive and kind. Not out of sympathy but because they’ve known me for years on end and know that I would have gone lengths to fix my marriage. ‘Fix’ was not the problem in my marriage, he is a narcissist that couldn’t get fixed.

My friends have encouraged me to start building back my confidence through skin care, getting dressed, putting on some makeup and double dates! And let me tell you, most guys don’t care if you’re a divorcee. I’ve been told my past is the past and they only care about the person I am today. It was an experience that has made me a stronger person.

Driving around the countryside, going to different cities, parks, restaurants and spending quality time with family and friends really is helping me with my mental health and well-being.

Choosing Yourself

It’s really sad that in today’s society women are being forced to stay with abusive partners and to ‘accept’ their fate because ‘daughter-in-laws’ are to take care of everyone and not have a life of their own.

I was always told from my ex that no one would look at me the same after knowing I’m a divorcee because I’m a woman. But, ever since i’ve been back and met new people, being a divorcee doesn’t affect most men’s opinions of you. This really helped my confidence.

I had to choose myself for the sake of my own mental health, to feel secure in my own skin, to be independent and have the choice of having my own bank account (I know, crazy right?) and to be loved unconditionally.

Being a Pakistani divorcee in 2021 has really shown me a different perspective of what other men actually think of you and how the community sees you and to be fair it ain’t all bad. You just have to remind yourself that you’re a bad ass bitch regardless and no one can judge you with this ‘label’ of being a divorcee.

Written by Layla

Dreaming Big in Your 30s

“What if I fail? But oh my darling, what if you fly?”

Why Should We Dream Big?

It’s time to dream big, even if you are in your 30s. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis after my divorce, or reaching 30 and being faced with a ton of life decisions to make on my own, or the fact that Fleetwood Mac – Dreams has been on my recent playlist, but recently I cannot help but think… dream big Jade.

All my life I have done the sensible thing. I worked hard in school, graduated from university, married and bought a house, got a dog all in my twenties. I worked an office job, saved up and lived sensibly. And after my divorce, I don’t have all the things I once had. But what I do have is big dreams.

view from plane window on fluffy clouds
Photo by Jill Burrow on Pexels.com

Don’t get me wrong, I have made some bold decisions. I’ve visited 28 countries in my 30 years. I travelled through Europe by train at 19, with very limited funds. I moved to Spain when I was 20 on my own. And I road tripped through the USA, then later relocated there. I got a 6 figure job, just because I applied! So, I guess I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. But those are the decisions that have shaped me today. And I regret none of it. Every spontaneous trip I booked, every risk I took, I am grateful for. Because it has led me to where I am today.

What Are My Dreams?

I am dreaming of running my own successful online business… Welcome to TalkThirtea by the way! I’m dreaming of owning a beautiful house with a pool on the Spanish coast… of starting a podcast and it reaching millions of viewers and inspiring others. I’m dreaming about being financially free, of being my own boss, of being in incredible shape and getting good at yoga and learning guitar… Of travelling to Japan to see the cherry blossoms and hiking Machu Pichu in Peru. Of owning a cafe by the seaside. And why not? I might surprise myself and achieve my dreams.

Actually, not might… I will achieve them!

selective focus photo of brown dreamcatcher
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Because Life Is Precious

As the years just keep flying by, I realise how precious and short life truly is. My dad tragically passed away when he was just a young man at 44 years old. I thought he was invincible, that he would live forever and that we had all the time in the world together. And it put everything into perspective. Tomorrow is not promised, for any of us. No matter how young or old.

And what is the worst thing that can happen when you take risks? You die? Well that’s highly unlikely. And you will die one day anyway. You fail? Well, you’ll learn something along the way. Might as well reach for your goals and live a life true to yourself in the meantime. Our time here is finite. So what are we all waiting for?

Because What If?

It is human nature to always think negatively “what if it doesn’t work out?” I’m naturally an anxious person and my mind always jumps to the worst case scenario. But I’m working on thinking positively. So humour me for a second… Allow yourself to think, “what if it all does work out?” Imagine you take the risk. You apply for the job you’ve always dreamed of. You ask the hot guy out on a date. You post that video on YouTube. It might just work out. And if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

Because Dreaming Small is Boring

This is not meant offensively to anyone. There is nothing wrong with living a “normal” life. Having a house, a partner and a family are things most people strive for. If you are happy in your current situation then all power to you. Some people don’t need to travel, they’re home bodies and content with what they have. They are happy with their 9-5 lifestyle and that is perfect. But, if you’re feeling trapped in your 9-5 office or in a small town that feels claustrophobic, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Maybe you’d rather work with children than sat in an office. Maybe you always wanted a dog, but you keep putting it off because “now is not the right time.” Where is the harm in having bigger dreams? It’s exciting to think of all the endless opportunities that are out there.

silver and white analog alarm clock
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

So those are some of my reasons why I am choosing to dream big in my 30s. I am choosing to think abundantly about my life and being grateful for the journey along the way. I’m choosing to let my inner child out and stop fearing failure. I am writing down my goals and envisioning the type of life I want and working towards making it happen. I hope this has inspired you to do the same and allow yourself to dream bigger.

We’d love to hear what dreams you are currently chasing! Leave us some feedback in the comments below!

Written by Jade

Things We’re Leaving in Our 20s

As we enter into this new decade, TalkThirtea has taken time to reflect on the last decade – our 20s. Like everyone, it has been full of highs and lows and we’ve learned many lessons along the way. Here are some of the things we plan on leaving in our 20s!

Dwelling On The Past

Obviously, this does not mean that we won’t look back at our memories with fondness. Of course we will! However, we are not looking back to punish ourselves on all of the “What ifs” and “Should’ve done’s.” We are at this exact point in our lives for a reason and every choice we’ve made up until today has led us to where we are right now. And for that we should be eternally grateful. No regrets!

Bad Body Image

creative woman body shaped candle placed on magazine
Photo by kira schwarz on Pexels.com

Well this one is a tough habit to break, but going into our 30s, we’re done hating our bodies or picking ourselves apart (and if you’re in your 20s doing this, please stop!) We are enough just the way we are. Gone are the days of saying “I can’t wear that until I lose 20lbs” or “I wish I wasn’t so pale.” Our 30s are going to be a decade full of self-love!

Accepting The Bare Minimum

Like most people, in our 20s, we’ve all allowed ourselves to be disrespected in one way or another. Relationships in particular have been disappointing. And we’ve learned the hard way that accepting the bare minimum is a form of disrespect. Nobody should have to beg anyone for the basics, like time and affection! So onwards and upwards!

Self-doubt/Negative Self Talk

persons hands with rainbow colors
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

We’ve survived the first 29 years and we’ve succeeded in plenty of the things we’ve put our minds to. Why wouldn’t we be able to achieve all of our goals in our 30s? Negative self-talk is the biggest hurdle in reaching our goals. We’re pulling down those mental barriers in our 30s.

Comparing Ourselves to Other

Everyone is on a different path. Some people have started families, others have built successful careers. Others are struggling to find their way in life. We’re not wasting any more time comparing our timeline to someone else’s. Comparison is the thief of joy and it’s time to embrace exactly where we are in this moment.

Saying Yes/People Pleasing

It’s uncomfortable to say no to things sometimes. But we’re learning that setting boundaries is an act of self-respect. It is nice to be nice but it’s also nice to say NO. And do what you actually want to. In our 30s, we are done people pleasing while making ourselves unhappy in the process.

Waiting on “Someday”

Someday is today… “Someday I’ll start that business” “Someday I’ll go live abroad.” We’re done waiting on someday. Life is really short and growth really only starts at the end of our comfort zone, so why are we putting our goals to the side and settling for something less while waiting on someday? Not in our 30s! We’re on a mission to smash our goals this decade and seek discomfort!

“Choose to do more than just exist; choose to live.”

My PCOS Journey: Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, this is my PCOS journey and story. Before I begin, I just want to praise and acknowledge anyone who gets up everyday feeling optimistic and accepting their PCOS journey. Even though you may question why this has happened to you or feel you may not be worthy of being a mother, know that God or whatever you may believe in has a better plan for you.

Below I explain PCOS and some symptoms I face:

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that affects women and how the ovaries function. Nowadays it is thought that about 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer with PCOS. It is a hormonal condition and it is not known what causes this. Living with PCOS can be very difficult.

Common Symptoms or Signs of PCOS?

  • Excessive hair growth (face, chest, back)
  • Irregular periods or no period
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Hair loss or hair thinning from the head
  • Increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • High Blood Pressure

My PCOS consists of all these common signs and symptoms except type 2 diabetes (all praises to God). However, when I was seen by a gyno 8 months ago, she told me I was borderline type 2 diabetic. I was in the middle of my emotionally abusive marriage which I know was not helping my condition either!

Anyway, I only ever started my period naturally maximum 3 times in my whole life! Once when I was 11 years old and my period lasted 1 day, again at 15 years old and my period lasted 2/3 days and lastly at 27 when my marriage broke down. But my gynocologist mentioned I may have miscarried due to stress during my marriage breakdown. As you can imagine, living with PCOS and in an abusive marriage was extremely taxing on my mental health.

At the age of 21, having no period was obviously very abnormal. PCOS can run in the family and my cousin had been diagnosed with PCOS so I was pretty sure I had the same condition. However, I was neglected by the NHS when being checked by doctors at the age of 16 and was ruled out as having a “hormonal imbalance”. At 21 I had the same scan again and was finally told I had PCOS. I cried my eyes out because the thought of not being able to have children was daunting.

Toxic Relationship and PCOS

For me personally, I now see my PCOS as a gift. Why you may ask? Without a doubt it has saved me from my biggest regret. My marriage. I know if children were involved my life would have been over because he would have used my kids against me. Being in a narcissistic relationship didn’t help me or my health when I was trying to get pregnant. And thanks to my PCOS, I was saved from an abusive relationship longterm.

My ex husband was adamant that we would have children, despite knowing about my PCOS before we married. I stopped taking my contraception pills and began to see a gynocologist to help me conceive naturally. Unfortunately after some scans and blood tests I was told I would need to go through IVF. IVF is a procedure where the sperm and egg are fertilised outside the body by scientists and then inserted back into the female. This comes with some risks and is very expensive, however, many have been successful.

I would have mental breakdowns due to my ex’s comments on my weight as well as me not being able to conceive. He would embarrass me in front of other people. I had never hid my condition from him but he made me feel like less of a woman due to my infertility. Due to this I became suicidal, and had constant panic attacks. Thanks to good friends and supportive family members (who lived in the UK whilst I was in the US) I managed to escape my marriage.

Also, the pressure of his mother always complaining about me not being pregnant was constantly on my mind. She would make remarks about if me and my ex were using protection and would discuss this with her friends in front of me. I would be so embarrassed and my ex was okay with it. He would defend his mother and tell me she can say and do what she wants.

How to Cope with PCOS

So what do I do, while living with PCOS to cope? I remind myself every day that I’m beautiful in any shape or size as PCOS does make losing weight difficult. My weight fluctuates but I don’t let it bring me down. Yes, I do experience bad days but I try to eat healthily but never starve or deprive myself. PCOS is a mental challenge more than anything so it is very important to keep and have an optimistic mindset.

PCOS does not rule out having children for me. It just makes the journey to become a mother more difficult but I know that God has a plan for me. I surround myself with people who will always love and support me.

It really does affect my mental health and I always try my best to support charities who help orphaned children and women struggling with fertility. This gesture gives my mind comfort that I’m helping those less fortunate than me and I begin to show more gratitude.

I have started to try and drink green juices every morning, I avoid dairy products as much as I can as I become bloated! I was also advised to eat gluten and dairy free products to avoid diabetes and increase in weight. So you might want to look more into that!

For excessive hair growth I have had laser treatment done and it has really helped with my confidence and self-esteem. Laser has many benefits as it also clears up your skin and any hyperpigmentation caused by PCOS.

Remember ladies, having a supportive partner is so crucial when facing difficulties in life especially involving fertility. I wasn’t as lucky BUT not being able to have children doesn’t define who I am as a person or a woman. Just remember after hardship comes ease and if we are not blessed to have children, we will be blessed in other ways.

Written by Layla

Why 2021 should be the year we step outside our comfort zone

If you are feeling stuck, bored or frustrated with the direction your life is going, you might be spending too much time in your comfort zone. Today’s blog post is all about why 2021 should be the year we push ourselves to step outside our comfort zone.

What exactly is a comfort zone? Well, it’s defined as a psychological state when things feel familiar. We are at ease and in control of their environment. We tend to get used to the routine and humdrum of daily life. There is nothing that will set off our anxiety, nothing to make us uncomfortable and so we stick with what we know whether we are happy or not. There is no incentive to change because we feel safe. However, as most of us know, nothing grows in the comfort zone.

Your desires and dreams are normally outside your comfort zone. Dreaming of a career change? Trying to learn a new language? Got fitness goals you want to achieve? Want to travel to that dream destination? These are completely achievable. But they’re not inside your comfort zone.

Here’s 7 reasons why you should make 2021 the year you push your boundaries are get out of the

Tackle Your Fears

Our mind is a funny thing. Sometimes we allow ourselves to build things up in our head that are rarely as bad as we think they are. And the fears we refuse to face, will become our limits in the longterm.

people on sidewalk selective focal photo
Photo by Cameron Casey on Pexels.com

Nobody Cares As Much As You Think

People do not care. When you are nervous and putting yourself out there, you feel like everyone is judging you. Most people are too self-absorbed to notice. And if they do, they’ll likely think “Good for you!”

People With Less Talent Are Achieving Your Goals

You’ve probably seen other people do things that you want and thought, “what do they have, that I don’t?” The answer is probably balls. They’re willing to put themselves out there and make a fool of themselves to get where they want to be. Are you?

Imagine How You’ll Feel When You Do What You Want

We’ve all been stuck in a place we don’t want to be. A dead end job, a toxic relationship, out of shape. Imagine how good it will feel when you actually escape that life and are doing the exact things you want to do in life. Being brave is what will get you there!

road between trees near snow capped mountains
Photo by Janiere Fernandez on Pexels.com

You Won’t Be Scared of Failure

Failure teaches us and it breaks our ego. Once you have failed, you have learned a lesson. You won’t be so scared of rejection or “failure” in the future. What lessons can you use from this failure to get to where you want to be?

You Pull Down Other Mental Barriers

When you have achieved one of your goals, you start breaking down the boundaries you had set for yourself but things that once seemed unattainable start looking like options. And your life goals become bigger.

You’ll Become More Confident

Who doesn’t love smashing their goals? It’s an amazing feeling to achieve something you once dreamt of. Pushing yourself will boost your confidence and you’ll feel on top of the world!

Are you feeling inspired now to take a leap of faith? Make 2021 the year we face our fears and achieve our goals. Let’s step out of our comfort zone and get to where we want to be!

Written by Jade

The Identity Crisis Amongst South-Asian Women

Written by Layla

Before I begin, I’d like to say this is not a blog to discriminate against the South-Asian culture, as I myself am South Asian and love my culture. It is rich and filled with colour and traditions that make me proud of my heritage as a British Pakistani woman!

However, this post will focus on particular aspects within this culture that can impact young women’s social identity. I also want to emphasise that not all families follow strict culture/tradition and are firmly against some of the horrific ideologies and expectations that some may have for women in the South-Asian culture.

Violence and Staying Quiet

The United Kingdom is only beginning to recognise the concerns regarding the impact ‘South-Asian culture’ has on many females lives. The Honour Based Violence Association network (2012) has identified 12 cases reported yearly in the UK but the actual figure for violence and deaths is likely much higher. Social identities and honour-based violence (HBV) crimes are contemporary issues that cause female adolescents to experience consequences for decision-making, becoming young independent women and challenging their family’s traditions. This is very much looked down upon within the South Asian culture and several organisations such as Karma Nirvana, Safe Lives and Refuge (whose aim is to support victims of abuse) identifies that there are many cases that go unnoticed and/or unreported. This is largely because women are supposed to stay quiet to keep their family’s honour and respect and the fear of going against their family silences them.

Gudykunst defines social identity as:

“Social identities, in turn, connect individuals to society through group memberships influencing individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour in their relationships with members of other social groups.”

Validation within the community

Social identity within the South-Asian culture engages with undeveloped cultural practices such as group behaviours and behaviours like this are only influenced within the group and not by anyone on the outside. Some of these groups can influence a female’s self-esteem to increase due to pride and social class within their communities. Social identity concentrates on the social behaviour of an individual and changing their behaviour, according to the group they are within. South-Asian social groups share similar perspectives and beliefs which identifies them to be part of the same social category. Furthermore, many South-Asian social groups gain validation and social satisfaction from within their society, therefore, social acceptance becomes the goal.

When analysing the effects of honour-based violence and the influence of South-Asian culture on the identity of female adolescents within the South-Asian communities in the United Kingdom, social identity can be seen in that most families base their decisions around their community’s beliefs such as honour and respect for the elder or patriarch within the family. For example, just recently a woman with a hijab was recognised to be the first female to wear a scarf as a firefighter within the UK. In many households this would be against the ‘rule’ or ‘law’ within the culture as women traditionally should be taking care of the house; cooking, cleaning etc.

Whilst this may be restricted in some ways, for example, South-Asian families forcing culture and tradition upon the female adolescent and not allowing them to have a positive sense of belonging, the social identity of a female within these groups can also be a positive way to live as it brings people together and individuals begin to value a belief system created within these groups.

Fitting into societal norms… i.e “What will people say?”

Another aspect of honour-based violence on social identity development is changes within a females psychological, physical, social and emotional stages and also experience changes within their immediate relationships such as with family members, friends and educational environments. For example, going back to the time when my father was somewhat “strict” or traditional to his Pakistani heritage. I came home from school telling him I wanted to be a policewoman and he just laughed saying, “What will the people say? That I let you work with men?” and ever since I have had this hesitation of if I do anything how would it look in the community’s eyes? Thankfully, my father has become more open-minded and accepting of what we choose to do in life now but many South-Asian females do not get that lucky.

Traditional Expectations on South Asian Women

Many South-Asian females are trained from an early age through their culture and are influenced by the environment and people they are surrounded by. These influences include family traditions, girls seeing their mothers cooking, cleaning, obeying their in-laws, following the patriarch’s rules and these can affect the identity development of a female adolescent. Young females in particular are growing and developing according to the influences around them, and their behaviour mimics that within their culture and community. These behaviours may include being loyal, self-sacrificing and respecting the elders in the family. Women are not supposed to speak up and if they do, sadly cases of honour-based violence are to be expected as is normal in the community. Therefore, social identity and the South-Asian cultures interlink as individual’s are discovering their identity from the influences in the outside community and within their homes.

I have enjoyed gathering research for this topic related to my experiences and I can now confidently say that I am so grateful how my parents, especially my father, have not followed old traditions of this culture and are very open-minded and supportive of his daughters in their career pursuits and life goals. It can be a sense of relief knowing your family is supportive and I have great sympathy for the many women within the South Asian community who do not have this privilege.

If you enjoyed reading this blog, please follow along. I will be discussing similar topics and giving my experience as a British South Asian woman. If you have any suggested topics, please drop a comment and let us know!

If you need to speak to someone regarding Honour-Based Violence please contact Karma Nirvana, Safe Lives or the Police.

Being Childfree at 30

silhoette of woman
Photo by Ilzy Sousa on Pexels.com

Here I am, a few weeks after my 30th birthday, divorced and childless. Not exactly the image I had of myself when I was in my early twenties. I was in a stable long-term relationship throughout my twenties and truly believed I would be a mother by my early 30s. This is something that has been weighing on my mind recently. So let’s talk about it.

As my marriage came crumbling down around me, I have had to get used to the feeling of discomfort. And one of the major sources of this discomfort has been the realisation that motherhood may not be on my radar. I have not cancelled out having children altogether. Not by a long shot, but right now I am single and it is certainly at the forefront of my mind.

Here are some of my recent thoughts on whether to have children in my thirties or not:

It is Okay to be Unsure, Even at 30

For lots of women, their maternal instinct is strong. They have this deep sense of urgency to be a mother from an early age. They know that starting a family is their calling and have zero doubts about it. Take my mother as an example. She met my father at 19 and by 22 she had me, with no doubts in her mind. The idea was not intimidating to her and it felt 100% natural. However, for me, I have moments of broodiness. I catch myself tearing up at photos of babies and longing to be a mother. But I am also used to being childless. The idea of having a baby to look after 24/7 is terrifying. And I am selfish. I enjoy my weekends, brunches and spontaneous city trips despite my ticking biological clock. And I know I am not the only one like this.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

At the age of 30, almost everyone I know is either married or has children or both. I can count on my hands, the people I went to school with who haven’t started a family yet. However, comparison is the thief of joy. As happy as I am for my friends when I see their swelling bellies and baby scans, I am also happy to wake up late on a Saturday. I like to do my yoga unbothered and spend the day how I want. It is ok to do things in your own time. Do not feel pressured to join the club, just because it is society’s expectation of you to be a mother.

Educate Yourself on Fertility/Options

By this age, you’ll definitely have heard comments like “So any plans for starting a family?” And while these comments can get really irritating and feel like a personal attack on your womanhood, it is important to educate yourself on future options.

Only recently have I really started to think about different future options. At around the age of 30, our fertility decreases and at 35, we have an even sharper decline meaning the chances of falling pregnant naturally can be difficult. Modern medicine is our friend here. Thanks to the miracle of freezing eggs, IVF, surrogate mothers and of course fostering/adoption, we have plenty of options for the future. However, it is important to educate yourself if you think you may want kids in your late 30s.

yellow and brown textile
Photo by Anny Patterson on Pexels.com

Being a Mother Does Not = Womanhood

Your womanhood is not determined by having children and there is still a stigma around women who choose not to have a family. We are portrayed as lonely, cold and unlovable, while men who choose not to have kids are “career-driver” and “successful.” However, the reality is that more and more women are choosing not to have children nowadays. We are going to break the stigma by having conversations about it.

And while I myself am still undecided about whether or not I will have kids, I am open to having the conversation. I am starting to look at my options and educate myself to get a better understanding of what my future might look like!

I hope this advice is somewhat useful and would love to hear your opinions on the subject of motherhood and fertility in your thirties!

Things Everyone Should Do in Their 20s

The best years of our lives according to most, our 20s are for making mistakes, building character and figuring out who we are. So here’s a list of things we’d recommend doing while in your 20s

man standing on open field under white sky
Photo by Janiere Fernandez on Pexels.com

Travel As Far and As Much As Possible

This one is probably obvious, but this is the thing I am so glad I did while in my 20s. There is nothing more liberating and exciting than packing up a suitcase and flying off to a foreign land, wandering the streets of a new city, tasting exotic foods and experiencing something completely new. You will come back with a whole new outlook on life, a little more educated and with the urge to keep exploring. Travelling really is the only thing you buy that makes you richer so do it, any opportunity you get.

Make A Few Good Friends And Keep Them Close

As we get into our late 20s and early 30s, making time for our friends can be really difficult. Everyone has different schedules, some of us move to a different city, marriages and kids make it really hard to just meet up on a whim. It’s also much more difficult to make friends… (that’s for another blog post so keep an eye out.) During your 20s, make the effort to make true friendships with a few people and make time with them. Remember, these are the people who will be there during the most significant times of your life!

Experience Being Single And Learn To Love It

This piece of advice is truly important for becoming comfortable on your own. If only I could turn back time, I would give myself a shake and tell myself to just enjoy discovering myself rather than hoping a relationship would give me all the answers. My friends who have spent a lot of time single throughout their 20s have no fear of being alone. It forces you to be content with being yourself. You might even spend your alone time learning skills and finding a hobby you love. Don’t rush into being in a relationship. You have plenty of time for all that!

person holding black and silver camera
Photo by Israelzin Oliveira on Pexels.com

Take Photos

In the digital world we live in, maybe this seems obvious but I cannot stress enough… take as many photos as you can. Every night out, every holiday and event you go to, whether you are annoying people are not, pull out the camera and get snapping. You are in the prime of your life and these are some of the most exciting stories you’ll be telling your grandchildren. You are making memories that you will look back on fondly forever and capturing these moments to look back on is

Live Outside Of Your City/Country

If you get the opportunity to live further afield than the place you were raised, I urge you to go, whether this is studying abroad or simply moving city… Not only will it give you insight into what life has to offer elsewhere, you’ll meet people from different places and you might even have a new found appreciation for your hometown when you return (or maybe you never will!)

Learn To Manage Your Mental Health

It is estimated that over 70% of 18-34 year olds in the UK are suffering with some form of mental health issue. And the figures keep rising each year. Despite these shocking figures, there is still a huge social stigma surrounding mental health. It is crucial that everyone takes measures to manage their mental health. As someone who has suffered with anxiety, it can feel very isolating and debilitating. I have found exercise, journalling and talking it out can be extremely helpful, but everyone is different. Speaking to a therapist can be incredibly useful too. Please don’t suffer in silence.

Start to Take Care of Your Physical Health

As you turn 30 your metabolism slows down, your joints stiffen and your lifestyle can start to reflect itself on your waistline, skin and joints. All those drunken kebabs and pints and laying in bed until 2pm might seem like a good idea now, but you will thank yourself later on down the line for prioritising your physical health. A good exercise routine (even walking a few miles a day!) and eating your vegetables and fruit will make all the difference, however boring it might seem.

Cherish Your Family and Loved Ones

As we grow up, our parents, grandparents and people around us grow old. Make time for your family and spend as much time with them as possible. Listen to their stories and make memories together. Ask them questions about their childhoods and their family tree, this is invaluable information that you can pass on to your own children one day!

Learn Another Language

Giving yourself the challenge of learning a new language is rewarding and will make you more employable. Not only this, but your confidence will sky rocket. You learn that it’s ok to get things wrong, you learn to laugh at yourself and you’ll make friends along the way! Even if you only learn the basics for a trip to Italy, watch how the natives faces light up when you surprise them with a few words in Italian. It will also give you an appreciation for non-english speakers all over the world!

Written by Jade