My Story: Embracing Both of My Cultural Backgrounds

By Saniya Ghanoui —

IK describes some of the cultural norms in South Asia along with how she has managed to balance both of her cultures in her daily life.


OBOS Today: Could you give an example or two of those kinda cultural norms that you find easier now that you don’t have to explain to your professionals? 

IK: Yeah, so um, I think a good example of this is the fact that arranged marriage is really common in my culture, and I think that someone who doesn’t understand would obviously see that as something as, oh, that was infringing upon someone’s, you know, freedom. I think that the U.S. is an isolationist society so, which means that often, that one’s, people’s personal needs are put above, you know,  the community’s needs, but we have a very, from where I’m from, there’s a very different perspective where we often put the community’s needs above one’s own, and I think because I’m being able to live in both societies, I’m able to find a middle ground and find something that works for me, but that’s, you know, obviously from my perspective and having a psychiatrist that understands, you know, both of those things, both of those ideas, and both of those cultures is able to kind of make those distinctions between what, what can be harmful to one’s mental health and what isn’t, and what can be like beneficial.

And I think that when I was talking to, my parents got an arranged marriage and they’re very happy and, you know, they were very both, you know, they married each other willfully, it wasn’t that their family forced them to do so, they’re—In our culture, it’s more, typically the parents will talk to their kids about whoever they want them to marry and then the kids will either agree or, you know, not agree, and then it’s arranged like that. And it’s usually, oftentimes, it can end up in very, very happy marriages like my parents’ did, for example, and so when I talk about that, I didn’t have to go out of my way to explain why that’s not, you now, a bad thing, and he, that, in turn, obviously ‘cause the psychiatrist is treating me, right, so he’d, he’d see that my parents’ relationship as a model for what I believe my relationships should look like so I think that would always factor in if he’s a psychiatrist, right, and instead of seeing that as a red flag and trying to treat me or um, I guess, address my issues from that perspective, he was able to just see that okay, that’s just something in her life, you know, her parents have an arranged marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that had a significant impact on my beliefs or views or my values or the, how I view my own independence, for example.