Tag Archives: Culture

Pressures of Marriage

I’m feeling a little bit emotional today so I thought the best way to express this was to write about it.

Being a single Muslim girl of a certain age is tough, and there aren’t many people who know about it. I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post that in the Bangladeshi culture, the expected age bracket for a girl to get married is between 18 – 25, the average being around 21 years old.

Now that I’m well past the average and getting closer to the end of that age bracket, the pressure is on all of a sudden. Don’t get me wrong, the pressure was always there, but the intensity not so much. It’s got to the point where I’m losing sleep at night way too often to be healthy.

It frustrates me because despite me belonging to the generation who speaks up for their rights, my parents and people of their generation are struggling to accept these changes, at no fault of their own to be honest. They have grown up with a different ‘norm’ than me and they also have their own pressures thrust upon them by the society they live in and elders in the generations above them.

But where is that middle ground of understanding? How much effort and heartache must one undertake in order to not only be heard, but be listened to?

If I’m completely honest with you, I’m in a predicament. I feel like I’m ready for marriage, it’s something that I’ve been prepared for and accepted as normal in our culture at my age. But at the same time, in the western world that we live in, you can still be considered as too young to get married at this age. We’re told that we have so much more we can achieve before we get tied down into serious responsibilities. Whether that’s further education, travelling or getting yourself in a good position on the career ladder.

I also know that life can be lonely sometimes without a companion to share it with. I’ve been very fortunate enough for the opportunity to move to London to pursue a career, but that didn’t happen that easily may I add. I struggled a lot to convince my parents to allow me to do this and had to fight for my rights for a better life, but that’s a whole different story.

Now that I’ve been able to enjoy this little bit of freedom and breathing space for just over a year, it’s time to get serious. I am blessed to have a caring family, amazing friends and people around me who have made such a big impact on my life over the last year. And I would not be the person I am today without them. But I also know that at times I feel something lacking in my life and I long to share my love and care for someone else too. 

Let me just tell you now, the search for a partner (for life) is not easy. I know it’s a commonly shared feeling, but it’s 100 times harder when you don’t have that self confidence to put yourself out there and also have to consider a restricting criteria. I just don’t know what to do.

I’ve grown up seeing my dad in the food trade where he hardly had time for his family. And despite my mother being a housewife, she barely ever got to spend any time with him either. He worked 7 days a week to makes ends meet and provide for not only his family here, but also for his brother’s family in Bangladesh. I don’t want to marry someone who is in a similar situation; there are too many people like this out there. That’s not what I call a life.

On the other hand, there are also so many people on restricted Visas living in this country, whether they’re a student or working in a restaurant who are looking to marry to get that red passport. I most definitely do not want to get involved in that situation either. 

But with my parents knowing and living in a community consisting of these types of people, the search for ‘the one’ is made 1000 times harder. They have specifically told me that I can only marry someone who is Bangladeshi Muslim. This limits the pool of people available in ‘the one’ pool.

My criteria for the person I hope to marry is that he is a British born Muslim and educated to university level with a decent enough job which isn’t in the food trade industry. Am I asking for too much?

One of my good older friends who I have known since I was a child sent me such a lovely encouraging message today that it brought a tear to my eye. She said:

“Since I have met you, even when you were that shy little girl, I knew you would go far & even remember telling you this because I see an incredibly strong, beautiful individual full of love & life and whoever has the kismet to share their life with you better hold on tight because you will show him what life is really all about. I know you will do it all and be happier than a lot of people. You have to believe it too.”

Now, if that’s not the most beautiful thing you have ever heard, then I don’t know what is. Once again, I am grateful for such wonderful people in my life who keep me going even when the times are tough. Hopefully one day I will look back at all this heartache and smile at how my life turned around.

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Bangladeshi or Bengali?

I just wanted to explain the difference between Bangladeshi and Bengali. In the correct sense:

  • Bangladeshi is the term used to describe someone who is from Bangladesh.
  • Bengali is the language spoken in Bangladesh.

However, in the real world, both labels are actually used to describe the origin of a person.

The reason why I am clarifying this is because you’ll probably see people referring to someone as ‘Bengali’ and then you’ll be thinking ‘why are they calling them the language?’. It’s all a bit confusing to people who aren’t Bangladeshi/Bengali to be honest.

I’m grateful that my non-Bengali friends understand what I mean regardless of which term I use. I might as well continue telling you a bit more about the Bengali ‘culture’. These statements are stereotypes of the typical people of course – I’m not claiming that everyone is the same and I don’t have the statistics to back it up… yet!

But another fact is that the majority of Indian restaurants and take-away’s in the UK are owned and run by Bangladeshi people and NOT Indians! This coincidentally also means that the majority of Bangladeshi men in the UK work in these establishments as well.

Bangladeshi women in the UK typically are housewives and so have the luxury of not having to work even in this tight economy. Yet they always seem to have many more things to moan about than those women who actually have to work full-time and run a household.

It is generally expected of girls to get married between the ages of 18 – 25. The average age these days tends to be around 21 years old. They are then expected to follow the footsteps of their mothers and also become housewives and pop out some babies after a year of marriage. This is regardless of their financial position or household status because it is supposedly the right thing to do, even if they have to struggle to make ends meet.

The boys are expected to study and get good grades whilst working for their dad in their families restaurant or take-away. The boys are then expected to take over managing and running the business whilst their father either expands the business, or just expands his belly.

The boy is then expected to take on even more responsibility by getting married, so he is then whisked off to Bangladesh to have an arranged marriage, and whilst they’re there, why not get his sister married off too? You know, kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

OK I will stop. This was the typical life of a Bangladeshi family… up until now.

Times have changed, the economy is in a bad state, the education system is tougher and people can’t afford to carry on living like Kings and Queens as described above. British Bangladeshi’s are starting to understand that things have to change in order to live a better life in this country. Boys and girls are (nearly) equally encouraged to study hard and get degrees in sensible fields , resulting in good, well paid jobs (if lucky). And then when they do get married, both partners are expected to work and run their household together. 

Yet it pains me to hear stories of those stereotypical families who still exist, enforcing their backwards, old fashioned way of thinking and ‘culture’ on their children even in this day and age. The pressure they put on their child to conform to the norms of society, regardless of what is good for the child’s future, is a joke. I feel so sorry for those kids growing up not knowing any better and then struggling throughout their life – from getting bullied at school, to getting married and being treated like they are insignificant.

I am only one person, but I am always fighting for others. I know that sometimes it is pointless arguing with these types of people, but I can’t help myself. I don’t like to see injustice of this sort, it makes me so sad.

Sometimes I wonder, what if I hadn’t developed this willpower? Would I have ended up like them?

You know, I haven’t always been this ‘confident’. I struggled a lot before developing a backbone. I just hope that I can reach out to others suffering from Culture Clash.

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