When Tri first told his parents that he had an American girlfriend, they were a little worried. They had known several Nepalis who had married women from abroad, but none of their marriages had worked out.
But when his parents came to visit us for his college graduation, everything went amazingly well. I had talked to them on the phone a few times before they came over, and they were very excited to meet me. Despite initial anxieties expressed by his mom, I have always felt very welcomed into their family and now that I am in Nepal, I’ve felt very welcomed into their home. Part of the reason it’s been such a smooth transition is because of the way that Nepali culture treats married women. Traditionally, women live in their natal home (In Nepali, it’s called a maiti) until marriage and then move into their husband’s home after the wedding. Some couples now are living on their own before or after marriage, but it’s still very common for the bride to move in with the groom’s family.
Because of this tradition, it’s socially and culturally acceptable for me to be living with his family. Even people who normally look down on Nepali-foreigner marriages find it appropriate that we moved in with Tri’s dad and brother after marriage. It’s also not uncommon for women to travel great distances when moving to their husband’s homes. I’ve met a couple women who were born and raised in Western Nepal and even India who moved to Kathmandu after meeting and marrying their husbands.
If Tri were the foreigner, and I were Nepali, however, it would probably be much harder for us. Women in Nepal traditionally have less autonomy than men, so it’s often harder for them to marry outside of their caste, religion, race, nationality, etc. It would also be harder for a foreign man to move in with his Nepali wife’s family.
Certain aspects of Nepali culture have made the transition into a Nepali family much easier for me, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support that I received from Tri’s parents. They always made me feel welcomed and loved in their home and have been infinitely patient with me as I learn a new language and culture.