Things I have learned as an American Girl Married to a Punjabi (Indian) Man

1. Foot Touching :        

Touching feet as a sign of respect

In many parts of India it is a sign of respect to elders to touch their feet. You greet the elder with your hands together and Say “ Sat Sri Akal” or whatever the greeting is for your religion, and you bend at the waist to touch their feet in a loving manner. Most people make it only to the knee before the elder pats them on the back and says “no need, no need”. I had never attempted to do this tradition while we were in the United States, but I had seen my husband do it many times. When we went to India I was going to be meeting all different relatives and I was told I needed to touch feet as a sign of respect, and not doing so could make me look stuck up.  There was a big discussion about who I was supposed to touch the feet of and who not, I was very lost and confused. There were some special people I was supposed to cover my head for and also touch their feet, but there was disagreement between my husband, mother-in-law, and sister- in-laws as to who was important and not. They were still disagreeing when the guests came! So not to disrespect anyone I pretty much touched most people’s feet and was laughed at by everyone because I didn’t do it right. I felt quite embarrassed and I glowed red! I pretty much hid in the kitchen at that point, volunteering to make food and such. I still get embarrassed when I think about this story; I am currently glowing red right now! Moral of the story I don’t really do the touch feet tradition anymore unless its someone a lot older and I see my husband do it first.

2. How to cook Punjabi food:

One of the biggest things I  learned from marrying my husband was how to cook Punjabi food. Food is really important to my husband, as it is for most men actually. I personally could eat anything really and be content. When I was single there had been many a dinner of cereal and milk or a cold sandwich. This is NOT the case with my husband and most Punjabis I have met. Food is paramount in the family. It must be hot, fresh, and homemade. In my husband’s family going out to eat is considered bad. It’s not even about the money spent. Home food is considered sacred in some ways, eating out is not even in the same realm as home food. I personally love eating out occasionally. I love getting new ideas and being inspired to make new foods. I am a foodie. I love to cook and bake and make sweets and try all kinds of different ethnic foods. When my husband and I first started dating we used to cook together and he taught me how to cook many Punjabi dishes. I learned the rest from my mother-in-law and from the internet.  Since marriage my husband has “forgotten” how to cook. I took me a lot of time to master the art of making round roti that puffs up when you cook it. For the whole first year of our marriage I failed miserably at making Roti! I would actually get frustrated and cry. When I went to India my wonderful mother-in-law finally taught me the art of roti making, and since then I am now a Roti Master!

The ideal roti!

My husband does not like food that is bland or does not have a sauce. Everything must be super seasoned and have chilies in it. My 3 year old daughter is the same way. Even as a baby she hated plain baby food. She loved subjis ( curries) and paranthas (stuffed whole wheat savory pan cooked flat bread). I love Punjabi food, but I also love things like mash potatoes and basic baked chicken.  He won’t eat this without a base made of onions, tomatoes, chilies and spices. We make a combination of food in our house, about 60% Indian and 40% everything else. I have introduced him to a lot of foods, and he likes them as long as they are very flavorful!  Here is out menu for this week.

Monday: Chana masala ( chick peas) and rice

Tuesday: Filled pasta with pesto sauce and garlic bread

Wednesday: Aloo (potatoes) masala with Puri ( fried flat bread)

Thursday: Rongi ( black-eyed peas)  and roti

Friday: Homemade pizza with Capsicum, chilies, mushrooms and olives

Saturday: Vegetable Biryani (rice dish)

Sunday: Yellow Daal and rice


3. Speaking  Punjabi :

punjabi alphabet gurmukhi

Learning Punjabi is an on going process. Punjabi is a language similar to Hindi and very challenging to me. I speak decent Spanish but Punjabi was nothing like anything I had ever learned before.  My Mother–in-law does not speak very much English and she will be moving in with is soon so I really need to learn as much as possible before she comes. My husband is a terrible teacher. He gets frustrated when I don’t pronounce things well. Its just not good to mix teaching and marriage.  I have learned to comprehend a lot of Punjabi . I have had to learn or get left out of the conversation.  I am working hard on learning to speak it as well. I started a great audio program through pimsleur and it has helped me with accent and retention. I started the program and learned secretly and then surprised my husband with a few good phrases and was shocked and happy, and said the accent was great. Here is a free lesson for all those that want to learn. . I listen to the program with my daughter because she also needs to use Punjabi more. My husband speaks Punjabi to her and she understands it all and follows commands and such but avoids responding in Punjabi.  We have to force her to use Punjabi. For example she has to ask for things in Punjabi, like Dudh dedo ji ( give me milk please) and such.

4. Wearing Punjabi Clothes:

My first ever suit! Given to my by my best friend

This is one of my favorite things I have had to learn. Punjabis love to wear traditional clothes. Many women prefer Punjabi Suits over jeans and western clothes. I honestly prefer suits too. They are so colorful and shiny and pretty and so comfortable. It’s wonderful because in India suits are tailored to your size exactly. So for a curvy girl like me it’s great to have things made to my size and shape. A suit is a long pretty tunic, with a either straight pants or Patiala style, which remind me of the Aladdin look. The only that is hard for me to wear is the chunni. A chunni is a long scarf that is worn over the shoulders, and in a Gurdwara it is worn over the head.  I have sloped shoulders so my chunni falls and gets really irritating after some time. Whenever I see Punjabi Women I am always jealous of their ability to wear their chunnis so beautifully while mine looks all messy. My daughter at three is better at wearing a chunni then her Gorri mommmy.

5. Unexpected Guests and Indian Hospitality:

Love sharing a cup of Chai with friends

I love this tradition of guests coming over unannounced and the process for entertaining them.  In India it is totally acceptable and common for people to just drop in. There are many people who hate unexpected guest but I love it. Yeah your house has to stay clean, and you need to be dressed, and have some snacks on hand. I love it though. Neighbors in india all talk to each other and come over all the time. I never talk to my neighbors here in the USA , so I loved it in India! I feel like the USA is so formal and as a result people don’t socialize as much. I don’t see my friends as much as I want to.  I also really want to know my neighbors better, but everyone keeps to themselves. This is not the case in India. When I was in India people just came by and it was awesome! We also went and visited people anytime and it was awesome! In my husband’s house when someone comes and visits first your bring them water or soda, depending on the time of day you can bring out a salty snack, or fruit, or chai and cookies or cake. I just find the whole process to be so fun. In Punjabi culture a guest in your home a huge honor. I always loved visiting people in India and tasting all the different ways that people make chai. Going to people’s house is like an event and I loved it.!

6. Indian Sense of Privacy and Evil Eye:

My daughter when she was a few weeks old, with her black bracelet to ward off evil eye

I swear that my husband acts like everything above a whisper is a shout to the whole neighborhood! When we are out at a store I constantly hear shhhhhhh from my husband.  He always says “why do you have to talk so loud”, or “do you have to tell the whole neighborhood?”. He also has an issue with me sharing pictures and posts on facebook and other social networking sites, saying “cant this just be private, why share?!”.  Then there is the complicated issue of evil eye. Evil eye is when a person might be jealous or may wish bad things on you. As a result my husband does not like to share any of our plans for our lives for fear of the “evil eye”. When Nasreen was born he used to tie a black string on her wrist and put a black mark on her face with eye liner. I thought it was weird but I like his logic behind the mark. He says that when people looked at her face they see the mark and they start to wonder what’s the mark about, and look at the shape of it, and think so much about the mark and don’t think negative thoughts to cause her harm. I don’t believe in evil eye , but its harmless so I don’t mind it. We both make compromises.  As you can see from the blog, I still share about my life on a public forum.


Here is also a list of things that I will not learn!

1. I will not allow people to comment on my daughter’s complexion or coloring:

Fair and lovely skin bleach from India

In India there is an obsession with being light skinned. Skin bleaching is really common and many (not all) parents are very concerned about their children having light skin. I have seen many women and girls obsess about the color and “darkness “ of their skin and be upset and depressed about it. When Nasreen was born with brown skin I got comments in the Indian community that it was too bad that she did not get my light skin. I was told that I should keep her out of the sun. I do not allow these comments. My daughter will love her body and her skin exactly how it is and I will not allow such comments to occur around her!

2. I am openly proud about having a daughter:

A movement to ” save the girl child”. Girls are a blessing as much as a boy

In many families in Punjab and India in general there is a serious issue with desiring boys over girls. Girls are seen as a waste.  Girls join their husband’s family when they marry so any investment in them is theoretically lost. While a son will stay with the family and support the parents when they stop working.  Girls also cost a lot of money because the girls family is responsible for the wedding cost and in some cases dowry. There is also the fear that a girl could bring shame to the family. There were some in the Indian community, no one from my in-laws though, when they learned that we were  pregnant with a girl they expressed their condolences. they said that they prayed I would have a boy next. I hate the preference for boys. I love having a daughter; she is a blessing to our family.




29 thoughts on “Things I have learned as an American Girl Married to a Punjabi (Indian) Man

    • Awww you are to sweet Lauren! Dont tell nasreen that, she will have a big head lol. I have always had really nice guests so it was always a blast. Maybe I am liking it now because I am lonely here in Michigan and wish people would drop in on me sometime for some tea.

    • That black ribbon on the wrist of ur daughter is not at all part of sikh culture…. Our asked us to get ride off from all the superstitions. And someone is doing it then that is wrong.

  1. There is a lot of good things in our culture .. and I am glad you are picking it up.. I hope hubby dear is picking good things from yours tooo .. we can learn so much from each other .. 🙂

    and oh yes the Punjabi hospitality is the bestttt… I can still walk into any house in our village and I know I will be provided food and drinks anytime ..


    • Yes I definitely see to many good things in Punjabi and Indian society as a whole.My husband just like me finds the good and the bad in the United States and India. His favorite thing about American culture he says is the freedom to be who ever you want to be and to re-invent yourself without judgment. He does miss Indian hospitality as well. I miss the food in India, especially the fried snacks 🙂 There is nothing like that here lol

  2. That was such an interesting post to read. Indian culture matches with the Pakistani culture in certain respects and one of the problem I face is too about not learning to wera the chunni or we call it ‘dupatta’ here, properly. Unexpected guests thing, I like the most 😉 Loved reading about your experiences.

  3. Being married to a punjabi man is challenging for me especially when His family dislikes me becausei am not a punjabi woman and because of my skin color they are very traditional. Your story and advice brings me hope 🙂 I got emotional reading your story because of similiar situations I found myself in. Your family is beautiful and I appreciate your words of wisdom and your will to share your story! Thank you god bless.

  4. Thanks.For Promoting Punjabi Culture.u r first foreigner ,who said good things about punjabi’s otherwise I have heard our criticism.

  5. I am so happy to see an American and Indian being married and being so happy together. 🙂 My cousin brother is happily married for two years to an American girl. They live in Washington DC. I myself was in a serious relationship with an white American for over two and half years and had planned to meet her this Christmas and propose her in 2015. Too bad she had other plans and left me in October, 2014. LOL. While it lasted it was very beautiful.

    Yes many Indians have obsession with white skin and having a son but not all Indians are like that. Things are improving here and people are starting to give daughter and son same importance and people also are starting to value more about the personality and not skin color. But sadly most Americans have generalized all Indians hating girls and being obsessed with white skin. So not true. I have seen white american girls calling me ugly on cam just because I have brown skin, lol and I know there is a tension in USA between white and black people. But I would not generalize the whole USA as racist. I hope u understood my point. 🙂

    Even though one white American girl broke my heart so cruelly I am still open to meet someone from USA and may be find love with her. I am moving to LA, in 2015 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

    Happy holidays to you, your husband, and the beautiful daughter you two have. 🙂

    • I am sorry for your recent break up. Its hard when things end so suddenly. I completly agree that many ppls views are changing concerning skin color and the desire for male children. It is still my experience that this is still an issue for the people I have encountered personally, though I do not speak for all of india. I think it is often the case in arranged marriages the things like skin color and cast and income become more important than personality. I speak from experience, we are trying to find a match for my sister in law, and one of the biggest comments that we get is concerning her skin tone. One father even told us that my sister in law was far too dark for his son and it could not work. Things are getting better but there is still an issue. Just as race relations in the United States is still an issue but getting better. My husband has faced problems being from India and having brown skin and wearing a turban in public. By addressing these issues we are doing an act of love for our culture so that we can fix these issues. I hope that your move to Los Angeles is a good one. That is where my husband and I went to college and started our journey together. Wish you a lot of luck.

      • Thanks for being kind. Sorry for having personal encounters about skin color in India but I promise its improving a lot just like the race issue in USA is improving. I am still overlooking the very recent and present ongoing white cops and black people issue in USA. See I am a rational guy. 😉 And I hope LA would be good to me and maybe I would be able to meet you and your beautiful family 🙂
        Happy Holidays 🙂

  6. Hello! This is a wonderful site! I am also a white American woman married to a Punjabi man 🙂 we have been married 5 years this comming October and we have 2 daughters, 4 years old and 1 years old.
    nice to meet someone of like mind!!

  7. From my childhood I always wish to marry British girl but still not able to get in touch with anyone yet LOL!!! I don’t know when I will meet my white wife, curious to meet her soon 🙂 🙂 🙂

    You can say I am obsess with it always compare indian girl with british girl.

    • I think that all people are the same, white, indian, Asian, African est. I never went looking for an ” Indian” husband. I fell in love with him not his race. I would suggest you look for love in a person and not just because of their race. Color of skin is very superficial.

  8. Awesome…. I just read your post … I an a born punjabi and I am very thrilled and happy to see that one white women known my culture …. tvadaiaa tuhanu … raab tuhanu sada kush rakhe … plz send me link on where can I stay upto date …. when your n wext article comes …. and what is blog….. thanvaad .

  9. Hi Tina

    This blog is about as accurate and direct as it gets, and I admire you greatly for posting. The thing about being submerged in culture and more importantly, your cultural world is that you dont get to experience and acknowledge other people and their back ground. It is no different from other deeply submerged cultures with poor socioeconomic living, rural Japan, Africa etc…

    My trips back to my homeland (I am 4th generation South African Indian) left me confused, disillusioned and wanting nothing to do with India and its people. I felt there was a sense of entitlement, arrogance and naivety especially towards us being “foreign indians”. The stories of rich culture were tainted and I could not have felt more distant from my people than any westerner. Heres the thing…

    It is a self perpetuating downward spiral by modern standards in India… but… for the most part… people are happy, going about their short span as humans. Realization of joys of afterlife mean that they care not for daily pains… they are content… with this comes arrogance if you do not understand.

    Take that Indian out of India and he becomes a different animal.
    I have found our people here to be kinder, more understanding, witty, and extremely hard working. Best of all, we have been taught a culture that is extremely against inequality. We give more, love more… It is not the Indian that is the problem… more the Indian in india

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