Monday, August 1, 2011

The Big Afghan Move: Who Relocates after the Afghan wedding?

With most marriages in the Afghan culture, both in the US and in Afghanistan, it is common for the woman to relocate to her husband's place of residence. This relocation can be of several forms. With marriages that take place in Afghanistan, the girl will most likely move in with her new husband and in laws into their home to start her new life. Usually, a separate space of the house in designated especially for the bride and her husband. Sometimes, depending on social status and income, a separate home is constructed for the new couple that is on the same piece of land (remember homes in Afghanistan are built differently than in the US. They tend to be more spacious and open, separate bedrooms and a shared courtyard). Sometimes, several families are housed in the same home and each family has their own bedroom (s) and share the remaining of the home. It is quite uncommon, for a new wife and husband to live away and separate from the husband's family, especially in Afghanistan. In the US, some Afghans continue to practice this form of lifestyle, however, with jobs in different locations, accessibility and affordinbility, young Afghans that are newly married, will live on their own, away from both sets of parents. Although, even in the US, one can easily find a newly married couple living with the husband's parents, this may because of cultural upbringing, financial ability or mere separation anxiety!



An Individual who relocates to the US from Afghanistan, to be with their spouse, will most likely live with their in laws, until further notice. In my opinion, this is a great way, to immerse into the US society, while still being around an Afghan household (i.e. speaking Pushtu or Farsi, eating familiar dishes, dress, mannerisms, etc). as most likely they came from a home with several siblings,parents, grandparents, etc. For those coming from Afghanistan a couple living alone right away is rare and can be extremely difficult as they are not accustom to the US culture or lifestyle, language and will most likely not be able to work right away. To be able to leave a country and your family and everything familiar and live alone with your spouse in a different country where one is unfamiliar, can be extremely daunting, especially as their US raised spouse will be at work for most of the day.



Afghan couples raised in the US, will most likely live in their own apartment or a house after the wedding (remember Afghans don't live together before marriage!). This concept is still fairly new in the Afghan community and is usually practiced by Afghan couples who are use to the American way of life and embrace individuality, privacy and their own work needs. I know that my new husband and I moved into our first apartment together upon our arrival from our honeymoon. I walked into a newly furnished and beautifully decorated apartment that night after our arrival. I honestly didn't know what to expect about our living situation as I was raised in a pretty conservative community of Afghans in the US, where it was common for females to relocate to her husband's place of residence. Nowadays, given different communities of Afghans in the US, men also move to accommodate their wives choice of residence depending on career or school or simple affinity for a certain location. This way of thinking and living life (i.e.compromising and assessing personal needs of both husband and wife without blindly following cultural traditions) makes me a proud member of our evoling Afghan community.



To be unbiased here, I have to add that in certain Afghan communities in the US (think small Afghan locations in the Midwest or extremely traditional Afghans regardless of where they live) will continue to encourage intergenerational households, where the men bring in their wives to live with his parents and girls move away into their husband's family homes, regardless of the couple's or parents needs). This is fine, if all parties involved agrees it is the best choice. My more American self, will side with the needs and wants of not only the new couple but also the parents. For instance, if the parents of either side, need looking after, then of course living together would be the right thing to do. Or if financially it is not feasible at the time, then save on rent and live together or if the parents need financial assistance. If both parents are healthy, stable and enjoying life, and the couple is able to afford a place of their own, then why not give the parents their home back and build your own so they can happily come visit whenever they want and always have another home to go to!



Not only does weddings and everything before a marriage take place have certain cultural ideas attached of how to go about in the Afghan community, life after the marriage has many cultural traits as well. These traits have to be considered in the Afghan community so that the elders are happy, the young understand why certain things are done and the middle ones (us!) do what is right given their residence in the states, Afghan culture and the needs and wants of both generations. After all, we ourselves, will have children that will learn our way of life and what would we want them to do in this situation, given our culture background and American lifestyle. Culture does evolve with time with the needs and wants of time, however, the reasoning behind each culture trait is for the best, which is to keep everyone together as one and love and support each other no matter where you live.