My Vex with Tamils


There’s something about Tamil culture that gets under my skin. Before continuing to read this, I just want to be clear about one thing. I’m not bashing Tamils whatsoever. My opinions are grounded by the fact that I have married into a Tamil family.

Similarly, I am well aware that the content I’ve written also applies to the vast majority of other cultures, including my own.

Now that I’ve set the tone, this is what vexes me.

I am a Chinese-Vietnamese girl who grew up in Malvern with many Tamil friends throughout my childhood. For those unfamiliar with Malvern, it is a neighbourhood in Scarborough that is home to many black and South Asian people. It actually made me a minority in the community and the centre of “slant eye” jokes.

Now I’ve come full circle. My best friend is Pakistani and my husband is, well, Tamil. I’ve proudly gained a new set of parents, also known as amma and appa.

But it wasn’t always hunky-dory.

When we planned our wedding last year, I was surprised to learn that our cultural differences and rites of passages were not the centre of our disagreements (I use the word disagreement to be polite and respectful).

Instead, his parents had certain cultural assumptions about my family and me. It created tension by amplifying a very uncomfortable and palpable otherness that I hadn’t felt before. His parents labelled me based on my culture, and created a life story based on what they assumed about me – because I was non-Tamil.

An example of this is when his parents assumed I would leave my husband once I found someone “better” – because that’s what non-Tamils are like. It’s this very isolation and exclusivity that Tamils feel they have – this underlying otherness – that has me vexed.

Here I am today writing this because we are told the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. It is possible to reorient a culture where assumptions can be transcended by openness and curiosity.

Using my own example, instead of fostering resentment towards Tamil culture, I’ve decided to carry this with me when we eventually have children.

More importantly, I hope to remind every first, second and third generation Tamil that there is always a FOB within all of us. No Canadian beaver-tail eating culture can permeate the beliefs we have grown up with in our likely segregated and just a little racist households. I sincerely hope that you can challenge your assumptions the next time you decide to respond with “It’s just a Tamil thing.”

Here are two examples to illustrate that I am your people too, even though my curry has a little more coconut and my skin tone is different from yours. I summarized two themes in two instances that I’ve often encountered.

Example 1:
“Are you sure you can eat this? It’s really spicy and Chinese people don’t eat spicy food.”

My thoughts: My grandma grew little red and green chili plants which were diced and added to the fish oil sauce we concocted. That shit was put on everything.

Try asking this: “Just a warning: this is packed with heat.” It’s short and sweet.

Example 2:
“Well, I know it’s frustrating that they won’t accept you right now. But they’ll come around. That’s just how Tamil parents are.”

My thoughts: No, just no. The judgments parents have about non-Tamil relationships are not strictly bound to Tamils. The same judgments exist within many interracial couples. The sentiments still are, “They won’t understand us because we don’t speak the same language.” Or “They don’t have the same values. They’re going to leave you.”

I know this because one of my sisters dated a Tamil guy and my other sister dated a black guy. The silent treatment they received was just as loud as it would be in a Tamil family.

Try asking this: “How is it making you feel?” Or “Who knows how they’ll change in the future?”

If you really think I despise Tamil people by this point, then you’ve got it all wrong. I love my amma and appa as if they were my own biological parents. What I am vexed about is the constant otherness or “you and them” dynamic – that the life of a Tamil is so different.

I grew up without the love and support of my father. I’m absolutely sure many Tamil women reading this can relate. It’s not just a Tamil thing, but a result of immigrants from war-torn countries. I know that to his family, I will always be non-Tamil, an outsider and just his wife.

Let’s not carry this into our future and let’s vow to reconstruct new Canadian immigrant realities instead.



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Hi I'm Joanne. I grew up with a family that always dished out the raw truth. I was always told I was too fat, too skinny, not smart enough, too smart for my own good... etc. Now I write to uncover the honest truths about life, but with the sprinkles on top.

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42 thoughts on “My Vex with Tamils

  1. Tamils have survived as an ethnic entity for 3000 years and Vietnamese for may be 2000 years. Knowing Vietnamese history and how hard you guys fought not to become Chinese for all those years and succeeding when millions of others including other Viets assimilated, it’s pretty rich coming from a descendant of those people. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

  2. I am sorry to read you faced the outsider treatment, but it’s not because you’re a non-Tamil. Even within the Tamil community there are many differences between different Tamil communities. In-laws will be in-laws and show resentment when their sons or daughters don’t marry within their circle of Tamil community. As you say it’s not a Tamil thing, it’s just parents feel they have rights to their “children’s'” future plans.

  3. Well said .. my brother in law is married to a Philippines lady and she has enriched our lives…

  4. Why she’s being a drama queen for every culture is like that my family mostly married to different cultures and they act just the way she’s describing it’s not just Tamils

  5. People are people,no matter what race,colour,caste or creed there are good and bad people.You don’t know people until?

  6. Thats how every inlaws are . Deal with it and stamp your authority. Cos i am married to a hindi lady and she can do things better than my tamil family .

  7. I agree. I think opening up the dialogue is the first step. I see more and more of it, and I’m happy to see that you also cared enough to read and engage. Thank you for that.

  8. I really appreciate that you acknowledged I wasn’t attacking anyone, and that I also expressed it’s visible in every culture and their families. Thanks for that.

  9. She can’t speak for other cultures, she is married to Tamil man and she is speaking from her experiences. No need to get offended, it is what it is.

  10. “Also chilli oil is over nine thousand” U0001f602
    Thank you for sharing. We have a long way to go

  11. I am not getting offended I am talking from experience myself that’s exactly why I am saying it is like that with all the culture the way she’s saying only Tamil people are like not any other culture most Chinnese Japanese vitameniese are so ignorant and arrogant but am I dissing them I said all cultures like that

  12. Hey gals and guys. Thanks for taking the time to read this – I really appreciate it. You’re both right that this happens in all cultures. I did address this in an opening paragraph though. I’ve copied and pasted this for your convenience.
    “Similarly, I am well aware that the content I’ve written also applies to the vast majority of other cultures, including my own.”
    But yes, I addressed Tamil culture because I am married to my Tamil husband. I believe that sharing our experiences builds awareness.

  13. Bahaha I’m glad you caught that. We have a long way to go, but progress is progress nonetheless. Thanks for reading this 🙂

  14. I am a Filipina married to a Tamil guy for almost 10 years. I didn’t grow up in Canada so my Filipino culture is everything I have and all that I am. He is the love of my life. We have two adorable girls. My in-laws didn’t like me at first. But other than that, his brothers and their families and friends, they are the most wonderful people I have ever met. Just learned to embrace our differences and moved on. Once in a while I get asked, “Are you with them?”. I just answer with a smile, and again…move on.U0001f609

  15. Thanks for sharing your story! Especially in airports, right? You’re so right. Since his parents have gotten to know me, they secretly tell me that he’s lucky and “married smart” 😉

  16. I know right. She is using her husbands family experience nd judgingin all tamils as one. I think thats the text book definition of a stereo type. I bet u if i worked for the NSA, i can find bare Filipinos that does this to their in laws too. pshh.

  17. Joanne Loay Maam if this applies to every culture then why are u bashing the Tamil community specifically? just cuz ur married to a tamil guy, does that mean ur fully qualified on the issues of tamil ppl? thats just one guy out of 60 mill world wide. Also this sounds like what hidden racists say about black ppl. For example, rmbr that stereotype about black ppl how they are murderous thugs? if u confront them about it they will say OHH i have a black friend so im not a racist. Just like u when u say, im married to a tamil guy. :S so i have the facts? huh….Thats like me marrying a black girl and bashing the entire black community for the actions of a very small minority.

  18. Ye at the same time the author of this article is stereotyping against 60 mill tamils, just cuz her family is treating her like garbage. She says in the article she has the facts cuz shes married to one tamil guy, one tamil family. Somehow that gives her facts about the rest of us.

  19. I guess you may have a point there from the way the article is worded. I can’t speak for the author’s situation completely and I can’t judge her. Furthermore I certainly am not qualified to comment on the Tamil culture, but I try my best to respect everyone. All I can do is to hope we all can shed our own biases and respect everybody.

  20. Even when a Tamil girl marries a Tamil guy,they have difference’s and what,are they treated like a rose?Only when you marry and live with in laws then you know what one goes through?Today its so different compared to when I got married.You have to live with in-laws.You are treated like an outsider.You have to work for the entire family.You not married only married to your husband,you marry the entire family.

  21. Tamil speaking and married into a Hindi speaking family.They disliked me based on my language and also my lvl of education,as well as i had “stolen” their son.Comes in all colours,cultures and scenarios.Its an in-laws thing,not a Tamil thing xx

  22. If at all, Tamil ppl are the most welcoming of all.. we may dislike only on the fact that we fear the language, culture will be lost in mixed marriages.. other than that and unlike the north indians.. tamils are very welcoming

  23. Agreed. It all depends on what type of consciousness these families instill in their children..I think it’s a generation thing. Happens in all cultures. EGO is one of the main problem.

  24. thanks young ladee dont worry keep going you will have a wanderful future your athaan will take good care

  25. Yours is a good story. We humans are the prime culprits in discrimination. Can we not see that we live in a global village among the different nations of the world? Your marriage to a Tamil is not unique. There are many others from other cultures, languages and religions that marry across their own line .These relationships work because people accept each other as belonging to one race and this is nothing more than the human race. Go on loving each other including your in-laws. You will succeed in overcoming this unfair discrimination.

  26. Interesting article – there’s another article on their site that’s titled “so you’re marrying a non-Tamil” … His article is pretty funny. .. Tamils don’t tell their parents about someone they are dating until they have, graduated, got a job and have proposed” U0001f602

  27. Your husband needs to be more supportive of you and needs to put in more effort to help you assimilate into the Tamil culture. It will go a long way. Eventually you will realise every culture is the same, family wise. You are in for the long haul, aren’t you ?

  28. Reading your article, I think you are probably more ‘Tamil’ than I am.

    However, people in our community have many different ideas of what is ‘not Tamil enough’ and what is. It can get confusing if you are listening to all these conflicting viewpoints. I noticed the Tamil diaspora are torn over the preservation of heritage and embracing the ‘Western’ values they grew up with. No one should feel forced to marry another Tamil or do certain customs and traditions they feel uncomfortable with.

    Love is love, you guys were able to make it work with your respective in-laws, that is pretty incredible in a community where interracial relationships are still taboo. People should feel comfortable with their identities and I don’t think it is right you feel like an outsider. I wish you the best of luck in your marriage 😊

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