So You Won’t Be Marrying a Tamil Girl?


In Part 7 of our series “Help! I’m 30, Tamil… and Not Married”, Penn E. shares his thoughts on the challenges and idiosyncrasies of interracial relationships.

“So you won’t be marrying a Tamil girl?”

That’s what my dad asked when I told him I had found the one. He was only half-joking. I think.

I’m currently in a long distance relationship with a girl of Caucasian descent, otherwise known as a vella pettai. Given the way she handles her spice, I often forget that she’s white. Although we were both born and bred in North America – my girlfriend in America and myself in Canada – we consistently have issues that we need to work around.

Despite having been together for over a year, on numerous occasions I’ve found myself trying to persuade her that the word humour is just as valid as the word humor. I’m biased but I’ll even go as far as saying the Canadian version is grammatically superior. She begs to differ.

On the other hand, since we started talking, time and time again she has foolishly tried to convince me that the “real” Thanksgiving is actually in November. I think she’s trying to be funny but I’m not completely sure. I still haven’t fully grasped her sense of humour.

In all seriousness, there were a lot of things that needed explaining when we first started dating, none of which had to do with her not knowing what a loonie was. Instead, it had to do with the fact that she didn’t have Tamil parents. In hindsight, it also had to do with the fact that I didn’t have white parents.

As a result, my girlfriend and I don’t see eye-to-eye all the time. However, we try to remain understanding of each other’s culture as much as possible and make adjustments to make it work.

Here are just a few cultural barriers we have collectively maneuvered around:

Telling Parents/Relatives

In my mind, I wasn’t planning on telling my parents about my girlfriend until I had graduated and started my career. I also wasn’t planning on telling any relatives until I was ready to propose. Thanks to our mutual decision to compromise, I’m currently 0 for 2.

Then we have my girlfriend. Before we had even started dating, I remember sitting beside her while she told her dad over the phone that she had met a guy. I hadn’t even told my friends about her yet – and here she was telling the man who raised her!

Fast forward a few months later. Her cousin had seen a picture of us on Instagram and brought it up with her extended family. They proceeded to interrogate my girlfriend which unfathomably excited her as she anticipated the day I would eventually meet all of them. At this point, only a handful of my friends knew of her existence, yet her entire blood lineage knew about mine.

Speaking of Instagram…

Social Media

Me: “You can’t post that.”
Her: “Why not?”
Me: “My dad’s friend’s neighbour who knows my mom’s third cousin might see it.”
Her: “So?!”
Me: “You’re joking right?”

My girlfriend couldn’t grasp why this mattered so much. All I could tell her was that for some reason it’s important to keep your relationship under wraps until it’s “official.” When she asked what official meant, I gave her the Tamil community’s dictionary definition:

“When you’ve both graduated, started careers, got married, bought a house and had kids.”

She didn’t speak to me for the next few days. I’m pretty sure that she still doesn’t understand the importance of this. Honestly, neither do I.

Addressing Each Other’s Parents

We just recently met each other’s parents for the first time. Her parents had been wanting to meet me for almost as long as we had been dating. I had been hoping to keep her away from my parents for at least another decade.

It’s not because I wasn’t serious about her which she understandably assumed was the case. I just wanted to wait until we were engaged, you know, to make sure my mom’s third cousin didn’t find out too soon.

The Conversation We Had While Driving to Meet My Parents…

Her: “So what should I call your parents?”
Me: “I guess you can call them Mr. and Mrs.”
Her: “You guess?”
Me: “Or Aunty and Uncle.”
Her: “Why would I call them that?!”
Me: “Just trust me on this one.”

The Conversation We Had While Driving to Meet Her Parents…

Me: “What should I call your parents?”
Her: “You can call them Mr. and Mrs.”
Me: “You sure?”
Her: “What else would you call them?”
Me: “Aunty and Uncle?”
Her: “Definitely don’t do that.”

Apart from grade school, I had usually called adults Aunty and Uncle. My girlfriend had done the opposite and only addressed her actual relatives with those terms. So, as weird as it was for both of us, we took one another’s advice and rolled with it.

Dating outside of our respective cultures has been a learning experience in which we’ve both made adjustments. My girlfriend learned to call my parents Aunty and Uncle without thinking it was insulting. In return, I’ve been able to call her parents Mr. and Mrs. while understanding I don’t need to raise my hand every time I have a question.

Despite our cultural differences, we’ve managed to make it work by compromising. I wouldn’t say it’s been overly difficult, just different. I’ve learned to use cutlery more often than I’d like to. And she’s learned how to occasionally eat pittu with her hands.

The transition hasn’t been seamless and it’s rarely comfortable. But the more time we spend with one another’s family, the better we understand each other’s culture. So, no. As far as I can tell, I won’t be marrying a Tamil girl.

Looking to create your love story? Join the other couples who have dated and married through!

* * * * *

In Part 1 of our series “Help! I’m 30, Tamil… and Not Married”, Sanjiv opines on the growing number of unmarried Tamils.
In Part 2, “So You’re 30 and Still Single? Don’t Blame Tamil Women”, Sriram shares a contrary perspective.
In Part 3, “Single, Tamil, Female… And I’m Divorced”, Niluja reveals her experience as a divorced Tamil woman.
In Part 4, “Self-Arranged Marriage: The New Tamil Trend”, Jana discusses the growing “self-arranged marriage” phenomenon in the Tamil community.
In Part 5, “How to Find a Husband”, a guest writer shares her advice for Tamil women.
In Part 6, “Why I’ve Decided to Get an Arranged Marriage”, Vidhurah explains why she has opted for an arranged marriage.
In Part 7, “So You Won’t Be Marrying a Tamil Girl?”, Penn E. shares his thoughts on the challenges and idiosyncrasies of interracial relationships.

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Penn E. Hardaway

Penn E. loves two things - puns and Penelope Cruz. His go-to meal is a bowl of penne pasta with a bottle of Pennot Grigio. He only watches films starring Pen Affleck, Pen Stiller or Sean Penn. His favourite athlete is Pen Roethlisberger - because he plays in Pennsylvania. He likes anything associated with pennapple but hates everything related to pennut butter. His family and friends all say he's a pen in the ass.

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28 thoughts on “So You Won’t Be Marrying a Tamil Girl?

  1. Sounds like you got a keeper. Lock her down and tie the knot now, because once she leaves the college bubble and discovers her value in the open market it’s game over. You’ll never get a white girl again.
    I have a friend who dumped his devoted European college gf because mom didn’t approve. Hasn’t been laid in three years.
    Another friend who’s in his mid 30s. CPA. Owns his own condo and luxury car. Dating a 29 year old Indian from who, three months in, can’t decide whether she wants cats or kids.
    As you get older the dating pool is replete with broken, cynical, jaded women and men with emotional baggage. The best ones are taken. At best you’ll get someone who feels they “settled” because you’re the least worst option.
    Marry her now son as no one will ever love you with the same joy, passion and devotion that only a young girl can.

  2. I thought the article gave me the giggles. . .
    Little did I know what waited in the comments section 🙂

  3. Caucasian? Is that an Asian immigrant or immigrant descendant from the Caucasus Mountains of Asia now living a better life in North America? She is white? Is she an albino?

  4. Why do you have a picture of a Sinhala boy as your profile picture? Are you a paid Sinhala agent working for the SL government? You’re always promoting race mixing here. Do you want Tamil self-genocide because your government couldn’t finish them all off?

  5. Nah Thanushas parents are defo finding her a fob husband in Sri Lanka and shipping her back U0001f602

  6. if all of us did that we’d be committing self-genocide. Our freedom fighters didn’t sacrifice their lives for that.

  7. Why do have the name as tamil culture ? You don’t represent tamil culture and ceylon isn’t all tamil culture

  8. I live in United States. I am Tamilian and respect my culture.When a child is born in USA, going to be an American not Tamilian. The majority of Americans are have many different language background but their kids are English speakers.Same goes to Canada.

  9. எல்லை தாண்டி மீன் பிடித்தால் 2 கோடி அபராதமாம்.. அதிகபட்சம் 20 கோடி.. இலங்கையின் கோமாளித்தன சட்டம் Posted By: Amudhavalli Published: Friday, June 30, 2017, 14:24 [IST] Subscribe to Oneindia Tamil கொழும்பு: எல்லை தாண்டி மீன்பிடிக்கும் மீனவர்களை பிடித்து 2 கோடி ரூபாய் அபராதம் விதிக்க வழி வகை செய்யும் சட்ட மசோதா இலங்கை நாடாளுமன்றத்தில் கொண்டு வரப்பட உள்ளது. தமிழக மீனவர்கள் எல்லை தாண்டி மீன்பிடித்ததாகக் கூறி அடிக்கடி கைது செய்யப்படுவது இலங்கை கடற்படைக்கு வாடிக்கை. தங்கச்சி மடத்தைச் சேர்ந்த மீனவர் பிரிட்ஜோ அண்மையில் சுட்டுக் கொல்லப்பட்டார். தமிழக மீனவர்களின் சுமார் 150 படகுகள் பறிமுதல் செய்யப்பட்டு இலங்கையில் கிடக்கின்றன. இப்படி அடுக்கடுக்காய் தமிழக மீனவர்கள் இலங்கையால் துன்புறுத்தப்பட்டு வருகின்றனர்.

    Read more at:

    இதெற்கு ஒரே தீர்வு. ஸ்ரீலங்காவை இந்தியாவின் 30 வது
    மாநிலமாக அறிவித்து அந்த நாட்டை
    கைப்பற்றவேண்டியதுதான். இந்தியாவின் பாதுகாப்பிற்கும்
    பிரச்சனை இல்லை. என்ன அமெரிக்காவும் சீனாவும் கொஞ்சம்
    கத்துவார்கள் அதை பார்த்துக்கொள்ளலாம்

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