Arranging marriages in a Westernized World

Arranging marriages in a Westernized World

Photo by Johan Bichel Lindegaard, Flickr

Arranged marriages are common in India, Africa and some parts of the Middle East. They exist in China and Indonesia and cultures where Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism are the predominant religions. They’re quite predominant but finding someone to talk about it proves to be difficult.

“I’m just embarrassed because it’s considered stupid in our generation and in the Western society,” says a Vancouver Indian female in her mid-twenties, who gladly shared her story, but chose to go by the name of Sasha. “

If I was to tell certain groups of friends that my parents tried an arranged marriage…they would think my family is backwards or living in the dark ages,” says Sasha “but they don’t realize that it doesn’t mean that they…drag me to some guy’s house and force us to get married. There’s just a negative connotation; it’s not something I would really bring up with many people.”

While for some the idea of an arranged marriage is a thing of the past, they’d be surprised by that in Vancouver, arranged marriages are common practice in many families.

“I do have friends who had arranged marriages,” says Sasha, “I’m a unique case in the sense that I grew up in a family that is [both] modern and traditional. My parents are surprisingly liberal; they’ve let me have western boyfriends.”

Even though arranged marriages are well known and bring with them negative connotations, Sasha sheds a positive light on the issue

“People think it is something really horrible and it sounds really outdated” says Sasha, “but all it means, in my opinion, is that your parents introduce you to someone they think you are compatible with. They are like match makers, essentially.”

Arranged marriages are successful traditions in many cultures. This isn’t to say that this statement is reflective of everyone’s experience.

“There are definitely very traditional and extreme families out there and there are very liberal, open minded families as well” says Sasha, “it made me very uncomfortable because I am quite independent and I like to pick my own people and not have my parents choose them, because I think we have very different tastes in partners and different expectations in general.”

Despite all of this Sasha was able to voice her opinion and was given a choice to say no.

“There are definitely, some families that would really push their kids to get married. At the end of the day they can’t technically force you to get married, but they can put a lot of emotional pressure that persuades you.”

The perception or presence of arranged marriages varies from culture to culture. Julia Chow, is a BCIT student who moved to Canada from Taiwan fairly recently.

“I heard from a few of my friends from China that have friends in arranged marriages. I don’t know anyone from Taiwan, either my friends or relatives in arranged marriages.”

Julia mentions an interesting practical aspect of arranged marriages.

“Arranged marriages are a kind of partnership marriage, because both of the families are a big company and they kind of come together as partners. I don’t know if my friend is happy but I think that she kind of just accepted the family’s decision.”

Julia says that “arranged marriages are not so common these days in Taiwan or Hong Kong as they used to be in the past. Instead there are organized settings for people to meet each other, somewhat like dating services. A lot of cultures these days are almost forcefully westernized.”

Tradition, match making or simply a curse, arranged marriages are not likely going to disappear. Sasha is quite realistic and positive about the whole debate.

“I do see it continuing, but I think it will become less and less of a rigid structure and more leaning towards the match maker role where parents take a little bit of a step back, maybe, and just as introductory role I think it’s evolving.”