Sanjay Krishnan and Julie Williams-Krishnan
8 September 2010
(7) Sanjay and Julie, how long did you live in U.K.? Which aspects of U.K. culture do already miss? Which aspects do you want to continue here in U.S?
Julie lived in the UK for 16 years, Sanjay lived there for 10 years. We miss so many aspects of London culture (not necessarily UK culture) – and of course we miss our friends in London. We miss the multicultural and international friendships we had. We had friends from all over the world since London is such a melting pot of cultures. We took in a lot of cultural shows – such as art exhibitions, plays and concerts by artists from all over the world. This was extremely affordable since the tickets were subsidized by the government. Hence our concert tickets would cost £12 to be in the 2nd row from the orchestra. It’s a lot more expensive in the US. Sanjay misses English football a lot. He follows the scores of every match but it’s not the same – the atmosphere in UK from mid-August – May is steeped in football (soccer to Americans).
We will continue going to concerts, we plan to go to NYC regularly to catch more art exhibitions and plays. And we will seek out the occasional pub to watch English football.
(8) Sanjay and Julie, being familiar and comfortable living in India and America, I find it har to identify myself fully with either culture at times. I feel like I am living in between - on the boundaries which have advantages and disadvantages. Do you ever feel this way? If so, feel free to share some particular reasons why or experiences you have had.
When we first moved back to the USA, we were like children with wide eyes wondering how everything worked – it took us 20 minutes to buy gas/petrol the first time at the self-pump! But now we are here three months, and most things are becoming second nature. For Julie, this "homecoming" to the USA has many surprises – remembering things about her own culture that were long forgotten. She was never very nostalgic for these things (other than a few food items, such as good New York style pizza), but now that she is back, she revels in these forgotten details.
However, at the same time, it seems so strange to own all this stuff – a sofa, a table and chairs, a bedroom set – in London, we rented the apartment and all the stuff in it. This system is very practical and keeps you a bit mobile and unburdened by stuff. We are enjoying making a home, but at the same time, we feel much more capitalistic than we did in Europe!
(9) Of course, though we may 'lose' some things by marrying cross-culturally or living abroad, we also gain unexpected things. Sanjay and Julie what are some of the aspects of living outside your native countries and negotiating different cultures outside and inside the home that has bought immense gifts? In other words, what are couples who marry within the same culture, language, heritage, and country missing?
Julie: It was my birthday the other day, and Sanjay’s uncle called and sang "Happy birthday" to me over the phone, and 5 minutes later, Sanjay’ mom called and did the same thing. This is a true gift, given that the family did not accept our relationship 5 years ago. I am reminded often that this everyday acceptance of our relationship, their prayers, their interest in the little details is a gift that was not easily given at first, but we have come so very far from those early days. And I have learned some wonderful stories of Sanjay’s family history, I have seen beautiful places in India that I would not have gone to otherwise. I have had my assumptions challenged, and I have grown significantly from the relationship with Sanjay and his family.
Sanjay: I don’t think couples who marry within the same culture, heritage or country miss anything. We are not happier or better than same-culture couples – we experience the same things perhaps slightly differently.
(10) One of the most intriguing reasons I wanted to interview you is because you met, married and lived in U.K. for a number of years. This means you both started your relationship in another country outside your native country. Both of you coming from different backgrounds and navigating a new country, culture and to some extent, language together is, I am sure a great bonding experience. How do you think you supported each other in adjusting to life in another country that neither of you grew up in nor understood as well as your birth country?
By the time we met in London, Julie had been there 8 years and Sanjay had been there 2 years. We had made many of the cultural adjustments already, but we did have to adjust to one another and the specific cross-cultural baggage we each brought. So we were both seeking our own cultures to some extent in London (that elusive NY pizza, the best dosa in town…) and we started sharing in each other’s pleasures in finding things that felt a little bit like home. So we were getting to know each other in the environment of a third culture, but seeing beyond that layer and into our native cultures as well. We created our own culture – an amalgamation of Julie’s & Sanjay’s Anglo-American-Indian influences.
(11)Recently, I read somewhere that cross-cultural trainings are on the rise for those moving between Western countries. People expect differences between East and West, but not West and West and when they encounter them they could have a bigger culture shock than facing differences between East and West. Having moved between U.K. and U.S., you have experienced living in two Western countries. What are some of the memorable cultural differences that were not expected between these two countries? What is a piece of advice you'd give a U.K. resident moving to U.S. or a U.S. resident moving to U.K.
Julie: On the last point, the differences between the US and the UK are subtle – you think it will be pretty easy – it is the same language, right? But it is not – it is not the same language, not the same culture. Americans are generally very direct and open at first meeting, Brits are generally reserved and will go "round the houses" to get to anything that resembles a point-um-of-um-view. It took me about two years to realize that my expectations of interaction.
ns at a party were different from what really happens, and this is cultural, not personal. It takes perseverance to make a British friend - you need to show that you are going to be around for a while. But once you make that friendship, it will last forever. Also, the expectations for customer service are different (I could write reams and reams about this, but I will leave it in the past) – and getting angry and red-faced only makes you look bad, and accomplishes nothing. And, my biggest piece of advice for someone moving from the US to the UK: Don’t take yourself so seriously! A self-effacing sense of humour will go a very, very long way. And leave your new, squeaky-clean, white sneakers at home unless you want to be spotted as an American tourist before you can utter the give-away phrase "Have a nice day!"
(12) Lastly, now that both of you are back in U.S. what kinds of cultural experiences do you look forward to adjusting back to or learning anew?
We look forward to good Mexican food, regular four seasons in a year (as opposed to the ever-raining single weather in the UK), lots of time spent outdoors – be it at beaches, walking, lakes, etc. Our lives in the UK were completely city-based; we now look forward to a mix of city experiences and also have fun in the great outdoors.
We also look forward to spending more time with Julie’s family; in the UK our time was spent primarily with each other or with friends but with little interaction with Julie’s family.
End Part 3 of 3. Concluded.
Thank you for sharing, Sanjay and Julie.
Read Part 1- Two People Living their Best Life Possible Above and Beyond Culture and Appearance
Read Part 2- The Authentic Journey of Sanjay and Julie: The Languages of Love
The previous interview in this series: The Authentic Journey of Lisa (An American in India)
Part 1 of 3: From U.S. to India - The Struggles of Identifying with India While Growing up in America
Part 2 of 3: India it is!
Part 3 of 3: Fighting Stereotypes and Embracing Identity
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Updated November 2011