When you live in a place for a while it can be easy to get stuck in the same routine.
Humans are creatures of habit and even the most open-minded people can find themselves visiting the same bars and restaurants that have become their favourites. Sometimes it takes a conscious decision to shake things up, or maybe a new relationship.
London is known as a collection of villages, and growing up here means that you fall into visiting the same selection of those villages. Normally this is influenced by where you and your friends live, where you work, or if there are certain places of interest that you like to see.
Despite my love of exploring other cities on holiday, I had never even visited some areas of my home town. It took the start of a new relationship to open my eyes to what I had been missing out on.
London is home to a large population of people from south Asia, including Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. My girlfriend is the daughter of immigrants from Karachi, one of the largest cities in Pakistan, who settled in northwest London. I grew up in the south west of the city, and never had any reason to go up there.
These last few months I have been amazed to find out what I had been missing out on. When you go to a new place with someone from there, you get the inside line on the best bits of the area. This is true when you travel abroad, but also when you visit new neighbourhoods of already familiar cities.
Never did I think that there was so much to see in what I had previously written off as lifeless suburbia. From amazing restaurants to architectural oddities, it has been a voyage of discovery every time we go to her home to visit her friends and family.
I’ve never been to Pakistan, but my relationship has really opened my eyes to the wealth of culture that the country has. As with any large immigrant communities, things can seem slightly closed to outsiders. However that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Aside from the fact that I get to learn about Pakistani culture, I also get to know a new area of the city. Everyone is always so excited about traveling abroad, and it can be easy to forget that there are some amazing places right on our doorstep. Just because you don’t have to use your passport to get there, it doesn’t mean that your own hometown isn’t worth exploring.
In fact getting to know the place where you live can make you feel more connected to your fellow residents, and open up new interests or relationships. This is one of the best things about having a partner from another culture.
My experience goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to move abroad to have an intercultural relationship. Sometimes there is more to find out about your hometown than you might have thought. It’s also interesting to see how cultural differences are still quite an issue.
Pakistani families still tend to be quite traditional, with traditional gender roles still fairly common. While things are slightly different with me and my girlfriend, her mother and father expect her to cook and clean when we visit. At first it was frowned upon when I helped her out, but we have since come to an understanding that our relationship is different than theirs.
It’s a great opportunity for us to learn from each other, and the strength of their family bond is impressive. We visit every two weeks for a family dinner which involves around 30 people from 5 different generations. This sort of thing keeps people together, and it seems like there is always someone around that can help you out with any problem that you might have. I’ve already had my laptop fixed by one cousin, and a dodgy car exhaust sorted out by another.
It’s a real privilege to be welcomed into the family, and it’s been great for me in so many ways. Having these kinds of experiences are invaluable in life, and having a partner from a different culture makes you more open minded about learning from others. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I hope that everyone has a similar experience at some point in their life.