Moving out: practical advice
September 1, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Need help regarding inter-cultural communication gaps and advice regarding moving out.

I apologize for the long post but it is hard to summarize this situation even in all these paragraphs. I will try my best.

I wanted to provide you with a back story: I'm a South Asian 21 year old woman. My mom immigrated to Canada with my brother and I in 2005 (my father chose to stay in the country I was raised due to job prospects, so I see him once or twice a year). Even though my brother and I expressed that we wanted to live alone during university, my mom moved with us to our university town and lives here 9 months of the year. My parents are conservative and very religious. A factor I believe, has been an overwhelming cause of general unhappiness for me; I do not ascribe to their belief system and live a fairly 'liberal' lifestyle (that is, I have a white boyfriend, occasionally drink, and eat non-halal/kosher meat). To top it off, my parents and I do not communicate. My mom does not let me: wear what I want, have friends that are boys, choose an alternative belief system, take on a part-time job, date etc. all of these issues have lead to conflict. When I was younger, I did abide by these restrictions but as I've grown older, I find that pretending to be happy with these limitations has caused a lot of depression. Conflicts at home deteroriate how I study, and have led me to live a 'two-faced' lifestyle around parents. My brother has a similar conflict/communication gap with my parents.

My question to you is: should I move out? Considering I am still a 'limbo' student (it will be a few years before I finish my degree) who has little job experience or financial savings?

I am simpy confused about what step to take. I am paralyzed by fear and the possibility that my parents will not want to acknowledge me as a daughter anymore. Most days I just feel downright suicidal, just wanting to drink my problems away because there is no way I feel like I can tackle them head on. I do not feel a part of "Canadian society" nor my own; many friends judge me for not telling my parents about my personal life, while people in my own community reject the secular lifestyle I lead. I know many immigrant kids who deal with pretty much the same issue with their parents, but they always tell me to "ride it out" and that it will get better. But is constantly lying and living a hypocritical life worth it? Are there people who deal with inter-cultural problems that could help me open up the communication barrier that I have with my parents and society as a whole?

other notes: I have been going out with a great guy for the last 4 years who graduated a few years ago and works full-time; we have discussed the possibility of me moving in, at least temporarily, if things get really sour at home. I don't know if I see this as a permanent option though, even though he has insisted, simply because I feel I will be a burden without a steady income that will be contributing to rent, food, etc.
posted by raintree to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think that a big factor here is: can you afford to live on your own? How will you pay your rent? How will you pay your school tuition?

If the answer is that you cannot afford to live on your own, I'd probably stay with mom until you're done with school (just a few years away) when you can probably get a job, support yourself, and have more autonomy.

Personally, I'd add that the fact that you have the ability to have a boyfriend, drink, go to school, etc. implies that you do have some autonomy in your mom's household.

If I were in your shoes, I'd do what millions of young women in your situation do: be a good daughter at home and keep your head down (dress conservatively, don't have friends over, don't talk about your liberal ideas or draw attention or create conflict), and then leave the house and do whatever the hell you want. The two-faced lifestyle may be tough, but if you can put up with it for just another 2 years, you'll have so much of an easier time "escaping" your parents. And just keep focusing on the number of days or weeks until you can leave.

In the meanwhile, talk to your school's counseling services about your depression and your problems overall. You may also find that there is a student group or individuals that have navigated these waters before you and can be of some help.

BTW, your friends that judge you from hiding your "second life" from your parents? Tell them to STFU. They don't know what you're going through. They're being culturally insensitive.
posted by k8t at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2011

PS, don't move in with your boyfriend. Step-by-step -- get a female houseshare and live on your own for awhile.
posted by k8t at 11:25 AM on September 1, 2011

This is hard, but I'd advise you to move out. It maybe be rough going with your parents for a while, but your relationship will most likely be ok. Its not great now, so you really aren't risking much, who knows, it may get better.

Get a part-time job if you feel weird about not contributing, but just go ahead and move in with your boyfriend. You've been together four years? It should be fine, you aren't a burden, you are his girlfriend. He wants you to move in it seems, so try it out.
posted by stormygrey at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2011

I've done research in the very conservative Muslim Somali community in Toronto. I spoke to a number of Somali mothers who described their fear that their children are "losing" their culture by integrating with Canadian youth, whom they see as rebellious/wild. They are expected to live at home until they get married, girls are not allowed to date or wear makeup, they are usually expected to wear the hijab, and most people are expected to follow the rules of proper conduct according to the Islamic faith. Of course, many of these values conflict pretty strongly with Canadian expectations, communication breaks down and a lot of friction occurs between parents and their kids as a result. The moms recognized that their kids were struggling to reconcile the two halves of their lives, but didn't know how to help them because they, themselves were struggling to integrate and only had experience with Somali parenting styles.

It sounds like your situation is a little bit similar, at least as far as the jarring difference between your life inside and outside the home. It may be helpful to address these issues with her (calmly!) and explain that you're finding/have found your own place 'between cultures', and she should try to accept that. I'm not sure where you're located, but there are often immigrant/refugee-specific community centres which run support groups in bigger cities. That might be worth checking out as well. If you can find one for both of you to attend, that would be fantastic.

I'm sorry you're dealing with this, it's a really tough situation. I agree that you should move out, but I think your chances of your parents accepting it (if that is your main concern, and it sounds like it's an important one) would be significantly increased if you moved in with some female housemates.

Having said all that, you are 21 years old and legally allowed to choose whatever living situation suits you. If you want to move in with your boyfriend, and you feel it's the best choice for your long term health and happiness, then by all means, go for it! I know it's hard to feel like you're not contributing, or like you depend on him to support you (I've been there, and it sucks), but he clearly doesn't see you as a burden. As stormygrey suggested, a part time job might help out with this.

Good luck, and take care.
posted by torisaur at 1:10 PM on September 1, 2011

Can you get support through student services? talking to a counsellor or finding a group of second gen students that can help you though this?

Most people I know in this situation lie to their parents until they are older or forever. This can be hard for westerners to understand, but many people would rather have their parents in their lives and lie than tell the truth and not have their parents for support.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:11 PM on September 1, 2011

i decided to memail you, i hope you don't mind. my post was going to be far too long and i didn't want to take up too much space on this page!
posted by sincerely-s at 1:27 PM on September 1, 2011

This probably isn't too useful, but I just want to say, it's totally OK to hide some aspects of your life from your parents at your age! I'm a 25-year-old white Canadian girl, and I think your friends are being a bit thick for not understanding your situation. (Frankly, I'm shocked! Have your 21-year-old friends really never hidden anything serious from their parents??? Really? REALLY? I think you should call them on this bullshit judgement and ask them to be more supportive of you!)

I also happen to be gay--another situation in which lots of young folks aged in the teens and early twenties find themselves leading a "two faced lifestyle" with their parents. It sucks, but sometimes that's what you've gotta do. If you feel like you need to "ride it out" until the end of university, focus on that goal. You won't be lying forever. When you are through school and more independant, you suddenly have a lot of leverage with your parents: if they aren't accepting or at least tolerant of you and the life you want to live, they don't get to see you. Sometimes parents are even more accepting than you expect them to be. I've been very lucky with my own parents, but I also have friends with very traditional parents who wound up being OK in the end.

If you do decide to move out, your gut instinct NOT to move in with your boyfriend might be a good one. Would it make things harder with your parents if you moved in with a man? Maybe an all-girl house share situation would be a better starter move.

Again, I'm really not all that helpful, but I just wanted to offer some contra-opinion to your judgey friends!
posted by equivocator at 12:20 AM on September 5, 2011

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