“If you are lucky you will get an American son-in-law, and if unlucky, you will get an American daughter-in-law!’

Do you agree with in this post? Maybe this applies not just to American, but also Americanised (or Westernised) sons and daughters in law?

An American son -in-law or an American daughter-in-law? Any guesses, who Indians prefer?


And in this statement lies the essence of India’s traditions, so bound against the woman. An American son-in-law is welcome for he will behave like a normal human being, expect no  dowry, no special favours , and not expect to be treated like a demi-god. He will help your daughter around the house, and when he comes over for a visit or even a meal he will share the chores and  wash the dishes. What a relief in a country where there are no servants!


But an American daughter-in-law would also behave like a normal human being, not sacrificing her interests, or subjugating her will, or herself to her in-laws….  [Read more here]


55 thoughts on ““If you are lucky you will get an American son-in-law, and if unlucky, you will get an American daughter-in-law!’

  1. This makes me sad in the sense that the same people who are happy to get a fully functional human being for a son-in-law, are sad to get the same fully functional human being for a daughter-in-law. It’s like they want their daughter to be treated with dignity, but they’re not remotely willing to extend the same courtesy to the daughter-in-law. That’s such hypocrisy!

    Instead of focusing on son-in-laws and/or daughter-in-laws, perhaps parents should focus on their own children and hope that they’re happy. (keeping in mind that no man, unless he’s got severe psychiatric issues, will be happy with a doormat for a wife)


    • And we all know there are far too many men who want doormats as wives. It is such a terrible situation that not being a doormat is considered a bad thing!!


      • ” if you dont behave like a door mat, you have bad manners .”
        The few times I opened my mouth I heard that.
        Now when the FIL has passed away, she wants the sons wife to look after her, but she never will except her as part of the family.
        “you dont have to be here, go away. ” is what I was told even after 14 years of marriage. But when I go out and shop, she will ask me to pay for her daughters stuff . She asks with a distinct right. I let it pass – because the women is ill with cancer physically and for me she cannot think otherwise.
        Did I become a door mat ?


  2. It odd that so many people view a self reliant woman as threatening. How weak willed and insecure do you have to be to wish for a person who’s subservient and an emotional slave. It may seem surprising that the same oppressed daughter in laws grow up to terrorize the next generation. There’s no solidarity here. Almost seems like a thirst to “get revenge” for what was done. And if you get a “modern woman” in the family, the old timers seem to feel cheated. As if they haven’t got their pound of flesh.


    • The interesting thing is that they don’t view their own self reliant daughter as a threat. The son’s wife should be the doormat while their own daughter should be self reliant and marry an ‘american’ son-in-law. To me, these people are worse than those who think all women should be submissive (or whatever)–at least there’s no hypocrisy there.


    • I was talking to somebody in my surroundings and she ( aged ~50, well educated, financially independent) puts it this way:

      Kids abroad start to live at their own and support themselves financially from very early age ( generally teens) and parents just support them as and when required but that is not obligatory.

      In India, parents support their kids in every way (generally). It creates a sense of ownership in them. Hence it is valid if they treat their kids as their property.

      In Summary if one wants to break free, s/he should do it when s/he is in his/her teens.


      • Well, I didn’t exactly “break free” till after college, if you consider financial obligations. It was difficult, but i don’t think it’s going to be any easier as a teenager, especially if the parents are the normal Indian parents. I would have been more financially independent much earlier on, but my parents felt getting part-time jobs during the summer hols was somehow a cheap thing to do and simply would not let me go for one.


      • You bring up a very good point. In the US, independence and responsibility are taught early, also these traits are seen as assets. When a teenager is working to partly pay for school, he/she picks up a set of real world skills – whom to trust, whom not to, banking, managing money, etc. – skills that are not taught in the classroom. In India, we are so much more sheltered and dependent on our parents until we graduate from college, hence parents have a much harder time letting go of their adult babies.
        I wish there were ways to change this in India – one of the biggest motivators is finances – when college tuition becomes so expensive that parents can only fund part of it. The other factor – as servants find better paying jobs and working conditions in the service industry (gas stations, malls, supermarkets, airports), there will be less domestic help available, and everyone will learn to clean up after themselves, cook for themselves, etc.


        • Though it is desirable to be support your own college education it is not very practical in India. I am not saying it is impossible but not easy. The education system is structured very rigidly. You can’t take a break in between semesters , earn some money and get back from where you left. Also there are very few part times jobs in India. Unskilled and low skilled jobs are very low paying to contribute to your college fees. Teenagers are not born into the culture of independence that they make a conscious decision to pay for their own education.

          Also I feel that is not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is having different expectations out of your son and daughter’s education. I believe that parents these days spend equally on both son and daughter but still a son is law is much higher in pecking order than daughter in law.

          A bout domestic help…well the households that do not employ any have mothers and sisters cleaning up after the boys. So I guess not employing domestic service is not as important as changing the mindset that men should not do any chores at home


        • Purple sheep,
          I agree with you that students in India can’t work their way through college right now – the Indian education system doesn’t support this – I’m hoping in the future, it will. Kids working through college builds more independence. It’s not possible now, but may happen in the future.

          I also agree with you that the existence or lack of domestic help is not the main issue here. It is a very small factor. But often, changes in a society’s attitudes happen out of necessity and practicality. In the US, when women started working in the factories in the 1920s, for the first time, they started cutting their hair short and wearing shorter skirts for practical reasons. Such a small thing. Later ‘bob cuts’ and ‘minis’ became fashionable. Soon women had a choice – they could cut their hair or grow it long, they could wear long skirts or short ones, without being judged. I was talking in a similar vein.

          Even since my brother’s wife started working, I notice he is doing a lot more around the house, and is more involved with their daughter. They’ve moved to a bigger city where it’s harder to find hired help. Of course, there are also families where a woman will be asked to give up her job or manage – anything but the man helping – so it really depends on the family.

          The changes I’m talking about are, I think, inevitable in the future – already happening in small way now in some families and hopefully we’ll see more of this in the years to come.

          One of the changes we’re seeing right now in our lifetimes is the breaking up of joint families. This is not due to any major shift in attitudes but is more of a practical thing – people move away from their home towns in search of jobs and opportunities – the result is a nuclear family (however unintended), less interference from in-laws and elders – more opportunities for the couple to forge their own path, have a more equal, loving relationship, the elderly couple may start discovering they want to have a life after all, pursue their own friends, interests – all unintended/unforeseen – but all positives.


  3. I feel this view point is too black and white..too narrow of what is going on today. Yes, this might be the views of a few, but I would guess the minority. I can state that probably a lot of Indian people would like Indian sons in laws or daughters in laws first. But, I don’t think they really prefer an american son in law to an american daughter in law. I think the views expressed in the article do not really represent how Indian parents feel today. I feel that the majority of Indians who migrated a couple of decades ago ie my parents generation are happy just to see their children get married. It is not as easy to arrange marriages here and most are happy when their kids do find someone they are in love with and they are happy to see them settled. I think the first multicultural marriages were hard for many Indians to deal with but, now, it is so much more common and not such a big deal as before. I don’t think gender really has a big role nowadays because I have seen males and females marrying non indians in a couple of families and I know there is no preference for an American son in law or daughter in law. You can argue that the post is only talking about parents living in India. In that case, I don’t see the parents preferring either. They are mostly upset that their son or daughter is not marrying an Indian. Also, I have seen a lot of Indian couples who are newly married and who come here to live. A lot of the women display all the characteristics of what the “American daughter in law” in the post does…they are self sufficient, independent, make their own decisions etc. Actually, I feel that a lot of women here have an equal partnership with the guy and some actually dictate everything. For the majority of them, their career and professional life is most important and when they have kids they make sure they do when it is convenient for them. Most ship off their kids to India in the early stage but not because it is forced but because it is convenient for them. (I know, there are a lot of people who don’t do this but I see it happening a lot too). Bottom line, there are a lot of erroneous assumptions that the post brings up and it would take forever to point them out. I just think that this is truly not how people think over here. Not all american sons in laws are perfect helpers. In fact, i see a lot of Indian men contributing to household chores etc. I just feel what was written in the post is just too exaggerated and overly simplistic. People are changing their views and, hopefully, it is in the right direction.


    • I agree with you. It’s too black-and-white a picture of American society and ideals. While I agree that there are some things we need to learn from Americans, that doesn’t mean their society is perfect. In fact, far from it. They have their own set of problems.


      • How easily people described american society and ideals !!!

        it is as complex as “american ” is . They have their idiosyncracies, cultural values, morals, mores which do not have the rationale , but is affordable for a society rich in resources and resourcefulness which stems from outsourcesd labor. And everybody carries with them a baggage from their roots – GO FIGure


  4. This reminds me the old joke which I read on some blog (maybe this one?). An Indian mother says “My son is so unlucky his wife even makes him make her tea. But I am lucky my son-in-law is really nice, he takes care of my daughter even makes tea.” 🙂


  5. There is definitely some amount of exaggeration here. Indians generally feel a bit of identity threat abroad and would worry BOTH about American sons and daughters in law. A little more perhaps about an American bahu, because a bahu is seen as coming IN to the family while a married daughter is seen as going OUT of the family after marriage.

    Not just identity threat, Indians in general are a little nervous around foreigners. When I was visiting a collaborator in Korea, he told me that everything was great about India except that he couldn’t get ordinary people to speak to him on his India trip. He traveled by train in India and recounts how his co-passengers would not talk to him. Some amount of this remains even with Indians who have spent their lives abroad.

    This may also apply somewhat more to Indians in Britain rather than the USA, because foreigners are much less integrated in the UK and racial animosity runs very high.


    • Why does a woman come “IN” to a family after marriage? In that little preposition, lies the whole problem. The assumption that the woman must assimiliate and “fit into” the man’s family is unfair because the man makes no efforts to “fit in” with the wife’s family. He is accepted as is, while the woman is expected to make several unpleasant changes after marriage.

      That’s what the post was trying to highlight.


        • I know 🙂 I didn’t say it was right to see the bahu as coming IN, I just said a lot of Indians feel this way 🙂 Cheers 🙂


      • Agree with Biwo.

        “A little more perhaps about an American bahu, because a bahu is seen as coming IN to the family while a married daughter is seen as going OUT of the family after marriage.”

        I think that’s basically the post summed up. This business of the DIl ciming ‘IN’ to the family is the problem here. I don’t consider myself to have gone ‘IN’ to my husband’s family. We both joined in marriage to create a family. The actual examples being exaggerated or not doesn’t really matter. This idea that a man marries a woman but the woman marries his whole khandaan is skewed. It requires women to be brought up to ‘adjust’ and deters them from individual aspirations. People get over this thinking for their daughters more easily than for their DILs, thanks again to them coming ‘IN’ to the family. That is the point here.


    • Leaving aside the topic of who comes into the family, and who leaves, I think Abhishek is actually pretty accurate. I’d presume Indian parents wouldn’t like anybody other than an Indian for their kid.


        • Depends on the parents – if they are rigidly traditional, they might want their children to marry someone who understands the unstated rules and hierarchy. This is a clash of opposites – one side values fierce independence and the freedom to experiment and make mistakes, the other side has a ‘life plan’ and a set of rules, which, if followed ensure a certain path that elders can approve of. What is ‘good’ in one culture is ‘evil’ in the other and vice versa, hence the fear.

          If the parents are more open minded, they may still have some doubts, because they may have some misconceptions of the other culture. But in many cases, the initial doubts are set aside when they find that the couple are happy with each other.

          When the parents themselves have friends from other cultures, races, and communities, they will see people as individuals; such parents often practice a global culture at home, based on universal values. Such parents wouldn’t mind their children making friends with or marrying someone outside the Indian community. There really isn’t much of a clash of cultures here – you can agree on many things, joke about the same things, enjoy the same activities, etc. so it’s not at all threatening.


        • Because they can continue to dictate their life, annoy the brides parents to do all the rituals and generally spout the BS that they want their kids life to be simple and happy with someone who understands their culture and eats the same food. :-). I have heard this nonsense in various forms and with various examples.

          Well no worries on our end my daughter is quite adamant she prefers a blond haired husband, quite unlikely she’ll find that in an Indian, but either way I don’t care.
          Go with your dreams is what I say. My son asked me if I’ll be sad when he dates, I
          I’ve told him notat all –mom will be ecstatic to see you flounder your way to pick that one special person, lets just lay off the dating till you finish high school.

          He seems fine about that . Wo knows my future may hold a blond blue eyed son in law and a Chinese dil?? E hgh. More power to them


        • Why is that necessarily a bad thing? I mean it is only natural to prefer someone from a similar background. But I don’t think they’re super AGAINST it exactly, if their kids fall in love with americans they wouldn’t veto it-just that they would prefer someone who is indian. Plus many indians still have the “marriage is an alliance of two families” mindset from traditional arranged marriages, and i suppose indians would be more likely to follow this. It’s not just an indian thing either:chinese parents want chinese spouses, jewish parents want jewsish spouses, etc.


  6. I live in the US. I’ve seen this mentality a lot. I find that it doesn’t matter where you live – it doesn’t affect your mindset that much. There are some (not all) Indians in the US who blindly hold on to parochial views and there are Indians living in India who question those views, think rationally. I was raised in a partly liberal partly traditional family in India, but I was uncomfortable with a lot of traditional Indian views long before I came to the US. I think it just boils down to the individual, not where he/she lives.

    Personally, I don’t care if my son marries an Indian or an American, black, white or brown, straight or gay. I don’t care if he chooses not to marry. I HOPE that he wil find someone who will love him and cherish him, someone who’s his intellectual equal, someone he can share fun times with, someone who will stand by him in his hour of need. The only thing I want for my son is for him to be happy. And I want him to define his own version of happiness. And I want that for my ‘daughter-in-law’ too.


  7. My neighbor holds the same view, freaking out all the time that her son in america will find a gori wife , doesn’t fret one bit about her daughter also studying in america, all i hear of the girl is ‘ in our community its so hard to find a boy who demands less that maybe she’ll find someone there and be happy ( meaning spare us the expense 🙂 ) , we are broadminded to accept whatever makes her happy” — apparently said happiness doesn’t extend to son 🙂
    but then they expect only the son to be their life insurance right? feel bad for todays boys stuck with these types of parents ,cant live with them, cant dump them.


    • That is so true Radha, I see the same for many boys abroad. They face much greater pressure and blackmails from parents at home than the girls here.


    • I think the fundamental issue here is that a son is old-age-insurance for many parents. Having a son is considered the beginning and end of retirement planning by a lot of parents even today. A woman from a different culture is not likely to send half her salary back to India, buy expensive tickets for yearly six-month-long trips, and other assorted nonsense. Of course it’s a horrible thing for the son to be married to such a woman. These parents would not be happy with their son marrying anyone except the girl they handpick for him. I say girl because they will not be comfortable with an independent woman of any ethnicity. For most part, since we Indians are quite racist, we generalize that all gori women are “horrible” (notice, no one seems to remember that Americans are not all white).

      That said, I think all inter-racial/cultural marriages are hard and especially those involving distinctly contrasting cultures. Someone coming from a less misogynistic culture than ours won’t automatically make a great husband!


  8. Maybe that’s exactly what we need, a bit more of the ‘Mixing’ — marrying people outside our narrow patriarchal views and maybe just maybe our kids will get an insight into true equality of all humans eh???


    • Nope ‘mixing’ does nothing ! In the case of my family, my both sisters – educated etc got married outside religion[ though they are Indians only] of their own choice..my parents supported as much as they could. For one sister they did the lavish wedding too – now both of them have disappeared , the son in laws act exactly as son in laws. In our case i can’t even blame the sons -in law…my sisters are only selfish. they have only taken uptil now and since i am un married they have left the whole ‘taking care of parents’ on me. They just behave sweet superficially…my mother was sick and they did not help as much as they should have.
      So, no daughters don’t really ‘do’ as much as people think . So, ppl will continue wishing for son and try to control what kind of ‘DIL” comes home.
      There are some ‘daughters’ who get married and hide behind on how much work they have ,in laws etc. Till, the parents themselves don’t step up their expectations from daughters and don’t dump all their expectations on their ‘sons/DILS/unmarried daughters ‘ things won’t change. I know so many women who expect so little from their husbands- they don’t expect them to stretch and be like sons with her parents. Do the work, get pampered also be like the part of the family. No wonder so many DILS nowadays don’t bother abt her husbands parents too !


      • cosettez, Clearly you have some personal gripe. Why should there be this expectation that daughters in law be daughters and sons in law be sons? I address my parents in law the way my husband does, but there’s the clarity that I love my parents in a way that I’ll never be able to love his parents(and vice versa) just because my parents are my parents.

        Also, you seem conflicted about whether your problem is with your sisters or your parents. You obviously resent your sisters for not being there for your parents. But you also say this, “Till, the parents themselves don’t step up their expectations from daughters and don’t dump all their expectations on their ‘sons/DILS/unmarried daughters ‘ things won’t change”. If you have so much resentment, you’re better off talking to your sisters about how to optimally care for your parents in such a way that you are not the only one burdened.


  9. From what I’ve seen of India, I can’t think of any families where an American son-in-law is considered a ‘lucky find’. Here’s what I think:
    1. I’d presume with either American SIL or DIL, parents would see it as their lineage losing out on their culture, something nobody in India wants.
    2. With an American SIL, I’ve seen parents go worried about how the girl would live a life in case of a divorce (which they presume will happen at some point because he’s American). This happened in my family, and elders have never accepted an American as part of our family ever since.
    3. Girl’s parents are also terribly worried about not having SIL family contacts, and they’d presume the daughter is more open to abuse (although living in the US, you’re safer). Elders in my family didn’t know how to resolve marital issues when an extended family member was on the verge of divorce.

    This is what I’ve seen of lady colleagues/family members who married American men.


    • Similar applies to Americanized men – I’ve seen parents of girls assume booze and drugs are free-flowing here. They also tend to dislike the man’s openness, and not willing to subdue any of his interests for the family’s sake. One of my friends who is continuing his mountaineering passion routinely gets ridiculed by the girl’s family because they think he is being a poor father, even though he is dedicated to the family.

      All said and all done, I don’t think our folks have a particular attraction to Americanized men, unless the girl wants to live abroad, or the parents want a more luxurious life for their daughter (I saw this in my family too – parents married off a girl to an NRI because he made good money; that was one of the strongest criteria). However, I’ve seen majority of my family members prefer a boy from within India because they feel more things are under control


  10. I think Shree Venkatram has put it rather well and I tend to agree.
    He has written about Indian parents living in USA.
    How about Indian parents living in India and their attitude to foreign spouses of their Indian children?

    I suppose most of them will welcome a foreign son-in-law but not a foreign daughter-in-law.
    The simple reason being the foreign son-in- law saves them the expenditure on a dowry and the foreign daughter-in-law deprives them of the benefits of a dowry.



    • Sir, I don’t think this is true, although it sure sounds very logical. Dowry isn’t the only thing on a parent’s mind, is it? Concern for their daughters life is far more important, and I presume parents (including mine) would pay the dowry to reassure themselves their daughter is safe. Now let’s not argue about dowry opening the possibility of abuse, that’s not the point of this – my point it – parents think their children are safer with an Indian than a foreigner, even if it means shelling out money to the Indian. I’m just stating what I’ve seen, not endorsing it.

      As I said before, no groom’s family support in case of problems, divorces are more common outside India which scares parents, grandchildren totally losing out on culture, parents would rather have an Indian groom.

      My extended family was extremely perturbed when my cousin brought home a Canadian. They were worried about the possibility of divorce, with them not knowing what to do in case the relationship broke down (since my folks have never interacted with any foreigner nor understood their idea of a relationship). Eventually when the divorce did happen, my broader family convened and tried to patch them together. The Canadian gentleman saw it as yet another life event, and wanted to move on. That’s worsened things in my family and created a mistrust of western culture.

      Ever since then, nobody in my family has approved of a foreigner, be it a bride or groom. The few who did find someone had to do it totally against the wishes of parents, with parents agreeing to attend the wedding.


      • I think its time we accept the fact that divorce is not a BAD thing. Parents need to step out of their children’s life and let them decide when, to whom and for how long they want to get married. What is the point in staying married for the sake of your parents. If a couple wants to divorce then parents and other people have no business forcing them to stay together.


  11. This reminds me of an article I read a year or two ago talking about how NRI men didn’t want NRI women to marry. (I’m betting it was their parents who didn’t want the girls though.) The reasoning was that the Indian girls growing up here were too modern and progressive. They didn’t value the old ways and weren’t traditional enough. I read this before I understood much of Indian culture and to me it sounded screwed up. It still does. Because what they don’t realize is that they (the parents generation) are the ones raising these girls to be how they are. They’re teaching them how to be self-sustaining. But they don’t want their sons to marry self-sustaining women? That’s just even more ridiculous to me! Many of the parents are teaching their sons that they don’t want these NRI girls and trying to tell them they won’t make good wives but they really have no way of knowing. They don’t know these girls at all. It’s just a one-sided statement made out of ignorance.

    Of course, I don’t think an American DIL is unlucky at all (regardless of race). Thankfully neither did my in-laws. They love me and I can feel it and see it in every day life with them. They’ve stated many times they believe I brought happiness into the home. Thank goodness not everyone thinks like the person who made your title statement.


  12. Our dominating mentality does not change where ever we go. Education, degrees, foreign exposure etc are of no use if our desi parents still think the same about controlling DIL’s lives. Exposure to the independent life style in western countries often brings about a change in our outlook too.


  13. This is such a sickness with some of our parents. I am an ‘Indian daughter’ who brought home an ‘American son-in-law’ (in this case, Australian). My parents LOVED how easy going and kind their son-in-law is. He makes no demands of them…no lavish weddings or dowries or anything. He is always polite with them. (How did a harridan like me manage to snare him, right?) But then, my parents started on me…apparently I was not considerate enough or subserviant enough to my husband’s parents…I was too independent…and if I wasn’t careful, he would leave me and find a gentler and more homey girl who would take care of his mother. Right. 15 years later, we’re still married happily, despite my overt independence and lack of subservience…or perhaps because of it.
    I seriously wish that some parents would examine their archaic beliefs and ideologies and fears and work out what is driving them. And then put them away where we never need to hear about them again.


    • This. I can totally relate to your parents being concerned about you being too open. When I finally owned up to myself and to the world that I am a feminist and started speaking pretty openly about it, the first ones to protest were my own parents. Funnily enough, my parents in law found my viewpoints rather interesting. My parents can’t seem to grasp that a fiercely independent, self thinking woman can stay happily married. The very fact that my husband can’t seem to have enough of me(my talking included) isn’t proof enough to them that their fears are unfounded.


  14. Pingback: “I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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