*disclaimer- I am touching on a delicate subject here, as I am a white woman discussing cultural differences. I love to explore and learn about other cultures. It is not my intention to sound ignorant or xenophobic in anyway and I apologize if I offend anyone. This post lacks my normal humorous commentary to avoid any misunderstandings.
I am flooded with a montage of indistinguishable emotions whenever I think about my former roommate, Banu (name has been changed), and her duty to her grandparents. As Persian immigrants, her grandparents spoke only enough English to survive. They needed Banu’s help multiple times per week for everything from doctor’s appointments, rides around town, and shopping. Banu was in her mid-twenties while trying to launch a new career and live independently. She would often get frustrated by her family obligations and how much more demanding they were than many American families. As a 20-something American-born human my conditioning spawned resentment towards Banu’s grandparents on her behalf. She always seemed so overwhelmed with school, work, and family commitments. However, when I asked her why she didn’t set any boundaries, she was appalled. She refused to consider any alternative because she loved and respected her grandparents with such a complex depth that I could never understand.
Fast forward to the present, to a typical day in the office, when an Indian couple and their son arrived for an appointment. I asked if an interpreter was necessary, and the son said he would be translating. He had taken the entire day off work to drive his parents to various doctors and translate for them. I smiled and said he was a good son for taking such good care of his parents. “That’s what we do in my culture,” he said in a friendly but absolute manner. The idea that he wouldn’t take time off work or would just set up a ride for his parents was just as unfathomable as me riding an elevator without anxiety. As in, it would never happen. We continued to chat for a few minutes about his large family and the connection they share living in a place who’s customs differ so much from their own. I was humbled and grateful for this perspective. I witnessed an unbreakable bond, which is hard to come by in the land of the Seattle Freeze.