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Maintaining Cultural Traditions of Courtship and Marriage

For immigrants who come to the United States, maintaining cultural traditions of courtship and marriage can be a challenge.

The United States is experiencing one of its biggest influxes of immigrants since the mid-1930s. Dr. Bart Landry, a professor of sociology at University of Maryland, says that moving to another country to start a new life is a major upheaval, so many people want to hold on to their culture. And that includes upholding traditions that involve their children's dating and marriage.

Dr. Landry says, "Parents are concerned about that. Because parents want them to marry within their own culture. It is a way of maintaining their culture and they are afraid to lose their children, to lose their control their hold on them, and it can become very disruptive to the family."

Dr. Landry says the problems often begin when children start school and want to fit in with their classmates' way of life. He says children begin to change and move away from their parents' culture. He adds, "Because they not only get educated in America, in a broader environment, they go to work in a broader environment. And so, it begins falls apart. And they begin to make choices outside of their own culture."

Even students who come to the United States temporarily can feel the tensions between the cultures. Sophie Kamaruddian, a Malaysian student at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., says while her family is open to other cultures, they do have certain expectations of her. "My family does expect me to return after I finish school here, and find a husband at home, Malay, of the same background. Because they are concerned about the upbringing of children and the maintenance of family connections."

Millen Dinkov, a student from Bulgaria, says his parents insisted his older brother maintain Bulgarian traditions when he studied overseas. Millen says his parents are more liberal in their views now. He is dating a fellow student, an American who is of South Asian decent.

He says, "It is very unique for me. It is very strange. We don't have different ethnicities there. And for someone like me --no one would expect me to do that. I wondered what my parents would say about that. So far, they have been very liberal about. So far, they have not expressed an exact opinion."

Both Sophie and Millen say they have had to adjust to life in America. But they say the differences in cultures and traditions do not hinder them. They say their lives are richer precisely because they have had to deal with more than one culture.