Intercultural Discussion: Marriage Around the World

The International Club hosted its first ever intercultural discussion on Oct. 9 in the Rafters. UMD students from around the globe shared insights and stories of how marriage works in their culture and how it is changing. A circle of chairs filled the room for an informal discussion on love and marriage. The inaugural discussion was led by two faculty members of UMD's Department of Communication: Mike Sunnafrank and Ryan Goei. The major theme of the discussion was the divide between traditional and western “love” marriages. The discussion included perspectives from Cameroon, Nigeria, India, and Pakistan, among others.

Many spoke of a liberalization of marriage culture. However, tradition remains strong. Family input in marriage is still frequent. One such example came from Srilalitha Akurati, a junior from Maple Grove. She is originally from India.

“In Indian culture, when two people get married, its not just them — families are bounded together too,” she explained to the group. “The family talks about their background, where they’re from, (and) just get to know each other better.”

One of the major changes to arranged marriages, explained Akurati, is that the children now have a say in the decision. She also said that love marriages are possible, but feels that parents prefer to set their children up with a partner.

Discussion remains important

Speaking on cultural discussions, Sunnafrank said, “The various cultures represented can come to understand the diversity of the way things are done, and appreciate those things, and understand why they’re done that way. Once they start to understand that, they start to understand each other a lot better, and they also start to understand their own culture a lot better too.”

Both professors stressed the importance of having an informal setting to ease conversation.

“I think it's important to have these discussions and have them be light, so people don't get caught up in the heavy stuff early,” said Goei. “You can get to that heavy stuff after you’ve developed and got to know each other.”

The International Club has stressed this easygoing approach throughout its activities. The club hopes to do the same with its Taste of UMD event in November. Members hope food talk can break cultural barriers.

Goei hopes the club can have more of the events. “It's important to have these talks as often as we can, with as many different groups as we can and make sure that they're light — that they can be young and make mistakes, and talk about their cultures, and it can be a safe place to do that,” he said.

Both professors agreed that intercultural discussions will lead to students exploring on their own. “It gives them an opportunity, once you have these conversations, to go off on their own and start saying, ‘Tell me more about that.’” said Sunnafrank.

This leads to one-on-one discussion. As Goei explained, it is an “individual level experience where you get to know somebody, which is the key to all of it in the end.”


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