In India, astrology plays a big part in an arranged marriage. After comparing the Kundli (an Indian word describing the astrology horoscope) of both parties, the parents will then try to arrange a marriage. After the boy and girl meet each other for the first time, the engagement period begins. During this time, the couple can meet regularly for up to one or two years before they actually marry.
In a society like Hong Kong, where the culture of love marriage is so entrenched, it is unsurprising that even though arranged marriage is common in ethnic minority communities, some people from those communities have developed more contemporary mind-sets towards arranged marriage.
Myriam Khan (her named has been changed to protect her identity) is a 34-year-old Pakistani woman who was born and raised in Hong Kong. Currently working in the sales and marketing department of a manufacturing company, Khan has studied in Hong Kong her entire life, and has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
Two years ago, Khan married a 26-year-old Pakistani man in an arranged marriage.
“Since [my husband’s] father wanted him to move to Hong Kong, they really looked for a Hong Kong-Pakistani girl,” Khan explains.
Khan had put off marriage because she wanted to concentrate on her studies and career earlier. But as time went on and she decided she was ready to marry, she told her parents she would go along with their arrangements. As she did not know many men who were of the same ethnicity and religion as her, she accepted their choice.
Initially, this transaction-like marriage did not go very smoothly.
“For the first year, it was quite a struggle because we have very different thinking,” Khan says. After settling down in Hong Kong for a few months, Khan’s husband started to put pressure on her to follow the Pakistani way of dressing. While she still wears formal wear to work, she now wears traditional Pakistani clothes during the weekends.
“For the first year, I kept on listening all the time. From two-hour lectures to anything like why I have Facebook, why don’t I do this, why don’t I do that…” says Khan. “I felt very depressed.”
But then the independent and strong-willed Khan decided to make some changes. She tried to give her husband a lecture instead and let him experience how it felt like to listen. This often led to quarrels.
“I am never the first one to start. But once he starts, I go on,” Khan says. After they have an argument, her husband’s family, who travel occasionally to Hong Kong, will try to step in to help, though often to the aid of their son.