"I bet no other culture reacts like this."
For most Desi parents, seeing their kids getting into university is one of the most cherished moments in their lives.
Higher education is like a rite of passage within South Asian households and achieving this feat is highly respected.
But when it comes to moving out of the home for university, especially if it’s located in another city, things get tricky.
Whilst many British Asians are excited at having the freedom to experience life, their Desi parents are more concerned.
Suddenly, they cannot keep track of their child’s every move. So, they normally try and persuade the kids to stay at home.
Raising issues regarding the finances, safety and maintenance of moving out, there is a certain narrative attached to a child being away from the home.
It’s also no surprise that clubbing, partying and going out are a part of university life. Even in more modern times, this type of social life is seen in a negative light.
But, are these narratives still at the forefront? Or, are we seeing Desi parents accept that moving out is a part of life?
DESIblitz spoke to some British Asian students about how they told their parents they were moving out and the reaction they were met with.
A Scary Thought
For most British Asians, their parents’ reluctance to let them move out comes from a place of worry.
They don’t want any harm to come to their child but there’s only so much protection that they can provide.
Eventually, they need to understand that being away from a home is a part of life.
But, for 20-year-old Vijay Patel, his parents thought moving out would be too unpredictable:
“I got my acceptance email from the University of Leicester and my family were so happy. We all went out for a meal that night to celebrate.
“We spoke about the course, uni life and all the people I would meet and then I eventually got onto the topic of my halls.
“Straight away my mum’s face dropped. She said ‘what do you mean, halls?’ and I told her that’s what the accommodation is called at university.
“Her and my dad both thought I was going to commute and get the train every day.”
“I’m from Birmingham and understood why they thought that. But I told them it would be too much effort going back and forth every day.
“I also said that everyone lives out and if I didn’t like it, I could always commute in my second year. But forget all that, they didn’t want to hear it.
“They kept saying it’s not safe in a different city and I’ve never been away from home before. I said that’s the exact reason I want to move out.
“I told them Leicester isn’t far so I can always come back down but I need to get my halls sorted to enjoy uni more.
“Then they took that as I wanted to go out 24/7 but I explained everything is safe. There’s security, our own private rooms, cameras etc.
“My dad then gave me this massive lecture about the type of friends to get, how to keep my things safe and to be back home at decent times.
“Even with money, they told me where to store it, make sure I text them when I’m out and don’t buy too many drinks.
“My mum kept saying she was scared and thought I’d be taken advantage of and I’m just like why are things like this so deep for [South] Asians?
“I bet no other culture reacts like this.”
Vijay’s experience can resonate a lot with other British Asians.
His Desi parents were in such positive spirits but as soon as he mentioned having some independence away from home, the emotions shifted.
Vijay’s dad was even dictating the type of rules he needs to have when moving away. But, it is this exact type of control that British Asians want to steer away from.
Although British Asians can receive some type of backlash towards moving out, for women it seems to be slightly more difficult.
In 2020, Amna Ahmed wrote about her experiences of moving to university on The Uni Bubble.
Within the piece, she begged the question “how we could all belong to one culture yet practice it so differently”.
Expanding on her experiences as a British Asian woman, she explained how going out or being independent is far easier for a Desi guy:
“Matters are different when speaking of Asian men and sending them off to university is often seen as a rite of passage.
“One that brings the parents pride and joy, which is frustrating, to say the least.
“Older generations don’t seem to understand that their restrictions can leave a negative mark on the minds of young girls.
“They either conform to this repression or are labelled as disobedient if they do not.”
Amna described how there is a certain stereotype about girls moving out of the home at a young age.
Some Desi parents see this as a no-go and push harder for them to stay at home.
Additionally, this viewpoint is aided by communities who still hold onto the notion that Desi girls staying out late or being seen with certain crowds will attract unwanted gossip.
Pam Garcha*, a 19-year-old student at the University of Bath explains how she felt this narrative:
“My parents were already sceptical when I told them I wanted to go to Bath. They asked me to choose somewhere more local to London.
“I was hit with the typical ‘why do you need to go so far?’ and ‘the universities are better in London’.
“When I explained how good the uni was for my specific course, they were still reluctant but had to accept that I made my decision for my studies.
“What was supposed to be such an exciting time for me was so draining.”
“Just people and my parents talking nonsense about not going out, making proper friends, making sure I don’t drink too much etc.
“I reminded them I’m going to have fun when I need to do and do my work when I needed to. I had to almost beg them to stop trying to control me.
“Then my dad would say what would people say if they see you out or at a party with boys and alcohol?
“I was thinking what is this. Even my brother didn’t get grilled like that and he’s just started his first year.
“It’s obviously very different for us. My girls at uni got the same treatment as well.
“Even now, my parents always ask what weekend I’m coming back, to not go out in the week and make sure I’m keeping my head down.
“This is very backwards but I’m always honest with them if I am going out because they have no choice but to live with it now.”
It seems moving to university for British Asian girls is more concerning for Desi parents.
However, as Amna stated in her post, it is important to explain to older generations how times have changed.
Whether the conversation is difficult or not, the equality and cultural dynamics have progressed and that’s what communities need to understand.
A Wider Acceptance
Some Desi parents perceive moving out for university as an extremely big issue.
However, more parents are succumbing to the notion that it is more beneficial than problematic.
Living away not only builds one’s character but mimics how life is like in the real world.
Desi children who move away quickly realise to fend for themselves in terms of cooking, cleaning and taking care of finances.
Whilst they have the independence to do what they want, this also comes with a certain level of responsibility.
After all, they are there to get a degree. So, if their grades don’t reflect a balanced lifestyle, it will show.
Meena Ifran*, a 21-year-old student at the University of Liverpool highlighted this further:
“I’m from a Pakistani background so moving out was always going to be a big thing in my family.
“Through a lot of explaining and persuasion, my parents came around to the idea. I told them that living out would give me a taste of what to expect when I’m properly grown-up.
“My ammi actually quite liked the idea. She’d give me recipes to make and told me certain things to do whilst I’m away like certain mosques to go to or family that were nearby.
“It made the experience more exciting. I was sad to leave but my parents were more supportive and realised this is how the world works now.
“Even my dad would tell my cousins how proud he was and living away at such a young age is an achievement in itself.
“Obviously, they still hounded me to get the grades – you can’t hide away from that in Asian families.”
This shows how Desi parents are more aware of how moving out is as positive as you make it out to be.
Jina Singh*, a second-year student at Aston University also explained how his parents encouraged him to move out:
“I was going to commute in my first year because I’m quite a shy person. But my dad said to move out so I can experience more lifestyle things.
“Both my parents lived out for university so I think they wanted me to do the same and knew how good it would be for me.
“My dad joked that I’d meet girls but my mum also said I’ll realise how to do domestic things like laundry properly.
“It seems small but she was right.
“I’m learning more people skills, how to cook and how to balance lectures and social life.”
“I live in halls and met so many good people already. I miss the comfort of home but my parents were easygoing with whatever decision I made.
“It’s good that our culture isn’t treating this like a disobedient thing as much. It’s more accepted nowadays and that’s only a good thing.”
It is quite evident that Meena and Jina personify a changing viewpoint of Desi parents.
This supportive nature is quite widespread but is not the case for all South Asian families within the UK.
Moving out is still a daunting experience for many parents, seeing their child go away and live almost a ‘private’ life.
But it is this lack of control that Desi parents have to understand and move past.
British Asians need the vital experience that moving out can provide and although it may not be for everyone, it’s still a debated topic within communities.