- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dipshika Karki, 17, has trouble living with her parents. Like most teenagers, the spunky senior at Parkview High

School in Sterling, Va., said she doesn’t understand why her parents just don’t get it.

They don’t always let her stay out late, they want her to be at home more often and they don’t always like her clothes, she said.

But unlike many American teenagers, Dipshika’s parent troubles stem from a cultural communication gap. Born in Nepal, Dipshika and her parents immigrated to the United States in 1997.

She has spent almost half her life in America. But her parents, she said, have no idea what it is like to be an American teen and don’t always understand why she tries to act like one.

“If your parents have never gone through prom or movies on Friday night or a football game, it’s hard to explain to them what it’s like,” she said. “My mom is like, ‘Why do you want to go to the movies at night? Why can’t you go during the day?’ because she doesn’t understand that you don’t go at 6 p.m. and come back at 8 p.m. Everyone goes later.”

“Our parents are so used to the other culture that they don’t understand what’s going on over here,” said Brijesh Shrestha, 18, who lives in Alexandria. “They’re from a different world. There is this great struggle once we get to America because it is a different community. So I feel isolated at first and slowly you start getting along with it, but still there is this huge wall.”

Mr. Shrestha emigrated from Nepal with his parents last year. He said his parents still try to regulate his actions according to how he would act in Nepal.

Despite not being exposed to the American teenage culture and way of life when she was younger, Dipshika’s mother said, she tries to understand her daughter’s social wants and needs. Though the Nepali culture dictates a dress code that does not allow women to show skin above their knees and closely connects unmarried daughters to their families, Madhavi Karki wants to let her daughter fit in with the American teens. But understanding all of the circumstances and social rules can be difficult, she said.

“We are not exposed. We’ve never been to high school over here,” Mrs. Karki said. “When you grow up, you try to do exactly what your mom did to you. I was not supposed to cut my hair or [pluck] my eyebrows and look at the boys when I was young. I was 17 when I got married, and then I got my freedom to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Many Nepali parents don’t understand that child-rearing traditions in the United States are different from those in Nepal, she said.

Parents in Nepal “do not let the kids go out and they have many rules and regulations inside the house,” Mrs. Karki said. “They have to change, but they are raising their kids in America the same way they were raising them in Nepal and times have changed, things have changed.”

Dipshika said many of her Nepali friends have parents who impose early curfews and stringent dress codes simply because they don’t understand what it’s like to be truly American, and she has decided to do something about the problem.

Through an organization to which her mother belongs, the America-Nepal Women’s Association of Greater Washington, Dipshika has organized a youth forum. At the Arlington County Central Library auditorium on Sunday, Dipshika and three other Nepali teenagers will act as panelists and talk about feeling trapped between the American and Nepali cultures. An adult will give voice to the parents’ cultural concerns. Kedar Bhakta Shrestha, the Nepali ambassador to the United States, also will speak.

The cultural gap is not a problem for every Nepali teen, said Prathana Gurung, 15, who lives in Fairfax.

“I really don’t have a problem with culture differences,” she said. “It’s pretty easy for me to be Nepali when it’s appropriate and be American when it’s appropriate for that.”

Amvika Gurung, Prathana’s mother, said she is careful to talk to her daughter about the cultural differences and to make sure her daughter is comfortable in both worlds.

“We talk about this with her and we wanted to bring out this issue. We don’t see a problem with her, but culture can be a problem if things are not right,” she said.

Dipshika said the youth forum will focus on communication as the key to understanding each other’s cultures, and she hopes that non-Nepalis will attend as well.

Most of her friends at school are immigrants, she said, and many of them struggle with parents who often don’t understand American ways.

“I have a lot of friends who are Muslim and Ethiopian families and they deal with the same thing,” she said. “It’s good to see that they’re dealing with it, too, and you can get together and laugh about it. Everybody that’s not American is going through it.”

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