“I have to get married in three months. Help me please. I have to find a wife.
This is one of the many requests that Malaika Neri, a professional matchmaker based in Europe, regularly receives. Highly qualified Indian expatriates – working as engineers, IT professionals, in finance, as consultants or project managers – all come to her in search of a suitable partner.
Mind the gap: Between tradition and modernity
The idea of having a wedding arranged by a third party – by family, friends or neighbors – has been the norm in India and South Asia for centuries. However, arranged marriage is becoming less popular as dating without parental involvement becomes more socially acceptable and cross-cultural marriages are less taboo.
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To cope with this change, many marriage professionals are opting for new methods and offering alternative approaches to matchmaking, allowing people to have comparatively more control over their choice of relationship than over their family or society.
Matchmaking in India has undergone an image metamorphosis over the past two decades and pop culture has helped legitimize it as a profession. One such example is the recent Netflix series “Indian Matchmaking”. Here matchmaker “Seema Aunty” is shown matching affluent Indians living and working in the United States.
Originally from Mumbai and now living in Europe, Malaika Neri works as a relationship consultant, helping ambitious professionals from India, USA, UK and Europe find love and hopefully -the, marriage. Rather than tight deadlines, Neri prefers to deal with committed people who seek corresponding lifestyles and values in their partners.
Indian customers in Europe are different from those in the United States, she says, and that leads to different relationship needs.
Many of the people Neri works with come from small Indian towns, often “the first in their families to go to college, and [they] come from bourgeois backgrounds. They come from families where arranged marriage has been the norm for centuries,” she told DW. “Dating is taboo, and often they don’t necessarily have European-style dating and dating experience. So suddenly they discover that finding a partner in cities like Stockholm or London is incredibly overwhelming, as they have little or no dating experience.
Consumers of “arranged marriage”
To understand how Indian expats view arranged marriages in Germany, one of the European countries with the largest Indian diaspora population, DW reached out to groups on social media. A number of people responded, including Rashmi*.
Rashmi’s husband’s family had been living in Germany for about 60 years and when the time came to look for a suitable wife for their son, his family placed an advertisement on Anandabazar Patrika, India’s leading Bengali-language newspaper.
Rashmi’s mother stumbled across the ad and contacted the family. As a result, Rashmi got married and moved to Germany to join her husband. She told DW that friends of her husband had similar stories of finding their partners this way.
However, most Indian expats DW spoke to said they found their partners online, on matrimonial websites aimed at Indians. One such website is Bharat Matrimony, which has regional offshoots to cater to customers with a specific native language, religion, or caste.
Preethi* met her husband on Kerala Matrimony, one such website, where most members create their own profiles rather than having relatives or relatives create one for them. For Preethi, the process worked well as she spent a lot of time getting to know her partner before taking the plunge.
“For me, it was clear – I get on well with this person,” she said. “Our priorities match. And he was the kind of person I would have liked to find in a love match.
According to Preethi, these types of services can also help introverts, people with no prior relationship experience, or anyone pressed for time to find partners.
Manage cultural baggage
Finding companionship in a foreign country isn’t the only reason expats turn to matchmakers like Neri. Often the societal pressure to get married and have children is so great that people set strict deadlines for matchmakers.
And then there are also the caste or religious boundaries that families advise their children to respect when choosing partners. Rashmi told DW that Indian families in Germany were using diaspora networks to arrange matches for their children, who came from families with a “similar background”.
Malaika Neri’s clients also sometimes express these preferences.
“A large majority of my clients come from backgrounds where caste and community are the primary drivers of your choice of life partner,” she noted. “But I was raised in a home where caste was never mentioned. I have people who contact me asking for a match based on caste. To them I say I’m not the right person for There are other matchmakers who offer services based on caste, but just a matching caste or horoscope does not make a happy marriage.
Indian marriage market
India’s online marriage market has doubled in size over the past five years and is now estimated at around $260 million (€255 million), according to research by Google and consultancy KPMG. India.
Globally popular dating sites like Tinder and Bumble are relatively new to the Indian market. Matchmaking websites – which have been around since 1997 – are mostly used by people looking for someone to marry, rather than dating.
One of the reasons digital matchmaking has become acceptable to Indians, at home and abroad, is the agency these systems offer to individuals, Preethi said.
Consultant psychologist Anuttama Banerjee has noticed this trend in India as well and finds it intriguing that Indians using dating sites are even “claiming the agency” while making more pragmatic decisions about arranged marriage.
In addition to giving control to individuals, marriage websites are also “profit-making businesses”, explains Neerja*, a resident of Hamburg. In fact, memberships are cheaper when applying “from India compared to those from the UK or the US”, she said.
The inevitable correlation between the marriage market and human relationships is something Banerjee draws attention to.
For her, “it is somewhat concerning that people are forced to give their time for work rather than organically exploring relationships. And then they compensate for this loss of time by outsourcing solutions, which in this case is a relation.
*Names marked with an asterisk have been changed to maintain confidentiality.