The Family Unit in Tajikistan

Note: The Spring 2020 semester was interrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Participants returned home in the middle of the semester and continued their studies remotely. Spring 2020 participants continued writing blog posts after returning home, both reflecting back on time in their host country and describing their experience with remote learning.

Due to coronavirus sending me home prematurely from my study abroad in Tajikistan, I have recently had to move back in with my parents. This is something I did not anticipate for myself. Although, I love spending time with my parents, I miss the freedom I had living in my apartment, taking care of, and thinking only for myself. With that on my mind, and with corona causing me to spend time with my parents like I never had before, the topic for this blog post was obvious- the average Tajik family living situation.

Imagine never moving out of your parent’s house. That is the reality for most Tajiks. In this gender-based tradition, the boys grow up in their home with their parents and siblings, and after they get married, their wives will move into the home with them. It is custom that they will continue living there even after they have children. Then, their children will grow up in the house, and the cycle will continue on with them.

During my time in Tajikistan, I was able to see this custom up close. My host parents had four children, however, they only had one son. All three of the daughters were married with children, and although they made frequent visits to the house, none of them lived at home. My host brother got married during the second month I was living with them, and I got to experience the drastic change of a new person living in the household. Tajik culture is very different from American culture, and my host mother had never met her daughter- in- law until the night she moved in with us. However, my host family adjusted quickly, with no problems, and I could tell my host mother enjoyed having another person around to help with cooking and cleaning. Around the time I left, my host brother’s wife was telling me how excited she was for children. I hope that when I return to the country I will be able to meet their children, who I am sure will continue the tradition when they get married themselves.

This living situation was unlike the one I had with my previous host family in 2016. In 2016, I lived with my host father and mother and their two young children. However, my host father had a brother who also lived in the house with his wife and two children. It was incredibly interesting to see the children being raised as if they were siblings rather than cousins, and to see both sets of parents raise the other’s children as if they were their own.

In my opinion, this custom shows the differences between the US and Tajikistan regarding the “family unit.” In the US, children leave their parents’ house for college, love, job opportunities, and more. Yet, in Tajikistan, that rarely happens. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a group of approximately 20 Tajik college students I taught English to. When asked if they would ever leave their country for a job, not a single one of them said they would., and they all cited their family as the reason. In Tajikistan, family is the most important thing. Customs like children never moving out may seem bizarre to Americans, but to Tajiks, it is a privilege.

By: Sydney Martin

Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Term: Spring 2020

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