Royal Pharmaceutical Society

A South Asian pharmacist living in British Culture

By Gurinder Singh

Coming from a South Asian background most definitely has its joys. Known for its food and vibrant culture we enjoy religious festivals throughout the year and big fat Indian weddings in the summer months. But alongside this, we are expected to hold well paid professional jobs, live in multi-generation households looking after parents and historically the male is expected to be the primary source of income. Very quickly you begin to see the responsibility being placed on a young South Asian living within British culture.

I remember my elder sister being spoken to by my uncle, the only one who had gone to university in his generation, during A-levels. This was when my sister had the tiniest of thoughts of doing something healthcare related at university. To this day I am grateful for that conversation, as I followed in her footsteps and here I am loving every bit pharmacy has had to offer. In my uncle’s words, “pharmacy will give you a stable income without having to impress clients with dinners and go out for drinks to win contracts. Jobs are available locally without the need to travel far and you are back home in good time for dinner with the family.”

However, what happens when both husband and wife have the same career and are as passionate as each other to grow in their profession? Who looks after the kids? Who does the housework? Even now in our culture, people assume the wife will give up her career and look after the kids.

When my eldest was born this is what happened – we followed the norm that we had seen whilst growing up. But quickly we realised this was not going to work. My wife had studied for 5 years just like myself and came into pharmacy because of her passion for healthcare. Something had to give. When my eldest turned one I reduced my hours when our second was born I reduced my hours further.

This was difficult in a culture where the male is meant to be the hard working one.  Had my employers forced me out? Was I struggling to get a job? Was I being lazy? These were some of the things I had to put up with from those in our Asian culture. It wasn’t easy changing our ways of working – striking that balance where we can both hold down a career and spend time with our two beautiful daughters.

Seeing the bond I have with my youngest now I would not change it for anyone!

PS. My wife still ends up doing the majority of cooking as mine tastes no where as good as hers. 😊

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.


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