Is your cultural background causing you problems?

Is your family from a culture that is different?

Are you having a rough time because of it?

There are a whole lot of reasons it might be hard if your family background is culturally and religiously different. You might have only just arrived in the country, been here a couple of years, or were born here. You might be here seeking asylum with your family, part of your family or on your own and your future is very uncertain. Maybe you are only here to study, or for a while if a parent is working here.

If you come from a family or background which is different because of culture or religion and you're lucky, this makes life more interesting, but not difficult. You get the best of both worlds with living in the UK but enriched by another culture as well. Hopefully this makes you happy, well adjusted and tolerant and lets you get on with your life with no more to worry about than an average teenager, and your family are content to let you make your own choices in life.

But a different culture or religion might be the very thing which is giving you a rough time. That's generally for one of two reasons.

Happy to follow tradition?

If you want to follow your culture or religion even though it is different in the UK, you should be allowed to do so (unless you are doing anything which is breaking the law in this country). If you find that you are being bullied or discriminated against because you are different, don't let the resentment build up but get some help. Find out how to deal with bullying and what the law says about discrimination. If you are having trouble with immigration, asylum, or discrimination, or want to report a hate crime, Peterborough Racial Equality Centre can help you with information and advice. You can also get advice from Citizens' Advice or talk to any of the other places who will listen if you just want to talk. The Muslim Youth Helpline are there to listen and to help you without judging you.

People may pick on you or avoid you out of fear or ignorance. Learn how to avoid peer pressure, look after your self esteem and the best ways of being a friend. If you can find people who are open and friendly and interested in the same things as you, you may find yourself in a varied and interesting community rather than feeling you have to stay inside your family or community all the time. If you can't find opportunities to mix in a multicultural setting, ask your local temple or mosque or community centre about activities for young people. Either way, at least you will feel secure and supported by your family and in your home.

Want to break away and do your own thing?

GTRT isn't about disrespecting anyone's beliefs or culture or passing judgement. We just want you to get the help you need to get on with your life in safety and in good mental health, whether your family support you or not.

Wanting to do your own thing might just cause a few rows and a bit of tension, or it might get really bad. Try talking it through with your family, respected community or religious elders to see if you can get them to accept your point of view or at least agree to differ. It's not unusual for all kids to rebel against their parents to some degree, and all families disagree sometimes whether or not the cause of arguments is the culture or tradition of your family and heritage. You might find it worthwhile to try some kind of family mediation if you can't resolve it yourselves. 

But if your family aren't flexible and want to impose standards on you when you want to change, move on, live your own life the way you want, things might get a little rough or even dangerous for you. In which case you need to know where to get help and advice since you're not getting any at home.                                                                  

 You may come from a home where there are standards expected of you which come from a culture or religion which you don't want to be part of. You may be made to observe habits and dress which you don't want or stopped from looking or behaving how you would choose.

Do you have a social life and freedom to make your own friends? Or are you feeling lonely or isolated, and not allowed out or to make friends? If you are having issues over being in a mixed race, religion or caste relationship, checkout Mix Together where you can share experiences and meet new friends who have also been through this. If it's already too late and your family have disowned you for stepping outside their boundaries, contact Simran's Link to find other people who are also outcasts - and your new friends!

If it gets threatening or violent, call 999. Abuse and violence are against the law whatever your family think is justified. You do not have to put up with it and there are people to help you.   

What might happen to you against your will?

If you come from a family who are already very strict you will know what is likely to happen. But if you don't, you might not realise what the dangers are for you or a friend or relative.

 The main issues are forced marriage (which is different to an arranged marriage) and so-called honour based violence and abuse.

Here is the definition of forced marriage from the website :
"A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used."

"The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor."

Karma Nirvana explain the difference : "An arranged marriage is very different from a forced marriage. A marriage in which families take a leading role, but the parties have the free will and choice to accept or decline the arrangement.
Unlike in forced marriages, in an arranged marriage both the bride and groom choose whether or not they want to marry the person suggested to them by their families.
Crucially, the decision to marry always remains with the couple. It is a free and voluntary decision that can be unmade at any time, without consequence."

If you have already been a victim, or are afraid that you are going to be forcibly married in the UK or abroad, or taken abroad for that purpose, you can get advice on how to escape if necessary and where to go to be safe. It doesn't matter whether you are a boy or a girl, a young man or a young woman, whether you are straight or gay, or disabled. In fact if you are gay or disabled you may be even more likely to be the victim of a forced marriage or violence. Your family may believe that your disability means you should be grateful if anyone is willing to marry you and if you are gay, that marrying will remove the potential embarrassment of anyone realising. Read the story of Jack, who is gay and of Nina who is in a wheelchair and whose families tried to force them to marry.

Forcible marriage is against the law and the courts can issue an order protecting you. Find out how from the leaflet by Karma Nirvana telling you what it is and how to get one. If you are already abroad they can help get you back to the UK. There are refuges where you can be safe and not have to return home. There are organisations where the people you can talk to have been through this themselves and where you can be reassured that you have done nothing wrong and that you are not the only one, people who don't ask why your family is like this but who know and understand.

Honour-based abuse, violence and killing

Karma Nirvana explain what this is : "Honour-based abuse is an incident or crime carried out to protect or defend the honour or ‘izzat’ of the family or community. It is usually carried out by immediate family members with the complicit help of relatives and the wider community."
"If a victim is deemed to be too ‘Westernised’ they may be subjected to a campaign of terror which can include verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual or physical abuse."
"This goes on until the victim gives up Western behaviours and submits to the expectations of family and community. In extreme cases families will carry out an ‘honour killing’ to restore their family honour or ‘izzat’."

If your family disapprove and oppose you enough, it is not uncommon for so called honour based violence to be their next resort. It may be because you have refused a forced marriage or chosen your own partner, dressed or behaved in a western way. You may be abused verbally or blackmailed, made to feel guilty or embarrassed, kept a virtual prisoner, denied access to phones or internet and money, physically assaulted and in extreme cases even killed.

For all cases of abuse including forced marriage, Karma Nirvana have a 24-hour helpline and can get you to safety. They support ALL victims of forced marriage or honour violence and take an uncompromising stand. They declare "At Karma Nirvana, we have one clear aim: to stop the scandal of forced marriage and honour-based violence. No apologies. No excuses. No backing down. If you’re here to tell us that we can please all cultures without causing the slightest bit of offence - well, frankly, you’ve come to the wrong place". And they never ever talk to your family or friends because they are completely on YOUR side.

Forced is a really good one stop shop website with everything you might want to know or ask about forced marriage and how to get help for yourself or someone you are worried about.

Asha Forced Marriage also have information and survivor stories.  

Female Genital Mutilation

The site explains "Female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the UK - it’s also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM or to help someone trying to do this."
"FGM is any procedure that’s designed to alter or injure a girl’s (or woman’s) genital organs for non-medical reasons. It’s sometimes known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘female genital cutting’. It’s mostly carried out on young girls." 
If you know of a girl or woman in danger in the Uk you should call the police. If she has been taken out of the country you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office  020 7008 1500 or from overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 1500.  FORWARD (The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development) tell you what to do and how to help even if you think it has already happened.

Abuse is abuse wherever you come from

If you or someone you know is being abused at home in the ways we have described, get some help. Domestic violence and abuse is exactly that no matter what reason your abuse thinks he or she has.

Ask for immediate help and protection from so called honour violence or killing, forced marriage or being taken out of the UK against your will. If you are afraid of this happening to you or someone you know, or if you or someone else is being abused at home, don't keep quiet. The law is there to protect you wherever you came from.

Never take chances if things are getting nasty, phone 999 in an emergency, or get out and get help from the people who specialise in protecting victims of this kind of abuse. The Forced Marriage Unit can be contacted on 020 7008 0151 and the Foreign Office Response Centre on 020 7008 1500. You can call an organisation which specialises in helping people from South East Asia in their own languages if you prefer : Aanchal, Asha, IKWRO, Karma Nirvana, to name some of them.

Women's Aid, the Women's Refuge and the National Domestic Violence hotline are there to help you. Find out where else to go for help on our Domestic violence and abuse page,  and you can report crime anonymously through Fearless or Crimestoppers and your call cannot be traced.

You can also get help from culturally sensitive sources like the Muslim Youth Helpline, who are there to help young Muslims of both sexes with whatever rough times they have, with a unique insight into their culture which stops many from approaching traditional help agencies in the UK for fear of discrimination, judgement and lack of understanding.


If you think you or someone you know has been brought to this country or taken out of it solely for the purposes of a forced marriage, or has been forced into work or prostitution for instance, this is "trafficking" and basically no better than slavery. The government takes this seriously. You can report crime anonymously through Fearless or Crimestoppers and your call cannot be traced. There are specific government and police provisions for dealing with this serious crime through the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). To be referred to them you must first go through "first repsonse agencies". They can offer you immediate help and advice as well as make the referral.

Call the NSPCC for help 0808 800 5000 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm. The Salvation Army, The NSPCC, Barnado's, Local authority children's services, and others can also help and make referrals.

Unseen is a charity with a website where you can find out more about what is being done to tackle trafficking. 

 This Childline video is about losing control and being trafficked:

If you think it isn't happening, you're very wrong.

If you think none of this could happen near you, wake up and take off your blinkers : the Blue Blindfold website tells you how to spot the signs and what to do about it.

In Dec 2011 IKWRO published the statement that there were nearly 3000 cases of honour based violence reported every year in the UK and the number is rising.

According to the site, "In 2012 the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1485 cases involving 60 different countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America last year. Of the 744 cases where the age was known, over 600 of those involved were young people under the age of 26. Latest statistics from the Forced Marriage Unit suggest young people aged between 16 and 25 are most at risk of being forced into marriage."

But people are surviving and making new lives. Read about some survivors here from Karma Nirvana.  

Are your problems more practical ones?

Have you or someone you know got problems understanding, speaking and writing English because your family don't know much of the language? Clearly anyone struggling with the language probably won't be reading this - but did you know it has a translate button with a choice of quite a few languages? Be a friend and tell them about it. Other websites may have a similar online translation available if you look for them. There are interpreters available for many general services such as local councils but it is always best to ask ahead of an appointment to give them time to arrange this if they can. Services listed in our online directory also have details of languages spoken at that service where we have been able to find them.

Maybe you or someone you know has not been here very long and are finding it hard to settle. There are various community centres for people of other ethnic origins and faiths where people who have settled here will be able to help their own community. The YMCA  are one of the organisations making efforts to help people integrate with their Reaching Communities project. If you are a student you should be able to get help through your university.

It could even be that you, or someone you know, feel so completely alienated from UK society and get drawn into a gang. Get some tips from the GTRT Gangs page and Watch this documentary from Rageh Omaar about Somali boy gangs in the UK :

Is school a problem? Are you struggling at school because of culture or language, being picked on or discriminated against? Talk to your tutor, a friendly teacher or your school counsellor. Maybe all you need is more help with your language skills or to make new friends, and if they realise this they can help you.

Are you forced to go to a particular school because of your family's religious beliefs and they don't want you to integrate into normal schools? Are you under pressure to do well just to please your parents, or discouraged from studying because they lack education themselves and don't value it? Get some tips from our page about being in education. Is your choice of future employment going to be dictated to you or limited by your parents, or can you be who and what you want? You may want extra advice or support if they are trying to squeeze you into a mould they have chosen for you. It's your life and you should choose without feeling guilty or made to feel you are letting your family down.  

If you are here seeking asylum or as refugees, or only here temporarily take a look at where you live for some more help. The site has advice on immigration and you can ask for help from the Peterborough Racial Equality Council. 
Refugee Action can provide advice to other migrants and asylum seekers:  0808 800 0007  
If you or your family have come from another European country, are struggling in the UK and might prefer to go home, see: They may be able to help you relocate. 
If you are old enough to have come here to work and your employer is treated you like a slave you need help. There may be a migrant workers association for your nationality or area, and Kalayaan may be able to advise or help you. If you are here legally then you have the same rights as anyone else. Check out your employment rights, the site or Citizens Advice.

Travelling families

Are you always on the move so you never get a chance to settle anywhere or make connections outside you family or community? If your family is on the move, Gypsy or Traveller, you might not get settled long enough to be part of anything or get an education. The Ormiston Trust Gypsy and Traveller Families service can help you and your family get what you need without losing your identity.

Living in a multicultural society offers wonderful opportunities to learn and share but also the possibility for ignorance and prejudice. The best possible way of stopping prejudice is to get involved in ways to help each other understand your respective ways of behaving and thinking. Fear and ignorance are usually what breed unfriendly or nasty behaviour. Children and young people are much more likely to learn tolerance from each other if they are allowed to mix freely. If you make an effort, maybe so will they. Being a friend is a good way to get friends. You are entitled to respect despite your differences but it helps if you are seen to give respect to people who are different to you!

The message is that every person in the country has a place and a purpose and it is much more pleasant to find it and fit in. Despite the difficulties at times, you need to be yourself - whoever that is.

The page was last updated on 09 March 2018 by pcouch.

explore a guide to rough times

Contact our PALS team

need help, fast?

find out who to contact in a crisis

What's your problem?

what's making things rough?

explore the issues affecting your emotional and physical wellbeing

Get a life

enhance your life

find out how to boost your self esteem, relax and recharge

My liked pages

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust,Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital,Cambridge, CB21 5EF,T 01223 726789