I’m Sorry asks:
My college age daughter is in new but fairly serious relationship with a sweet young Chinese man here in the US. I’m concerned because they have not yet told his parents of the relationship. I questioned him about this omission he has stated that he will tell them but in his own time and in his own way. I then asked (perhaps a little too bluntly) if he felt his parents (who are very traditional) might have issues with him dating a non-Asian woman with divorced parents. As soon as I asked the question, I tried to apologize realizing that I had offended him. He denies this of course, being the soul of politeness, but I can tell that he was somewhat taken aback by my bluntness in addressing the issue. I would like to offer an apology in a more formal way and some sort of gift to express my remorse and embarrassment. What would be appropriate way to do this and what could I give as a gift to smooth things over? Thank you.
I applaud your desire to apologize and make amends with this young man. It takes a lot of courage to admit you’re wrong, and even more to do it publicly.
You could get a gift, perhaps asking your daughter what he likes. But why not consider inviting him to dinner instead?
In China, people forge friendships, cement business deals, and even make amends by inviting people out to dinner. Dinner brings people closer together — especially if you do it Chinese-style and share dishes. And it’s not uncommon for people to make speeches or toasts at a dinner, to let someone know how you feel — such as a toast to friendship, or a short speech expressing gratitude. A dinner might be just the thing to build a better relationship with him, and show you care.
Find out from your daughter what restaurant (or type of food) he likes, and then arrange an evening out. It doesn’t have to be a Chinese restaurant or even the most expensive place in town — just as long as it’s nice enough to make it a treat.
When you’re there, make a simple apology, letting him know you’re sorry, but without dwelling on the issue. And then follow it up with something positive. Make a toast to friendship, as many in China do. Perhaps you can even ask him to teach you more about his country, and culture (if my husband is any measure, anytime someone asks him about China, he is thrilled to tell all about it, and teach anyone who wants to learn).
But actions say so much more than words in China, especially when it comes to a dinner out. Suggest appetizers, and encourage people to order more, and even have dessert — even if it means you’ll end up with leftovers. Abundance at the table is a great way to show goodwill. If he likes to drink wine, for example, order a nice bottle for the table. He may try to be polite and complain that there is too much food and drink. He might even protest when you go to pay the bill. But, in fact, he’ll appreciate it more if you’re persistent, as the Chinese are about dinners like this. So, order that extra food anyway and, of course, don’t even let him think of paying the bill. 😉
What do you think? What advice would you give?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.