Apologizing to Daughter's Chinese Boyfriend | Speaking of China

7 Responses

  1. Jessica
    Jessica July 9, 2010 at 6:58 am | | Reply

    Personally, I’d invite them out to dinner and make it clear you’re cool with everything, but I wouldn’t mention the matter specifically again or make a deal out of apologizing.

    Culturally, the Chinese aren’t very big on apologies. They’re more the sort to just get over things and pretend that nothing ever happened. For example, I got into a fight with my niece, who is working in my house as our au-pair, recently. She was clearly in the wrong, but I said some harsh things to her as well and immediately felt bad. I wanted to apologize but my husband insisted that I shouldn’t apologize to her, nor should she apologize to me. The next day he said something to her like “forget it, we’re all family” and let it be. She sort of sulked for the rest of the afternoon and then by the evening it was as if nothing had ever happened. It was sort of frustrating for me, being an American, being used to having it out, speaking my mind, perhaps even having an argument but eventually exchanging I’m sorries and coming to an understanding, but Chinese people just aren’t really like that, they’re actually somewhat uncomfortable with big apologetic gestures and, like Jocelyn says, are firm believers in “actions speak louder than words.”

    He also might not really be as offended as you think. I find that here in China lots of people assume that my parents would have an issue with me marrying a Chinese person, and are surprised when I tell them that my parents were completely supportive. Implying that someone’s parents might be traditional or not so open minded isn’t really an insult here like it might be back home. Perhaps the question simply made him uncomfortable, rather than offended?

  2. George
    George July 9, 2010 at 9:43 am | | Reply

    “I find that here in China lots of people assume that my parents would have an issue with me marrying a Chinese person, and are surprised when I tell them that my parents were completely supportive.”

    Lot of folks here in the US might think that and at least 75% of the time they may be right, especially if you come from some southern state or Arizona for that matter! I think Melanie Gao talked about this somewhere else.

  3. Garrison Qi
    Garrison Qi July 11, 2010 at 4:18 am | | Reply

    Hey Yangxifu,

    It’s been lots of fun reading your blog. I have just started writing a little column on Shanghaiexpat.comhttp://www.shanghaiexpat.com/phpbbforum/triple-your-date-with-western-women-t112103.html

    I’d very much like to hear your thoughts and opinions as you have experience with intercultural relations.

    And I think you made some great suggestions to this mother, which shows your cultural insight and a truly caring person.



  4. jackie
    jackie July 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm | | Reply

    I like Jocelyn’s advice here. I just wanted to comment about the reasons why the boyfriend is hesitant about telling his parents about their relationship. When I was dating my husband, I expected that he would tell his parents right away because after all his mom had been hounding him about getting a girlfriend. But he told me that if he told them he had a girlfriend, in their minds he would be essentially telling them that he was going to marry me. So he didn’t end up telling them until we were practically engaged. Now I understand that not telling parents about a relationship until it has become very serious is common and nothing to worry about. Parents in China are especially anxious for their kids to get married, so he wouldn’t want to get their hopes up when if the relationship hasn’t gotten to the stage where marriage is being seriously considered. So he will tell his parents in due time.

  5. melanie gao
    melanie gao August 13, 2010 at 1:17 am | | Reply

    I can completely understand why this mom would ask the questions that she did. I think they’re normal questions that any Western family member would ask.

    She thinks it’s strange he’s not telling his family about the relationship, and he thinks it’s strange that she’s asking about it directly. This is the way it is often in cross-cultural relationships.

    But rather than getting into a being hurt and apologizing, I think it’s better to talk openly about what’s going on. The mom can talk about her concerns and the boyfriend can talk about his family dynamics. Everyone learns a little more about each other and about how to communicate with each other.

    Ideally they’ll find a way for the mom to talk about what’s on her mind AND avoid hurting the boyfriend’s feelings. If this relationship leads to marriage, they’re going to need that.

  6. melanie gao
    melanie gao August 13, 2010 at 1:25 am | | Reply

    BTW did George seriously say my name up there? That is so cool. 🙂

    Yeah, Alabama has come a long way since the ’60s but there’s still a long way to go yet.

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