Ask the Yangxifu: How to impress your Chinese boyfriend's (or girlfriend's) family during Chinese New Year | Speaking of China

34 Responses

  1. Roueen
    Roueen January 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm | | Reply

    really interested to this post, this will help me in future, once I will live in china !!!

  2. melanie gao
    melanie gao January 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm | | Reply

    Such great advice! I wish I had known you 14 years ago when I first met my husband’s parents.

    If I were to add one tip here, I would encourage Kelley to eat a lot at her boyfriend’s parents’ house. And if they encourage her to have more, even if she’s full, she should take just one more bite. Sure, she’ll gain weight but she’ll gain their affection too.

    Oh, and be sure to express your amazement at the fireworks! That will come naturally though, no need to try to remember that one. I love love love the fireworks at Chinese New Year.

  3. Kelley
    Kelley January 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm | | Reply

    Thanks so much for answering my question! After reading your post, I feel so much more relieved and less nervous about the holiday.

    Melanie, thanks for the advice too. Guessing I should bring my baggy pants if I’m going to be eating a lot to impress the in-laws!

  4. Jessica
    Jessica January 25, 2010 at 10:59 am | | Reply

    Oh yeah, eat a lot, and praise the food.
    Can I add a few?
    I would refrain from drinking. No doubt you’ll be offered drinks, probably by the male members of the family. You’ll earn brownie points with the women though if you refuse. While my BILs (and my nephew now that he’s graduated from college and officially considered an adult) start with the baijiu at the first meal of the day, I’ve never seen my SILs drink. Follow the lead of the other women, and if they aren’t drinking, claim you don’t drink. Use the phrase “can’t,” as in “wo bu hui he jiu,” which will give the impression that you’re not a habitual drinker. I think this is especially important for a potential foreign daughter in law because there is probably some expectation that as foreign women we’re a bit wild, and you want to show them that you’re as capable of restraint as Chinese women. If you were a simple guest it would be fine to drink, but they’re going to be watching your every move as a potential DIL.

    Also, offer to help. After dinner you can try and, for example, clear the table. Of course they won’t let you, but they’ll remember the gesture. If you were a Chinese daughter in law living with mother and father in law, especially in the village, this would eventually end up being your job. If you go out at all or are ever in the presence of a teapot, pour tea for everyone, starting with the oldest people and working your way down, pouring for yourself last.

    Make an effort with the mandarin, even if your Chinese is awful, and laugh at yourself along with them to show that you have a good humor and are sincerely trying to learn.

    Basically you want to make an impression that says you’re not here to upset the order of things or corrupt their son with your Western ways. That you respect them and defer to them. Even if none of this is true, this is the message you want to send. It may seem fake and a lot of it might really clash with what we’ve been taught about being independent and strong women, but it is really integral that you get on your potential in-law’s good side because they do have the ability to really mess up your relationship, if not prevent it all together. A Chinese guy (or girl) can love you with all his heart, but if his parents forbid him to marry you he will have a very hard time outright defying them. So playing things on the conservative side is, imo, best.

    Gosh, hope I didn’t write too much there Jocelyn!

  5. Jessica
    Jessica January 29, 2010 at 12:59 am | | Reply

    See, I don’t have inlaws (I think I’ve mentioned before that they passed on), but I still reign myself in a bit when we’re back in the village with the SILs. At this point it isn’t about gaining approval honestly, but more about not causing anyone to lose face or, I hate to say, perpetuating negative stereotypes about foreign women. There’s a time and a place for everything, afterall! 😉

  6. Hao Hao Report January 29, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  7. Louieman
    Louieman January 30, 2010 at 3:56 am | | Reply

    I don’t think Kelley realizes that from the moment she meets the family onward the relationship is steaming directly toward marriage. Read – “she’s been here for a couple of months and now she’s considering marrying someone.” Kelley, sweetie I hope you are reading this and can appreciate what this relationship may mean to the family.
    Maybe she’ll do something to offend the parents and they’ll pressure him to break it off. If so, then he’ll likely not do so until he has a replacement for her. The second part is just conjecture, though.
    I don’t mean it to sound so harsh but that’s how breakups happen.

  8. Charlie
    Charlie February 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm | | Reply

    Helpful stuff!

  9. Tiffany Huang
    Tiffany Huang February 15, 2010 at 8:07 pm | | Reply

    Thank you for your advice. I have met my boyfriends parents and they love me but, i’m trying so hard to keep myself on the empressing side. Now I can take it a little easy. My boyfriend and I are making plans to move in together and looking further into getting married and I do want his familys blessings. My boyfriend looks more onto his sister oppinion. Do you have and advice on how to impress his sister? She likes me already but, I know there is something more I can do.

  10. soyeahiknow
    soyeahiknow June 8, 2010 at 11:18 am | | Reply

    I know this post is old, but I have some advice.

    Yes, you have impressed the parents now, but it is equally important to impress the aunts.

    oh man, most chinese live close to each other so the extended family is HUGE. The Aunts will gossip like crazy. And they will criticize everything. What I would do is not piss any of them off, obviously and then try to win the one who seems the loudest on your side. Usually, they tend to be the middle aunt. Because when you come up, the loudest will advocate for you. Think of it as almost like a rowdy town election. ( one of my cousin didn’t marry this one girl because a couple of my aunts were against it. His mom was fine with it but the aunts totally swayed them the other way)

    Also, this is stupid and old fashion, but do not reveal anything bad in your family. First of all, it is not their business and second of all, it will hurt you. So what I mean are things like “your parents, brother, sister, aunt, uncle blah blah getting divorced” because they will think “oh she grew up in that environment, she will most likely do the same if she marries our son. ”

    And dont talk about ANY disease in your family. Big no-no’s are any genetic diseases, and unusual deaths.

    * I am Chinese, and I am dating a white american.

  11. Laura
    Laura March 12, 2013 at 4:56 am | | Reply

    My insights:
    Gifts – We bring some wine, something from my home, and some small gift in red.

    Pictures – Should we do that! Even a nice album with the pictures with them from last year.

    Don’t talk about your relationship with his family— Seems like love is a key topic for his family!

    Don’t talk about where you might live in the future – We don´t start the topic but his family do. In fact they are not negative about it, he has a sister with 2 sons maybe that´s why. They always say they are happy cause he is traveling. Though his aunt was crying without even asking that the first time, her son is married to a woman from another province and she said they only see each other every 3 years. When I told her I see mine at least 2-3 times a year she was happy.
    Bring a nice, new outfit to wear – Last time they asked a lot about all my clothes. They could not believe that most part of them were bought in Shanghai. So now I say, yes is from Europe.

  12. Shannah
    Shannah August 6, 2013 at 5:06 am | | Reply

    I am currently seeing/dating a Chinese man. I am a mixed race. My mother is Jamaican and my father East Indian. I had always had this stereo type in my mind that Chinese men don’t date or are even attracted to chocolate skinned women. I asked him and he said, beauty is in everyone, not measured by the colour of their skin.

    Though it’s been so new for us, I am so taken by him. He is exceptional in every way. And though we are new to each other, I can sense there is such goodness in him. His values not like any I’ve seen in any other man. I really like him a lot and I would love some ideas on how I can ensure to keep him interested and let him see that I have good intentions for us.

    Now my question comes at the fact that he has 3 brothers…do I try to impress his older brother or all of them? I really like him but I’m so afraid I may push him away. My culture has always taught me to be strong and independent. I have to admit though, that I have no issue taking a step back and allowing him to do what comes natural to him.

    I just need some tips, as the pace that we are going, I don’t believe that he’s the kind of man that is looking for the next thing for the moment, in fact he has much emphasis that that is not what he’s about.

    Thanks for your help in advance.

  13. Michael
    Michael December 15, 2013 at 4:49 am | | Reply

    I know this is an old post and I may not get a reply but I met my girlfriend through QQ and we have been together for 5 months now. It is fantastic, we really love each other, I have started learning Mandarin (您好), we video chat every day and I am going to visit her when I graduate from university in July. She really wants me to meet her parents and honestly I can’t wait (even though they were less than thrilled to find out their 25 year old daughter is going out with a foreigner) but no matter what happens I am not giving up. This post was a great help to me to get some general ideas of how to behave and what to expect, so from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

  14. CTse
    CTse January 19, 2014 at 2:11 am | | Reply

    Quite a comprehensive site and I’m going to have to read more of it. 🙂 I’m the Chinese girlfriend in this case, and I feel it’s very lucky to be invited over for Chinese New Year — there must be a measure of curiosity to the gesture and a willingness to welcome you into the family even if they still feel the need to scope you out. My parents seem to have been in a state of denial for 1.5 years and say there’s no reason to meet my boyfriend because ‘he’s just a friend, we don’t need to meet all your friends’, therefore inviting him over is out of the question. With the coming new year I was just triple checking that gifts we plan won’t further just encourage their negativity (exactly what you said about Western partners being ‘easy’ and ‘seducers’ etc), and thanks for the insight.

  15. Brian Santiago
    Brian Santiago August 19, 2015 at 11:08 pm | | Reply

    Hi. My name is Brian Santiago. I am a latino from America and I am currently dating a chinese woman. This is a huge complicated mess…We first met 4 years ago when she came to america to do some work study program for her school. We worked together and fell in love. After she left we continued long distance for 8 months then her friends persuaded her that because im american i will cheat on her. So she left me. After that, once a year for about a month she would talk to me and try to persuade me to go to china. I always told her no until october 16th of 2014. I told her i will go. So then we started talking more and started a long distance relationship. The complicated part is that after 10 months she finally confessed to me that shes been lying to me all this time. She started dating someone a year after she broke up with me and said the last time they talked was in may of 2014. It turns out that they are living in the same dorm in england. She told me she treats him like a stranger but she had to do that because she didnt have enough money to afford her own dorm. Anyways, I kno she loves me and i love her. At first, when she told her grandmother about me she liked me. She always liked me since i first talked to her over the phone in 2011. But now she started to hate me and all of her family is telling her to not be with me. So now she is pushing me away and says that its because shes a weak woman that she cant go against her grandmother and the rest of the family. They believe strongly in the american sterotypes and think i will take her away from china even though i already agreed that ill live out the rest of my life there. My question is, what can i do to impress her grandmother the most? I’ve tried telling my gf that ill do anything and to ask the parents for requirements that i should do. So far this is more of a money issue. I can be considered wealthy to chinese standards but im still not accepted. I was told i need to buy a home, lose weight, become police over here, get my school degree, and show that i will love in china and not take her away. Yet they wont give me the chance to prove myself. They pressured her to break up with me and now she is pushing me away and she told me that if her grandmother tells her to date another boy then she will. I am completely in love with her that i cant even think properly. How can i get her to fight for me and how can i impress her family but mainly her grandmother?

    1. Michael
      Michael August 19, 2015 at 11:21 pm | | Reply

      Hey Brian,

      Sadly this can be a common occurrence, in terms of money and housing and weight and all kinds of stuff; I have been there. There is a general stereotype out there that all westerners will cheat and be disloyal the people they love and the only reason as to this is because we are portrayed like that through media and many older generations take that to heart without doing the research to find out otherwise.

      The lying was terrible and atrocious in all honesty and should never have been done, before you do anything get all the facts straight with her and make a list; stuff you need to do, stuff that is possible now and stuff that is possible in the future. If you have trust issues with her then get it all out on the table, make sure you know everything; i’m sorry to say but if she lied once then she will probably do it again. Try to speak with this stranger and understand what is going on.

      As for the grandmother, more often than not she would want security for her grandaughter and a person to provide. Go over to china and see them, meet the family and prove to them that you are a person that is loyal and will never ever hurt the person you love, show that you are strong, can provide and at the very least know some chinese (cantonese or mandarin) and speak with the grandmother to get your point across.

      It is difficult and long and stressful and annoying; I know buddy but you have to do it, prove to them all, not just her, but to everyone that you are loyal and can provide for absolutely everyone.

      I hope all goes well buddy

  16. Brian Santiago
    Brian Santiago August 20, 2015 at 12:48 am | | Reply

    I’d like to thank Michael and Jocelyn for your responses. It has definitely made me more confident. I have another question if you don’t mind. Would it be wise to bring my own parents to China to also join in the meeting with her family as a way to show i’m serious?

    1. Michael
      Michael August 20, 2015 at 12:55 am | | Reply

      I would say you go over first (just from personal experience) and then get everyone together and do a video call between everyone there and your parents and do some translating if they do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese.

      If they do speak it however then you can bring them to show that it you are determined and willing to go the extra mile for them. Just make sure you ‘ok’ it with your girlfriend first.

      All the best buddy

  17. A.C.
    A.C. January 11, 2016 at 1:23 am | | Reply

    jocelyn……please help me!! i been with this chinese girl since 2013,we were always together for the first 6 mos, i fell in love hard and i still love her very much, but after those months she change,she would only see me once a week which is hard on a relationship,i want to marry her,i gave her everything she needed ,she broke of the relationship, but wants to be friends which is hard due to our crossing the line,she wants to travel with me as we are together right now as friends as she sees it, she’s 34 and i’m 30 years older but that never bothered her….she wants to be free and go out with her friends and go away with friends and guys but only as friends,she is a very beautigul lady and i love her so much, all i want is for to love me like before aleast try….please help….lonely guy in love

  18. Ken Erickson
    Ken Erickson January 27, 2016 at 10:28 am | | Reply

    Great advice! It applies just as well, with an extra dose of no-PDA, for gay men meeting the parents of their Chinese future husband or present boyfriend. Some of the family will hate the idea but they are likely the same ones that complain about everything, anyway. Having a good job, and the possibility of a family member spending some time in America, softened the weird blow of the gay thing. By the way, American Ginsing is highly prized in China–I won points with that with my first Chinese boyfriend back in 2005. Don’t be first to dig into the bowl of lotus root and pork soup (my WuHan favorite), don’t snatch the most delicious bite, and let someone else take the last yummy piece. And remember that if this is stressful for you, imagine what your partner is going through, bringing home a Laowai!

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