4 Habits I’ve Learned from my Chinese Husband

Everyone always say marriage changes you. Well, when you marry someone from another culture and country – like I have – you’re bound to change in ways you never would have expected growing up, picking up some of your foreign spouse’s new habits.

What habits have I learned from living all these years with John, my Chinese husband? Here are four of my favorites:

P.S.: This post was first inspired by a question posted on the AMWF Facebook Group Ichiro & Juliet, run by Ranier Maningding (who is also the guy behind The Love Life of an Asian Guy, one of my favorite blogs).

Drinking loose-leaf tea

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Some of my fondest childhood memories include watching my mother bob her teabag up and down in her cup before taking a sip. She introduced me to Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, chamomile, peppermint and many other fine brews, the tea leaves or herbal blends always neatly wrapped in permeable bags. After all, who would want stray leaves floating around in your a teacup?

Or so I thought, until I arrived in China.

I’ll never forget the first time someone thrust a paper cup of hot steaming tea into my hands, the tea leaves drifting around without a single thing to keep them in place. I stared awkwardly at it, wondering how in the world I was going to drink without swallowing a leaf or having one end up plastered to my front teeth. Could anyone enjoy a cup of tea this way?

Years later, when John moved into my heart and life, he brought along his joy of drinking loose-leaf green tea. You might say it’s in his DNA – he is, after all, from Hangzhou, an area renowned for its world-famous Dragonwell. He never had a filter stand between him and his green tea leaves, and loved it. And, ultimately, he’s the one who helped me learn how to navigate a hot cup of the brew with loose leaves. (It’s a must-have skill in China, where people are always welcoming me with hot cups of loose-leaf tea everywhere I go!)

Now, his habits for drinking green tea (letting the tea sit a few minutes so the leaves begin falling to the bottom, blowing on the surface before taking a sip to keep the leaves away from your lips) have become a daily morning ritual for me. And a real pleasure, because the finest of these teas have complex, nuanced flavors that probably you’ll never enjoy from anything in a teabag.

Using toilet seat covers

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It was early in my relationship with John and we were out shopping in Watson’s, a health and beauty care store that’s so ultra-feminine I swear it repels men with its teal signage and bright pink tags all over the store. John came along with me because it was a weekend and shopping together was one of those things we liked to do (even if it meant bringing John into a store he wouldn’t normally visit without me).

So there I was, going through my long list of Watson’s must-haves (including their luxurious papaya-scented body creams), expecting John to just tag along for the ride, when the sight of one simple product made his eyes shine like two silvery 1 yuan coins.

Toilet seat covers.

“We need one of these,” he said. And he was all serious about it, sifting through the packages and many color options (most of them, admittedly, in pastels like baby blue and powder pink).

I was totally stunned. My family never used fabric toilet seat covers, and the few times I actually saw them (usually in an elderly woman’s home, along with lots of other cutesy décor) made me believe that guys usually ran screaming from the idea of putting one on your toilet.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that John had an incredibly smart reason for buying one – to protect our behinds from the shock an extremely cold toilet seat in the cold. After all, we didn’t have heat in our apartment (like most people in China who live South of the Yangtze River), which did actually make the toilet seat pretty frigid (especially at night).

Admittedly, he was also trying to be a gentleman in suggesting a toilet seat cover. Maybe it’s not a typical Hallmark moment, but worrying about your girlfriend’s butt getting too cold when she pees at night is one way to say “I love you” (albeit an unusual one).

So we bought one (in a pastel color – they were all pastels, so what can you do?) and later that night when nature called, that little piece of fabric between the cold seat and my behind made a big difference. I was hooked.

We’ve been buying toilet seat covers here in China ever since, to the point that now I’m the one reminding him we need one!

Of course, last time we shopped for toilet seat covers, John couldn’t help being the gentleman. He refused my suggestion choose the cheaper brand and instead told me to buy the one with the velvety cushion (pictured above). “It’s more comfortable for your butt,” he said. (Nothing but the best for his wife, right down to her behind! 😉 )

Having soup with fried rice

(photo by cm2003 from http://www.dianping.com/photos/3551102/tag)
(photo by cm2003 from http://www.dianping.com/photos/3551102/tag)

Fried rice always struck me as a perfect meal in itself. Who needs anything else?

Or so I thought, until I met John. I’ll never forget that first time I prepared fried rice for him, when he requested a very specific thing on the side. A bowl of soup.

“Why do we need soup?” I was so tired and desperately hungry that evening, the last thing I wanted to do was fix something else in the kitchen.

“Because fried rice is too dry.”

It never before occurred to me that fried rice could be considered dry. That a side of soup might just balance out the meal in a way I never imagined.

That night, I dug out some instant soup from the cabinet and John was all smiles. Over the years, I kept serving it every time fried rice was on the menu, always to please John. Never did I think that, in the end, I’d come to think that fried rice and soup was one of the best combinations ever.

That’s why, last time we had fried rice for dinner, I was already pulling out the soup before the meal even hit the table. There’s something about the flavor of a nice hot soup (especially miso) that makes fried rice even more delicious.

Wearing slippers inside the house

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When I was growing up in America, we weren’t super-strict about taking our shoes off at the door. I often wandered upstairs still wearing my flats or sneakers and we almost never asked our guests to remove their shoes either (unless it was wintertime, where everybody’s boots were caked in wet snow). And when we weren’t wearing shoes, we opted for socks or went barefoot. In fact, I didn’t really use slippers much until I went off to college, and even then they were just your standard flip-flops for showering in the bathroom down the hall.

All that has changed since I married John. He’s from China and, like most people here, grew up with the habit of removing his shoes at the door and changing into a pair of indoor slippers or flip-flops. He likes this, because it keeps the outside dirt from coming into the house – a perfectly reasonable thing to do. (This, off course, makes me cringe a little when I think about all of the dirt I must have tracked around my family home!)

So now I’m an indoor slipper girl who owns multiple pairs of them. Soft, fuzzy slippers with woolen linings for the wintertime, and airy plastic flip-flops for showering and bumming around the house for the rest of the year.

Removing my shoes at the door has practically become second nature to me; I don’t even think about it and I never, ever ask, “Should I remove my shoes?” (which I used to do in America).

I’ve also become strangely adept at landing my feet perfectly into my slippers whenever I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Don’t ask me how I know exactly where they are – call it slipper intuition. 😉

What habits have you learned from your husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend?

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21 thoughts on “4 Habits I’ve Learned from my Chinese Husband

  • January 5, 2015 at 9:21 am
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    I am not entirely sure if I learned this from my husband or from Taiwan in general, but hanging my clothes outside on hangers to dry was a first for me when I arrived in Taiwan. However, I quickly learned that the system works and the clothes dry in no time. Plus, you can’t beat the smell of ‘fresh air’ on your clothes or freshly washed bed sheets!!

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 9:24 am
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    Thanks for another interesting post, Jocelyn. Yours is one of the most interesting China blogs I’ve ever come across, and I go through a lot of them!

    Good tip about the soup+fried rice combo. It is indeed delicious!

    Instead of having soup along with the fried rice, my habit is to always pour soup into the rice. This was actually a frequent trick of the Chinese chefs on the erstwhile Japanese smash-hit cooking show “Iron Chef”. When I first tried it, I instantly realized that they had good reasons to do so. Somehow the combination tastes twice as good as either soup or rice by themselves. I think it has something to do with the liquid allowing your tastebuds to make better contact with the flavor compounds.

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  • January 5, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    I just can’t do toilet seat covers. They gross me out. I had to put up quite a stink to get him to go cover less. He was scared of a cold butt!

    I am all about the slippers. I also have my “outdoor” and “indoor” clothes. Never go on the bed with the outdoor clothes! And of course, long underwire in the winter!

    I’m not a big tea drinker, although I do like it, coffee is still my go-to. I tend to drink warm water in the winter now. It seems strange to me that in the US we drink ice water all year.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 12:56 pm
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    @ R Zhao
    Agree with you about drinking hot/warm water in winter. I have a thermos at work which I drink hot water out of, and when I go out on factory visits I always take it with me. I’m a big fan of hot water and ginger.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 2:44 pm
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    Before I came to United States, I never knew that taking shoes off before going indoor is an East Asia habit.

    I was taught to do this, like you mentioned, to keep the house clean. But I have always been wondering, how come the Korean parents and Japanese parents have exactly the same idea? How do these parents come up with the same idea without even communicating with each other?

    And I also wondered why there is no such habit in America. Maybe it’s because America is very clean? But Japan is also very clean. Well, I don’t know. I guess this is one of those little things that would remain mysterious through out my life. 🙂

    Reply
    • January 5, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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      In Japan and Korea people often sit on the floor in their homes – think of the Japanese tatami floors. You don’t want to sit where you first walked around with dirty shoes – even if it’s just dusty and not other dirt.

      I’m not quite sure how this translates to China. The only thing that comes to mind even closely related to Korean / Japanese habits is the northern Chinese “kang”, which is an elevated big area which can be heated and serves as bed, but also as place to sit together and eat.

      Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 8:05 pm
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    Yes to all!
    In my home we always used slipers so that was a habit for the two of us..but seat covers…T bought one this year for 5rmb, he was super excited. I don´t use it but he does

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 8:47 pm
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    Great piece, gave me a few giggles 🙂

    I agree about the slipper habit, I feel uncomfortable now wearing shoes past the threshold, and my family too have all embraced the guest slippers provided by the door in our house.

    I can’t get on board with the toilet seat cover either! I just feel like with splashes it’ll need to be washed so frequently, or am I doing it wrong??

    Also, yes to hot water! I’ve not quite mastered the loose leaves but was thrilled to find disposable empty tea bags so you can mix loose leaf teas together but not spit leaves.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 8:48 pm
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    In Austria, it’s also common to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home. We do still run around in socks or barefoot a lot. My husband always reminds me to wear slippers not to have cold qi enter my body.

    I’ve also started drinking hot water. I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t like drinking cold water anymore.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2015 at 9:20 pm
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    My Grandmother had a habit of taking off her shoes when she enters the home and it passed on to my dad. My dad would yell at my brother to take off his sneakers in the house. When my husband visited my home, he was shocked when he saw all of our shoes all lined up. I honestly didn’t learn that habit from my husband.

    I asked my husband what has changed the most about me and he said my diet. It completely changed. His words, “You eat like me.” xD

    Reply
  • January 6, 2015 at 8:27 am
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    Neat post!
    I’ve learned to wear slippers, too. My family still refuses when they visit; they go barefoot!
    Hubby’s also taught me to have “indoor” and “outdoor” clothes. Somedays I change clothes four or five times…just switching back and forth between outfits…but that’s what he grew up doing and his family does.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm
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    I love loose leaf tea, but I usually use a strainer.

    My husband taught me lots of cooking techniques–how to handle a butcher knife, the benefits of using ginger root, how to choose the freshest fish and seafood. He taught me how to fight for the bill in a restaurant. (I’m still not very good at it. Our daughters are better.)

    Reply
  • January 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm
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    I used to bring tissues with me all the time anyway, now I bring even more and also now carry hand wipes and hand sanitizer.
    Before China, I would remove my shoes when entering my home anyway, but now in the evening (during winter) if I know I am not going out again, I change into my evening ‘pyjamas’ – so comfortable I have converted some of my family members.
    I drink more tea now – because of the greater variety available. And it is as refreshing cold as it is warm. Can’t do this with Indian tea.

    Reply
  • January 7, 2015 at 6:56 am
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    I love this list! I can relate to so many items on here! (Although thankfully, I never had to use the toilet seat cover, haha! But I agree, with no central heating in southern China the toilet seat is like an icicle).

    Another habit I picked up from China is eating a healthy balance of food. One meat dish, one rice/noodle dish, one vegetable dish and a soup! If I don’t have a fully balanced meal (vegetable dish, rice, and a main course..) when eating at the dinner table or going out, I feel like something is lacking. It was really appalling to come back to the USA where fried rice and noodles are usually eaten together, and the white rice gets doused in soy sauce. Not to mention Americans surprisingly eat very little to no vegetables!

    I love your socks by the way!

    Reply
  • January 7, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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    Write about your sexual experiences with Chinese guys.Should be interesting.

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    • January 8, 2015 at 8:10 am
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      @ Sandeep.

      Yes, I agree that she should write something about it. It would be interesting to read a Western woman’s opinion on this subject. So, Jocelyn, if you are reading this post now, please indulge us and tell us. I cannot wait to read about it.

      Reply
  • January 8, 2015 at 8:45 am
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    I really had to laugh when I saw the toilet seat cover! Not because I am against it, but because right before I went online to check new posts, my husband and me went out to get a new more comfortable cover for our toilet! Honestly, everyone who has lived in a place in China without central heating (and where it still is under zero degree during winter!) will appreciate the seat cover! It is not just the shock of the ice cold toilet seat, but it is also very unhealthy to sit on such a cold surface! My Chinese mother-in-law could tell you some interesting stories about cold butts and the consequences haha

    Anyhow, I think it is great that we learn from each other and adapt useful habits. I am not sure what habits I have adapted over the years. I would really have to sit down and think for a while. It has just been such a long time that I cannot remember anymore if I already did those things before meeting my husband or if he influenced me. They just became a part of me and my life.

    Reply
  • January 8, 2015 at 10:35 am
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    Yes, write more about the sexual experience so I’ll be horny again 🙂 lol. I doubt it that she’ll write that kind of stuff again. Hurry, I’m drooling !

    Reply
    • January 9, 2015 at 1:29 am
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      @ Bruce.

      Don’t count Jocelyn out. Maybe she will indulge our prurient interest in the subject during this New Year.

      Fred

      Reply
  • January 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm
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    I use to think having soup on the side was weird too. Now I need it for everything. We use soup as a beverage for our meals. Taking shoes off took some time to get use to. Overtime it has become second nature to me. I don’t think about it or question it. Except sometimes people find it weird now when I take off my shoes when visiting their homes. I forget not everyone does this…

    Reply
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