How could I forget about the cultural differences in my intercultural marriage? | Speaking of China

28 Responses

  1. R Zhao
    R Zhao May 11, 2015 at 7:18 am | | Reply

    Well, I envy you. I wish I could forget about our cultural differences. I think my husband’s parenting style has a lot to do with his culture (a bit of a Tiger Dad complex, if you ask me) and we still haven’t found a way to compromise on this. It’s a weekly, if not daily, issue.

  2. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary May 11, 2015 at 9:02 am | | Reply

    Jocelyn, I think I would have problems answering the question as well. I have been sitting here for several minutes trying to think of one and nothing comes to mind.

  3. MM
    MM May 11, 2015 at 9:12 am | | Reply

    Compromise in any relationship is important however there also needs to be respect for each other, respect for each other’s beliefs and respect for each other’s culture if you are in an intercultural relationship.

    Jocelyn, you and John have been together 10 years so with experience, hard work , trial and error any cultural differences have been “ironed out “. I ask a hypothetical question….You arrived in China a year ago, you met John (who hadn’t studied or lived abroad), you fall in love and decide to get married do you think there would be cultural differences between the two of you? If so what would be those differences?

  4. marghini
    marghini May 11, 2015 at 9:59 am | | Reply

    I agree with you Jocelyn – the biggest and hardest to overcome cultural challenges are most definitely between me and my boyfriend’s family.

    Not just that: because of the pressure his family put on him while growing up and the rigid education, sometimes I think the real reason we disagree about certain BIG topics is still indirectly his family, just he is not aware of it.

    Our education keeps influencing us a lot long after we leave our family house. Sigh.

  5. Autumn
    Autumn May 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm | | Reply

    Oh, this is so true. Andy and I agree on most stuff, which is why meeting his China-born and raised parents was such a shock to my white system. Andy has assimilated easily — he swears because he watched so much TV growing up — but his parents have not. They have traditional opinions on superstitions, gender roles, gender preference, money, and Chinese medicine.

    The one cultural issue that causes friction is Andy’s refusal to ever argue with his parents. Sometimes arguing with them would equal sticking up for me!

    1. marghini
      marghini May 11, 2015 at 6:04 pm | | Reply

      “The one cultural issue that causes friction is Andy’s refusal to ever argue with his parents.”

      THIS. It drives me NUTS!

    2. D-Maybe
      D-Maybe May 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm | | Reply

      The refusal to argue with the parents is more of a specifically Cantonese cultural trait than it is a broadly Chinese one. When it comes to deference to parents, the Cantonese are almost as bad as Koreans.

      1. marghini
        marghini May 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm | | Reply

        Interesting point! I never thought there was a difference between the Chinese and the Cantonese family dynamic.

  6. MM
    MM May 11, 2015 at 1:24 pm | | Reply

    Hi Jocelyn, sorry I made a mistake with my hypothetical question. What if you and John had met now at the age you are at ( not 10 years ago). This being your first time to China and he having studied and worked and possibly only dating Chinese girls. What type of Cultural differences could you envisage between the two of you?

  7. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories May 11, 2015 at 2:43 pm | | Reply

    Actually, the way you describe the differences in the post doesn’t sound like they are only personal to me. They are personal up to a certain point, but how you handle these situations individually is still influenced by culture (at least that’s my take).

  8. Miyagi Mermaid
    Miyagi Mermaid May 11, 2015 at 3:28 pm | | Reply

    I haven’t been married ten years, but in the beginning of my relationship, I wrote in a diary about every issue that came up. I would write for his perspective and try my best to reach an understanding of why we argued or whatever. And the more I dissected our issues, the many times initially I thought, “Oh our cultures are just different,” I began to realize, “No, these are just natural issues between couples.”

    Now when I think of things that stand out as being culturally, they are so trivial I couldn’t answer that question appropriately either. Like if he makes fun of me for “being so American” eating toast and coffee for breakfast. I wonder how things will be 10 years down the line and when we have children.

  9. baixiaotai
    baixiaotai May 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm | | Reply

    Almost only cultural difference existing between me and my Chinese husband is the look on the history and society. Other are personal – and we are pretty similar actually 🙂

  10. Monica
    Monica May 11, 2015 at 9:28 pm | | Reply

    I feel the same way most of the time. At first it was hard to figure out if we were arguing over cultural or personal differences. I feel like we know each other better than anyone else now, but problems still arise when his friends and family come into play, since I am going to be living in Korea with him. He wants me to learn about his culture so I don’t make mistakes, which is impossible, but he does it out of love I guess. I am not as stressed about him learning about my American culture since it doesn’t hold as much influence over our relationship.

  11. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason May 12, 2015 at 2:05 am | | Reply

    I love this topic and the advice MM gives about respect. I really do think that is key, having had an AMWF marriage and one to a guy who looks like he could be my relative. I actually need to remind myself to respect my new husband’s background more than I ever had to think about it in my first marriage to my Chinese ex. I think people may think more about compromising and respecting differences when you come from other backgrounds.

    I was also fascinated by your comment, Jocelyn, about how John wasn’t used to saying I love you. My ex came from a traditional Chinese family, but for some reason he had no problem telling me that in the beginning and end of our relationship. So interesting. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words sometimes!

  12. Dan
    Dan May 12, 2015 at 9:14 am | | Reply

    I wish to say it is harmful to forget the cultural difference, which Jocelyn has pointed it out. I don’t think the difference in your relationship goes away. You both probably changed and met the other person half way already. Sometimes your differences would surface, and it really pays off when both partners recognize them instead of receiving them negatively. To me it is more important to admit those differences will always exist. We each can draw strength from the other person.

    It is wise not to argue with your Chinese parents. You won’t win that way. The Chinese way is always about compromise to the point the other person feel they have to give something in return. It is not the American way of being straight and talk it out. The Chinese parents would just retreat and refuse to engage. Respect is valued above reason and love most of time. Doesn’t make sense sometimes, but the Chinese parents can be really loyal. They will never disown you no matter what. You will only feel the guilt of arguing with them at the end. Don’t do it – communicate in their way if you can. I don’t even know if I can do it, but I learned what I shouldn’t do.

    1. Autumn
      Autumn May 12, 2015 at 9:35 am | | Reply

      While I would agree that not arguing with Chinese parents is a good idea, and I would certainly agree that cultural awareness is an excellent idea (though I often failed at both), I’m going to have to disagree with you, Dan, on two other counts:

      1) Compromise. I have never witnesses this compromising of which you speak, at least not by my Chinese-American guy’s parents. I think it is mythical! It is his parents’ way, or they simply pretend not to hear you. Or they yell.

      2) Disowning their children. I haven’t gotten to this post yet on my blog, but yes, Andy’s parents threatened to disown him if he did not accede to their wishes.

      Maybe they have been corrupted by their years in the U.S., or maybe they are just extra-special Chinese parents, but there you have it. I’m calling BS on compromise and loyalty.

  13. Dan
    Dan May 12, 2015 at 9:55 am | | Reply

    @Autumn
    I am sorry to hear about what happened to Andy. It did not happen in my case. If it does, I would definitely argue. I want to warn not to argue though. There is a limit to everything.

    I came to the understanding some parents feel they own their children, probably the same way in the US many generations ago. What can I say? It is too bad your guys’ parents can be so unreasonable. Maybe they have given up a lot to live in this country. I am sure a typical generation gap exist in the first and second generation.

    I don’t know Andy’s parents. I don’t know if they would really disown him. If they just threaten to do it, I call it BS and bad parenting tactic. Maybe you can BS on them. 🙂

    1. Autumn
      Autumn May 13, 2015 at 10:37 am | | Reply

      You made me laugh, Dan! I wanted to call BS, but Andy really prefers to avoid confrontation. I’m getting used to sucking it up. Hopefully I don’t lose it one day.

      I guess if I do it will make a good story?

      1. Dan
        Dan May 14, 2015 at 6:41 am | | Reply

        You can only hold it in for so long. I guess it is important your guy is standing with you and understand your feelings. I think too much compromise will lead to resentment in any relationship.
        It is common to fight it out in US and talk it over to forgive someone. The price to pay is higher in Asian culture. Once you damage the relationship in some way, people remember for a long time. I personally prefer the American way. If you confront Andy’s parents, he will probably pay the price. Try to look at the brighter side.

        I am sure it will be a good story. Put it down tonight.

  14. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen May 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm | | Reply

    After thirty years of marriage to my Chinese husband, it would be hard to separate cultural differences from personality differences. Even though he’d only spent four years in the United States by the time we were married, he was quick to adjust. In general, I’d say that our cultural differences were not a big problem. I agree with Jocelyn that after being married for a long time, you’ve worked things out. You know each other so well that the differences in your background have already been incorporated into your relationship.

    My in-laws never lived nearby, and for the most part, they expected that we would make our own decisions.

  15. Marta
    Marta May 14, 2015 at 8:11 am | | Reply

    It is pretty stupid, but do you know what the main cultural difference between my bf and me is? Or at least the one I feel most, haha: the totally different childhood references we have. Like, the movies and cartoons we watched while growing up. “How can you NOT have seen that? Didn’t you have a childhood?” is a common question in our home 😀

  16. robert
    robert May 14, 2015 at 3:34 pm | | Reply

    The biggest cultural difference I noticed is the attitude towards treatment of total strangers. My girlfriends often comments how polite I am to total strangers, when it’s just common courtesy to me. Not that she’s like some other Chinese people, who have a “if I don’t know you/if I don’t want something from you, you might as well not exist” mentality. But there’s a certain disregard for other people, unlike in Japan, where other people are often extremely mindful of each other. I think there’s a reluctance to give beggars money, to help people (because of the infamous “Nanjing judge”?), which is common to many mainland Chinese people.

  17. leslie-koreainmykitchen.com
    leslie-koreainmykitchen.com May 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm | | Reply

    I loved reading this… and all the comments! We have been married for over 14 years and a couple of things still remain, mostly with food and raising kids. Definitely not anything worth fighting about, but obvious differences nonetheless. 🙂

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