5 Habits My Chinese Husband Has Learned From Me

I wrote last week about how marriage changes you – especially when you’re in an international or cross-cultural relationship — and shared 4 habits I’ve learned from my Chinese husband. But I’m not the only one who has picked up a few new habits from my foreign spouse.

What has my husband learned from his white American wife after over 10 years of marriage? Here are 5 examples of his new habits (my personal favorites!):

P.S.: This post was also 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).

1. Saying “I love you”

(Photo by Sarah Potts via Flickr.com)
(Photo by Sarah Potts via Flickr.com)

In the first month or so when I was dating John, I totally stressed over a small – but to me, not unimportant – thing. Here was this guy who had moved in with me and taken care of me in so many ways, far beyond anyone else I had ever met. And yet, he hadn’t really told me those three simple words: “I love you”.

Eventually, he did say it to me when we were standing on a mountaintop (and I was in ridiculous tears about it all). He really seemed to understand, beyond all of my expectations. He even told me it wasn’t silly at all for me to ask him if he could tell me I loved him (which is how it all started).

Anyhow, that was the first time when he learned just how much those three little words meant to me. So much that I showered him with “I love you” in all the usual ways couples in America do. At the end of phone conversations and e-mails, in text messages, when I kissed him and told him good night. Gradually, the idea that his girlfriend, and later, wife, liked hearing it turned “I love you” into a regular and frequent thing from John’s lips.

It amazed me.

Of course, some habits don’t entirely change. One thing I have learned is this – that’s it’s a heck of a lot easier for him to say “I love you” because it’s in English. Trying to get him to say the Chinese version, 我爱你 (Wǒ’àinǐ)?Well, I’m still working on that.

2. Eating chocolate

(Photo by chocolatereviews via Flickr.com)
(Photo by chocolatereviews via Flickr.com)

“You’ve never had chocolate before?” It was early in my relationship with John when I learned the shocking truth. He had never tasted this most ambrosial of all sweets.

So before Christmas, I bought a generous package of Dove dark chocolates and stuffed them into a stocking I prepared for John. Never did I realize that the moment he popped one of them in his mouth, he had found his second true love in life (the first, of course, being me!).

In that moment, a chocoholic was born. (It’s ironic that it happened with a guy who recalls eating carrots as a child to satisfy his sweet tooth).

My parents, of course, only indulged the habit when we moved to America, plying my husband with the stuff at pretty much every holiday.

So you can guess what was under our tree this past Christmas – and whose eyes sparkled the brightest when that dark, delicious goodness was unwrapped from its foil. Mmmm.

3. Drinking coffee

Yes, my husband loves Starbucks -- and I'm responsible!
Yes, my husband loves Starbucks — and I’m responsible!

It all started when John and I were living with my parents after moving to America. John is the kind of guy who needs hefty servings of caffeine to get through the day. In China, he always got his fix from black teas or oolong teas (the nice loose leaf varieties that he introduced to me). But my parents don’t do loose leaf tea and, as you can imagine, he never particularly liked anything that came in a teabag.

What my parents did have, however, was coffee. Lots of coffee. They had a brand-new coffeemaker, their own coffee bean grinder, and a tantalizing selection of fine blends, from Sumatran to Italian Roast. “Hey, do you want to try some coffee, John?” my dad asked him one day. So when in America, John figured, do as the Americans (or in this case, his wife’s American parents) do.

He took that first tentative sip, followed by a contented “Ahhhhh!” Not long after, the caffeine kicked in (strong!) and he knew he had solved his caffeine problem in America for good.

He’s been a pretty steady coffee drinker ever since and, after discovering the bold and rich flavor of Starbucks’ Sumatran brand, still swears by Starbucks coffee (and savors the occasional soy latte from our local branch).

Sometimes I can’t believe how much coffee – or, for that matter, caffeine – my husband drinks! He may be shorter than me, but he stands head and shoulders above me when it comes to his caffeine tolerance.

4. Silly dancing in the privacy of our home

Beneath my husband's calm exterior is a man with some serious moves -- a man who can truly dance in silly ways when people aren't looking.
Beneath my husband’s calm exterior is a man with some serious moves — a man who can truly dance in silly ways when people aren’t looking.

The other day, I was playing some upbeat tunes on my phone – you know, the kind of music that’s so fun you can’t help but swing your hips to it. All of a sudden, my husband got up out of his chair, started mimicking the tune (off-key!) and then turned around to shake his butt. He laughed (because he knows how hilarious he looks when he does this) and I couldn’t help but return the laughter…all the while knowing that I had a hand in much of this.

John didn’t grow up spontaneously jumping up and dancing to a great tune. And I’ve spent enough time in his family home to know that his parents and relatives don’t really do this either. But it’s the kind of thing I do all the time when I’m inspired to move by a great tune.

I can’t remember exactly when I first did this in front of him, but I’m certain he was the one laughing at me (and perhaps wondering what in the heck I was doing). But after years of being together – and even watching all of those American movies where other people would bop to a beat at the spur of the moment – he realized it was a part of who I was. And learned that it could be fun too.

So every time he shakes his butt to a tune (and giggles about it), I can’t help but giggle along with him, knowing that he’s embraced something that’s a part of me.

5. Using a heated mattress pad to stay warm in bed

"Electricblanket" by Original uploader was Limetolime at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Khayman using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electricblanket.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Electricblanket.jpg
“Electricblanket” by Original uploader was Limetolime at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Khayman using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electricblanket.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Electricblanket.jpg

The first time I ever stayed at John’s family home years ago, his mother handed me only one thick comforter to make it through the winter’s night in their drafty, unheated house. Being used to lots of covers on my bed and a warm heating vent somewhere near the floor, it was such a shock to my body that I caught quite the cold before leaving.

At the time, John, my then boyfriend and now husband, was stunned. I can’t remember his exact words, but they went something along the lines of, “You weren’t warm enough?”

Growing up, he and his family never used more than a comforter on their beds to sleep through the winter. And of course, they never, ever thought of using things like a heated electric mattress pad to stay warm and cozy.

You can imagine, then, that John and I struggled for a period of time when it came to sharing a bed together – with me trying to pile on the covers (and anything else to help stay warm) and him complaining he felt too hot.

Well, we eventually moved to America for a time and during our first Christmas there, my parents gave us an electric blanket. When we brought the electric blanket home, John surprised me by letting me plug it in for the night. And then he further surprised me when, after crawling into bed (a nice, toasty warm bed like nothing before), he couldn’t stop smiling and telling me how great it was.

The last thing I ever expected was for the one-comforter guy to suddenly love electric blankets.

We’ve since owned electric blankets and electric mattress pads, and he’s become a huge fan. How huge? Whenever he slides under the covers of our own bed – heated by a electric mattress pad – he always laughs with delight over how nice it is to have a “snug bed.”

What habits has your spouse learned from you?

34 Replies to “5 Habits My Chinese Husband Has Learned From Me”

  1. You taught your husband well. Starbucks coffee, electric heated beds, chocolate, spontaneous dance moves, and frequent I love yous – everything you need for a romantic marriage.

  2. Actually, I introduced my husband to drinking soda. I used to drink a lot of soda when we first met (at least a can, sometimes two a day) and he started to enjoy it sometimes with me. But that was a long time ago. Now, we only enjoy a soda about once a month or every couple of months.

  3. Hi Jocelyn. You’re a nice daughter-in-law and a great wife. I’m so envious of your husband.

  4. haha, 3 and 4 are spot on.

    I think the biggest change was as what we use our apartment. Rather than a place for storage, cooking, sleeping and watching TV, it became a place of living and feeling at home (the whole German “gemuetlichkeit” concept). To me, the money I spend for feeling good at home is totally worth it, and I think now my girlfriend sees it the same. Feeling at home is more important to me than some money I save by freezing/sweating in my home (that also meant we insulated some of the windows ourselves). Or by sitting with 1 dim light bulb as if I were living in a cave. I know that this is still, for many Chinese, all considered a luxury, but on the other hand we’re both working professionals, so we can just as well spend a little to live comfortably in our own 4 walls 🙂

    Traveling is the other big thing we do now. We started with Shanghai, and it always amazes me how little the residents know of their own city. After that we’ve been to quite a few places in China, Japan, Italy, German, Austria, Korea, France… and we still want to see more of the big awesome world out there!

    1. You know, I have to wonder if I did the same for my husband, introducing him to the idea of a nice, snug and comfortable home? He definitely did not grow up in that kind of environment but now he does love being in a comfortable home.

      Ah, yes, traveling! I did introduce John to that — well, that’s something I can blog about another day, right? 😉

  5. Awesome post. 🙂

    I just asked my husband what habits that has been changed since he met me. He said, “I am more calm when dealing with things.” Maybe he meant he approaches stress differently? Oh, and now he eats Jewish food.

    Believe it or not, my husband was the one who introduced me to Starbucks. 🙂

  6. Completely agree with #1. Saying I love you in English or Spanish is one thing, but saying it in Chinese… we’re still getting there!!

    Well, he is not my husband (yet) but we have lived together for 2 years so there are some things he “learned” from me, like eating breakfast (I force him to eat it, it is the most important meal of the day!) and going to sleep on a decent hour (he used to sleep at 1 or 2 am during weekdays). He also started reading American and European comic books! 😀

  7. Carrots? CARROTS?! There’s a cultural difference if there ever was one.

    This is a great post, I love that you got him into spontaneous dancing around. So far my Chinese husband has only really watched me, but I’m sure it’s a matter of time before he joins in 😉 Have you seen that movie ‘Easy A’? I had to show him the silly dancing scene from that to explain why that song gets me up every time.

    1. Yeah, I know…carrots! It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

      I have seen “Easy A”! That silly dancing scene is pretty classic. 🙂 My husband now notices silly dancing in lots of movies we watch (movies from the West) and he even points it out now. (He also loves pointing out whenever people kiss in public, which is something he’s still not entirely comfortable with…but he does it from time to time!)

  8. You know, my wife always drank coffee from time-to-time but it was only when we got married that she got used to have a cup every single morning, since I can function without it.

    On the filp side, there is definitely more chocolate in my life after she entered it than before.

  9. number one! for sure! I was thinking about ‘eating the chocolate’ but I’m still teaching him how to enjoy a good dessert, although one day I’m afraid I will regret it when he won’t let me eat his dessert anymore. 🙂

  10. “So much that I showered him with “I love you” in all the usual ways couples in America do.”

    I wonder what that would be. 😛

    Jocelyn, you should teach John how to do hoopla. Make a deal like if he can maintain the ring on the hip more than 10 seconds, he’ll get what he wants. Otherwise, you’ll get your pants. 😀

  11. I would believe I love you would be some thing a Chinese guy won’t say much but never had soda, coffee and chocolate? I suppose your guy was just trying to please his woman and in laws. Maybe it went like this: hey honey have you had this before? (Waiving a RC Cola). “No”. “What? You never had soda?” “No”.

  12. My husband recently said that he fell in love with coffee before he met me. So the fact that I brought a coffee machine into our home was highly welcomed. He also knew how to turn a not-so-nice looking apartment into a very comfy home (soon before he met me). There’s really not much in this area he has learned from me. There are some other cultural things he has learned to love – for example Austrian varieties of bread, cheese and salads.

    It’s this kind of variety and mutual learning experience that I really like about our relationship.

  13. Love this list! We definitely learn a lot from each other… My husband has probably learned the benefits of walkingーnot for health or getting places, but more for exploration and finding new restaurants and interesting shops. I can’t take credit for him drinking coffee from nothing, but I have introduced him to one of the best latte shops in Tokyo and introduced him to the barista thereーthey’re now good friends! 🙂

  14. Hmm, let’s see…

    I turned my city-born Cantonese wife onto the joys of the country and mountains of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, complete with all of the copious wild foods that we still have, thanks to the average American’s abject fear of anything that isn’t prepackaged. Knowing that there are tons of wild mushrooms, leeks, fiddleheads and more to get for free made a country girl out of her. And oh, the meals…!

    Mozzarella cheese! She is sooo in love with her beloved “chewy cheese”. Pizza is a huge favorite, so much that she has taught herself all about raised doughs so she can make us homemade pizza, with our fresh wild mushrooms, homemade sauce, and of course, mozzarella.

    She seemed to love snow and ice the first time she saw that, but that’s kind of faded. Not like me…

  15. This is a great post! Let me see, K was drinking coffee before he met me, and he likes it while I do not. He loves to bake dinner in the oven (in fact we’ve been doing that a lot since we arrived in Jiangsu and are still sorting ourselves out). We do a lot of exploring together, something that he didn’t think to do before we met. Also he is a fan of the “high five” haha so that’s how we celebrate things like getting the baby down for the night or finding out a restaurant has one of our favorite dishes.

  16. I am wondering now what my wife might have learned for habits through our relationship. Perhaps drinking coffee sometimes and enjoying some nice bread in Germany..

    Oh well, there is actually one thing she learned and that is to say “Thank you” even within the family. In Finland and in Germany I grew up to thank also my parents whenever they give me for example a glass of water or pass me some food during lunch. In China it is appearently not really like that as my wife was confused at first why I always said thank you to her and also her parents were wondering what is going on with me. But now even my mother-in-law says “thank you” for small things 😮

  17. @Timo…..yes you are right my Chinese friend also was puzzled when I’d say thank you to my mother for doing something such as cooking dinner, or making me a cup of tea. When I asked her don’t you thank your parents for doing something for you, she said no; they wouldn’t expect a thanks.

    The other thing I’ve learnt or adapted is drinking beer with Chinese friends

  18. @Timo @MM – my experience is similar when it comes to thank yous. Not quite sure where the different attitudes come from. On the one hand there’s the theory that many people were brought up in a harsh time and manners weren’t really a priority to teach the kids. Then there’s the theory about many self centered people who think of politeness and helpfulness as something that “doesn’t get them ahead”. Both of those theories don’t really sit well with me, although they may apply to some people.
    Recently I came across a text that argued that Chinese just have a different attitude towards the words thank you. I.e. you don’t toss it casually around in the West, instead you use it when it’s really a heart felt, sincere thank you. I wonder if anyone who has deeper insight into Chinese culture is able to confirm this?

  19. I love love this post!
    So true for us. He now..
    Loves chocolate
    Says I love you or uses my own language
    He eats bread, western style bread. This might be cause in Shandong they also eat their own style of bread so is something very familiar to him.
    Buys presents for his nephews that are not very common in his family ( not apples not only a hongbao) but a bike with all the safety accessories that come with it. Kids got used to love that more than the cash.
    Affection, kissing all the time.

    We don´t have a coffee machine at home, though we would love to. Coffee and milk are very pricey in China, thus for us tea and hot water are our best options.

  20. I do wonder what habits if any, my ex boyfriends took away from me? From my Korean ex, I tend to curse in Korean, I love Korean cuisine, and I like the music he introduced me to. Maybe love for Russian food is one thing they took away from me?

  21. Food always seems to be one of the biggest habit changes in these type of relationships. My boyfriend got me into the habit of drinking tea while I got him into the habit of making all his food spicy. I’ve noticed Chinese households are not big on dancing. Tony is no longer afraid to randomly dance at home anymore. He is really gotten into Latin music lately while I like to C-pop from time to time.

  22. awwwwwww so sweet!
    My husband is Indian and he also learned the “I love you” thing. In his family showing love is done more through actions, but I need it. Constantly. Because I am like so high maintenance LOL!
    One thing I have got my husband addicted to is guacamole and Mexican food. He just loves it, it’s vegetarian, and it’s as close a thing to Indian food as ever. In fact, I got the whole Indian clan addicted to Chipotle!!! Hahaha

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