Ask the Yangxifu: Birthday Gifts for Chinese Men

Birthday cake lit with candles
Chinese men don't usually celebrate birthdays. But a Western woman may never see her Chinese friend again, and wants to give him something to remember her by. (Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian)

foreign friend asks:

My 哥哥‘s birthday is coming up in the first week of March, and I want to give him a gift…. And he’s actually leaving soon, to China…next month as well and I want to give him something that he will remember me by. (I’m just kind of worried that in the future, he’ll forget about me…and just move on with our friendship, because he’s not coming back to our city where we attend school at.)

I know, from reading one of your articles about your husband and celebrating his birthday, is not that big in Chinese culture, but I just am wondering, what’s the best gift? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Birthday Gifts for Chinese Men”

The China Birthday Enthusiasm Gap

Happy birthday cake
Happy birthday meant something completely different to John, my Chinese husband (photo by Brandon Rittenhouse)

When my birthday came along this summer, my Chinese husband orchestrated yet another in a long line of grand “birthday programs” — mining the rainbow gleam of opal; breathing in the azure beauty of a pristine trout stream filled with river otters; and savoring the fragrant delight of coconut curries at a Thai restaurant downtown. The entire day felt as precious and beautiful as the double rainbow we glimpsed from the highway, arching in twin perfection against the tumultuous gray skies behind.

Two months later, when his birthday arrived, along with the new semester, I imagined a day of birthday revelry fit for the one man who captured my heart and soul. “Maybe we could go to the hot springs. Or a planetarium in a science museum. Or what about visiting a state park?”

But John shrugged, as if I was just discussing the week’s shopping list with him. “We don’t really have the time,” he said, referring to his heavy workload this semester. “You can just make me a chocolate cake,” he smiled.

“A chocolate cake?” I replied, with incredulity. “That’s all?” Continue reading “The China Birthday Enthusiasm Gap”