From the Archives: Posts on My Chinese Inlaws’ Marriage

My Chinese mother-in-law in the kitchen
My Chinese mother-in-law in the kitchen.

I spent much of the past week in bed, and unfortunately, much of this weekend as well. So I’m sending you to the archives this Monday so I can catch my breath and rest up a little.

Those of you new to this blog may have missed my posts on Chinese marriage, through the eyes of my mother-in-law and father-in-law. I spent the summer of 2011 living with them, and one outcome of that summer was my newfound understanding of their own marriage. Enjoy!

My Chinese Inlaws’ Not-So-Free Marriage. My Chinese father-in-law insisted that the new China included free choice in marriages. But it seemed like an illusion when he admitted he didn’t freely choose his bride.

The Four Big Items For My Chinese In-laws’ Marriage. When my Chinese inlaws married in 1971, the marriage must-haves were a bicycle, sewing machine, radio and wristwatch.

For My Chinese In-laws, Scolding is Love. I didn’t understand why my Chinese mother-in-law always argued with my Chinese father-in-law. But, according to my husband, maybe that’s their way of showing love.

Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Parents Refuse to Meet Me

A dejected person seen through a dark keyhole
(photo by


I have been dating my Chinese boyfriend for several years now, and we want to get married. He has met my parents and they love him but his parents still refuse to meet me. My boyfriend made it clear to his parents that I’m the one, but they just don’t want to have anything to do with me. They have never even talked to me! They keep giving his number to random girls that they approve of! I once went over to his parents house with him, I had prepared a basket full of delicious food, and they just refused to let me in. My boyfriend hardly talks to his parents anymore and insist that it’s not a problem and that it’s their loss. But I wish there was something I could do. Any suggestions? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Parents Refuse to Meet Me”

Ask the Yangxifu: My Boyfriend Doesn’t Understand My Past Child Abuse

A black-and-white photo of an abused white girl
(photo by Peter Bulthuis)

Anonymous asks:

My Chinese boyfriend who I started dating several months ago sometimes asks me when the last time I contacted my parents was. I usually tell him I called them a month or two ago and he scolds me for not contacting them more often.

The reason for my sporadic contact is that my parents were physically and emotionally abusive to me and to each other when I was growing up. I keep infrequent contact with them to protect my mental health and my experiences still haunt me to this day.

Although I’ve mentioned that my relationship with my parents is difficult, I have never fully explained what happened to him. When I’ve said our relationship is rough, he has said that he’s sure it’s just a misunderstanding.  I am concerned he will think what my parents did was just standard parental punishment, since his own parents beat him heavily with belts when he was growing up. I worry he will think I am over-sensitive, ungrateful and unfilial for no reason.

How can I explain what happened and how severely it impacted my life to him in a way that he will understand? What can I say to help him to see why I would think parents do not deserve unwavering fealty regardless of their actions? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Boyfriend Doesn’t Understand My Past Child Abuse”

The Filial Side of Moving in With My Grandma

John and I with my grandmother
John and I with my grandmother

Lame, loser, or just plain “oh Lord.” My American friends could have easily thought any one of these things — if not more — about me, all because my husband and I moved in with my grandmother.

That’s why I never just told people in America, “We’re moving in with Grandma,” but made it clear that this move came with an asterisk. She’s 89, she had a stroke some years ago, my grandfather passed away last year and she lives alone. We’re moving to China next year, once John finishes his internship — it just didn’t make sense to start a new household all over again, only to have to leave it all behind in an international move. Without this addendum, I felt certain we’d get branded as just another pathetic boomeranging couple leaching off of sweet little grandma.

But my Chinese father-in-law never needed — or asked for — the footnotes on our move. Continue reading “The Filial Side of Moving in With My Grandma”

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Family Speaks Local Dialect at Dinner, Not Mandarin

A family dinner at home in an Asian household
(photo by avlxyz)

Lixifur asks:

I am sitting in Beijing after spending 20 days in Southern China visiting my in-laws. I just found your blog and find it most timely. I am writing because I find myself so lost when it comes to the endless, dreaded family gatherings. My Mandarin is intermediate level and I’ve only travelled to China many times. Each time I come, I hope I can improve my skills but I am always disappointed by the fact that I almost never hear Mandarin, except on TV. Even more challenging is that while my mother-in-law is from the city, my father-in-law is from a bit further north in the province and he speaks a mixture of Mandarin, the city’s dialect and his local dialect. Naturally, we have so many family dinners and I am so frustrated by the use of one or more dialects at the table depending on the crowd and almost never Mandarin, except to me with strong accents. Please give me some advice on how to cope with the scenario. I am working on improving my Mandarin, so that will generally help, but I could sure use some advice based on your experience when your in-laws get together and just speak dialect. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Family Speaks Local Dialect at Dinner, Not Mandarin”

Ask the Yangxifu: Dealing With “How Come You Aren’t Married Yet?”

A blurred photo of a bride and groom on the grass with a bouquet in clear view.
(photo by Fernando Weberich)

Single Overseas Chinese Guy asks:

Although this may not affect you yourself. It affects a whole load of us overseas born Chinese types. Simply how on earth do we respond to the constant questions of how come you aren’t married yet?

Parents go to Chinese weddings, and fiery arguments ensue about getting married.

Fake BFs/GFs are old utilised tricks. But over time they cease to work and to be honest it feels bad tricking parents like this.

In our first generation barely anybody is married these days. But there seems an increasing desperation in the voices of parents wanting you to get married. As if it is a magic bullet or something. They just simply do not seem to realise that getting married isn’t the be all and end all of things. Yet their old fashioned values don’t seem to tie in with single independent people! Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Dealing With “How Come You Aren’t Married Yet?””

How I Broke Chinese Family Etiquette To Save A Baby Mobile

My sister-in-law's baby and the mobile that almost got broke
My sister-in-law's baby and the mobile that almost got broke

It’s not polite to tell a guest they shouldn’t do something. I learned this rule only hours after I broke it at my Chinese in-laws’ home.

The next-door neighbor happened to come over, a tiny grandmother with short curly hair and a face that reminded me of Squiggy from the sitcom Laverne and Shirley. As usual, she came in holding her 10-month grandson, a kid nearly one-third her size who looked so big, I wondered why he hadn’t walked in on his own. She stood with her grandson in the foyer of our family home with Laoma (what we call my mother-in-law) and Wenjuan, my sister-in-law.

Most evenings, I wouldn’t notice the guests, but this evening was different. She happened to come during dinner. And this dinner happened to be interrupted by Laoba (what I call my father-in-law) when he told me the pair of flip-flops I sunned outside had dried. I put my chopsticks down to take the flip-flops back to my rooms upstairs, and then returned to the dining room.

That’s when I saw it. Continue reading “How I Broke Chinese Family Etiquette To Save A Baby Mobile”

Ask the Yangxifu: 5+ Years of Dating & Still Haven’t Met His Family

A white girl looking depressed
(photo by Marinka van Holten)

Anonymous asks:

I have been dating my Chinese boyfriend for more than 5 years. We met in the West and he lives and works in my country and became a citizen of my country. He is however a childhood immigrant. His family is very traditional, I think. I have never met them. They live elsewhere and do not know I exist. He goes to China every year to visit his family, is the oldest son, and his family still believes in arranged marriages. We broke up once because they found him a woman to marry. I love him and thought I could continue to deal with this, that I was bigger than this ridiculous situation. But, as time drags on it becomes more difficult for me to tolerate. We had come to an agreement that I would obtain a doctorate and that would make me as close to worthy enough to tell his family about. I graduate this year and he has backed out of the deal. I am more disappointed than I can express. I feel like a mistress, to be hid forever. He went to China last week to visit his family and turned his phone off. I never call him when he goes to China or visits his family but with his phone off I couldn’t even contact him in an emergency. We live together, what if something happened to the house. He said it was because he didn’t want his phone to make accidental international phone calls but, really? That has never happened before and I doubt his veracity on the reason. It seems the closer I get to finishing the goal he decided would end the hiding, the more thoughtless things he does. But, he swears he doesn’t want to end our relationship and wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I have a wedding dress because we were going to get married this year, it mocks me from the closet. It feels like he panics when he is afraid of getting caught and does or says hurtful things out of a knee jerk reaction but expects me to understand his cultural needs but ignores mine. Is this a Chinese thing or a him thing? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: 5+ Years of Dating & Still Haven’t Met His Family”

Ask the Yangxifu: Marriage Pressure From 5-Year Chinese Girlfriend

Close-up photo of an Asian girl with shoulder-length hair and a butterfly clip
(photo by Adia Novary)

Alex asks:

I’ve been going out with my Chinese girlfriend for the last five years, on and off, mostly on though. Yes, that’s a bit of time, but since the last couple years her mother, whom I have met for a two week stay in China before, has been insisting that we get married. I know part of it is that her mother is traditional, my girlfriend is their only child, I’m her first boyfriend (big one), and now she only has a few months left still to find a job here in the US, or she has to go back to China. As for me, I’m still looking for a job and housing, and I feel like I’m only 26 years old and not ready yet, especially under these circumstances.

I know she and her mom love me to death, but I know there is an undercurrent of me having to “help” or “do her a favor” so she doesn’t have to go back. Honestly, I’ll say, as an American I do feel like her mom is kind of using me, and furthermore my girlfriend has also put this in terms of “doing a favor for each other”, or “an “engagement”, meaning the marriage certificate. Then the plan would be whenever we get things set up we would go over to China to have a big wedding. Now this does sound really great but I am confused and I do feel like I’m kind of being pressured into this. I don’t want to have my girlfriend go back to China, but at the same time I hate to be the one who “holds the key” to us staying together, and to her future. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Marriage Pressure From 5-Year Chinese Girlfriend”

Ask the Yangxifu: Big Fat Chinese Weddings Revisited

John and I standing before the "Double Happiness" banner at our wedding
(John and I at our wedding in China)


I’m 27 and I was born and raised in Europe but my fiancee is Shanghainese so we’re gonna have one of those Chinese super expensive weddings in a 5 stars hotel in Shanghai and I really dont know what to do. I really do not like the Chinese wedding style made up of performances, games and speech. Besides relatives, I invited around 20-30 friends to the wedding here and I’m gettin more and more nervous about what is going to happen during the feast. We have an MC that will entertain the guests and lead the night but both with him and the wedding planner I had a really hard time to plan everything and trying to make as nice and simple as possible but unfortunately there are some things such as exchange of vows and rings on the stage in front of everybody and organize some games for the guests, apparently Chinese people really appreciate and enjoy them. You went through this already so can you or anyone else who went through this and can give me some advises? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Big Fat Chinese Weddings Revisited”