Why Ignoring Cultural Differences in Cross-Cultural Relationships is Harmful

(photo by Maxx R via Flickr.com)

While reading Laura Banks’ dissertation about interracial relationships with a Chinese partner, something in the conclusion caught my eye:

Each couple has different ways of viewing their own situation. Some address it directly and define the boundaries and what must be done to ensure cultural understanding. For example one couple said; ‘from the outset of our relationship, we have been conscious of intercultural issues and keen to address them by talking then through and explaining to each other what we are thinking.’ Other couples like B…and L…have addressed it in a completely different way and have ‘done something that is very unusual in Chinese-foreign relationships; we have never talked about that I am from a different country especially not in the case of conflicts’ and they feel that ‘many people like to overemphasize the influence of cultural differences.’ The way in which they address the situation is what works for them as a couple and as with many things in life there is no wrong or right way of dealing with it.

Naturally, since I write a blog meant to promote cross-cultural understanding between Chinese-Western couples, it seemed bizarre to just ignore cultural differences in a cross-cultural relationship. But as much as I would love to say that “there is no wrong or right way,” I can’t agree. In fact, the B/L way — essentially, a colorblind approach to interracial/cross-cultural relationships — is harmful. Continue reading “Why Ignoring Cultural Differences in Cross-Cultural Relationships is Harmful”

“Why Us?”: More on Discrimination and Marriage to a Chinese Man

(photo by Anna Vignet via Flickr.com)

Once again, discrimination has landed smack in the middle of our lives here in the US. A hard landing, and one with reverberations far beyond anything I ever expected.

As I wrote not that long ago, I never imagined I would come to know discrimination so intimately through my marriage to a Chinese man. Maybe that’s naivete or plain ignorance; either way, it’s clear that I just didn’t realize the extent to which discrimination and racism still remained in this country, and their ability to strike down (and even ruin) a young man in pursuit of his own small patch of happiness.

What I have learned is this Continue reading ““Why Us?”: More on Discrimination and Marriage to a Chinese Man”

Foreigners Who Think They’re Entitled To Date The Hottest Chinese?

If you couldn’t get a “Brad Pitt” to date you in your home country, why do you think you somehow deserve nothing less than his standard of men because you’re in China? (photo by Juanky Pamies Alcubilla via Flickr)

Recently, a reader wrote the following to me:

I remember when I was back in [city in China] I was with a large group of Westerners for our orientation and a lot of us got to talking about potentially starting relationships in China. There was one American girl, who was very pleasant but kind of heavyset and nothing special to look at, who said she wouldn’t settle for anything less than Jay Chou or a local Chinese rapper we knew who was modelesque stunning. Another man on our orientation, who is fifty years old though not bad looking, also said he would only go for girls between the ages of 25-30 who were “drop dead gorgeous.” Continue reading “Foreigners Who Think They’re Entitled To Date The Hottest Chinese?”

Despite the China-America Divide, We’re On The Same Team

The other day, my husband and I were having a conversation in the car about discrimination and racism in America — two things he knew firsthand from his own experiences over here.

“Mean and wicked, that’s what these people were to me,” he said, referring to the Americans who had betrayed him in the past. “They just don’t care, they have no concern for you at all. They think they can just bully you.”

My heart ached to see him this way. “I’m so sorry. It just goes to show how much work in this country is still undone. We Americans have a lot to learn.”

“Don’t say ‘we’! Don’t put yourself in the same category as them, you should be careful of your language!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to say ‘we’, it just came out by accident. Just a reflex, that’s all.”

But his words haunted me the rest of the way home. I couldn’t believe that the word “we” — a word that normally brings John and I together as one — could divide us into two in a completely different context. Continue reading “Despite the China-America Divide, We’re On The Same Team”

Ask the Yangxifu: Negativity From Friends (And More) About Dating Asian Men

A B&W photo of a girl looking sad
(photo by Taston via Flickr)

asks:

Here, in Eastern Europe, seeing white girls with an Asian guy — and what’s even more shocking — a guy shorter than her, it just blows people’s minds! People in the street are staring at you in a sarcastic way or sometimes even making comments like “what is she doing with him? Are they really dating each other?!” Even my friends find it hard to understand. So I wanted to ask you, if situations like this happened to you, how did you feel that time, was it bothering you? Did you feel hurt? How did you overcome this prejudice? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Negativity From Friends (And More) About Dating Asian Men”

The Miracle of the “Long March Spirit”

My Chinese husband, wearing a "Red Army" hat
My Chinese husband, wearing my "Red Army" cap

Slam.

I’m sure I heard that sound this past Friday, after a phone call closed one of the best options for my husband’s internship. The person in question echoed much of the same discrimination we’ve known from the past. It sent me reeling for much of the evening, and well into Saturday.

Maybe it hurt me harder because I considered this person’s very emergence a miracle. That kind of “hey, someone else actually believes in my husband too” sort of feeling. But the person turned out to be nothing more than a mirage, and so were the opportunities.

Still, even if they’re not real, mirages can sting. I should know, because I came this close to just giving in, just saying, “To hell with it, maybe they were right all along.”

But yesterday, I donned my Red Army cap, the very one I bought years ago on a trip to Chairman Mao’s hometown of Shaoshan, Hunan, and headed outside with my husband to kick around a soccer ball in an empty soccer field nearby. Continue reading “The Miracle of the “Long March Spirit””

The Discrimination Continues, But I Need A Break (Today)

A tired person holding their face in their hands
(photo by Simon Cataudo)

Today, I’m taking a break from my usual Friday content. The same discrimination I wrote about back in November continues to rear its head in new and malevolent ways, threatening my husband’s future.

I want to be the kind of yangxifu who can shove it all aside and find the strength to churn out another Ask the Yangxifu, Yangxifu Pride or even Mandarin Love. But I can’t right now. To be honest, I’ve spent most of this week oscillating between a kind of “don’t worry, everything will be okay” mindset to outright fear, terror and the tears that come along with it all. Most days I’ve cried, some more than others. And just when I find a small patch of hope — something that gives me a sense that maybe, just maybe, this will turn out all right — it gets stamped out by another goon. Continue reading “The Discrimination Continues, But I Need A Break (Today)”

I Stand By My Man, And Yes, He’s Chinese

Two rings on a wooden surface
(photo by Johanna Ljungblom)

When you’re facing hard times as a couple, people say all kinds of things. “Hope it gets better.” “Stay strong.” “You’ll be okay.”

And then, there’s what my so-call friend told me back in December, after I told her about the discrimination against John, and how I supported him.

“So you’re standing by him? Wow, you’re so loyal.”

You’re so rude, I wanted to tell her. I also wanted to slap her across the table, but it was a holiday party and that sort of thing doesn’t go well with gingerbread and hot apple cider.

“Why wouldn’t I be? He’s my husband and I love him,” I finally said as I glowered at her.

From her perspective, “for better or for worse” just didn’t apply to us. She might as well have said, “You should have married a white man,” because that’s exactly what I heard hidden within her words — that when a white woman chooses to marry someone outside her race, in my case a Chinese man, she should throw in the towel when she faces something she’d never face with a white husband.

Please. Continue reading “I Stand By My Man, And Yes, He’s Chinese”

Who Can We Trust After The Discrimination?

In our game of "who can you trust," there's no such thing as a sure bet here after my Chinese husband's discrimination. (photo by Fran Priestley)

“They’re not even broken relationships. It’s as if the relationships were never even there,” my husband said.

This Sunday evening, John and I reflected on the wreckage of that discrimination — especially the people we never expected to stand against us. People we considered mentors and friends. People who always used to say, “I understand.”

“I don’t understand how they could do this,” I said. “I mean, it’s like they were lying to you all along.”

“That’s the in-group mentality, you know. They never really trust people who are different, never really even consider you like one of them.”

In our game of “who can you trust,” there’s no such thing as a sure bet here. Continue reading “Who Can We Trust After The Discrimination?”

A Little American Mythology

A Chinese student who shares his ideas about Americans makes me realize that, maybe, I've been telling myself myths about this country. ( photo by Jorc Navarro)

Last Saturday, my husband John and I welcomed a couple of Chinese students into our home after dinner. Originally, we just talked turkey — or rather, the fact that we invited them over to our place for Thanksgiving. But when the topic came up, John and I had other turkeys in mind, such as the discrimination we faced barely a day before.

“You two should be careful around here,” I warned the two young Chinese men lounging on our sofa. “Americans aren’t always what they seem to be.” Okay, to be sure, I said these words when the incident — which kicked my husband and I virtually in the stomach — still simmered freshly in my mind. I know a lot of good Americans live in this world. But I suspected these students still carried a far too wholesome “Family Album USA” perspective of this country.

One of the Chinese guys looked genuinely puzzled. “I consider Americans to be very straightforward.”

“Not really,” my husband chimed in. Continue reading “A Little American Mythology”