I don’t have a big family in the States. It really only consists of my small immediate family of four. And even then, the only family member D has met was my mom, over a couple of quick meals. So it’s accurate to say that he had no idea what he was in for when I brought him to China.
And then all of a sudden, in the span of two months, he met and spent a significant amount of time with both my mom’s side of the family in Beijing and my dad’s side of the family in Wuhu (more on this in an upcoming post!). I don’t have the largest extended family, but what they lack in size, they make up for in enthusiasm. I think meeting my family in China was quite the shock to D, who’s unfamiliar with many of the Chinese ways.
Yes, D knew he was with a Chinese girl. But I’m a Chinese girl who grew up in America, away from most of my family, and thus did not bring any of the Chinese-ness into our relationship. A lot of this China trip has been about learning more about each other, and now, after two months, this is what D has learned about dating a Chinese girl:
(I actually tried to get him to guest post, but he’s too busy, so I wrote it for him!)
1. Whenever you’re invited to a meal, even if it’s just a small, light snack, expect it to be an entire table-spread of food. Because too much food is better than not enough food, or even just-the-right-amount food. Even if the food is delicious and you’re starving, you’d best pace yourself. Eat slowly and never to completely full, because without a doubt, her family will be piling your plate with food throughout the meal. And you absolutely cannot refuse.
2. And if they see that you’re not eating, that most certainly means you don’t like the food. No, it cannot possibly be because you’ve just been force fed and now you’re so stuffed that you’re on the verge of throwing up.
3. And when you leave, you will be given all the leftovers along with bags of other snacks and foods. Because they are perpetually worried that you don’t have enough to eat. Or that you’re incapable of finding food on your own.
4. If you mention the slightest hint of feeling sick, her family will offer to take you to the hospital. And if you refuse (because stomach upsets or runny noses can totally be managed on your own), they will at the very least run out to buy you some medicine.
5. They will always be worried about your current state. Are you hungry? Cold? Are you sure? It’s a little windy and you’re not wearing a jacket. Do you have an umbrella? It may rain later. Is the AC in your room working? Are you tired? Do you want to lay down for a little bit of nap first? Oh look, you just yawned, better go take a nap.
6. You’ll have to learn + memorize a thousand different names to refer her family members by. Unlike in English, where it’s just grandma or aunt or uncle, in Chinese, each family member gets a different name depending on the relationship to her. Grandma on the mom’s side is laolao, while grandma on the dad’s side is nainai. There’s a different name for literally everyone: mom’s brother (jiujiu), mom’s brother’s wife (jiuma), dad’s older brother (dabo), dad’s younger brother (shushu), etc. etc. You get the idea.
7. Expect any outing to end with a fight for the bill, an act that the Chinese takes very seriously. (You can go to any restaurant and observe this phenomenon. It gets pretty intense sometimes.) Her family will whip out their wallets at the first mention of the bill, even for something as simple as a bottle of water. You can fight to pay your own way, even shoving your money into the cashier’s face, but nice try. Ever try to fight for payment with a Chinese before? You won’t win.
Chinese families are not known to be overly affectionate. Unlike the constant hugs and murmuring of love-you‘s from Western families, Chinese families don’t usually greet each with physical contact or easily offer verbal endearments. But they show that they care in a million other little ways. It’s in the way they worry about your health and the way they always make sure you’re well fed. It’s the supreme generosity they show and the way that they give without expecting anything in return.
Chinese families may not be vocal about their love, but their actions speak all the words you need to hear. So just let them love you in their own way. :)