I recently read an article on this and thought I’d write my own take on this.
- Everything is a family affair: Literally as I’m sure you can guess, you’re not just marrying you’re wife, but her whole family! Now I’ve read quite a lot online about this and heard quite a lot of really bad and annoying things, and I have to say I think I’ve really lucked out with my in-laws! Don’t get me wrong there are some things which can be a little annoying at times. For example because in Chinese culture seniority means respect, sometimes advice is actually a command wrapped with a smile. And that is made worse when its some of the abundant Chinese pseudoscience (fake / not real). I’ve heard things such as “she has a real problem with the cold now because when she was younger she didn’t wear enough around her head and neck when out riding bikes” and when you clearly have a gum infection “drink two glasses of cool boiled water and put some Chinese toothpaste on it, and that will shift the infection”.
That aside though I find life with my Chinese family fantastic, everyone bonds together not matter the situation good or bad, and we always come out better. It doesn’t matter small or big, good or bad, whatever situation occurs we all do whatever we can to really get the best possible outcome. We regularly have meals with all members and sides of the family. This is really good to regularly see all members of the family and make new plans for the future.
- You’re expected to come home for spring festival: I’m pretty sure from what I have personally seen and heard that there are exceptions to this rule, but generally on the whole this is true. Here in China they don’t really celebrate Christmas, and in my first year here I really missed the whole Christmas experience of being with your family and the Christmas cheer. But here in China Spring Festival is basically the same, everything that we as westerners celebrate at Christmas time is embodied in Spring festival celebrations! And its only roughly a month after Christmas (depending on the traditional lunar calendar). So if you are lucky enough to have a great bunch of foreigners around you, as I am, then you get a double celebration just a month apart! “Fu” that is stuck to doors all around China at this time, it means “fortune”
- Arguing is beyond pointless: When you both speak two different languages and you argue, one of you will be always arguing in a language which isn’t your mother tongue. This means arguments can easily get out of hand or go for an unnecessary amount of time. My wife and I have literally had plenty of arguments that could have not happened or would have been over and done with a lot sooner if we had just stopped to check we both understood. And going back to a term which has been cropping up a lot in this article pseudoscience, this is also the main cause of many arguments! You literally can not ever win with someone who believes in all the crazy Chinese ideas! You can explain until you are blue in the face, quoting actual known scientific evidence, to be met with “that maybe the case in England, but China is a different country” or “scientific knowledge is always changing, who’s to say it won’t be disproved in years to come” .
- Being the child’s parent might not be enough to make the decisions for your child: Now here is another time I’m actually pretty lucky as my in laws let my wife and I decide what is best for our son. However this is rare! Many of my wife’s friends and people I know have had to deal with a completely different situation. It all goes back to that seniority being more respected. I always hear these stories of battles between mothers and their in laws, always its about one way of thinking compared to another, and usually the in laws are using strange Chinese pseudoscience.
- Many fathers are not that involved with parenting: Its sad to hear, but over here I’ve heard some many times about fathers not really taking an active role in their child’s lives. Things such as just holding the baby to “look cool” and then giving it back seem far too common. Now this sounds kind of bad towards the fathers and in lots of cases is entirely down to the father…. but….. since becoming a parent myself whilst at the same time living here in China and dealing with Chinese family members on a daily basis,I would suggest that this attitude to parenting has also got additional factors which make it this way. <Warning personnel opinion> I’ve found through my own experience that there are many times when I’ve wanted to do something with my child and I’ve been pushed aside or denied! For example at the hospital and upon hearing my son crying went to pick him up and comfort him, just as I’m about to I’m cut in front of and pushed out of the way by an aunt who’s there “luckily” to save the day! Or another time when taking my son to get his vaccinations, leaving my wife at home because she’s still on the 40 days bed rest. Just after having put him in the pram and on my way out the door, to then have the pram taken from me by the nanny! So yeah in my opinion sometimes its no wonder many dads here in china take a back seat when it comes to parenting as they’re constantly shut down or denied. I do however recognize that that is not always the case, but i do think it plays an important part of the why this happens.
- Chinese society views will always come back to bite you: The most important thing here is to remember the number one rule, YOU ARE MARRIED TO CHINA! Simply put this means you are married to 5000 years of history, ideas and expectations! Unlike before you were married when you could pick and choose what to believe and do, now you regularly have to make concessions for the way society as a whole thinks. This can and does get really really annoying at times, especially when being dispensed an opinion from a random stranger. This is something that unfortunately you can do nothing about, if you have an understanding family like mine and you always remember that in the privacy of your own home you can behave as you please its capable with. There are certain times however I will not bend though! I get it I’m here in China and there always will be many times I need to make sacrifices and fit in, that being said I will never loose myself and the ideals and values I have as a proud Brit. Its more about picking your battles, concede the small things and fight for those most important to you.