8 things you should know before marrying into a Chinese family

  1. Everything’s a family affair …

It is widely known that marrying a Chinese guy means you marry into the family. Things you thought were private matters might suddenly be discussed in loud voices at the family table. Where’s that child you’re supposed to birth? Are you still fertile although you’re already over 30? Should you birth a boy or a girl? Should you keep your cat or is that innocent looking kitty one of the most dangerous creatures on earth? How about your salary? Should you switch careers so you can live in closer proximity to your in-laws? Once that baby is here, how about you just give it to the grandparents to raise while you and your husband live in the big city and pretend to be two youngsters without kid? We’ve had quite a few of these things discussed at the family table. Luckily, so far my menstrual problems are usually only discussed between my husband, my mother-in-law and me (and sometimes women working at bath houses). There are still things that are off-topic for fathers-in-law.

  1. … including finances

When my husband and I first started dating, we talked about finances a lot. Growing up, I always had problems talking about money, so I thought being able to talk about finances with him was a fresh respite. If you marry into a Chinese family, finances are often not only an issue discussed between you and your spouse, but between extended family members. Depending if your in-laws are better off or worse financially, they might help you out when you’re in financial troubles or expect you to help them out financially in old age. Many people here don’t get a pension or not enough money to afford hospital visits or else, so your financial help might be essential for them to get by. Make sure you’re in the know about finances before you say yes to your Chinese family. Talking about finances before marriage is helpful no matter if you’re in a cross-cultural relationship or not.

  1. You’ll be expected to come home to your Chinese family for Spring Festival

Now, I’m sure there are exceptions to this one, but in general, once you’re married, you are part of your Chinese family and thus expected to spend Spring Festival with them. Similar to spending Christmas with family back home (if you’re in living in somewhat close proximity), Chinese New Year is celebrated with the extended family. The good thing about it is that if you’re from different countries which don’t both celebrate Spring Festival, you won’t need to negotiate on which day you’ll see which part of the family. Many Chinese marry spouses from different provinces and can only visit one part of the family each year, giving them plenty of opportunity to fight over which part they should visit the upcoming year (which, again, is pretty similar to Christmas in Western countries).

  1. Fighting can seem utterly pointless or even ridiculous

This one is more general and is probably similar for many couples in cross-cultural relationships across the world. Fighting can lead to communication. But it might also seem pointless. We’ve had plenty of fights that led to better communication and because of that, I’m not afraid to fight anymore (like I used to be before I met my husband), but we’ve also had quite a few fights where I just really couldn’t figure out what the hell we were actually fighting about. When you’re in a relationship where you speak different mother tongues, at least one of you will probably not speak in their own mother tongue when fighting. It is hard to put emotions into words in your mother tongue, and even harder if you fight in a second language. Add this component and the fact that you’ve probably grown up in two really different cultures, and you might be fighting about completely different things during the same fight. Hubby says A, I understand B and say C. He understands D and says E. It can go on like that forever from A to Z. The last time we fought like that, he concluded: “Fighting with you doesn’t make any sense.” That’s when we stopped fighting and went back to business as usual. Weirdly enough, everything’s been pretty fine since then.

  1. Your opinion as a mother might not count as much as it would in your home-country

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