05/31/14

My Chinese husband is more foreign than the foreigners themselves

He is even more foreign than the foreigners! (他比外国人还外国人!) sighed out my mother-in-law one day about her son. And I can very well see her reasons on making this remark about my husband, he surely doesn’t fit the stereotypic box of Chinese men that articles like 8 reasons why Western women rarely marry Chinese men try to put them into.

The original post appeared on the China Daily Forum, from where the beginning of the article was transformed into a post on The World of Chinese. The article instantly got lots of comments on Facebook saying it gave the wrong impression on Chinese men and women with Chinese boyfriends and husbands mainly disagreed with the overgeneralizing post.

A fellow blogger from China elevator stories already shared her side of the story aka How my husband defeats almost every stereotype (some) people have about Chinese men. Now it’s my turn to take a look just how “well” my husband fits this stereotypic description.

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1. Chinese men are shy

On the night we first met, Alan was the one to stay and talk with me late into the night. He was also the one to take my hand and give me the first kiss. I would say my husband is the opposite of being shy as he is always the active one in making friends and arranging barbecue evenings for colleagues.

Being a stereotypically introverted Finn my self, my head is sometimes spinning on how quickly Alan manages to make friends no matter where he goes. Perhaps he was a bit nerdy when still at school, but he was beaming self-confidence when I met him.

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2. Chinese boys are spoiled

In Finland we also have the stereotype that children without siblings are a bit spoiled, but no matter if that’s true or not, my husband does have a little sister who does a fine job on bullying and making jokes of him. In terms of parenting I’m sure I have gotten the easier way with Finnish parenting style, a far cry from though Chinese parents that demand a lot from their kids.

Alan has always done things his own way, working hard after graduation to work on jobs that could help him to improve his skills. He is even studying for a Japanese language undergraduate degree while working full-time and flying across the South China for business.

It is true that Chinese parents do take care of their children perhaps more than other parents do. We are very grateful for his parents to let us move into the old family house and help us renovate it to its current stage. Also when still living with the parents, my mother-in-law did do her best to spoil us by cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, buying as fruits and so on. While I was still thinking of hanging those clothes to dry, she had done it already!

But spoiled? I think there has been a good balance of a caring mother and demanding parenting in Alan’s youth that has helped him to become the independent and ambitious person he is now.

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3. Chinese men are racially insecure, especially when compared to Caucasians

The stereotype I have that we are all introverted, shy and insecure compared to Americans. For some reason, the Americans I know are all very self-confident people and now exactly what they want and speak about things as they are.

But no one surely hadn’t told Alan that he should feel inferior just because of his ethnicity and nationality. He never though I would be out of reach just because I happen to be a Westerner and he is not.

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4. Chinese men are traditional

What actually constitutes as a traditional Chinese man? Well, according to the articles on China Daily and The World of Chinese it means…

Traditional people are usually not open-minded and will cut on romance, public displays of affection or even a good make-out session – a very integral part of a foreign woman’s fantasy.

I do happen to know Western girls that  date traditional Chinese boys, but my husband isn’t one of them. He has held my hand since day one no matter where we go and ignores the curious stares we get on the streets. When we used to take the same metro to school and work last year, he would always kiss me goodbye before getting of.

Romance perhaps is a one things that my husband could learn about. In China girls like to be pampered and drowned with gifts and flowers when dating, but when the married life begins, they prefer cold hard cash. As I have lived quite a secure life in the West, I don’t have many requirements for getting rich, but I’m girly enough to love romantic date nights. I just hope that next time a date night out doesn’t mean my husband takes me to watch Need for Speed.

Luckily things aren’t black and white, even Alan isn’t the most traditional man on the block, he still posses many good qualities of being a good Chinese man. He takes care of me and his family, always planning for a good future for us. He even carries my handbag if I want to! (See the photo above.)

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5. Chinese men cannot speak English well.

Guilty as charged! Alan’s English was quite rudimentary when we met, but at this age and time, it isn’t a problem at all! We foreign Women are learning Chinese and using Mandarin as the prime language of our relationship. Ruth from China elevator stories even writes how she isn’t sure of her husband’s English skills as they have Chinese as a love language.

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6. Chinese men love to save money

How does saving money affects on not being able to marry a foreign bride? According to the original article, spending money seems to equal romance. Of course if date night means dining in the most expensive restaurant in town, then sure being frugal could hurt you. But at the moment I would rather have a candlelit dinner at home eating something my husband have made him self!

Being good with money is actually one of the qualities I admire in Alan. Unfortunately I’m the person who is rich the first two weeks of the month and poor during the rest. My husbands good attitude towards spending money and saving it have had a big positive impact on me.

And is there anything more romantic that having a husband who wants to save money so that we and our future kids can have a good future together? (Not to mention how Alan often speaks how he needs to make money to buy a new laptop and mobile phone for me!)

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7. Chinese boys are too busy studying and men are too busy working

True!

My husband works for a Japanese company and in Japanese working culture official working hours doesn’t really mean much. You just can’t leave the office before your bosses and superiors go home. In both Japan and China it’s also a custom to treat customers for dinners and alcohol covered karaoke nights when signing the deal.

My husband often travels in South China because of his work, this week he was away two nights, next week three nights. But working hard and long hours doesn’t mean that a Chinese guy doesn’t have time for their loved one. For example right now he has a three-day holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival and he made sure to spend it with me.

In my husband’s case he wants to work hard now so that when we have children he would have more time to be with us.

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8. Chinese guys are relatively less social and out-going

Like I mentioned throughout this post, my husband is far more social and out-going than me. He thinks “the more the merrier” when I would just rather hang out just the two of us.

For a billion people, Chinese night clubs are too empty on average and since most foreign ladies hang out there, and Chinese men don’t go to them, they don’t get to meet the ladies.

The above claim on the original article doesn’t seem to ring true according to my findings. KTV might be the number one way for the Chinese people to have fun, but if you like bar hopping, those are full of both Chinese and foreigners here in Guangzhou. Not that a bar or a club is the best way to find your The One, but for me and Alan it luckily worked out.

 

Just like Ruth’s husband, Alan doesn’t really fit the overly generalized box of Chinese men painted out in the article. It is true that there are still far more Foreign men with Chinese wifes, but I predict that more and more foreign women will find their love with Chinese men as well.

How about you? What do you think are the reasons that few Western women marry Chinese men? And is your boyfriend or husband more traditional or more foreign?

05/26/14

Welcome to our new home!

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Our cat Sam Sam wants to welcome all of you to a tour to our new home! It’s far from finished, renovations rarely are completely ready, but it’s a place we proudly call home now.

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You can see the layout of our house in an earlier blog post to help you figure out how all these rooms come together. In total we have six rooms, dining room, living room, storage room, kitchen, bathroom, balcony and a small backyard. The first picture is from the front door looking towards the kitchen. That small area in between is called 天井 atrium in Chinese and it lets the sunshine and the rain inside. A Chinese friend of mine told me that having rain to pour inside, to the middle of the house, brings good luck.

 

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Aside from putting new tiles, we did nothing to our kitchen yet, because we just didn’t have the budget for it right now. So what you can see here is a mess with too much stuff and not enough space to put it. I’m going to try to find some kind of temporary solution, but kitchen renovation has to wait for now.

 

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The room we needed to be the most comfortable and completely ready is the bathroom above, it’s also the most expensive room in the house at the moment. I chose the tiles to bathroom, and kitchen, my self and I think it turned out pretty nice! I bet we have the most modern looking bathroom in the village.

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From the kitchen you can get to our small backyard that is a work in process.There are countless number of tiny pieces of trash and scrap metal in the ground that needs to be picked out. After that we can start planning to plant some flowers.

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We have a well in the backyard as well which has plenty of water. The well water can be used to washing dishes and cleaning the floors for example.

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In the first floor we have a big room in the middle, medium room on the left and two smaller rooms on the right. Because of the good all building, our first floor is quite comfortable even during the Summer and the temperature must be several degrees lower than in the second floor. Here we set up a dining room that is the center of our home during the Summer. One of the smaller rooms is our bedroom for now as it’s, even now with 32’C, cool enough to sleep with just an electric fan.IMG_5848

The stairs lead us to the second floor that turns into a sauna during the Summer. As the roof is flat, all the sun light comes straight in and the thick walls keep it hot.

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The layout is the same as in the first floor, big room in the middle and three other rooms surrounding it. In the living room we have our sofa covered with quilts to protect it from our cats’ paws. We have a ceiling fan in the dining room and in the living room, but it doesn’t quite reach the sofa area. Living room is the right place during the cooler evenings and during the Winter.

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On the left door we can get into our new bedroom with brand-new furniture. As we haven’t bought an AC yet, it’s impossible to sleep there during these hot Summer months. But the soft bed is waiting for us when we finally buy the AC next month or so.

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On the right side of the living room on door leads to our home office. Later on I will also buy my own office desk, when my husband will move his computer here as well. I’m still in a need of more drawers and space to put my stuff in.

The other small room is for our new wardrobe which didn’t fit inside the bedroom. I’m not sure if we can dress there during the Summer because of the heat, but at least in theory we do have a walk-in-closet!

 

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One of the best part in our house is the big balcony on the second floor that is perfect for barbecue parties. We just need to get more balcony furniture to accommodate more friends and then it’s time for a housewarming! The big hole in the middle is the 天井 atrium I mentioned earlier in this post.

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So this is our home for years to come. I remember coming here for the first time almost a year ago and even though it was then covered in trash because of dirty tenants, I could see the potential inside. Of course there are downsides to living in an old house in the village, most of them having to do with hot weather and humidity, but having a real house in Guangzhou is absolutely worth it even with minor inconveniences.

05/24/14

The Perfect Finnish-Chinese Wedding Part 2

After our Chinese wedding it was time to head to the Ascott to get the party started! As we weren’t sure if our old house would be ready before the wedding day, we had no other choice than look for other party venues. After a few stressful days of hunting the place, I remember that luxurious apartment hotel right next to Taikoohui shopping mall. In the end it was a great choice for the Finnish part of our wedding!

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So right when our Chinese wedding banquet ended, we rushed back home to gather the things and take off my beautiful, but movement-restricted qipao.Me, my family, my bridesmaids, the photographer and the make-up artist head to the Ascott first to get everything ready for the guests. We had about 140 guests at the banquet, but the evening party was for about 30 to 35 closest friends and family.

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Something borrowed. My bridesmaid Ellen was generous to lend me her beautiful set of pearl earrings and a necklace. I think it fit perfectly with my white wedding gown.

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After preparing the two bedroom and a living room apartment for the party, my make-up artist helped me to fix my make-up, create a new hairstyle that matched my veil and dressed me to my dream dress. Originally I had wanted to go with something super cheap, but when I started dress shopping I realized that dirt cheap doesn’t go hand in hand with “the wedding gown of my dreams”. Of course at 2100RMB is was still so much cheaper than would have been in Finland. And custom-made!

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I didn’t know if I wanted to wear the veil before the time actually came. Thought it would be a bit silly, but actually it was the dot on top of the i like we say in Finland, the final touch to my look.

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On that afternoon I was so grateful that I was having a Chinese-Finnish wedding, for a more superficial reason, I got to wear two outfits! I didn’t have to choose between to amazing options, but could have both instead! I loved the transformation from the traditional Chinese look to the modern but classy bride for the party.

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My husband hadn’t seen my wedding gown before, it was very important for me to surprise him two times in one day with both of the dresses. So he and the guests waited for me at the lobby…

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I have multiple photos and a video clip of this moment when Alan is eagerly waiting for me. My mom said that he was like a kid in the candy store!

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I was quite nervous my self too! Even though we had already been married few months and the Chinese wedding banquet was already over, I still felt butterflies in my stomach when I slowly walked towards my husband.

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I hope someone would have told me to fix the ribbon!

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After group photos we all went upstairs and started the party with toasting sparkling wine and non-alcohol pear drink from Ikea.

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Once again me and Alan drank our “first drink” together.

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Showing off the custom-made stickers I ordered from Taobao. I still have many left and don’t know what to do with them.

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Then it was time to eat! I ordered the food from Perry’s, which is the place where I met my husband and they gladly agreed to do it. I was so worried that guests would go hungry that I ended up ordering way too much food.

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In Finland it’s not a real wedding without some wedding games and activities! One of the classic ones is the shoe game where the couple will hear statements like “Cooks the best food” or “The smartest one” and will answer by holding up the right shoe. Alan’s shoe represents him and my shoe represents me.

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Here Alan is wondering what to answer to the statement “Who has the wackiest family”!

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In the end we agreed on most of the questions! Which according to my little sister, maid-in-honor, means a peaceful marriage.

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Cutting the wedding cake is an important tradition as well. The one who stomps the ground first while cutting the cake, is also the one who decides the “placement of the bookshelf” aka is the decision maker in the house. On the right you can see my sister holding my dress in order to allow me to get my foot ready. In the end my sweet hubby very clearly waited a second to let me stomp my foot first.

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Blueberry cheesecake continued the blue-Finnish theme.

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The first dance is an important part of the Finnish wedding even though many couples, including as, choose not to waltz it anymore. For our song I had chosen a popular Finnish first dance song to be played, the name of the song is I love you.

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Before the song was over something started to happen! Alan had no idea that the Finnish tradition includes stealing of the bride!

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In order to get his bride back, the groom has to complete tasks assigned by the robbers. The robbers said that they have four different tasks for Alan to solve before I could be returned.

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First of all, a man should be brave. Brave enough to eat a Finnish candy called the Tyrkisk Peber.

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Secondly, a man should be strong. What the robbers didn’t know is that Alan started going to the gym five months before our wedding.

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Thirdly, a man should be wise and intelligent. Smart enough to read a Finnish sentence: Minä rakastan sinua eniten koko maailmassa. (I love you the most in the whole wide world)

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And finally the most important quality of a man, he should be loving. In this task Alan had to share five different reasons for choosing and loving me. And I gotta tell you, those reasons came like from the pharmacy’s shelf (Finnish saying), he needed no time at all to consider his answers.  I got my final confirmation that I really married the best man possible!

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After all the tasks successfully the robbers asked me if I wanted to go back to Alan and of course I wanted!

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All the games had now ended and it was time to dance! Alan danced with my mom, his mom and his aunt. I asked Alan’s dad for a dance, but when he smilingly refused, I got to dance with his uncle instead. That was inter-cultural bonding at it’s best, seeing Alan’s family to enjoy our Finnish party so much that they stayed later they had planned!

We even had to change to the party songs to get the kids and the old folks to head home. My sister was in charge of the music and we heard some unforgettable classics from the 90’s, flavored with some Finnish songs as well. I have never seen my family or friends dancing so wildly before!

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YMCA is of course a must for every party as it’s easy dance moves get everybody on the dance floor!

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At midnight our 11-hour wedding spectacle had come to an end. But that was just the beginning of our story together.

To be continued…

p.s. If you have enjoyed the Studying Chinese posts in my blog, you can vote for me at the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2014 competition. Thank you! (Find me by my name Sara Jaaksola)

05/14/14

The Perfect Finnish-Chinese Wedding Part 1

Finally after a few month’s preparation our wedding day was here. On the day before we had made offerings to the ancestors by burning ghost money and offering them food and drinks. We also fired some small firecrackers, but nothing compared to those on the morning of our wedding day.

My parents-in-law also prepared our new bedroom with red bedding with dragon and phoenix embroidery. Auspicious items, apples and red pockets were placed on the bed in order to bring a child to the family soon. We also decorated both the new and the old house with red and blue fabrics and decorative items. Blue to represent Finland and red to be the symbol of China.

I slept surprisingly well the last night, right next to my husband against the tradition in many countries. It was out of the necessity as we already had all of our rooms full because of family members. And we couldn’t use our new bedroom before the wedding day, it had to wait behind a closed-door.

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I woke up before 6am and got ready for the hair brushing ceremony that brings good luck to the new couple. Traditionally it should be done by my own mother, but because she isn’t familiar with this Chinese tradition, my mother-in-law gladly took her place.

After a few strokes of a brush and auspicious words, I was ready to start my make-up. I had invited a professional make-up artist to make me pretty and she also took care of my sister (maid of honor) and the two mothers. I almost fell asleep again when she asked me to close my eyes while applying eye shadow.

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I had decided to wear a lace qipao during the Chinese wedding and it fit perfectly, the only problem being sitting down and some very interesting attempts to sit down or stand up were seen on that day. My make-up artist had chosen to create a very simple hair-do for me with three red and golden flowers. After all of this beautifying and dressing up, I felt such a confidence during the whole day that I have never felt before. Wow, I actually looked pretty good!

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At 8.30am it was time to come down the stairs and let my husband to see me for the first time. It was also the first time for me to see his handsome suit that fit him so amazingly. Blue and red together just like I had planned months before.

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While others started to get ready as well, we went to the old family house (our new home) to take pictures. I remember thinking it was the right choice to hire a professional photographer, as the photos will be one of the lasting memories of our wedding day.

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Many Chinese couples, if not everyone, take pre-wedding photos in photo shops and dress up in multiple outfits posing for the camera in different settings. As me and my husband usually prefer something more simple and down to earth, we wanted to have photos at our new house instead.

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The picture above is one of my favorites from that day as we are posing in front of our home. I think this photos illustrates how our two cultures go together and our appreciation for preserving the old.

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Our photographer Andy had great ideas and tips for our photos, he was always giving as directions on how to pose and be more relaxed. Being a wedding photographer is his second job, but still last year alone he photographed more than 50 weddings. If you are planning to get married in Guangzhou, I would love to recommend Andy for you.

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Posing for the photos wasn’t easy for me, but the beautiful outfit and the newly found confidence helped a lot. These photos are from the first batch Andy send us and we will receive the finished pics later when he comes back from his one month trip of cycling around Tibet.

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At our new home we opened the door to our bridal chamber thinking how this room will be the hearth of our home for years to come. Of course I didn’t think how hot the second floor is during Summer and as we don’t have AC yet, we have been sleeping on the cooler first floor for now.

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Smiling comes naturally for my husband, but the photographer had harder time to get me show my teeth! Later that day I needed to ask my little brother to tell some jokes to get me laugh.

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My husband Alan is usually the one to make funny jokes and poses!

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The rainy season had started in Guangzhou before our wedding on 2nd May, but on that very day it seemed the heaven wanted to bless us with sunshine. I’m not a religious person myself, but my mother-in-law it must be a match made in heaven or something to have such a wonderful weather for our wedding day!

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For my wedding bouquet I went for fabric flowers as real flowers don’t survive long in the humid Summer weather, I wanted to have one more lasting memory of the best day of my life. I finished the bouquet with silk ribbons, red and blue of course.

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At 10am it was time to start the important tea ceremony. First we offered tea for Alan’s grandparents that had passed away. We burned incense, asked for protection and blessing and poured their tea on the floor.

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After that we offered tea to all the elders of the family, including my mother. Kneeling down was really hard on my red qipao, but with my husband’s firm had I managed to do that without falling down. On the right my sister and one of my bridesmaids are helping us to give tea to Alan’s parents.After giving tea and wedding candy to the elders, they gave us red pockets filled with money and some gifts.

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In China a wedding is not a real wedding if some firecrackers aren’t involved!

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Ready, set, go!

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After the tea ceremony it was time to get to our cars and head to the wedding banquet. I had chosen a beautiful lace umbrella to match my outfit and following the tradition my little sister in blue hold it above me from the front door to the car. My mom and little brother are following us in the background.

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The every bride’s best wedding planner, Pinterest, gave me an idea to have a finger print guest book. The two red ones forming a hearth are mine and Alan’s. The guest book was placed on the table where the guests would give a red envelope to my mother-in-law. She also did a great job in ordering everyone to leave their finger prints and it turned into a beautiful piece of art we will hang on our home.

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When all the guests had arrived and we had taken group pictures with almost all of them, it was time to “walk along the aisle to the altar” or more like follow the red carpet to the small stage.

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With the classic wedding music and colorful confetti we walked past our family and friends to the stage.

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There is never enough colorful pieces of paper in a Chinese wedding!

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At the last minute one of the bestman’s had decided we should have a exchanging the rings ceremony in front of everyone. That was already the third time we had exchanged the same rings, but it did make some nice photos. (First time was when we got engaged last year, second time during the official wedding ceremony).

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A kiss to seal the happy marriage!

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What is common for both Chinese and Finnish wedding are the speeches. Us, Alan’s parents and my mom all gave speeches that were translated to Cantonese and English for everyone to understand. I broke up to tears when listening to my mom’s speech and had to squeeze my husband’s had very very tightly.

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After the speeches it was time to eat! Of course we as the newly weds only had a few minutes to eat and then we separated for our own responsibilities. Alan went with the red wine to cheer with all the guests and had his bestmen to follow him. O course he couldn’t have drunk the real thing from the first to the last guest, so they have prepared a mixture of tea and wine for him.

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At the same time Alan’s mom lead the way for me and the bridesmaids to offer tea for everyone. What was new to me, was that all the guests would give small red pockets of money to the tray as well. The sums were small, but the most important things was the tradition.

Our Chinese wedding banquet ended after 1pm and I was already exhausted. But this was just the beginning, the Finnish party would start in a few hours! But that’s another story for the next blog post.