06/25/18

Giving a speech on cross-cultural marriage and how to solve some issues

Last Sunday I had the change to give a speech at DU Talk about Cross-Cultural Marriage. DU Talk is a weekly event where different speakers come with different topics each Sunday evening. So far I have attended speeched about traveling, social media, trading etc. This time I was honored to be the guest speaker my self!

As with only been married for less than 5 years I’m far from an expert on marriage, I had a more personal view on my topic. From my own perspective and experience I introduced how a cross-cultural marriage might start, evolve, what challenges there might be and how we have solved them.

Here I would like to share my ideas on the five struggless we went over during my speech and some of our solutions as well.

1. Deciding where to live

Me and my husband haven’t never fought over which country we should live in as we have been in agreement that our life is in China at the moment. We also see our selves living here for the next 5 or 10 years at least. In the future we hope we could divide our time more between Finland and China, but a move to Finland isn’t in the plans right now.

2. Language struggles in a relationship

Me and my husband certainly had issues with the language whne we started dating. My Mandarin wasn’t that good at the time and his English was even worse. We had problems in communicating with each other, though nothing major. Now I feel I can express my self and my feelings better in Chinese, but of course it’s still far from being the same when I speak Finnish. But it has to be at least one person in the relationship who sees the effort of learning the language of his/her spouse.

3. How to plan a cross-cultural wedding

I have written about our wedding a lot before, about combining the cultures, choosing the date, the legal wedding and finally about our big day that included a Chinese part and a Finnish part all in one day.

4. How to get along with your in-laws

Me and my husband laid out some rules early on, even before having kids. We wanted to live on our own, though close to the family, and do things our way. Being firm and honest from the beginning has been working well for us and the in-laws let us live our life the way we want. My Chinese husband has also always been independent in a sense that he has argumented his view to his parents and done his way even before meeting me.

It’s important to be your self, you can not try to fake something during the first visit and then keep it up for the rest of your life. Be who you are and see if you are a good match with the family before you marry.

5. Different views in raising kids

Me and my husband are pretty much on the same page what comes to educating our daughter. We don’t believe in disciplining kids through violent matters and we do believe in the benefit of Chinese education in a sense that we want our daughter to be fully fluent in Chinese.

The Chinese grandparents do have very different ideas or raising kids, but because they usually see our daughter once or twice a week, their influence isn’t that significant. We want them to have fun with their grandchild and our daughter to have a nice relationship with them, but we don’t wish them to have much say on her education or up-bringing.

07/20/16

What to accept in the name of culture?

At a friend’s wedding in 2015

I often get comments or emails asking if something is common Chinese behavior in a spouse or in-laws. They wonder if they are acting in a strange way because of cultural reasons and therefore should be respected even though you find it hard to accept.

For example shaving a baby’s head is a common practice in China. Some believe by shaving the hair will grow thicker, some simply think it’s cooler without hair in a hot climate. Would you accept this as a part of Chinese culture?

It’s easy to accept the things we agree about. Having dinner with the in-laws once a week gives me a break from cooking. Even though I believe women should earn their own money, I haven’t turned off gifts from my husband such as a bicycle and a MacBook laptop.

But what about the things we find hard to accept? The way of criticizing to show your love? In-laws giving you a bunch of unwanted advice and throwing a temper tantrum when you decide to hire a nanny?

I believe that instead of thinking “Do I accept this Chinese cultural custom” you should consider “Do I accept this person as my spouse with his or her habits no matter cultural or not”. The point is not that you are about to marry or already married to a Chinese person. More importantly you are committed to this particular person.

Let me give you an example. If my husband had to drink him self under the table at business dinners several times per week, I wouldn’t accept it. It’s a part of Chinese business culture yes, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable from my point of view. “But that’s just part of our culture” wouldn’t be a plausible explanation for me. 

One tricky trap to avoid is thinking “I wouldn’t accept this from a Western boyfriend, but he is Chinese so I must understand”.  I admit I have fallen to this pit in my previous relationships, accepting way too much in the name of culture than I should have. This reminds me of the book Good Chinese Wife, where Susan refused to believe her husband cheated even though the evidence was right in front of her. 

So what to accept then? I accepted that our daughter got my husband’s last name without a discussion. I also accept strangers touching our baby’s hands or even cheeks as I know it’s just a part of the child loving nature of Chinese people.

In the end intercultural marriage is still a marriage. If something makes you uncomfortable or angry, discuss it with your spouse. If you aren’t married yet, decide if you are willing to live with his or hers strange habits no matter cultural or not.

02/14/15

Our First Anniversary

Wedding Cake

One year ago in 14th February 2014 it was no ordinary Valentine’s Day. On that year the Chinese Lantern Festival fell on the exact same day, being held on the 15th of the first month of the lunar calendar. As Lantern Festival is also considered a Chinese Valentine’s Day, it was a double lucky day, the perfect day to register our marriage.

Even though we had our Wedding later in May both with Chinese and Finnish characteristics, we still consider the Valentine’s Day as our anniversary. Easy to remember too!

After our wedding we finally moved to our own house, the old family house, and started our life together surrounded by history and four cats. I’m probably the worst person to be given a big house to live as I’m not the housekeeping kind, but it’s been great to have a real home where you can decorate and arrange furniture just the way you like it. I hope we will have lots of happy years in this Chinese house with a lot of character.

The Autumn was so busy we barely even saw each other. I was at the university from Monday to Friday, sometimes from morning till late night. Alan was taking English lessons on the Saturdays so Sundays became our only time to relax and have fun together. Our first year as a married couple ended with our honeymoon to Malaysia, from where I will share more photos later on.

All in all it’s great to be married to a man like Alan who understands and supports you when you pursue things that are important for you. Alan is a husband who always puts his family first. The other day when I told him to always be by my side, he replied: “Of course I will always be by your side, and our kids too.”

09/9/14

Wedding Planning In China

Life’s been busy since the new semester started few weeks ago. Starting of my master’s degree means lessons, lectures and internship. On top of that I have started tutoring a beginner learner two times per week. Lots of exciting things!

Before I have time to continue with the travel posts from Hangzhou and Suzhou, I show you my first video for Out and About in China Youtube channel. In this short video I go over the 4 basic steps in wedding planning and also offer a few tips for others who are planning their multicultural wedding.

Hope you enjoy the video! Please subscribe to our Youtube channel for more videos around Asia.

07/17/14

Good Chinese Wife – A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong

Good Chinese Wife Cover

Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason is the must read book this year about China and international relationships. In this memoir Susan describes how she moves to Hong Kong for her master’s degree and by chance meets a handsome Chinese guy from Mainland China. On nightly tutoring sessions Susan and Cai fall in love, getting into a totally new adventure for Susan.

Unfortunately after getting married in Hong Kong, things slowly start to change and Susan finds herself making excuses behalf of her new husband. But whether it’s just about cultural differences or if it goes to fundamental differences between two people, that’s often hard to know at first.

“I wanted to respect Cai’s culture and show his parents that I enjoyed their cooking and appreciated their hospitality, but at the same time, I feared I’d grow resentful if I didn’t start standing up for myself.”

I don’t remember when I heard about Good Chinese Wife first, but I was thrilled when Jocelyn from Speaking of China contacted me and gave me the opportunity to review the memoir. And even be part of the official book tour! I finished the whole book in two days! Just couldn’t let it out of my hands once I started reading it. As I got married with my Chinese guy this year, I could in some regards relate to Susan’s story of how it’s like to fall in love with someone from a totally different culture.

I could relate to the excitement Susan had when she first sees Cai and how eagerly she waited for their every meeting. In some regard I also related to their visits to Cai’s parents, where she was first very polite and made sure to give a good impression. But soon she also learned an important thing, you have to be true to yourself if you want to be happy in your new family. According to her beliefs she didn’t eat pork and often politely declined cheering with alcohol.

“Until now I thought the strains we’d had in our marriage stemmed from cultural differences. But now I was beginning to consider whether the problems might be due to character, not to culture.”

Throughout the book you can feel how deeply Susan loves Cai and does everything she can to save their marriage. Her touching words and stories got me into tears the further read. With her book Susan is being so amazingly brave to let us all in to her life, openly sharing even the most bitter twists and turns in their love story.

Good Chinese Wife – A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong is a remarkable honest account of what happens when you fall head over your heels into love, without actually knowing the real person standing next to you. It’s the pain that comes when you start learning the ugly little truths about your loved one, when your heart still wants to make excuses for that person, thinking there might still be a good explanation for all the strange incidents.

I wholeheartedly recommend Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Good Chinese Wife to all of my readers. By reading the book you get an insider’s view of being a member of a Chinese family, how hard it can be to accept the truth that your international marriage isn’t what you bargained for and how brave you can be when it’s time to protect you and your child.

Susan Blumberg-Kason author photoSusan Blumberg-Kason is a freelance journalist in Chicago. As a child growing up in suburban Chicago, she dreamed of the neon street signs and double-decker buses of Hong Kong. In her late teens, she left for a year abroad in Hong Kong and ended up spending most of the twenties there. She studied Mandarin and completed a master’s degree in political science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Susan is now back in the Chicago area, where she lives with her family. Her work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines. You can find her online at www.susanbkason.com.

Good Chinese Wife is now available for pre-orders on Amazon, click here to order your own copy of my favorite book of the year. If you decide to purchase the book through affiliate links in this post, you will also help to support my blog, thank you!