Dear Jamie is a regular series where our readers seek advice from Jamie, a Guangdong-based life coach.
I’m a Chinese guy living with my Canadian girlfriend. We’ve been dating for almost a year now. She’s hot and I like her very much. I want my parents to like her too, but she doesn’t speak Mandarin and has no intention of learning. Besides [she also] smokes and drinks in public.
On a Friday night, we went out for dinner for the first time with my parents. Out of the blue she stuck her chopsticks in the middle of a bowl of rice, which, in our custom, is very disrespectful.
Shocked to her core, my mom, a very traditional woman, arose to take those chopsticks down, and it upset her.
I explained to my girlfriend how her action was impolite, but she flew into an outrage and told me she is not Chinese and could do anything she wanted with her chopsticks.
In China we have a saying: when you enter a village, live by its customs. How can I persuade her to stop embarrassing people with her ignorance?
-Distress in Guangdong
Let’s take a step back from language learning, public drinking and your mother’s shocked core to look at the big picture: not the reeducation of a brazen Canuck, but the dynamic of your relationship overall.
Inter-culture dating is – and this is the perfect word for it – a bitch. Often, the only thing holding East-meets-West couples together through misunderstandings and miscommunication is affection – an affection that moves both sides to understand and adapt.
When your girlfriend makes a flub – and these flubs will continue, be assured – instead of learning from it, she reacts with anger. Not good.
Sit down with her. Have a chat. Explain your position while acknowledging the onus is equally on you to set the ship for smooth sailing.
If she accepts the situation for what it is: grand. Otherwise, plugging those chopsticks into the rice may not have marked a death but the end of your relationship.
There's solid, well-reasoned advice. And there is this. Get yours by contacting Jamieinchina@outlook.com.
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