Marriages aren't made in heaven, they're made from compromises

Updated: 2012-11-10 08:08

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)

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There has been a lot of laughter at my expense of late and perhaps even a hint of pity, on account of my marriage. Don't concern yourselves, we're happy, but that hasn't stopped the man who writes under the pen name Brother Cui in North America.

He is rumored to be a part-time comedian in the US but is certainly a huge hit on the domestic Twitter-like service Sina Weibo, where one of his many posts humorously identifies some of the cultural differences that Western men like me are required to reconcile after marrying a Chinese woman.

He suggests that the typical Chinese tiger wife schedules her foreign husband's life with such military precision that we really should salute her. He bets that she likes to put plastic covers on new products in order to keep them looking new, though the covers are irritating, collect dust and yellow with age. He also knows that wages are the sole property of the Middle Kingdom matriarch. We males, on the other hand, may be given "pocket money" but just as often are cashless - a bit like the Queen of England.

But there's more, much more than Brother Cui knows. For instance, my wife insists I drink warm rather than cold water. When asked why, she cannot explain. (My elementary research suggests it's something to do with the spleen and a mysterious life force called qi.) On similar grounds, the kids and I have to sneak off and eat ice creams in the summer, or risk her wrath.

And while we're on the subject of food, I believe that you should only eat as much as you need, so I sometimes don't finish everything on the plate. This is a sin as far as my wife is concerned. But when it comes to banquets, ordering too much food is par for the course. And don't get me started on salads. Her opinion is that raw food just isn't good for you and it's not civilized. My feeling is, natural is best.

Come the nighttime, we have a routine. I turn on the lights, leave the room to do something - and she turns them off. I go back in the room and turn them on again. And so on. It's like musical chairs, but without the music or chairs. I haven't turned off a light since we got married.

Perhaps I should be more Eastern and eco-minded and turn off the lights myself. Certainly, she thinks so. Ditto for turning off the tap when I brush my teeth. And there are many other cultural differences that she has had to come to terms with.

For instance, perhaps Western men like me are just not gallant enough when it comes to dating. We should accept that a young Chinese woman is just not strong enough to carry her own bag - and we must carry it for her, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Brother Cui points out that when Westerners marry into a Chinese family all the relatives feel bound to move in. The lone laowai (foreigner) feels hounded, his personal space infringed. But at least Chinese families care, whereas Western families are just not there, they've split up, grown apart and are no longer even nuclear. This is hard for Chinese to understand. And if family is the cornerstone of society, then surely they have a point?

That said, each to their own. Brother Cui's take on East-West relations is neither racist nor nasty, and is more fun than fact. In reality, differences exist between everyone.

Personally, I find the differences a positive rather than a negative and I have more interest in people who don't think the same way I do. As for worrying about reconciling cultural differences, this is no more of a stretch than between the rich and poor, young and old, southerners and northerners, the English and the French, or even men from Mars and women from Venus.

Vive la difference.

(China Daily 11/10/2012 page11)