I’ve always imagined that when I introduced my boyfriend to my family, it would be after a few months of dating, after which he would be a constant presence at family dinners, birthdays, and other events. Ideally, he would get to know my family slowly until they grew to love him as much as I do.
Unfortunately, in a cross-cultural relationship, where the guy is Chinese (and we’re dating in Beijing) and faces a slim to none chance of getting an American tourist visa, “ideal” is not always “reality.” In my case, it took a year and eight months before my boyfriend finally made it to California to meet my family and friends. It was a whole month of experiences, and a lot to wrap up in just one post. I’ll try to post here and there on various stories throughout the trip. In general, it went well. It probably helped that my mom speaks Mandarin and my sister is learning (and therefore had a live-in native speaker as her tutor for a month). My grandparents are amazing and funny and I love that they were able to communicate with my boyfriend. Somehow, he was able to understand my grandma’s made-up dialect consisting of Cantonese, Taishanese, and broken Mandarin. It was great…..in even the shortest of sentences, she was able to incorporate all three dialects =P
On my boyfriend’s side, I’m glad to say he enjoyed himself. The two differences between the US and China that he could not stop talking about were the levels of customer service in the US (“When you ask for a lemon for your water…..they bring you a whole plate!”) and the blue skies (“It’s fake. It must be fake.”). Since coming back to Beijing, he’s also noticed more that cars in China will speed up if a pedestrian is crossing the street, in order to turn the corner before they can finish crossing. It’s amazing to him that even if drivers in America don’t see you in time, they will slam on the brakes to let you cross first and then hold up a hand in apology.
On my end, I’m really glad he was able to see “my world.” I think that while the trip brought out some more differences between us, it also brought us to a new level in our relationship where we’re more willing than ever to work on those differences. The thing I love is that it’s those differences that make us special. Many of our inside jokes have to do with language, which I’ve always been fascinated with. I’m someone who loves asking questions (especially “Why?”) and dating a Chinese guy gives me the chance to ask a TON of questions as I try to understand this different culture. I’m fortunate to have a guy who is patient enough with me to answer all my questions!
More to come on our back-to-America trip!