In my opinion, when looking for a partner, a difference in cultural background should be taken into account. I think it would be expected of me to say that cultural differences don't matter, but the truth is THEY DO.
My husband and I…let’s just take a moment to celebrate the use of this word…FINALLY! If you are completely confused as to why I am so excited about using “husband” or why I am using it now, be sure to watch my UPDATES + STORY TIME + BIG SURPRISE video (although if you are reading this first I’ve killed the surprise🤣).
My husband and I love each other wholeheartedly but like any relationship, ours is not perfect. The average relationship will have its fair share of problems. When you mix races, social classes, religions, generations, cultures etc things can get even more interesting!
My hubby (oh the variations to come ^^) is Chinese American (1st generation) and I am African American. While on the day to day our race and cultural differences do not play a huge part, this post is dedicated to revealing the top fundamental differences I’ve noticed in our unique interracial relationship.
FAMILY RELATIONS and COMMUNICATION
Our family dynamics couldn’t be more different! I think the main difference between the two are in how we each communicate with them.
Something I noticed in the very early days of dating was how different our phone conversations with our parents were (we were both abroad in South Korea and long distance calling home). First of all Stephen called much more frequently than I did, about once a week. I on the other hand, would call about once a month.
My fiance’s conversations with his parents were extremely open, blunt and I saw no difference between the Stephen I knew and the Stephen interacting with family. For me on the other hand, I talk to my parents in a different manner than I do with my friends and our conversations are not as “friend to friend” like in my husband’s family, but more of your typical PG-rated, family friendly topics. I admire the blunt, cursing, trash-talking conversations that go down between Stephen and his parents! Never before had I ever had a second thought about my own family’s dynamic until I met Stephen! I was blessed to have an amazing childhood and I consider my relationship with my family a great one. But being in an interracial relationship really shines light on little things you never would’ve noticed.
Living in Korea, I immediately noticed how blunt people were, things aren’t sugar coated like we do in American culture. If you’re fat, they tell you. If you are in the way, an older person will literally push you out of the way. I later found out that this forwardness is something that shows up in many Asian cultures.
My upbringing I’d say, is largely American-Christian influenced. We say things differently, less direct, and many times with a dash of sugar. This difference shows up a lot because it involves how we communicate verbally. Sometimes I’ll get offended by the way Stephen says something.
A lot of the time he will re-state the topic in a different way or apologize and change tone. For me, I learned that when with his family I must be direct. Instead of answering “Not really” to the question, “Are you hungry?”, I now know to clearly state “Yes” or “No”. If not I’ll end up with a feast in front of me!
Speaking of feasts, it goes without saying that Chinese cooking and America/ African American cooking are very different from each other. While neither of us are particular picky eaters, our cultures and the food we were each brought up eating plays a big role in how we eat and cook today.
We both passionately love Mexican and Indian cuisines and their bold, flavorful tastes. When we dine out for food, we have no problem choosing a restaurant where we can both find something tasty. The difference comes in the kitchen. When we are cooking for ourselves our taste buds are strikingly different! So much so that we each cook our own separate meals. My fiance needs lots and LOTS of spice and flavor…like slap you in the face flavor!
Seriously our cabinets filled up with spices and condiments long before we had any real stock of food. For me I like “clean” and simple flavors and in comparison to him my taste is quite bland. The times I have cooked something he’s eaten, Stephen usually adds another 5 layers of seasonings and sauces on top. And vice versa, when he cooks, he removes my “bland” portion before adding all the extras he plans to use to satisfy his palate. When we talk about this, my husband always points out that it is because he grew up eating Chinese food and helping prepare it in his family’s restaurant. He points out how Chinese food is bold, each dish having a very distinct, powerful taste.
I guess this is were my upbringing is a big more “American” rather than African American, while my mom cooked us delicious and flavorful food, we didn’t eat “soul food” daily (usually just on Sundays and holidays). If that was the case, I’d assume that the difference in our taste buds wouldn’t be so drastic since soul food is very flavorful and spice heavy like Chinese food.
MONEY AND DREAMS:
Like the first two points, this difference comes from the way we were brought up along with the morals instilled in growing up. For me, I am a “free bird” and sometimes a bit too spontaneous for my own good. Dip into “food money” so I can take extra dance classes? That’s me. Decide to move to Korea not knowing a lick of Korean..also me.
My parents raised me to believe I can do and be anything I want to do or be, the sky is the limit, I am capable of it all (#millennials). This upbringing has given me a great amount of courage and a risk-taker motto. Sometimes my free spirit takes me on great adventures and other times it puts me in a financial/ existential rut.
On the other end of the spectrum, Stephen is extremely financially literate and has the mind of a true businessman. These values were passed on to him from parents who grew their own business from the ground and strongly emphasized financial security. In Chinese culture it is custom that the boy of the family take care of his parents in their old age (financially and physically), thus my husband feels a strong sense of responsibility in this field. Sometimes his need for financial security builds his bank account and sometimes it stops him from taking chances.
While the above differences are mainly due to the fact that Stephen and I come from different cultural backgrounds, I also believe that our personalities, social class, gender, religion and other factors play into why we act the way we do.
In my opinion, when looking for a partner, a difference in cultural background should be taken into account. I think it would be expected of me to say that cultural differences don’t matter, but the truth is THEY DO.
Choosing a mate is something most take very seriously, therefore all things about that person should be considered. The fact of the matter is, cultural upbringing can consciously and unconsciously shape your personality and decision-making. Being aware of the culture you are marrying into, or going to date, I believe can be really beneficial towards helping understand your partner.
Stephen often states how happy he is that I lived in Korea for 3 years before we met, I must agree. While Korean culture and Chinese culture are different, they also have some big similarities as Asian cultures. I honestly believe that had I not lived in South Korea, I would have a hard time “getting it” when it comes to some of the cultural differences.
Above all, cultural differences in a relationship are not things to shy away from! Take note of them, acknowledge, and grow from them. When my husband and I talk about our differences, we usually “choose a side” that works for us OR we blend them and create our own path.