Love and Chinese Families

chinese_love_by_phll751I recently discovered a blog called “Being Asian in America“. It’s fairly new (first post was May 3 of this year), and the writer seems quite young, but he strikes on quite a few interesting topics. One topic that immediately caught my attention was titled “If you’re Asian, you don’t love your family“. While he used the generic term Asian in his title, when you read the post, you can immediately tell he was referring specifically to Chinese families, although his title was a little tongue-in-cheek. The author doesn’t identify himself or even give himself a pseudonym, so I’ll refer to him as Anon in this post.

Anon’s claim is that you don’t hear the word “love” in Chinese families, that unlike TV families, we don’t tell each other we love each other, and instead Chinese parents criticize their children. But Anon does realize in the end that the criticism, and comparing of kids to one another, the constant nagging are all forms of love, whether we express that love in the form of words or not. He also realizes that using the word love too much tends to cheapen it, so in conclusion he’s glad his parents show their love the way that they do.

While I was a little irked that Anon’s title was in jest, I did agree with him on the main points of his post. I too never heard the words “Wo ai ni” (I love you) in Chinese, nor did I ever hear them in English, it was always implicitly understood in my family that my parents loved me and my siblings. The words “Wo ai ni” sound funny even in my head, as words you tell your lover (sparingly) but not your family. How could you not understand that your parents taking you to the emergency room when you were sick was a form of love? My mother especially, showed love in little ways through our childhood years. We grew up with little money, but she’d always find a way to get us special presents we knew the family really couldn’t afford, whether it was a new sweater instead of hand-me down clothing or a special day at Adventureland, a local amusement park.

Yes, my parents criticized, nagged, and complained about my choices like any other Chinese parent, but I always understood and counted on that parental love. I did always wonder why we didn’t hug and kiss like American families on TV, and maybe that’s why today, I hug and kiss my daughter and tell her I love her quite often. But Anon’s post made me reflect, that maybe I need to show my love more often, rather than speak my love, and that the act of showing it is the more important one.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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