So you have finally found the Chinese bride of your dreams and you are both madly in love with each other. Your Chinese girl can’t stop talking about marriage and you realize that the time has come for you to take the ultimate test. The time has come to meet your Chinese in-laws.
Before you leap into the ring of fire, you might want to make sure you find out as much as you can about the people you are going to meet. The good news is that for better or for worst, they can’t wait to see you. The bad news is that they are bringing the whole family along. Expect to be officially introduced to the family during a formal dinner and be prepared to have all the eyes on you. Being interrogated by your future Chinese family is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some situations that you should watch out for.
Giving your in-laws gifts is a gentle gesture that will be greatly appreciated. Make sure you pick out something presentable and avoid cheap presents. It is better to show up with nothing than to give the wrong gift. Because Chinese people tend to be very superstitious, the wrong gift might mean a range of things, which would go unobserved to the foreign eye. Make sure you never wrap anything in white paper as the color white is China is directly connected with the idea of death. Avoid other controversial gifts like wall clocks, chrysanths and mirrors.
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After you make your grand entrance, you will most likely be guided to the table around which the family will gather to celebrate your coming. While at the table, make sure you try a little bit of every dish and remember to compliment the food. Keep in mind that nourishment is very important in China and your new Chinese family will probably not stop feeding you until you say that you beg for mercy! One important thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese are a very nationalist people; therefore you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you avoid talking about Chinese politics in general. If you want to impress your family with your knowledge of their country, then stick to mentioning the places you like in China or your admiration for their culture. Whatever you do, never begin to talk about Taiwan, Japan, Tibet or other sensitive subjects. Chances are that someone will almost always disagree with you and your friendly family dinner might easily turn into a political battle ground.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol is another common habit during special occasions. Chinese people seem to think that most foreigners are big drinkers, so you will often be urged to gambei the evening away with them. If drinking is not your thing, then have at least one round to please baba and then excuse yourself pleading health reasons. When toasting, remember to show your humbleness by keeping your glass lower than everyone else’s. If you smoke, then try to sit next to your father-in-law and offer him a light when he pulls out his box of smokes.
Be aware that what your Chinese in-laws will really be interested in two things: Can you support their daughter and are you a good man. It basically comes down to if you have a steady job, own a property and a car. If you fit this profile, then the winds are in your favor and all you will have to do is make sure they understand how much you love their girl. If you don’t have a secure job, don’t own a property and are driving a bike instead of a car, then you will definitely have to be creative; however not all is lost. Not all Chinese parents are
traditional and they might be willing to give you their blessing if they are convinced of your love for their daughter. Independent of your financial situation, you will win a great deal of points if you remain modest. Modesty is something that most Chinese admire and avoiding boasting about yourself will do wonders for your popularity.
Since convincing your Chinese in-laws that you are a good guy is what´s in the menu, then you better learn how to do it right. The first thing you should keep in mind is that Chinese people express affection much more through actions than through words. This means that you will gain much more points with your in-laws if they see you treating your Chinese girlfriend kindly and with respect than by telling them every five minutes how much you love their daughter. Another important thing that you should know is that the Chinese tend to look after their parents and their partner´s parents as well. Try showing concern for your mother-in-law and make her believe that she will be able to count on you as she grows older.
Family is very important in China and your main task will be to make yourself fit in. As a foreigner, you will always be a little bit of an outcast, but understanding your Chinese wife’s traditions and culture will actually help your new Chinese family understand and accept you. These days, China is full of male foreigners who insist to play with the feelings of innocent Chinese girls. Escape this stereotype by being true to your Chinese girlfriend and keeping honesty on your right hand side. Once you have their trust, they will open a door that will always welcome you in good and bad times alike.