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Trials and tribulations of cross-cultural marriages

By Hu Min (Shanghai Daily)

10:48, October 29, 2012

IT'S not an uncommon story. Western man working in Shanghai meets lovely Chinese lady at a fashionable bar downtown or at work. A few dates ensue. Love blossoms. Marriage vows are exchanged.

It wasn't long ago that cross-cultural marriages were considered taboo in China. But when the country opened its doors to the world, social mores changed along with the economy.

But fairy tales don't always end with everyone living happily ever after. In some cases, the cultural differences that didn't seem to matter in the first blush of love can exacerbate the common disputes of any marriage.

Frenchman Jean Dupont, who owns an art studio in Shanghai, met his Chinese girlfriend in Paris. He said his mother-in-law flew to France from a business trip in Vienna and gave him quite a grilling about his intentions toward her daughter.

"She asked me very direct questions that made me feel strange and upset," said Dupont, who married his sweetheart about three years ago.

In France, many people just live together without marrying, he said, but that arrangement didn't suit many Chinese parents. "After all, my wife is 27 years old, not 16!" he said with some exasperation.

His wife saw nothing particularly odd about the inquisition. "My mother was just concerned about me, like many other Chinese parents," she said. "She wanted to talk with him to see whether he was a good man."

The couple admits there have been marital arguments about issues such as how to rear their daughter and how long they will stay in Shanghai.

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