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English>>China Society

Mixed joy club

By Raymond Zhou  (Xinhua)

13:00, November 10, 2012

A Sina Weibo user who calls himself "Brother Cui in North America" wrote an assessment of foreigners marrying Chinese women. It spreads like wildfire partly because of its self-deprecating humor, which is not exactly a Chinese characteristic.

Cui, verified by Sina as a Peking University graduate currently based in the US, seems to have set his eyes on a career similar to Joe Wong, the Chinese engineer who made his name with his Stateside standup comedy routines. So, Cui's much reposted treatise on the hidden repercussions of transnational marriages should probably not be taken at face value. But like all humor or satire, it contains a kernel of truth — or in this case, a moment of epiphany to most Chinese.

Cui's first word of caution to those interested in having a Chinese wife: "Once you marry a Chinese woman, you're marrying her whole family. In half a year, her mom and dad, her second elder sister and her children, will line up to come to America. A hundred years ago, first there was one Chinese worker who went to San Francisco to build a railroad, and now, lo and behold, California has a million Chinese. Which country in the future dares to invite Chinese to build their railroads?"

If an American politician had used this tone, the Chinese-American community would have jumped up in protest. In the US, ethnic humor is the territory of ethnic-minority comedians. Cui must have counted himself as one. But his jokes are actually designed for Chinese consumption, and as such, they display more accuracy and objectivity than previous descriptions of such marriages, which went to one of two extremes, either friction-free bliss or doomed failure.

Cui went on with his litany of backlashes, which include the dazzling array of Chinese kitchenware and Chinese sauces in an otherwise American home. OK, this sounds like a not-so-subtle approbation of the Chinese culinary art. But there is a definite downside, and that is the painful loss of privacy with the cohabiting in-laws. Your father-in-law may burst into the toilet you're using and he may nonchalantly wash his hands and practice English with you, never finding it awkward, describes Cui.

In Hollywood movies, the visit by an in-law is portrayed as a mini-apocalypse. So, if you get a Chinese spouse, you're probably psychologically set for such a prospect — not just a brief visit, but an extended stay by your parents-in-law.

The language barrier is the most formidable one. Other than that, in my opinion, it is more a generational gap, with many of the quirks recited by Cui commonplace even inside China. For example, old folks tend to be frugal and turn off the lights as they leave a room; they tend to see things like the carpet as a luxury item and insist on covering it up with a plastic sheet to prevent it from wear and tear.

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