Cross pollination from

My girl over at beyondblackand .. Wanted me to give my little two cents on relationship and cultural differences… for some reason this week I am all about dropping useful knowledge.   It happens once in awhile… so, I thought I would not only repost the article I wrote for her…but I  also want you guys to go over and visit her site…. she has a special way with words and humor.. that usually make me cry with laughter…. and every once in awhile.. I learn something I didn’t know… Yes.. she schools me sometimes…..just don’t .. let her know… you know how some people can get… when they find out they are right about something….ahemm… anyway… Check out her website… buy her book …  and enjoy the article……

Guest of the Inner Sanctum: My Kindred Sistah in Asia, Jo Gan!

2010 July 13

by Christelyn Karazin

Jo Gan and her hubster

If any of you have YET to discover to superlovelylicious Life Behind the Wall, well–I’ll just be frank…I pity you.  You’re missing a great education on how and interracial AND intercultural relationship–all wrapped up into one–works for a black expat married to a Chinese man on his turf.  Jo was so kind to jump the wall and come on over to Beyond Black & White to enlighten us with her ancient Chinese secrets on how to reconcile cultural differences within a multicultural relationship.

Take it away, Jo!


When asked how to deal with cultural differences in a relationship… I had a long list of things to say, since I deal with these differences everyday as I deal with life in China. Most of them had to do with slapping people upside the head with soap in a sock. However, when I thought about my husband and I and the cultural things we go through, I realized there were important things I should share, so I took another stab at it.

I know that it is sometimes very hard to understand another person’s cultural background but if you really want to attempt to be with this person you need to learn everything you can about their background, family, ethnic group, national origin, language, culture and society. Educate yourself and also encourage your partner to take a real, interest in your culture and family traditions. There are two people in the relationship, ask each other questions and learn from each other.

My husband and I always discuss different cultural traditions or habits we run into and it is sometimes entertaining to explain them to each other. There are things that he or I see in movies that we don’t understand and it is fun to share what we thought about when we saw what they were doing.  My husband still doesn’t fully understand why I only wash my hair once a week and I am still trying to figure out why Chinese people want to pee outside all the time.

  • Negotiate any areas that cause problems. If there is a food you cannot stand that he likes, make arrangements to cook for yourself the day your partner wants his special dish. If there are household habits that differ, such as not wearing shoes in the house, or wearing your clothes two days in a row (will never get into that) discuss it and make some compromises with each other. (Like hiding the dirty clothes so he cannot wear them again the next day)
  • You have to stay patient and be particularly flexible when it comes to cultural differences that overlap into religious matters, whether they affect food, Holy days or styles of prayer; Remember that you are committed to this relationship. Respect each others beliefs. Don’t try to make them change their beliefs, traditions, or practices. For example, if you celebrate New Year on January 1st, and the other person you’re dating celebrates Chinese Lunar New Year, Celebrate the Lunar New Year with them and see how they celebrate it. It’s a good way to become closer to each other.  My husband and I celebrate all American and Chinese holidays it just gives us more things to do and makes our lives more interesting and full.
  • Learn how to speak their language even the basic words. If your partner sometimes doesn’t understand or misinterpret you when you try to say something because of the choice of words used, help them understand that there are words or terms you may use that may mean differently to you. So, you have to be more understanding when you are with someone who speaks a different language. Ask the person if when he thinks, he thinks in English or their native language. Keep in mind that when they think in their language, they have to translate into English, so sometimes when they respond to you it doesn’t come out right. My husband and I just laugh when he or I mess up something in the language.  You have to learn to laugh about these little things and not take them to heart.
  • Don’t be afraid to try their food. If you didn’t like it just be honest with what you personally think. What’s important is you tried. The other person should in turn understand and accept what you feel about a certain food. This goes with you as well. When people ask my husband if he likes American food he says not really but I eat it because she cooked it.  That is called compromising and honesty.
  • Also, when you meet your partner’s family, do not compare them with your own family. Keep in mind that they have different culture and beliefs as well. Respect, accept and adapt to theirs. Do not expect them to change for you and they should not expect you to change for them. It’s all about respect and acceptance. I always try to fit into my husband’s family traditions to show him that I am making an effort to know more about him and respect his family.  They notice and do their part to try to make things easier on me.

So basically, I feel the main things you need when you are dealing with a relationship that involves different cultures is respect, understanding, acceptance, honesty, the ability to adapt… and most of all love.  Because if you really love someone you will make it work no matter what culture differences there are. These differences are small things and never sweat the small things.

until next time…


10 thoughts on “Cross pollination from

  1. Ami

    Jo, this was wonderful to read and sooo right on the money! There are so many things that I’ve adapted to at this point that it just seems normal to me. It will probably be different once I’m in his native country, but at least I’ve been exposed to it and understand why… Hubby does the same thing with the wearing clothes 2 and 3 days in a row, but guess what… he has no body odor. The same with bath and showers… He can get away with it, because he has no body odor whatsoever.

    We’ve adapted to each others culture very nicely, but one big factor is the LOVE and COMMUNICATION one and that has helped us a great deal. If those 2 components aren’t present it won’t work!

    1. @ami… good to see you here… it has been awhile… yeah.. there is not body odor.. but i still kind of freak out about it.. hehehe… just american customs I guess. *I know you would understand how to cope with the different cultures..

  2. This post is great. The theme of understanding and making steps to respect culture differences is really positive approach and definitely worth the effort in order to sustain healthy relationships.

  3. Trina

    Great advice! I’m sure the women on the TableTalk call who are married/in relationships with European men would have said the same things, even though European culture as a whole is closer to what we are used to in the States.

    How big is the challenge for you to “truly” accept certain culture differences in attitudes/opinions versus simply tolerating them (i.e. “we can agree to disagree”)? In some cases (note the word “some”) I get the vibe that there is a clear cultural hierarchy within the relationship, where the American (or European) partner feels that their culture stance is actually “more correct” or “more progressive” or “more civilized” than that of their partner, and their show of acceptance is more about “humoring” their partner than actually understanding the organic growth of a belief or ideal within a particular (in this case: different) cultural context…

    Thought-provoking post!

    1. @Trina… you know .. you bring up an interesting point… that I might have to do a blog on… although i try to accepts all the cultural differences… between my husband and my culture… Being American.. and Arrogant… (as they say) … I tend to lend toward the fact that we do everything the right way.. and the civilized way… and that I need to teach my husband the .. normal way to do things…. however….I sometimes forget.. that China has over 7000 years of history.. America only 200 years… and … they have created some amazing things.. in the past years… from the great wall.. to just different kinds of art…. so .. why do I think .. i need to correct his culture…(smile)… I guess it is the American in me… I try to catch myself… but sometimes.. I say things.. that my husband corrects me on…. like when I complain about the bathrooms.. being “squatty-potties” (big holes in the ground) …. all public bathrooms are like this…. I complain.. that they can build a damn wall that can be seen from the moon.. but … cannot make a public bathroom the correct way… but my husband informed me that …. first squatting is the natural way to use the bathroom.. not the sitting… since the beginning of man … they have squatted… and second… it is more sanitary in the end.. because you dont share a seat with strangers… you just squat over a hole….. (makes sense .. but I still dont like it.. hehehe).. the point I am trying to make.. is … maybe instead of trying to see who’s… cuture is right and who’s culture is not… just accept things the way are… and love the differences….

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