When the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, begins on February 3, Susan Chen will finally be on a plane out of Logan to spend the 15-day celebration with her mother in Taipei, Taiwan.
Her husband, Bill, an African-American won’t be with her, he doesn’t like the “hocus pocus” of Chinese astrology. He loves his gentle, church-going wife but gets frustrated that she “just won’t let go of that stuff.” It causes conflict between the two.
At first Bill’s family were not sure about the relationship, “cross culture can always be tricky,” his mother, Janet, a no-nonsense Jamaica Plains store-keeper said. “But after a while I appreciated Susan’s respectfulness, her desire to quietly help around the house. She is very humble, she does not expect praise.”
When the two married, Susan’s family could not afford to attend the Boston wedding but the two travelled to Taipei for a week so that Bill could meet her family. “I hated it,” he confesses, “the roads were narrow and seemed noisy and dirty. I like Chinese food, but not all the time, and I found some of the customs strange.”
For the marriage to prosper, Bill needs to learn and respect Chinese customs. A Chinese proverb notes: “The crafty rabbit has three different entrances to its lair.” What does that mean for Bill and Susan? It means they have to acknowledge American culture and Chinese culture, as well as the culture they will create together as a family.
A recent New York Times article noted that more young people are proudly referring to themselves as mixed-race. By 2030, the US Census Bureau has noted, the United States will be minority majority. Those groups now considered minorities, like Hispanic and Asian populations, will, combined, form a larger percentage of the population than the white population that now makes up the majority.
Hamburgers may be the national passion in 2011, but by 2021 it could be chop suey or tortillas.
If you are in a relationship with someone from a different culture, make an effort to learn their culture and language. It will explain a lot of quirks that now seem strange to you. Even if they are British and you are American, there are cultural differences; because you speak the same language does not mean you are culturally similar.
Bill could spend this time while Susan is away learning more about Chinese culture. There is a great array of things to do in Boston’s Chinatown this month from New Year celebrations to Chinese dance.
He could send this note to her family:
Zhù nín xīnniánkuàilè xìngfú, dà jí dà lì.
I wish you happiness, luck and wealth in the New Year
And when she comes home she will know he truly loves her if, instead of giving her a red Valentine’s heart, he gives her a handful of redJequirity beans (Xiang-si Dou), from Chinatown, a love symbol from Taiwan.