Even though my daughters are only 5 and 8, I think about the people they will marry. I wonder who will be able to achieve the very high standards I have already set for them or break through the steel and kryptonite wall my Grouchy Husband is building around his little girls.
Here is how to impress a Chinese-American mother-in-law:
Be Present. Family time is important. Holidays and special occasions, like birthdays, are events we celebrate as a family and your presence will be recognized and appreciated. But don’t just come. Talk and interact with the family. Be interested, remember what we talked about last time, get to know everyone, let them get to know you.
Be a Rock. Be happy with yourself. Be motivated. Have dreams. Accomplish them. Be a good listener. Be a foundation that is always ready to help and support.
Pick Up the Check. Not always, but sometimes. Gaining face is part of Chinese culture so this is your opportunity to show your wealth and thoughtfulness. Doesn’t have to be restaurant check, can be groceries, birthday cake, or a new refrigerator to replace a broken one.
Manual Labor. Love is not normally expressed verbally in traditional Chinese culture. We show we care through action. I think a work activity is one of the best ways to meet a Chinese family because you are instantly seen as a hard worker and Chinese moms love that. Girlfriends would come to my family gatherings and wrap dumplings or help in the kitchen. Grouchy Husband has painted, grouted, mowed, planted grass seed, cut down trees, shoveled snow, just to name a few things. The first time my brother-in-law came to meet the family, he spent the day trimming bushes and hedges.
Show You Care Without Kissing. Affection and emotion are not strengths in Chinese culture. Show you care but not through touching or kissing. It’s disrespectful. Carry groceries, open doors, find out who is thirsty, serve others at dinner.
Be Someone We Can Boast About. Chinese-American moms like to talk about their kids, especially highlighting accomplishments and achievements. Job promotions, distinguishing work influencing a lot of people, really nice things you’ve done for your family. Give us something to talk about.
The Dumpling Mama xo
photo credit: Chong Oh