“My Chinese In-Laws…”
When I got married, I thought my Chinese in-laws—well, let’s just say it—were annoying. I know. It is rude, I feel guilty. But I just didn’t understand their “weird and repetitive” requests or lectures. They insisted on me wearing slippers in our house, asked me if I was cold, made looks of horror when I had some icy cold water, and let’s just say gave us written instructions after our wedding for helping us plan our lives.
(My in-laws and I started our relationship with a pretty major language barrier. I married their son, and two days later we lived in California. I spent the first week of my married life with them, driving them around Los Angeles grocery shopping, going to the malls, and basically playing a lot of charades. I knew how to say thank you in Chinese, they could say “hello, how are you.” in English. We had a lot of room for improvement. Ten years later, I can speak Chinese like a fairly intelligent four year old, and their English has improved a bit too, but my Chinese is definitely better than their English.) I knew nothing about Chinese culture. I remember one of the first things I learned to say in Chinese, was “Ni Yao Bu Yao?” Because we went to the grocery store, and his Mom kept picking up items and asking “You Want not Want?” in Chinese. The second Chinese phrase I learned was, “Ni You Mei You?” or “You have, not have?” And so, we started our family marriage off, with a lot of barriers, but we have gotten through a lot of them with flying colors, I am proud of that.)
Coming from a family of four kids, I was not used to the attention, and found it quite smothering. But now–I have to say I have come to love my mother-in-law’s polite worries, because I know they are her way of showing she loves me.
When I had surgery, and was not supposed to lift anything, she and my father-in-law called me and my husband at least twice a day to remind me to take care of my health by resting, and reminded my husband to take charge in my responsibilities so I could rest and heal.
I am loving Chinese culture now, or maybe just my in-laws! I feel so loved now that I know they are not nagging because I am doing something wrong, but they are nagging because they love me and want me to be happy. To be honest, now I have adopted their concern showing techniques.
I have to be careful not to bug my American family members with my questions and lectures.
Are you cold? Are you hot? Do you need a jacket, because the wind is big? Can I close the light for you? You should be eating dates if you are a woman. You should eat Pomelo’s for that cough of yours. You probably have too much heat. Rub this snake cream on your hands for your arthritis, and stop touching cold water. You should walk everyday after dinner, that is a good habit. Geesh. I am turning more and more Chinese, and you know what? I kind of like it.
This picture was taken in Hawaii last year, and has nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was beautiful and did not have any pictures to post with this story of me in the hospital, I thought you would enjoy a picture of the beach in Hawaii maybe more than a picture of me in a hospital gown.
I might be wrong, but I am going to move on. I was in the hospital this week for a minor surgery, and when I came out of surgery . . . the nurse asked me if I wanted anything to drink.
I hadn’t had anything for a day. So I said, “Yeah can I get some hot water, please?”
(I recently came home from China and I got used to drinking warm water, the icy water feels a little like a shock to my system after having warm water for a month. So, I am skipping the icy water on the regular.)
The nurse looked at me surprised and declared, “You have been influenced by the Asians!”
My husband and I just looked at each other and laughed. One, because I am becoming Chinese in so many ways, and two because my Western nurse seemed to understand drinking hot water was a pretty Asian thing to do.
I have not stopped drinking cold water all together, but I just thought I would heed my mother-in-laws warnings that drinking cold water after a surgery may cause problems for my health when I am old. (I am such a good American-Chinese Daughter In Law!)
I am finding I am more accepting of these cultural differences because I think some of them really have a health advantage. I really do think drinking warm water is less shocking for my body, and at the very least it feels like I am taking an extra step to take care of myself when my body is already a bit stressed out.
So whether, cold water is good or bad for you. I do not really know.
But for the meantime, this American–Chinese daughter-in-law will drink warm water in the morning before I eat, or if I am sick, or have surgery again. But, if I bootcamp, or run in the hot summer heat—I will most likely drink a huge glass of cold water when I am done. I am not 100% Chinese-yet.
I have been married to my amazing Chinese husband for nearly ten years. My husband is more American in his drinking habits than his parents. He drinks room temperature tap water, and sometimes even with ice. His parent’s on the other hand, are not really into drinking cold water. So whenever they come stay with us for extended visits, I break out the thermos to keep a steady supply of hot water coming, and I show a little Hot Water Love to my Chinese In-Laws.
How to show Hot Water Love That will Wow Your In-Laws
- Buy an electric kettle for heating up water fast.
- Buy a thermos to put hot water in so there is always hot water available.
- Take a thermos with you when you go for the day, so they have access to hot water even on the go. Even if they do not use it, they will notice the thought.
- Heat up water in your awesome electric kettle in the morning. I think this must be like waking up to fresh brewed coffee.
- Bonus points if you know what type of tea they like, and you steep it for them.
- Casually throughout the day fill up their tea cup and ask them to drink.
- If someone pours you a glass of tea, tap your index finger. It is kind of formal, it is like saying thanks. But they might notice you are catching onto Chinese culture.
- If they have friend’s visiting, fill up their friend’s tea cups with hot water and help ensure the hot water keeps coming so they can focus on chatting.
- Fill the oldest people’s tea first, or the guests, whoever you think might be most important based on the event in terms of the event’s purpose (this is confusing, I don’t even know if I understand this, but I generally do this and it seems to work fine)
- For road trips—Let them know they can get hot water from coffee machines at gas stations to have with Ramen Noodles. My in-laws pretty much don’t like any American fast food so the old trusty thermos has come in handy plenty of times
Some of these ideas seem a bit odd to me but I have found that hot water and tea are intricately laced with showing someone you care for them in Chinese culture.
Caring about someone and making sure they get enough to drink during the day, is one of the ways my in-laws communicate love.
So finally–after ten years, I am catching on to the importance of having hot water around the house for my in-laws. I offer them hot water in a multitude of ways to show I care, and they LOVE it.
And I love being able to connect with them in such an easy way. So often our relationship is riddled with awkward language barriers, but this is a foolproof way to show I care.
In general, I have found that the bathroom situation in China has improved dramatically within the last ten years. You can find lots of sufficiently clean bathrooms, many with western style toilets, most with doors, and privacy, paper towels, soap, and toilet paper. But it is good to mentally prepare yourself for what is pictured above just in case you find yourself with no other place to go. I like to say you are prepared if you:
- Remember to bring toilet paper.
- Master the squat without dropping any of your belongings on the floor.
- Can avoid eye contact.
- Don’t pee on your shoes.
- Avoid knocking over the garbage can of used toilet paper in your stall.
- Hold your breath while you are in the stall.
- Bring hand sanitizer.