在我和Chris正式在一起不久，他就已经和他爸爸妈妈说了关于我的事，而我大概是在交往半年后才告诉我父母我有Chris这个英国男朋友了。和Chris在一起的时候我24岁，刚从英国读完硕士回上海找工作。中国人都知道女孩子二十三二十四岁正是父母催婚的时候啦，我妈妈虽然很开明，但这方面也不例外。和Chris刚开始在一起时，我没有敢和家人说，不是因为怕家人不答应我和外国人交往，而是担心父母会给我们两人之间纯粹的感情增添压力。中国父母一般都是期望孩子们谈恋爱都往结婚方向走，而我觉得两个人在一起开心就好，我们还年轻，所以不要顾虑太多。Chris在中国时，大概一两个月才会给家人打一次很长的电话，他有一对双胞胎弟弟，父亲Tony退休了，妈妈Susan还在工作，他和外婆以及爷爷的关系也很好，而这些与他最亲近的亲戚，已经听他说了我们在上海一起过得非常开心。在Chris与他家人打电话时，有时我会在旁边捣乱干扰他说话，但我还没有勇气直接和他家人讲电话。记得第一次真正与Chris家人的联系应该是我们给他的外婆寄了一本我们自己制作的恋爱纪念册，记录了我们在一起半年内旅游过的地方，用Chris的话来说：“it is one case where a picture can say a thousand words.”(照片胜过千言万语~）
接着，Chris让他父母和弟弟们都申请了微信，节假日的时候我都会发信息和他家人说几句祝福的话，也会发发我们平时出去玩的照片给他们。在一起半年后我带Chris回广西见了我妈妈，见面非常开心，Chris和我的家人都互相喜欢。令我惊喜的是，在我们相遇一周年，也是我们在一起快十个月时，Chris在我们第一次英国留学生招聘会遇到的上海徐家汇Crowne Plaza皇冠假日酒店向我求婚！那时候我太过于惊喜，后来告诉妈妈时，她居然告诉我她早就知道了，在墨尔本的妹妹Yuki也早就知道了——Chris已经告诉了他们！同样，在求婚前他也有和自己的父母说，他父母尊重他的决定，在我答应求婚后，他爸爸告诉Chris “he is wallowing in happiness for us!”(为我们高兴快乐得想打滚儿！）于是，就是这样，虽然我还没有机会见Chris的父母，他们全家人已经非常高兴我加入他们的大家庭中！
I count myself fortunate to have already been aware of some of the differences between Chinese and Western parents before meeting my husband's mum and dad in the UK. For one thing, Western parents tend to demand less of their children. Chinese parents, on the other hand, prefer to keep a tighter leash on their offspring. Still, I was a little nervous. Would my first meeting with Chris's parents really go as smoothly as I expected?
As it turned out, not exactly. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Chris had told his parents about me not long after we started going out. I, on the other hand, waited half a year before breathing a word to my parents about my British boyfriend. We were living in Shanghai at the time. I had just returned to China in search of a job after finishing my studies for my master's degree in London.
I was 24 when we began our relationship. For most Chinese women my age, this is when our parents begin pressuring us to find a partner for marriage. (Chinese society has a particular term for unmarried women who are at least 25 years of age: shèngnǚ 剩女, or 'leftover women.') My mother might have been fairly open-minded, but she was still very much traditional in this regard. Thus, when I initially kept quiet about Chris, it wasn't out of a fear that my parents would object to my relationship with a foreigner. I was worried that they would shatter the spell of pure romance that surrounded us, adding unwelcome stress to the mix. Chinese parents typically expect their adult children to enter into relationships with marriage as their ultimate goal. But for me, our happiness was more important. We were still young. There was no need for us to fret over our long-term future.
When Chris was in China, he would usually make one very long call home every month or so. He had twin younger brothers. His father, Tony, was retired; his mother, Susan, was still working. Chris also got along very well with his paternal grandfather and his maternal grandmother. These were his closest family members, and he had already told him that the two of us were very happy together in Shanghai. I would sometimes stand next to Chris and interrupt him when he was talking to his family members, but I never had the courage to talk directly to them.
My first real contact with his family came when I sent his grandmother a handmade scrapbook filled with mementos from the places Chris and I had visited together over the past half-year. As Chris said, this was one case where a picture could say a thousand words.
Later on, Chris asked his parents and siblings to sign up for WeChat accounts. We would exchange holiday greetings, and Chris and I would send them pictures that we took whenever we went out.
After we had gone out for half a year, I brought Chris back to my home of Guangxi to introduce him to my mum. They were overjoyed to meet one another. Chris and my family got along very well.
On the one-year anniversary of our first meeting (ten months after we started going out), we went to the Crowne Plaza, the site of the job fair for UK students where we had first met, and Chris did something that shocked me. He proposed! I was overcome with joy and surprise. When I told my mother, however, she told me that she had already known, and so had Yuki, my sister in Melbourne. Chris had told them before asking me to marry him! He had also spoken with his own parents before proposing. They respected his decision, and after I had said yes, his father told Chris that he was 'wallowing in happiness' for us.
And just like that, without even having met me, my fiance's parents welcomed me into their family with loving arms!
The two of us went back to the UK during the summer of 2015. Chris's parents drove to Manchester to pick us up and take us back to their home of Barrow-in-Furness, a small seaside town in the country of Cumbria. Unfortunately, since I was suffering from a bad cold at the time, I was coughing and sneezing the entire time!
Chris's father has a thick northern accent, while his mother, who grew up in Bristol, has a southern accent. Since Chris and I usually conversed in Mandarin, I suddenly felt somewhat uncomfortable in my new surroundings. More often than not, I had no idea what his family was saying! They were very polite, though, and would often speak more slowly when they were talking to me. However, my cold didn't let up.
I would cough nonstop through each meal Chris and I ate with his parents, and I was absolutely mortified! At the time I was still learning the basics of British table manners. Sometimes I would eat with my mouth open; only after I asked Chris if I had made any breaches of etiquette did he inform me that chewing with your mouth open was impolite in the UK.
'We've been together for an entire year!' I exclaimed, poking him sharply. 'Why didn't you mention that to me before I ate with your parents?'
Chris's parents were both very kind and understanding people. They set freshly plucked flowers from their own garden beside my bed. Since they knew that I was fond of stuffed animals, they placed a stuffed rabbit next to my pillow. A warm and fuzzy feeling came over me when I saw how much care Chris's parents had taken to make me feel at home.
Chris's parents love the outdoors. They took me to Windermere, the largest natural lake in England, where we went out on a boat and drank in the beautiful scenery together. The gorgeous landscape there reminded me of my own home of Guilin in southern China. We discussed British culture, politics, and customs, among other things. They had traveled to China before, and they were extremely respectful of Chinese culture. No matter what topic we discussed, they always made a special effort to involve me in the conversation and ask me what people in China thought of that particular issue.
A good deal of Chinese parents like to ask the same kinds of questions:
'Where did you attend university?'
'What kind of work are you involved in, exactly?'
'What do your parents do?'
'Do you do housework?'
'When are you planning to have children?'
Western parents like Chris's, on the other hand, are more interested in your personality and hobbies. They view you as a friend and are much more relaxed and cheerful when interacting with you. The relationship between parents and son- or daughter-in-law is much more equal than it is in China, where the distinction between older and younger generations is much clearer. While etiquette was still very important in my interactions with Chris's parents, this is a very typical British trait.
It's almost been a year since Chris and I arrived in the UK. By now, I've met his parents and siblings countless times. We've gone on outings together, and we've also gone rowing, shooting, and paintballing. In China, activities like these are generally the domain of young people, and parents seldom participate in them with their adult children. However, when my parents-in-law joined me and Chris in these hands-on activities here in the UK, we all felt young at heart. We never let someone else win, and no one complained that they were 'too weak' or 'too old' to take part.
I am truly fortunate to have found two parents-in-law as open-minded as Chris's mum and dad. I absolutely adore them!
One time, Chris confided in me that his parents only visited him once during his three years studying at the University of Bristol. After we settled down in Birmingham, however, they made a point of visiting us every month or two. I was secretly thrilled at the attention they were giving their new daughter-in-law. I would prepare a massive meal (Chinese food, usually) every time they came over. Chris's father has been learning Mandarin as well. I was simply delighted every time I was able to converse with Tony in Chinese.
Suffice it to say, my first meeting with Chris's parents went far better than I had ever expected. I absolutely love living in the UK—and thanks to my husband's parents, it truly feels like home.