September 12, 2009

Cultural Difference

I met a young couple traveling for sightseeing in Hong Kong on the train from Beijing earlier this month. The wife was a fresh graduate with an associate degree from an institution in the Province of Guangdong; the husband was a white American with a degree in agriculture and currently teaching ESL at a university in Beijing. At first I thought they were probably just girlfriend and boyfriend, but later, after I asked the girl, I found that they had got married a few months ago. The lady encountered this American man from a course she had been taking; they fell in love and got married in a few months after that.

I never seriously thought about a marriage between a Westerner and a Chinese. The cultural difference was just too huge to be dealt with in a marriage that was to last a couple of decades hopefully, and I truly wondered how this couple had been managing it. Watching the wife talking in English with an obvious Chinese accent, the question mark grew even bigger.

The second day on board, I woke early and met the husband sitting by the window. I took the next seat and began initiating a conversation. After talking about his career, my university life and other things, I raised the question: Is there any cultural differences that are difficult to overcome in your marriage? "Of course!" He replied loudly, laughing. I laughed with him and changed the topic.

I do not believe in anything racial; neither am I stating something nationalist. It just that, even when the language obstacle is fully overcome, the cultural difference, which could be in religions, ideology, past education received, political beliefs, and even merely cuisine, is sufficient to break many happy couples apart, or at least make the relationship a challenge to be worked out.

The girl and I exchanged our emails before debarking, and had some correspondence afterward. I am never against any marriage on the basis of love and commitment, and I sincerely wish them happiness till death.


  1. Don't you think there also exists a wide cultural gap between local HK people and us?