Lifestyle, Stories

How Chinoy Families Express Their Love

When I ask around if my Chinoy friends ever say “I love you” to their parents or vice versa, the answer is usually no. Three simple words could hold so much meaning yet we don’t hear them. Crazy right? And in the rare event that it’s said towards you, it feels awkward and overly mushy.

Are Chinoy families just emotionally constipated? Or have we not been paying attention to the ways they show their care for us?

Why we don’t say “I love you”

1) Social Hierarchy

Song Dynasty Illustrations of the Classic of Filial Piety (source: fortunecookiemom site)

Family structure is heavy on filial piety or the honor and respect children show for their elders. Confucius stressed that this is the most important aspect of a relationship, and that we must show respect for anyone older than us.

So how is this related to saying I love you? Well, saying the phrase fosters closeness without regards to age, experience, background, and culture. For parents this means that when they say “I love you” to their children, it is the equivalent of being on the same level with them; it conflicts with the aforementioned family structure. Chinese parents view themselves as parents, and not as friends to their children.

2) It’s not common

It’s just not a norm in our culture. Chinese families are not vocal about their affection for their loved ones, but trust me, it’s there!

3) “I love you” alone doesn’t mean anything

Chinese prefer to show their love through actions. Although, it’s a combination of actions and words for modern Chinese nowadays. And when we do express our feelings, it’s not limited to 我爱你! It directly translates to I love you but is not natural for native speakers. 

Instead, watch out for these phrasings:

我喜欢你 (wǒ xǐ huān nǐ) — I like you

我好想你 (wǒ hǎo xiǎng nǐ) — I miss you so much

我为你疯狂 (wǒ wèi nǐ fēng kuáng) — I am crazy about you

我暗恋你 (wǒ àn liàn nǐ) — I have a crush on you

我希望和你交往 (wǒ xī wàng hé nǐ jiāo wǎng) — I would like for us to (go on a) date

我想跟你在一起 (wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ zài yī qǐ) — I want to be with you

我想吻你 (wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ) — I want to kiss you

我只属于你 (wǒ zhǐ shǔ yú nǐ) — I only belong to you

So how do we express our love?

1) Food

Pixar’s short film Bao illustrates the connection between food and love

When a child has been gone for quite some time, returning home is a special occasion for the parents. They express their affection through food, usually by cooking their child’s favorite home cooked meal. And sometimes, they’ll even go out of their way to buy the best ingredients and save it up just for these dishes. It’s a selfless and heartwarming experience of welcoming someone home.

Or even if you’ve had a busy day or come home late, chances are the first thing your parents ask is “Have you eaten yet?”.

2) Quality time
Chinese grandparents may volunteer to take care of their grandchildren while the parents are at work to help ease the daily load. Chinese parents also invest time to teach their children whenever possible, whether they’re struggling with learning math or learning how to cook. Chinese families take on a hands-on parenting approach.

The Chinese also have their own Valentines day aside from February 14. It’s held on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, known as the 七夕节 (qī xī jié) or Qixi Festival.

3) Money
Financial support is something Chinese parents will gladly bear the responsibility of to make sure their children are living a good life. Even after college, parents will help fund large purchases such as a car or house if they can. They will give as much as they can afford to, especially for education. Getting into good schools or even studying abroad is a dream of many Chinese parents so they are willing to work extra hard for it if needed.

4) Asking how are you 
AKA making a fuss about things like “You’ve gotten fatter/thinner”, “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?”, or “Where are you working?”. Yes, all those sometimes annoying and pervasive questions are how relatives in family gatherings express their care and concern for you.

5) Sacrifices

As/Is shines a light on children of  Asian immigrants

Chinese parents are willing to sacrifice a lot just to secure a brighter future for their children. This is especially true for immigrant families who migrate to other countries in hopes of providing their children with a better life. They will work multiple jobs to provide for their family.

Chinoy families often take a quiet approach in expressing their affection; but nonetheless, it’s there and it’s valid. Love can be shown in many different ways and none is better than the other. Sometimes, “I love you” looks different than what you expect.

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