Sometimes, obstacles in love are a bit too hard to overcome. But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible.
Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for me — or my other Chinoy friends — to hear constant encouragement to marry someone who is also Chinese. The justification behind the idea is simple, albeit perhaps a bit too old-fashioned in today’s societal norms: If you marry someone Chinese, you get to preserve more of your heritage and tradition. On the other hand, if you marry a Filipino, you will lose the unique cultural values that you were raised with. The truth is that as many Chinoy families now enter the third, fourth, or even fifth generation of their Philippine-based bloodline, it has become increasingly apparent that the Chinese identity that our forebears have once been proud of has already begun to erode.
And that is why the Great Wall exists.
The Great Wall that has prevented and worn down many a multicultural relationship is, of course, not the actual Great Wall of China, which has deterred foreign invaders from attacking the country. But it does have a similar purpose. Perceived to be a threat to the cultural balance and hierarchy in a typical Chinoy family, a Filipino — to be blunt — is considered to be an invader that must always be kept out.
But here lies the question: What happens when you don’t want them to be kept out? Love is something that transcends all boundaries, right?
The reality is that every relationship takes mutual work and respect, regardless of culture and heritage. In this case, one of the most important aspects to consider is family. Ask yourself: What is important to them, what is important to your partner, and what is important to you? If you truly love a certain someone, then these are probably the questions that you will need to consider to make a relationship work.
That said, there is no easy or foolproof way to be successful in love, but we do support everyone’s star-crossed lovers dreams! Without further ado, here are some general tips on how to conquer the infamous Great Wall:
1. Learn the family traditions.
In the first place, the reason why Chinoy elders are so hesitant to let a cultural outsider into their family is precisely because they are afraid that it would disrupt the family dynamics. If you want the family in question to be accepting of your relationship, show that you’re willing to put in the work to maintain it.
You can start with something small: Does the family dislike wearing black on birthdays? Do they like having oranges during the Chinese New Year? How do they address elders?
Ask your partner what is respectful, and how you can best participate in these traditions. If all goes well, showing some appreciation for the family culture can go a long way.
2. Learn the language.
Although fluency in the language has been declining as children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren have been born, Hokkien still holds a special place in a Chinoy family’s heart.
And while learning a completely different language seems like a difficult task, trust us when we say that going through the effort to learn a few phrases to greet the ahmas and angkongs might just show everyone the dedication you have to entering their circle.
3. Learn how to compromise.
If you’re truly committed to entering a long-term relationship with your partner of choice, you should know that your decisions might not always be aligned with one another, especially if your family backgrounds differ. That said, it’s nonetheless important to know where these decisions come from.
Before shooting down a suggestion, discuss the reasons for why it was brought up. Maybe there is something that you haven’t noticed that your partner also considers important, or maybe there is something that you’ve misunderstood. Sometimes, it can truly be a cultural matter. The rule of thumb is that if there’s anything that’s unclear, it’s always a good idea to ask.
4. Be mindful and considerate.
In general, it’s great to be a good person, but it’s especially sweet to see someone who is willing to help out the family. Be it something simple like helping to do errands, or even just greeting a family member a “Happy Birthday,” we believe that every relationship becomes infinitely better when you think of doing things for the person you love.
5. Spend time with the family.
There is nothing more important than family. For example, during birthdays of a Chinese elder, it’s a very common sight to see family clans congregating together in round tables at their Chinese restaurant of choice. If you’re brought to one of these events, take the opportunity to mingle with the cousins and relatives. Talk, share some stories, and have fun. The more you treat people like family, the more you will start to become one.
In the end, let it be said that there is no easy relationship in this world, and that overcoming the Great Wall is something that both partners have to work towards. On a final note to those ambitious and in love, here’s to wishing you the greatest of luck!