How I Told My Family I’m Dating a Foreigner

Although having a foreign boyfriend or girlfriend is not unusual, it still arouses disputes, disapproval and concerns from the older generation.

A former student contacted me through WeChat; she is studying in Scotland.

“Hi, Charlene. I would like to ask you something.”

“Sure. Anything.” I replied, assuming she would consult me about her studies.

“I am in love… I would like so much to tell my parents about him. But I don’t know how to start.”

“Why?”

“He is not Chinese. I am afraid how my parents would react. I tried to talk with my aunt. She panicked even before I told her the whole story. She reminded me that I should only focus on studies. So, I think you might know how to deal with this situation.”

What she is experiencing took me back to the moment I introduced John to my family. My parents are open-minded and supportive, but the greater concern was my grandfather. I asked my father to talk to him in advance and get him prepared before John and I dropped by. When we arrived, my father opened the door.

“Did you tell him where John is from?” I asked.

“I did. I told your grandfather that John is from the north,” he said.

What? From the north? Well done, Dad!

“You don’t look like a Chinese,” was my grandfather’s first comment.

“Wǒ shì wài guó rén.” John responded in Mandarin.

My grandfather was trying to stay calm.

“Which country?”

“Canada.”

“Oh, Canada is the hometown of Doctor Bethune, our good friend and ally during the war.”

John was approved.

I told my former student there are a few questions her parents may ask, and she needs to know how to answer them.

1. Does your foreign boyfriend speak Chinese? If no, is he willing to learn?

Language is a big barrier. If he can communicate with your parents, it is more likely for them to get along. John speaks Mandarin well and can hold a conversation with my family without me stuck in the middle to translate.

2. Are you planning to live and work in China or overseas?

Most Chinese parents would like their children to live close to them even after they have started their own family. Eventually they will be alright if you decide to live in a different city or country, but they still want you to show the gesture that you have no plan to abandon your homeland. At least for now.

3. How serious are you about this relationship?

This is a tough question to answer. You may want to play it safe and tell your parents that you are happy in the relationship. They will support you no matter how it ends because they love you.