Blending Eastern and Western Foods

When you are in an AMWF relationship, you not only share the cultures that you came from but also the foods that are part of it. I was raised to believe that taking the time to share a meal with someone was a way to connect, to get to know, and to enjoy someone’s company. It was over a big bowl of pasta that my family and I would share stories about our day, talk about the trials and tribulations of our lives, and generally find comfort and love from one another. So when it came time to experience Asian foods, I wanted to know what this was all about.

The first difference to me in comparing East Asian to Western foods was the way the food was prepared.  From the very start Asian foods are cut into bite sizes, and then stir fried or steamed, and served to you family style. In contrast, my experience with Italian/western cooking was different. All the ingredients were usually in larger pieces and we always cut the food on our plates with knives and forks. It’s not that things were not family style, because there would often be items like salad, pasta, meats, or etc, out on a table, but you just selected the portion you wanted and placed it on your dish. Another difference was the food choices used in the dishes. There are some ingredients or seasonings in Asian cuisine that Western cooking seldom uses, like jelly fish, sea cucumbers, shark’s fins, bean curds (tofu), oyster sauce, black bean sauce, salty shrimp paste, soy sauce, etc.  In western cooking there are also, like Asia, lots of sea foods, meats, and etc, but herbs like rosemary, dill, sage, oregano, thyme, basil (etc) are used, where Asian cultures add ginger, spring onions, mints, corianders, and white pepper.  Sometimes you can find Asian foods that contain cheese, butter, cream or milk, but I rarely see it.

So even with these differences, I found that I enjoyed trying all the culinary delights that East Asia had to offer… well almost. One of the most common problems when trying foods from Asia was not taste, but texture. For me anything with a spongy or jelly like texture just freaked me out, and just eating it would send a shiver down my spine.  So, when I would share a meal with anyone Asian, they would give and a smile and laugh because they know I don’t like the texture and that the western palate is just not used to it.

At home, when I look at the foods I eat every day, I realize that it’s always a blend of the best of the east and west. In America you can find any foods you want, Asian, European, or more traditional regional US foods, but I always find myself drawn to either Asian or Italian cooking. One day its chicken parmesan with ziti and homemade sauce, the next day its Korean BBQ beef, rice, and broccoli. Other times I will fuse the two together creating something I never even thought of before. Sticky rice goes with just about anything and for example often I use it as a replacement for the crust that is found in a chicken pot pie recipe. Yes really.. Just make your pot pie base like normal ie:  creamy stock, vegetables, onion, garlic, pepper, and chicken. Instead of putting that base into a crust and baking it, just place it hot over sticky rice…and there you have it!. a creamy, vegetable chicken, mock risotto like meal. Yum yum.

To me food is a way to show how much you care about those around you, and this feeling is probably true for all cultures around the world. I often find that I feel so privileged to be part of an AMWF relationship because I am able to enjoy the foods that represent a culture(s), its history, and an experience that I would otherwise have not considered.

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Ask Nicely, but Don’t Force Things – The Order, Suggestion, and Request

While there are many resources describing how to deal with the family of an Asian Male, I think what’s important is the approach taken. Yes it is frustrating at times when a White Female does not fully understand the reasons for family traditions, but it is our responsibility as Asian Men to be respectful to our woman, especially when she was not raised the same way we were. For myself, I grew up in that strict, stifling, Asian environment my Asian peers can all relate to.  I remember getting an earful from my father when he lost patience in my incompetence. Even one point when I was a child he locked me out of the house in the bone-chilling winter because I was sobbing uncontrollably. Well, I was doing some mathematics two years ahead of my grade. I still remember that even to that day, but I still love and respect my father.
Unfortunately we as Asian Males tend to learn even subliminally through our experiences. We were usually not given much input in matters and our parents made choices for us. Our extra-curricular activities involved piano or violin lessons. Maybe if we were “fortunate” enough there would be extra academic studies in math. Yes, it taught us how to be disciplined, but more of how to follow, and not how to lead.

The Asian Family Issue

The reason why I bring this up is because of the upbringing differences from the East and West. I cannot assume the White Female I am with automatically knows everything about cultural traditions. Moreover it isn’t fair to express frustration, nor demand submission from her. Yes I was guilty of this before, and I have to consciously remind myself from time to time that this is what I signed up for. I want to be with a White Female, and I must be responsible to make things work as well.  When dealing with his Asian Family you only need to remember three things: respect, manners, and humility. Anything that incorporates one or all three such as greeting all his family members when visiting, or sitting quietly at the dinner table, has these qualities. Isn’t that great? You don’t have to do much, or be the life of the party, and you earn your respect from his family.

Silent Expectations

Silent expectations can also be a form of passive aggressive behaviour in Asian Men. This is something you have to pay attention to closely because if he is the kind to never show anger, then he definitely bottles it up. However, this is not quite the silent expectation I was getting at. What I was referring to was actually in regards to the Asian Family and Culture. There’s this silent expectation that as a White Female that you will integrate into Asian society. Of course this will depend on how traditional the Asian Family is to begin with. Some White Females will gladly accept this, but there are many that raise an eyebrow. Women have spent the last half of a century combating for equality and recognition. To demand a female submit and integrate as an Asian is outrageous. Women have fought so hard for equality. How is it fair that as an Asian Male you can demand so much from a White Female to come over to the Asian side, when you do nothing as a male but wait for her? If she is willing to give up some of her own individuality to be with you, at least have the courtesy to meet her somewhere in the middle first.

Finding Middle Ground

On a figurative basis, this is the equivalent of walking the female to the door. Unless otherwise requested by her, this is something you should always do. Now this applies to situations beyond the Asian family. Making “suggestions” does not suffice either. A White Female doesn’t need to be told what to do; she needs to know you love her. She needs to know you’ll stand by her side no matter what, and your requests are because you care about her. Let me describe some examples:

The Order

“Sit quietly at the dinner table”
“Say hello to the family members”

While statements like these are very clear, they are just orders to be fulfilled. There might be a language issue because this is direct translation. For example Chinese is tone based which can describe different words or actions. To buy and to sell are the same word with different stresses. English can utilize emphasis to express sincerity or sarcasm. Take for example the word, “really”. It could be a question of “really?” or frustration of “really…?” Orders are orders.

The Suggestion

Zhen is bringing his White Female girlfriend, Diana to a family dinner for the first time. Diana is completely nerve-stricken with fear after hearing some horror stories from her close friends.  While driving to the restaurant, Zhen reaches for a small package in the front compartment.
“I bought this especially for you” He says guiding the package over to Diana’s lap. She carefully inspects the generic red box only to reveal a jade bracelet. “Why don’t you try this on?”

Not that this approach is incorrect, Zhen has tried to solve Diana’s fears by getting something that would make her calm down. In addition, his mom, who loves jade, will immediately feel more comfortable around Diana. The problem is that this is something where Diana really doesn’t have a voice. Of course Zhen means well, but it doesn’t connect with her on an emotional level.

The Request

Feng’s grandfather is turning 80. To celebrate this milestone, Feng’s family is celebrating by going out for dinner next Sunday.  Feng has the option of inviting his girlfriend, Amanda to the dinner, making the total attendance to 16 people. Amanda, who has next Sunday free, has reservations attending. Feng’s family didn’t receive her as well as she expected. When she told his parents she was pursuing a Master’s degree in sociology, his parents took a long pause mumbled and pouted.
“Will you be free next Sunday for dinner? “ Feng casually asks while sitting on the couch watching television with Amanda.
“Yes, what did you have in mind?” she replies smiling while she turns to his direction.
“Well,” he starts off, “next week is my grandpa’s 80th birthday and we’re going out for dinner. I’d love for you to come.” Amanda peers downward, pausing for a moment.
“Do you remember last time?” asks Amanda.
“Last time when you met my parents…?” responds Feng as he mutes the television. Amanda nods. Feng turns to face her, and reaches for her hand. “I remember,” He starts off, “I’m sorry they gave you such a hard time, they really do like you a lot. It’s just their way of making sure you’re serious about our relationship.” Amanda breathes a sigh of relief.
“Well, I wasn’t sure.” says a smiling Amanda, “You’re not lying to me right?”
“It’s the truth,” Feng starts as he gazes into Amanda’s eyes. “If anything goes wrong in any way, I’ll be right beside you the entire time. It’s a big milestone for my grandpa, and I’d really love it if you could attend with me. So will you?”
“Yes.” She replies, “Yes, I’ll be there for Sunday.”
“Great,” Smiles Feng as he reaches his arms to embrace Amanda. “Thanks for understanding”.

What makes a request different from a suggestion is that a suggestion is an order in disguise. There are no condescending undertones in a suggestion, but it doesn’t fully connect on an emotional level with a White Female. A request gives the recipient a choice, and not an order. In this example I made Feng utilize multiple non-verbal elements that reinforce how much he cares about Amanda. Feng mutes the television to give Amanda attention, and then turns to her, holds her hand, establishes face to face contact, and hugs her at the end. Feng wasn’t trying to solve her situation like an order or suggestion would do, but express his intent and true feelings for Amanda. That is what a White Female really needs.

Welcoming her into the Asian Family

There is a process, oh yes. Even if you never thought it before, there is a clear process of how a non Asian woman gets welcomed into an Asian family. Not only have I experienced this myself, but also I have had the privilege is see and hear about many other women who go through this “rite of passage”.

Pre- Engagement Meetings

The first time a women meets the Asian family, it is usually at a family style gathering. You may attend a few of these. Maybe the family is already celebrating someone’s birthday, memorial day, or etc, and it’s a perfect opportunity for everyone to get a glimpse at the women he has chosen. Now we know that an Asian man would never bring home women unless he was serious about her, and the family knows that too. So these meeting are often not only the first few times the family will see you, but the first impression they have of you. Often you will find that your Asian guy’s cousins or friends may be at this party and will talk and welcome you. You may also find although that the uncles/aunts and grandparents may not. Why is that? Well, it’s not that they have anything personal against you, but you are an outsider and they are not always confident about making contact with you. Some will and some wont, but don’t take it to heart, because in time they will. So although this initial meeting may seem a bit uncomfortable, even more so than meeting his parents, don’t worry.

The Engagement Party

So after some time your Asian man pops the question and you say, YES!  He most likely visited your parents, and asked for your hand in marriage with respect and honor. The next thing will most likely be a gathering held in your honor, nothing fancy, just a time for the families to come together and officially meet.  There will be lots of homemade foods, champagne, and a cake. His father will make a speech about how he welcomes you and your family into theirs, and your parents may do the same. Everyone eats and drinks, and life is good. You will start to talk about your wedding plans, yes already, and talk will come up about where, when, how, and if you’re going to do anything traditional. Keep an open mind, and try not to feel pressured. Yes, you may have to compromise by maybe having a small traditional ceremony and also a western wedding, but know that it’s just that the family now see’s and welcomes you as one of their own.  Again, some of the uncles/aunts/ grandparents still may not talk to you all that much but just wait till your married, because the next things you will hear from them will be, when are you going to have  kids?..lol, yup really, and you may hear it until you actually do…lol

Committing to the Asian Family

When a woman commits herself to an Asian man, she also commits herself to his culture and all the duties that go along with it; anything from frequently visiting the family, new foods, holidays, and language. At first it may seem a bit intimidating and even scary at times, but as you go through this “rite of passage” you see how wonderful it can be. For you and for him, nothing will be more memorable as looking back at that journey you took together…. the first time east meets west.

Waiting for the Signal – Internal Fear in Asian Men

While this does not apply to all Asian Men, I have seen this occurrence so frequently that I almost believe it to be normal. What I mean by this is that there is a tendency for Asian Men not to take action unless there is some positive affirmation or signal.

The Dating Process

This is probably very common, and I can attest to this myself from personal experience.  When it comes to first meeting a female, the natural tendency is to be courteous, but action will not be taken if there is no hint or signal that she is even the slightest bit interested.  Of course we do have situations where the Asian Male is completely oblivious (and she’s dropping so many hints), but for all intents and purposes, let’s just assume it’s the Asian Male not taking action.

When he does take action, it almost seems like it is a friendlier approach than direct interest. This is often perceived as Asian Men not being interested when in fact they were merely just trying to open lines of communication in a polite manner.  Now the White Female will take this approach as insufficient interest, and will consequently look elsewhere.  Suddenly the values of being well-mannered seem to work against us.

If the Asian Male has mustered enough courage to make first contact with you, he is interested.  Granted the approach may end up completely disastrous, it is almost a silent offering that he is completely yours for the taking.

Taking Action

When pursing an AMWF relationship, or in fact any relationship, Asian Men have to become much more proactive in their methods. This does not mean being arrogant, but having the personal belief that success is to follow regardless of the adversities. In many cases as Asian Men, we are overcome with an internal fear of failure and shame.  Yes it sounds rather stupid to a Westerner, but it comes from our upbringing. Thus, when we are presented with some positive signal to proceed, we take it. Otherwise we end up not taking any action at all.

So remove the doubts in yourself, and go and try. Mistakes are bound to happen, but that’s all part of growing up and learning.

Why Do I Support the AMWF Relationship?

I get this question all the time. Why do you care so much about the AMWF relationship? Why do you care enough to help Asian men, and western women who are looking for relationships? What’s the motivation? It takes time, effort, and does not offer you much compensation, so what’s the deal?  You have to be thinking, it’s because you’re in a relationship with an Asian man right?  Or, you watch lots of k drams, anime, kung fu movies, and you are just a crazy lady with an Asian fetish?! Actually none of those are reasons why.

When it came to a relationship choice, for me I was always attracted to Asian men. It’s just my preference, but I never expected anyone else to feel the same way. When it came to a life style choice, a way of living, I just found that I liked what eastern cultures had to offer and again it was not something that I expected anyone else to agree with. It was just what I felt was right for me, something that I believed in, and something that I wanted to be part of. To me supporting the AMWF relationships means more then just supporting an interracial couple, but it’s about supporting tolerance and acceptance for one another.

I think that the eastern and western cultures can work very well together. Everything from the way you raise your kids, the foods you eat, the way you dress, behave, and live your life. It can all blend together so beautifully because we can take the best that both have to offer.What concerns me is that people still see race as a barrier when it comes to relationships, and it really should not be that way at all. Maybe there are lots of people who still and always will, use race as an excuse to not treat others with love and respect, but I won’t live my life like that. In my mind we are all humans and therefore no matter what color our skin, the way our eyes slant, or the where we live on this earth, we are all equal. I think we can be better, with more tolerance and understanding then the previous generations. We can all live and respect each other for our similarities and our differences.

So if you’re like me and you want your partner to be Asian that’s fine, If you’re an Asian man and you want to be in a relationship with a white women, that’s fine also.  In the end it all comes down to who you are as a person, and nothing else should really matter.

Building Self-Confidence in Asian Men

One of the biggest misconceptions with Asian Men is that they are deemed to be not confident – all the time. Personally I cannot wrap my head around the fact that people can simply make a global statement for all Asian Men, when in fact there are a considerable amount of Asian Men who are confident, but tend to be more on the cautious and reserved side. By no means should they be immediately labelled not confident.

The Confidence Formula

Remember the first time you went to ride your bike? I remember mine vividly. The progression went from tricycle to training wheels, and the training wheels removed.  When my dad removed the training wheels I ended up tipping over my bicycle within ten seconds because I had insufficient speed. I cried in agony, but I picked myself back up and tried again. Building confidence is like this, it’s done step by step often with catastrophic failures, but eventually we get it.

To be honest, we instinctively learned the process as a child. However, for many somewhere along the line we forget about the process and take up the pathway of rote memorization. For me I would say it was by the time I was thirteen to fourteen, it was no longer the pursuit of individuality, but a submission into obtaining the highest grades possible with rote. I was fortunate enough not to have the same family pressures as my Asian friends, and my parents let me cultivate my own way of thinking.

The problem with the rote way of thinking was the pursuit of perfection. Only error free test examinations were acceptable and other grades were unsatisfactory. Now when we apply this to interpersonal relationships, this doesn’t quite work out. For many Asian Males, it’s facing the most dreaded school courses: English, and to a lesser extent the Social Sciences. What makes things so difficult is the lack of bivalent logic that Mathematics and Natural Sciences have. The information is hidden within the words that can’t be measured by a machine, but has to be felt emotionally.  

In short, for many Asian Men (and Asians in general), our formula for success is simply:

  • Memorize
  • Regurgitate
  • Purge
  • Repeat

I would say the steps for building a skill set and confidence in it would be:

  • Just try it (believe in it)
  • If it doesn’t work out, take positive feedback from the mistakes
  • If it still doesn’t work, find a mentor or expert.
  • After repeated success, build more belief in yourself

Confidence in this regard is when we have nearly absolute certainty on the answer. When we do not, we end up playing the reserved or cautious approach.

Being Reserved & Cautious

Since life for the most part is not something of absolute certainty, we tend to remain on the reserved and cautious side. Among the various factors that contribute to being reserved, shame would probably be the underlying reason. Being publically ostracized is one of the worst feelings to experience as an Asian, and while it may be used to keep every citizen to behave properly, the only way we perceive not to bring shame is really to do nothing at all. Being embarrassed in public is a terrible feeling for Asian Males, and even behind closed doors as well.

This is really no different when you are doing something that is not in your field of expertise. Not only is there a steep learning curve, you have to go through endless amounts of mistakes before you even feel like you’re progressing.  As a result, our natural inclinations as Asian Males tend to be subdued.

Regarding the AMWF Relationship

This is definitely a reoccurring issue when dealing with an AMWF Relationship. If language issues are not a significant barrier, then I would guarantee that a White Female needs a certain level of mental and emotional stimulation through conversation.  When the Asian Male shrugs his shoulders when a White Female asks about dinner plans, it’s of slight annoyance. The problem is that she may think that you are indifferent, or have absolutely no confidence with your preference. Of course as an Asian Male you may have played a little too safe attempting to communicate that you really just wanted to be with her.

When it comes to using technological devices such as the latest smartphone, Asian Males take on a completely different persona. We know the technical specifications and how to synchronize it with a desktop computer. What happened? Asian Males tend to have the confidence when we have absolute certainty, and when we are not as certain, we play the conservative approach.

Thus, when we speak of building self-confidence, it is something Asian Males already have, but is often underdeveloped. It begins with a belief, and then action is taken.  What’s important is that it usually doesn’t work out on the first attempt, but take it as feedback to point you in the right direction.  So go out there not to be perfect, but to make yourself better one step at a time.