Some Things I Don’t Understand About Asian Culture.

Here are three, out of several things, that I just never understood about Asian cultures. As a WF coming from an Americanized family, I found that many of these types of things never made sense to me, and were in fact the opposite of the things I had or enjoyed.

Asian Promotional Calendars

Ya know the ones I mean, the ones with women smiling shyly while wearing some traditional clothing’s. Maybe they are standing in front of a sports car, or holding some ridiculous product that you would never actually by. For some reason Asian people can’t get enough of free calendars. Older Asians can often be cheap, true, and it’s only human nature to not pass up something free but I don’t see the appeal of them. I see two or three at least in the Asian homes I have been in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a calendar from a little-known bank or Asian restaurant; they hang them up in the kitchen, living room, and anyplace I would never think of hanging a calendar. Sometimes it’s out of reach of normal viewing, almost like it’s a rare painting that’s on display. So you can look at it, in all its Asian advertising glory, but can’t use it.  No matter how many I have seen over the years, I still don’t get it.

Taking Pictures and Posing

When I originally thought about taking pictures, I thought about artistic expression and visually capturing something beautiful for others to enjoy. As I got to know more about Asian people and culture, I realized that the way I view taking photos, especially of others is completely different. Why does the average Asian invest so much money on SLRs, point and shoot types of digital cameras, or webcams? Asians like taking family photos, or doing that crazy peace sign in every photo (which really was a V for Victory), sure I get that, but why are they often retaking photos of the same people over and over? How many pictures do you need of you and your family at a cousin’s birthday or relatives wedding? My answer is that not many. Apparently I am wrong because that’s exactly what happens.  Even every day events become photo shoots where, especially the women try to look their best and pose for every single photo. I have concluded that Asians just really like posing in photos. I don’t get it.

Not Having Pets

Wait you say, I had fish when I was a kid. Stop right there, a fish is not a pet. No, just because your dad bought a huge fish tank filled with exotic fish and sat every night for hours watching them. That does not mean you had a pet. So why don’t most Asian households have real pets, like a dog or cat? When I ask why I get this answer “Pets are dirty and don’t belong in the home”. Dirty? Well I guess some dogs and cats take more work than others to keep them clean, but what about man’s best friend? Asians don’t have a best friend?..lol .. I just don’t get it.

Advertisements

Relationships, Marriage, and the Four Horsemen

Regardless of the fact that the level of relationship may be dating, courtship, or even marriage, there are always trouble signs that will greatly predict the success of the relationship. Strangely enough I stumbled upon literature from Dr. John Gottman using the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analogy from the Bible. Bear in mind that disagreements and fighting every now and then are signs of a healthy relationship. In any case here are the four key behaviors:

Criticism

Criticism in my opinion has two variants, a positive form and a negative form. Positive criticism is about improving the situation without any intentional personal attacks on your partner. There is possible frustration expressed, but definitely not offending. Take for example you were watching your favorite reality competition and one of your favorite competitors was sent packing. I know for one I would be in absolute shock. “How could he be eliminated?”  I would exclaim in discontent “that’s not fair.”

In that situation I do not wish harm on the judges, but I am clearly disgruntled by the apparent unfairness. Now when it comes to negative criticism, this behavior may start out as dissatisfaction but then becomes unbearable. They start with phrases like:

“I can’t believe you…”
“Every time you…”
“What kind of (noun) is this?”

The usual intention is to claim that you are right, and the offending partner is clearly wrong.  Unfortunately it comes with a vicious attack on your partner’s character. I can honestly admit criticism in this regard is almost considered normal in Traditional Asian upbringing. Not only do we get criticism from our parents, we are expected to accept it, as it is supposedly their way of expressing how they care.  The tragedy is that then if we start to believe our actions bring criticism, then as Asian Males we resign ourselves of apathy, and stop believing in anything.

Contempt

Although contempt is very similar to criticism in the fact that there is intent to draw some form of mental abuse, it differs by not focusing on a particular event, but as a global degrading feeling. You could almost say that criticism occurs as a reaction while contempt is a lingering feeling no matter if it is premeditated or reactionary.

Examples usually come from verbal insults, mockery, and most often through body language combined with tone. Since most of contempt is something that is “read between the lines” I will describe obvious situations where it could happen. A couple fictitious examples I have spontaneously thought of is as follows:

Example One:

Shen and Ashley decide to spend their Friday night window shopping at a local trendy district. While passing by an eclectic store Ashley stops to point at a cute summer dress.

“Are you kidding me?” Shen said as he rolled his eyes in disgust, “that dress makes your arms look even bigger.”

While Shen was able to voice his opinion, Ashley would be more disappointed over with the implications: he shows indifference to her opinions, and reinforces her apparent weight issues.

Example Two:

Han and Angela have been officially dating for a couple years. In preparation for Han’s cousin’s wedding, there is a banquet party group dance that both of them are involved in. Unfortunately being a typical male with two left feet like Han, the steps do not come naturally. To make matters worse, Han not only has to remember his steps, but also has to lead Angela. Trouble arises with alignment issues. Angela stops and glares at Han.

“I don’t get it” Angela voices in frustration, “this is so easy.” Han recollects his composure and tries for a second time. Failure ensues. “Nope,” she says while biting her lip. Completely petrified Han tries for a third time, only to get a tongue lashing.

While not as direct as the first example, there are many situations when the male feels emasculated by his partner. This is something that comes with experience, and no video game is going to teach you this.

Defensiveness

Just as criticism and contempt are more offensive approaches, there are defensive approaches that Gottman classifies as action and inaction. In a sense it is an approach that minimizes the incoming threat to give an opportunity to respond back offensively by both criticism and contempt. The defense comes by evading a perceived attack or using a victim mentality. It is only natural for us to protect ourselves from harm, but things get muddled when things are tense.

“It wasn’t my fault…”
“But remember the time you…”

Now by developing the two examples above, we can create both a defensive and non-defensive approach.

Example One Development – Shen & Ashley

A: “That burger you had for dinner isn’t helping your waistline either.” Ashley quips as she pokes his belly.

B: “Great,” Ashley smiles, “I’ll be sure to wear it next weekend for your mom’s birthday dinner”

Development A used a diversion to place the weight issue onto Shen, while B turned the situation from displeasure to humor. Mind you Ashley may get the last laugh if she gets all genuine compliments for the dress next week.

Example Two Development – Han & Angela

A: “It is sooooo easy” Han responds.

B: “Backseat driving.” Han grins.

C: “As expected from your formal training” he sighs.

In response A, Han repeats what Angela had said earlier, with a slightly altered tone. This has the intention of having her believe that Han was listening. For response B and C, Han diverted the perceived threat by countering with a comment that may actually escalate the situation. While this may seem the most viable option, it does nothing to help the relationship. The problem really is not the small disagreements but the fact that this will accumulate over time and the behavioral response will be the same. Only when enough is enough, then a sudden change tends to follow.

Stonewalling

I confess that growing up this was my main arsenal when it comes to dealing with conflict. It made perfect sense to me, keeping a neutral tone would make the other person feel that I not offended and won’t retaliate. I was always taught to turn the other cheek, but it often is with physical conflict. When it comes to an emotional connection with a woman and especially a White Female, it conveys actually a lack of effort in the relationship.

Examples include:

  • A blank face
  • Crossing arms and refusal to communicate
  • Leaving the situation without any explanation during or afterwards
  • Using the pseudo-agreement of “yes” responses

Granted that the natural response for a male is to hide in his cave to regenerate himself, constantly disconnecting yourself as a male towards a female is extremely hurtful over time. This is a serious issue when it comes to Asian Males as we are taught to maintain a stern disconnected composure.

Fortunately this can be worked around by giving signals that you really want to connect as an Asian Male. Get into her personal space, hold her hands, tell her how much you really care for her – she will forgive you for the lack of expression and recognize your sincerity to be with her. Remember it is a healthy relationship to encounter conflict, but what is important is that you both ultimately respect and acknowledge each other.

You Don’t Need to Buy Her Fancy Things to Make Her Happy.

Did you learn that the best way to be a good partner is by being a provider financially, and placing a strong emphasis and spending lots of time on that?  So much of an emphasis that you have not ever really considered the social and emotional needs of your relationship?  Now don’t get me wrong, a man who provides his family is a good thing, better than a man who does not, but do you feel that to have a good relationship this is a top priority? Maybe because that is the model of behavior that you have seen for most of your life?  Dad would make money and focus on giving his family all the material things they needed and mom (even if she works) would take care of the emotional side of things. But you rarely saw mom and dad spending time together, making the essential emotional connections with each other. They seem to live peacefully in that relationship with each contributing to the family life, and as long as the basic needs are met everyone is happy.

When I look at the older generations of Asian couples I often see this situation, and to be honest this mentality can be very confusing to the average WF in today’s society. I can understand as a man, Asian or otherwise, there has been a long history of that type of relationship structure and providing for the ones you love makes you happy. That is a great thing, but for your average WF who was raised to be independent and care for herself she expects more from her relationship with you then just the basic comforts and material needs being met. She is looking for you to be her best friend, her confidant, and her lover. She wants you to share the financial responsibility of having a life and a family, but also expects you to be emotionally available for her and any children you have. The structure of the relationship is a 50/50 one where each contributes to the overall health and wealth of the family and your relationship.

I think today’s generation of Asian men is in a very different situation then their fathers before them.  Ten years ago your father would have not considered marring a non-Asian women, it just would not be the norm. The fear of cultural differences and pressure from family expectations would have not allowed it. I’ve sad it before, Asian men are pioneers when it comes to choosing who they want to be with and so understanding the dynamics of the AMWF relationship is important. The model of behavior that your parents provided for you cannot be fully applied, and if you think that just being good provider for her (like fancy cars, LV bags, and, etc…) without up keeping the emotional side of the relationship, it will inevitably end in failure.

I hear Asian men say it to me over and over, that they don’t want women who are materialistic. They want to get away from that because they see it a lot in Asian culture. Your WF won’t mind that nice gift you bought her, but it’s not required to show your love. She wants you to be emotionally there for her, she likes to see your softer side, and she wants to support you just as much as you want to support her. Only you don’t need fancy things to show status, or to prove that you love her, she simply wants you.