Sunday, January 1, 2012

We too, we married a Barbarian

Would you be disappointed if I told you that Quay Po and Quay Lo are just an ordinary couple like many others out there, who have their trying times? Well I got an email from a reader.  She asked me if our love story is true and does that really exist in real life or is it just a fairy tale. She said it is too good to be true!  Although I do not owe anyone an explanation, I felt I need to clear her doubts. If she has this thought, I am sure that, there may be other readers of mine that might have them too. 

If you want an insight into what life is like to be married to a person of a different culture, you might want to read the book titled "I married a Barbarian." It is a heart-warming true story by a British man, and his wife, a proud Chinese lady. I can relate to their story because there were so many familiar situations and little aggravations that we faced, much like the marriage they write about.

Our marriage, like many others is not a always a bed of roses.  If marriage within the same culture needs lots of understanding and patience to stay intact, what do you think a mixed cultural marriage will entail?  Trust me, it is a challenge for Quay Lo and Quay Po to stay married for 15 years but that is true of any marriage. There are new challenges everyday and they are on going. It will not stop until one or the other of us expire. Only then, the one remaining can claim the victory for having a lasting marriage if there is a victory to claim. But it is the process, not the destination, that is our reward. So, why didn’t I blog about the challenges of our marriage and why only write about all the beautiful things? Think about this; if you were I, wouldn’t you do the same? Who would want to wash their dirty linen in public and if you are a reader, how long before you would stop coming here to hear my complaints? The truth is that we are more successful at achieving happiness if we never lose sight of the good things in our lives. Research has shown that the happiest people, are people who feel a sense of gratitude.  So I will let you decide whether this is a fairy tale or it is real.  Just remember, the pursuit of a happy life often revolves around the pursuit of ideals (such as gratitude). Our success is often tied to our own ideas about what those ideals are.  Also remember that love is a bond that, like steel, must be tempered. If challenges in our lives make us stronger, then we should draw comfort from knowing that. Our ideals of understanding, forgiveness, respect, and deep abiding love, must be strengthened by challenges if it is to be truly lasting. Quay Lo and I are still on that journey and our love still abides. We are both thankful.

Since I am on this topic, I might as well share with you an article I read in the early stage of our marriage. Obviously it was during one of our trying times when I was searching for answers that I found it.  I wished Quay Lo and I had read it before we got married.  Knowing these "rules" could definitely help a married couple avoid a lot of conflicts and would have enabled them to handle their cultural differences better. 

The author of this article is an American and his wife is Japanese. Unfortunately, I only saved the rules but  did not record the name of the author. If I had I would credit him, and furthermore, may have even tried to reach him and thank him.

Rule #1: Don't assume that your interest in your partner's culture will last, or that it will somehow prevent conflicts from occurring. 
Never underestimate the depth of the roots of your own upbringing. Sure, it's possible to change (given enough time and enough effort). But no matter how deep you dig, you will always be you. Your beliefs, your emotions, your priorities, in short, your whole approach to life, are shaped by the culture in which you were brought up. This leads to the obvious:

Rule #2: Don't assume that the other person will change significantly just because of the relationship or because of your charming influence.
Some degree of cross-polinization is bound to occur between two people who share an intimate relationship but when you start to expect change, then you start to get into big trouble. The best thing you can do for each other is to acknowledge the fact that conflicts will occur and will often occur for the simplest and most unexpected reasons.

That said, it should be quite obvious that you will want to find out as much as you possibly can about your potential partner and his or her lifestyle. You would be surprised how much is taken for granted in typical marriages, even among partners of the same background. What priority does the extended family play in the couple's life, how are family decisions made, how much free time (time apart from each other) is considered normal for the partners, etc.

Rule #3: Don't assume anything. Make sure you discuss with your partner every aspect of your future life together.
Also, don't assume that when your partner says something is unimportant that it does not have to be discussed. Those areas are often the most important things to discuss. The fact that something is 'not important' may be a signal that one or both of you are making an assumption about the way some aspect of life will turn out based on your own past experience. Well, you might as well toss that 'past experience' right out the window because your partner and you, by definition, do not share the same past or the same experience. And that brings me to the next rule:

Rule #4: If your partner refuses to discuss a subject openly, treat that as a big red flag and find out why.
The beliefs people hold most dear are the ones which they are least likely to want to discuss with someone else. Unless you're prepared to cheerfully accept whatever ideas or beliefs your partner may consider most important, I'd suggest you at least find out what those beliefs are before jumping into a permanent relationship with that person.

And I'm not talking only about religious beliefs (which may be important in their own right) but also beliefs about how life should be lived. Those things which you or your partner might call 'common sense'. Well, the term common sense covers a lot of ground and is often based on those underlying assumptions we have been trying to hard not to look at. The only things that are actually common are things like not standing in front of a speeding truck or not walking into an empty elevator shaft.

For example, if you are very involved in a group which supports a particular cause but your partner sees this as one of your 'hobbies' -- and if he or she has been brought up to believe that when two people marry they will give up the 'hobbies' of their younger days. And if you wait until after you are married to find out that all this is only 'common sense' then you may well find yourself in a difficult situation real fast. Or if you find out that it is considered 'common sense' that you should give up your dream of starting that business and instead work as a corporate grunt in order to provide security for the family because that's the way everyone else from your partner's country behaves -- my friend, you've found out way too late.

Rule #5:  Make it a point to talk about some tough topics (like money, raising children, where to live, etc.) before making those wedding arrangements.
Look, the stuff is going to come up sooner or later. Start an argument or two. Find out what it's like to fight by your partner's rules. No amount of love or respect is going to keep your ship from hitting the icebergs of life. You might as well know whether you will be able to work together toward a solution when the inevitable crisis comes up.

Rule #6: Make sure that between the two of you, there is at least one language in which you are both fluent.
This is very important. As a test, try taking some very subtle feeling or belief and explain it to your potential mate. Have him or her explain it back. If there is not a substantial understanding of what you explained, watch out. If either of you are unable to explain the subtle emotions that come up in a relationship without causing some misunderstanding, then you will be in for a very hard, if not impossible, road through life. Wait a while until one or the other of you is able to achieve a good degree of fluency in the other's language.

After all, would you hook up permanently with someone whose face you had never seen? Not many of us would. Then how come we will so readily hook up with a partner whose soul we have never seen?

Rule #7: Examine your own motives.
Is this someone you would hook up with even if you were safe and happy in your own country? If you are the partner who is trying to live in another culture, remember this: Culture shock can do funny things to a normally rational mind. Sure you're lonely, sure there are things about your surroundings that you just can't seem to figure out, sure your partner makes everything seem safe by filling you in on the subtle nuances of his or her culture. That's the formula for a perfect couple, right? Wrong. What you have is a parent or a teacher, not a lover. And it's all too easy to overlook the previous seven rules when it seems so obvious that this is the 'prefect' person for you.

If you see this happening to you, stop. Postpone any comittment. Get yourself comfortable with your surroundings. Disarm the 'conveninece' in the relationship and then see what you think. Learn more about the subtle parts of your partner's culture and then decide if you can tolerate, work with, and actually love that person because they are different and not despite those differences.

Rule #8: Lay the family finances out on the table and plan out your budget for at least your first couple of years together.
Why? Even in single-culture marriages, money seems to be the biggest problem in making decisions together. In my experience, money is even more important in an Asian family. There are enough differences in family finance between Western and Asian cultures that you should really want to know how your betrothed thinks in terms of family finance. And why not get a head start on the inevitable. After all, it's going to be both of you in this together so you might as well start now.

Of course, you can figure that if you make it past the first couple of years (the most intense part of the learning curve when it comes to finding out about all the differences in your ideas and background), you can pretty much go back to planning things by the seats of your respective pants.

Rule #9: Don't underestimate the importance of keeping good relations with your partner's parents.
This is especially true if your partner is the one from an Asian Countries (or some other non-Western culture). It seems that we in the US (and I can hardly speak for any other Western cultures) have developed a great deal of independence from our families. We hardly notice, and sometimes don't even care, what our parents think of our choice in partners. However, the same is not true with the Asian or other non-Western culture. There is still a great deal of synergy between parent and offspring, even well after they have left the nest and formed families of their own.

I have personally seen a well-functioning extended family of a mixed Asian/American couple. I must say, I was more than a little jealous of the warmth and support my friend's parents showed toward her American husband and I began to appreciate how important family contact and support can be when one has already, by virtue of entering an inter-racial relationship, struck out against the tide of social mediocrity.

And the worse thing that can happen is to have your partner's parents (or your own) constantly undermining the relationship, either consciously or not. If you can't get their active support then at least settle for passive acceptance. Anything less should be a sign of trouble ahead.

Rule #10: Be ready to help your partner through the inevitable rough spots.
Well, okay, this is sound advice for any couple. But just remember that you both will be setting out on an adventure -- a full-time first-hand learning experience in the other person's cultural labyrinth. None of us, I am convinced, ever really appreciates how many things we learn about life when we are young and that we take for granted every day. We consider many of these things just plain 'common sense' but they're only common if you and your partner have common backgrounds. Expect the unexpected. Then you won't be disappointed.

Rule #11: Forget about any rules.
If you have come this far and still intend to undertake this major life project, then may your experience be one of constant joy and wonder. And if you happen to be one of those for whom an inter-racial marriage has turned out well, I would certainly love to hear from you. Learning up-close about another person can be simultaneously the greatest adventure of your life and the greatest challenge."

I hope I have answered the question asked about our love story. Though imperfect, it is these imperfections that draw us together, more than tears us apart. In that regard we both feel blessed. 

Believe me, cooking a cross cultural dish is way more easy than facing challenges in a cross cultural marriage. Since this is New Year Day, I give myself a break and not cook or bake at all. May I share with you one dish that I did last year? I believe a lot of my new readers might have missed this one. A dish that pleases both the Western and Asian palette. 

Click on the photo to get the recipe


  1. Very good advice indeed. So true, so true. Now if those were the same rules that people apply as a nation, this world would be a more unified family as well. Oh well, I guess when we start small, it'll spread in some ways ... hopefully, one day.
    I love this Sui Kow fusion. I'd happily have this as my lunch .. ooo getting hungry!

  2. such a great post! Wish I had read that, I married my husband at 18, I'm now 55, all these years together, I love him more each day, but, this book would have been a help, lol,

  3. Hmmm.....I never really thought about that issue. Just the fact that Jamie and I are in love is good enough for us. However, I do agree with the point where you need family's support from both side to help ease the rocky patches in your marriage. We are so blessed in that respect as both my family and his give us their blessings equally and love the others just like their own child unconditionally. That is the one instant where I think my parents are really cool and so are Jamie's.

    Jamie and I will hit our 4th year anniversary in 2012 and we sure have learned a great deal when it comes to inter-racial marriage. I give out the order and he listens...all the time..:)but in return, I take very good care of Jamie. His co-workers are very envious of him as he gets his lunchbox to work everyday without fail, often with baked goods or desserts as treats. Plus he brags to them of the fact that he does not have to do laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning or cooking. I guess in hindsight, each one of us have to learn how to give and take at different time.

  4. although you didnt read the so-called 'rules' before your marriage, Quay Po and Quay Lo still live happily together until this very moment. and i bet you both will be enjoying this brand new year ahead too! :) happy 2012!

    Latest: Happy Hakka 2012!

  5. Very good advice , indeed ! There's no such thing as perfect marriage that's only from romance novel ( which sadly I'm so fond of reading hee hee )You gotta take the good with the bad and make the most of it :P :D Anyway , I'm getting hungry and would like that dumpling you have there ;D Presentation , two thumbs up ;)

  6. I can relate to you Quay Po as both of us married to Quay Lo. The first 2 years were pretty tough for me. Living in a foreign land with none of my love ones around. I cried ever so often. Missing home, missing my family and friends. What we learned is not trying to change your other half, learn to accept him as he is, respect each other culture, belief and religion including food preference, learn to listen, never go to bed angry and talk things out. Do not keep it inside you as he can't read your mind. There will always be ups and down in every marriage and each day is a learning process for every couple. Here wishing you and your other half every happiness and Happy New Year :)

  7. Quay Po, thanks for sharing your thought. Marriage was never a bed of roses everyday.
    No doubt I'm married to my hubby for 27 years plus with 2 children, we do fight a lot in our first few years of marriage. It take lots of patience, trust & understanding to cultivate a long lasting marriage.
    But we give each other all the freedom we want and no handcuff each other. And accept each other for who we are and what we are.

    Happy new year to you and family and wish you all the best in 2012.
    May you stay young and pretty.

  8. Life is a bed of roses...with all the thorns and in any relationship, for it to work, it's a matter of giving and taking - a balance of both, not one giving too much...or the other taking all the time and not giving...and it takes both to make it work. The Chinese will say, "Close one eye..." but I would say that sometimes, we may need to close both eyes - that's why they say love is blind.

  9. All marriages have challenges, without them it would be boring. Mixed culture and leaving your country increases the difficulty. Have a happy 2012.


  10. So true, marriage is not an easy institution; you have to keep on learning and be tested on as time progresses, some passed with flying colors, and some failed, unfortunately. Happy New Year, and may you have many more happy years together:)

  11. very concise advise, loveed reading every aspect of it. Beautifully presented dish too.

  12. Great advices indeed! I read an amazing book called 5 Love Languages too and I think it really helps in a relationship. Maybe you should read it too :)

  13. Great sharing! Even with the same bangsa also may get *canto ~ kai moh up hit* "chicken feather duck blood" what more to expect from mixed marriage with so much differences in culture and upbringing. Agree absolutely its the journey not the destination. Need tons of patience, communication and understanding. All the best 'yat fun foong soon.

  14. Nice insights :-) Btw Happy New Year to you & your family!

  15. Wow, that is a powerful post! Well said you. Of course it does help if the two people concerned have a great sense of humour - and I think you and your lovely husband both have that. Love to you both, Elaine xx

  16. Yes, so's all about the process and communication. Trust will work it's way in there as well. We will be married 19 years this summer, we got married later at 35, both of ours first and only marriage. It's so sad seeing so many of our friends marriages split. It's good to hear or share about the little annoyances of our "better-half" once in awhile if just to keep us sane! :) But I like hearing about the good best!

  17. I married a Barabarian sounds like a great read. I'll deff have to check that out :)

  18. Very good advice with knowledge like that your set.

  19. Funny, I never would call your relationship a fairy tale - but you two definitely seem perfect for each other!

  20. What a wonderful way to explain your story! My husband and I have been married going on 13 years and I can relate, other then we are both from the same culture. We have trying times but that makes my love story and the millions of wonderful things that out way the bad that much stronger! I can't wait to take a closer look at your blog!

  21. Amazing post! I certainly agree with u that true love never runs smooth.

    Being married for 21 yrs is no easy task, but hubby & I love each other for what we are. Most importantly, we take pleasure & not pressure in celebrating special occasions.

    Been a delight connecting with u & sharing our journey for food & marriage, Veron! Happy 2012!

  22. Quay Po's dumpling has brought me into her inner world. I though married a Chinese guy but when I had decided to come to Sydney to live with him, I took it as a gamble, a big one. I still remember when I waved goodbye to my dear mum & good friends at the KLIA 12 years ago, my heart was pumping fast, my mind was confused. 1 question kept flashing in my mind:"Do I really have to leave all my family & friends behind for a man whom I thought(at that moment) he was the one?The Mr Right?"

    Then, I had to learn to listen to new friends conversation in their special Australian accent. Everything started like a new leaf. Worked in a new environment.

    In our happy time, I love my hubby so much but in our argument time, I will miss my friends like crazy, why marry so far away but look at us, touch wood, we will be going through our 2nd cycle of 7 years itch this year, wa ha ha! Still fighting, but still the same us!

  23. Marriage is made in heaven, but the problem is that we are on Earth. I got married and had a child at a pretty young age by modern standard, and my husband had a very different upbringing from I had.

    And I'm telling you, it's like hell on Earth, even though I love my husband very much. My in laws... let's just say I don't really see eye to eye with them and I am not impressed with their chauvinistic and backward thinking.

    I guess the same can be said with every marriage. Not everything is a bed of roses, and we learn to deal with the problems as we go.

    I'm a writer, Quay Po. I write romance and sizzling hot love story, but my life is not exactly as romantic...though I wish it could be.

  24. Very good tips. I have been married for 7 years plus and every day is a challenging day! There are ups and downs in our marriage. No one is perfect and we cannot change our other half but we try to compromise.

    Enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing!

  25. these are some awesome rules and I think they apply to any marriage, not just ones where the two people are from different cultures. Especially that last rule :P

    Great post!

  26. I really enjoy this post.

    My husband is from a non-Viet background. Sure we are both from Asian culture but our views and ways can be very different :>

  27. Hi Veron, thanks for dropping by my blog.

    Well said of your post and I definitely learn something from your journey of marriage of 15 years! For there will be many many years to come, enjoy!

  28. Well said! Thanks for sharing it..:)

    Here's wishing you a great new year ahead with Quay Lo and your family!

  29. @ping
    Yup. You are right.

    You married at 18? WOW!! After being married for 37 years and you still love him more everyday, nah, you do not need to read those rules.

    Give and take surely is something necessary to have a successful marriage.

    Thanks Fish, we hope so too:D

    The dumplings is really good and I am not blowing my own trumpet hehe… True, true, no perfect marriage, only in romantic novels:D

    I am more lucky in the sense that I am staying in my own country near to my family. So I am sure my Quay Lo will relate to your feelings more.

    Yes, one must feel free to be oneself to be happy. I am glad you and your hubby have that freedom.

  30. @suituapui
    I closed both eyes somethings and I am sure my Quay Lo too but still won't work sometimes cos I peep!! hehehe

    You are right Filip. I think it is more difficult on my hubby than on me.

    So fa so good, we don't pass with flying colors but we do have red and blue marks on our report cards.

    Sure, will check out that book. I wonder if old dog can still learn new tricks. hehehe

    Oh ya, you bet, there are times that we have chicken feather duck blood. Luckily not our own blood. LOL!

    Glad you think so. Hope you had a great New Year.

    Life will be very boring if we are serious all the time. Love to you both too.

  31. @Lyndsey
    Yes, it is always sad to see our friends' marriage on the rocks especially when this is something that we cannot help.

    @Little ms. Fun
    Yes, can get it anytime at

    Just sharing my own experience and hope they help some couples out there.

    @That Girl
    Pefect until now:D

    Thanks for visiting my blog and hope you enjoy all the other posts. Overcoming trying times will definitely strengthen the love you have for each other.

    You look so young to have been married for 21 years. You really kept yourself well. It is a pleasure knowing you too and we still got lots to share.

    @The Blond Duck
    Yes there are!!

  32. @Jessie
    Leaving home and love ones to stay in a foreign land is very hard. Yes, it is a big gamble. Just like my Quay Lo has gambled BIG. Sometimes, he wins, sometimes he lost but I get he is still not broke.. hehehe I share how you feel about argument time, I want to throw in the towel at that time but when it is over, I love my
    Quay Lo the same. What an Irony!!

    I know exactly what you mean after meeting you in person last evening but i have too say, you are very wise at such a young age. If I don't meet you I thought you are an old lady like me. (I am not insinuating that I am wise but if you want to think so, fine with me) hehehe

    Ooooo 7 years itch is over, you are safe!! hehe

    Yes, I am sure these are useful rules for all couples, evener those who live in and not married.

    Sure, we can be different even if we are from the same Culture but our upbringing may be very different.

    @Yee Ling
    You are welcome my dear. Wanted to so many times but fail. Glad that I did after Cleffairy gave me your url last night. Thank you for your frequent visit and comments. I do hope couples learn something from my experience and from the rules shared by the English Author.

    Thanks Carolyn and same to you and family.

  33. LOL... Quay Po...a couple of years ago, before I met Claire and Kathy in person, they all thought I was a chubby Indian lady in her 40s. =.= My God, the impression I made in my blog! I must have sounded really menopausal.

  34. @Ling... ahemm... Quay Po and Quay Lo both really pandai masak wan leh...Quay Lo's cookies are divine... time to bodek them since you love sweet stuff! LOL!

    ps: Dono who will come and knock my head for this. Hahahaha!

  35. @cleffairy
    I don't blame them, you write like one. Thanks for your compliment on the cookies. No need bodek wan, just ask and you shall be given.hehehe

  36. What a lovely read about marriage! Totally agree with what you said. It's always more refreshing and energising when we see our marriage in a positive way and talk about it positively. Challenges will always be there but our attitude is in our control. Thanks very much for sharing, Veronica! Both you and your hubby are such a lovely couple! Take care and hope you have a great start to the new year! MaryMoh at

    1. Mary, thanks for your kind words. Let us all have a great year ahead whether we are married to a barbarian or not! LOL!

  37. Very sound advice from the unknown author. Happy new year to you and your Quay lo! I shall share this with Frank too.

    1. Thanks Kelly, yes I am sure Frank will appreciate the advice.

  38. No need to explain to anybody. We are who we are, we make our own choices and we live the way we want to live...

    Some people are real busybodies. People ask me a lot of questions about my blogger-friends and my answer is always - I don't know...and they seemed stupefied! "Don't you want to know?" they asked. I told them no - anything anybody would want me to know, they would have told me...and anything they would want others to know, they would have blogged about it. All the rest would be none of their business.

    And anybody not comfortable with that can just take a hike. We're be better off without them! Tsk! Tsk!

    1. In this case, I don't think the reader who asked that question was a busybody. I sensed that she maybe feeling unsure about marriage at the time when she wrote that email to me.:D

  39. Oops! Where did my comment disappear to? Awaiting approval?

    1. For comments to a post that is older than a month, it will awaits approval. I just want to make sure I don't miss those comments and have a chance to reply:D

  40. Many wonderful observations and thoughts in the comments here. They seem to reflect experiences that are similar. I think that is because the truths expressed in the book "I Married a Barbarian", and those reflected in the "rules" are really universal. Is there anything above that would only be applicable to a mixed marriage? We are all truly unique to ourselves. As such marriage is a proposition of merging those two unique individuals with all of their charcteristics into a marriage as well. I am me. We are we. We changed our geometry from plane to solid. And, factually, both take effort. These are universal ideas.


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