Opinion / From the Readers

My transcultural love in Seattle

( Updated: 2015-09-18 08:54

I considered marrying an American before I met Diana Sampson. For me, a person’s cultural background is very important, but educational values and family values are even more important.

My American host family introduced Diana Sampson to me, as we both studied at Gonzaga University graduate school. Diana loves Chinese culture. She likes learning the Chinese language and loves Chinese food. She is a very open-minded person and we have many important values in common and we care about each other deeply.

In 1988, we traveled to China together. It was her first visit and she loved everything about China. She also met my family in Harbin. We visited my college and the place where I worked.

Diana and I got married in 1989 in Spokane, Washington, where I earned my graduate degree. My American host family, my American brothers and sisters, and my Chinese friends who lived in Spokane were at my wedding party. Our wedding was in a traditional Western-style Christian retreat resort. It was a beautiful wedding. Her family members and friends came from many parts of the country. It was a very happy day for both of us.

My transcultural love in Seattle

Diana and Mark Wen pose for a photo in 2014. [Photo provided to]

We have a wonderful son, Andy Wen, who is now 24 years old. From a young age, Andy was exposed to both Chinese and American culture. When he was in the sixth grade, Diana took Andy to live in China to study at the same elementary school I attended years before.

Diana is a professor at a local college in charge of international education. We both place a very high value on education. Andy is interested to study medicine to become a medical doctor. We both love our son very much and encourage him to follow his dreams.

Like any cross-cultural marriage, we have many cultural challenges and differences. In the early days of our marriage, I traveled a lot while I was working for one of the largest American computer keyboard companies in the US. At the time, I felt work was more important than family. For Diana, family is everything. She would often ask me to slow down and not travel so much. She wanted me to spend more time with her and the family, but I was not able to do so. That caused some friction in our relationship. Finally, we worked it out together, and things went much smoother.

We are both very independent and we have strong opinions on many issues; however, we respect each other and give each other the space and freedom to live our best lives.

Diana loves Chinese food, and we often have happy times and great conversations at the dining table while eating family meals together.

As for me, the main ingredients for a happy cross-cultural marriage are respecting each other, valuing both cultures, building common goals and living a shared dream. Also, don’t give up so easily.

I would love to advise those who are dating across cultures: Be yourself. Learn and respect other cultures as much as possible. Share and communicate your differences and build a common dream.

I would also note that there are different perceptions between Chinese and American marriages. In a Chinese marriage, culture, family values, social values and socio-economic values play an important role in a marriage. Decision-making is often based on the family unit as a whole.

In an American marriage, each individual has more freedom to make decisions and do what’s best for him or herself. Family is important, but it does not provide the same level of input in the marriage decision-making process.

Over time, however, these differences become smaller and we recognize what is truly important for families to be happy and succeed. Love, patience and acceptance are key.

This essay is based on a Q and A interview with Dr. Mark Wen, vice president and director of Global Business Development & International Medical Services at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Most Viewed Today's Top News