Opinion / From the Readers

Falling in love with my Chinese husband

By Marissa Kluger ( Updated: 2015-09-25 10:21

"I'm going to dig a hole to China," I told my parents whenever they doled out punishments, or made me clean my room.

Perhaps it was a way for me to communicate that one day I would be flying the coop, or just a silly childish way of voicing dissatisfaction.

In a twist thanks in part to Fate, I ended up going to China as part of my university's study abroad requirement and then again after graduating. I really did dig it!

Falling in love with my Chinese husband
Zhang Jian and Marissa Kluger visiting Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, China following their February wedding ceremony in 2014. [Photo provided to]

I moved to China for a year of teaching university students in Xi’an, adamantly communicating to college friends in emails how I would not settle down nor date in China. Those emails were met with predictions of finding a husband, or at least a boyfriend. They must have had the Chinese proverb "you yuanqian li laixianghui, wuyuan dui mianbuxiangfeng" in mind.

I met Zhang Jian during my first month in Xi’an as I was assigned to teach freshman and found I had free time to explore the city, and the hostel I stayed in was situated under the shadow of the City Wall.

After spending hours talking to him twice about music, movies, college, and discovering we had much in common, and that I found the sound of his voice soothing, we started dating soon after. It helped that he already spoke English fairly well, because I did not know more than ten phrases of Mandarin at the time, and he possesses a blend of American sarcasm and dry English humor. As we now live in the United States, ZJ has really upped his language prowess, and we jest that it has surpassed my native language skills.

When I met my in-laws for the first time during Chinese New Year, after dating for five months, ZJ again soothed me by serving as translator, interpreter, and above all else devoted boyfriend. My in-laws were very hospitable, even though at that time I spoke very little Mandarin, I felt liked, welcomed, and from day one a daughter-in-law. The language circumstances have changed as I speak conversational putonghua, missing them and the drama-free relationship we have dearly.

Although as I mentioned earlier I never imagined ending up in a cross-cultural marriage, I married ZJ for who he is. He is humorous, gentle, respectful, trusting, encouraging, caring, loving, intelligent, supportive, and handsome, inside and out. Marriage, cross cultural or otherwise, requires trust, compromise, mutual respect, and love.

A cross-cultural marriage will only amplify the flaws of husband and wife, cultural differences, societal challenges and pressures to bear children, but succeeding is all about managing each other’s expectations and maintaining interests in one another’s cultures.

ZJ and I maintain curiosity about American and Chinese cultures respectively. We equally ache for authentic Chinese cuisine, and feed that craving by cooking Chinese at home. We explore local parks and nature in New Jersey, roadtripping to meet relatives and sightsee in the American South. We watch Chinese films and Hunan Weishi’s Baba QuNaar, and listen to Chinese music even more so than Western music.

I advise those dating across cultures that dating is taken very seriously from day one, and Chinese men do date with marriage in mind. When I look back, if I had not taken that leap of faith and said yes when ZJ asked me if we were dating, I would be missing out on the one person who best enhances me.

Marissa Kluger married her Chinese husband ZJ two years ago. They live in New Jersey now.Know more about her living,teaching experiences and muses about life in the US at Xiananigans.

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