Opinion / China Dream in expats' eyes

Music is the food of love

By Jess Meider ( Updated: 2015-09-25 14:02

Hi. I'm Jess Meider. I'm American and live in Beijing. I’m a professional musician. Perhaps you have attended one of my concerts, or recognize me from TV shows. You’ve definitely heard my voice singing on your TV in commercials.

In 1997, when I first arrived in Beijing from NYC, I felt like an alien. The food, the language, the history, the people; it was all foreign to me. In 2011, I fell in love with my husband. He is a musician, just like me. He is a Beijinger, just like me. In 2012 we married, had a daughter, and produced a new album of music. He composes our music, I perform it. He cooks the food, I happily eat it! We raise our child with the help of his parents.

Music is the food of love

Jess and her husband Gao Fang pose for a photo at the wedding. [Photo provided to]

It seems only natural after so many years that I would marry a Chinese. I honestly never knew who my husband would be until I met him. I knew that my partner must speak Chinese and live in China.

Coming from a suburb of Pittsburgh, I am delighted when I can find a spot in Beijing that is empty of people. My husband on the other hand, finds non-populated areas frightening. Differences like this make me chuckle.

There is a saying in Chinese: "顺其自然." It means "follow the natural path." My husband and I feel fortunate to be together, and we adhere to this non-invasive life practice of following the natural path of our lives. Differences are unique to our personalities, and do not cause us troubles, but rather make us more compatible. We communicate in Chinese. We talk about our childhoods and marvel at the differences in how we were raised. This fosters understanding and acceptance, rather than feeling "sided" (and divided) because of race/nationality.

Many TV shows that I have appeared on (as myself) have wanted to find an exciting clash between me and my parents-in-laws. Instead, they are overwhelmed with our praises and appreciation for each other. Culturally, the Chinese family is strong and very supportive. Parents go to great lengths to house and fund their children if they are able. The family unit creates a very stable environment for children. I find it much more communal than American families, who cultivate “independence” in their children. Some foreign friends don’t like this about Chinese culture; they feel it is invasive to their privacy.

My mother-in-law, in terms of stereotype should be opinionated and interfering. She is not. I think stereotypes are an exaggeration of very general characteristics, and not based on a real person. Every culture has preconceived ideas about what another culture should be like, a.k.a., our cultural conditioning. This proliferates the stereotypes of a culture, but it is a generalization, which is always the narrower-minded way of thinking. When you found out that all Americans are not all white, do not carry guns, or love McDonalds, you had to reprogram your mind from the way you were “taught to feel about Americans” to “how YOU feel about Americans.”

Many times people ask if an intercultural relationship is difficult. For us, it’s not. My husband and I are musicians; our first language is music. Perhaps this is why we are so connected, we just knew that we were so compatible. We fell in love, we are in love, and we love being parents to our daughter. In terms of cultural issues, I think we are both very accepting of each other so we do not encounter these typical problems that other inter-cultural relationships have.

I do know that my husband doesn’t like western food at all. I don’t get upset about this, it’s not like he’s saying he doesn’t like me or my cooking. Even though he is not very open about foreign food, I occasionally make a dish, and sometimes, he likes it!

For more information about Jess’s upcoming performances (she’s one of China’s best jazz vocalists), or to know more about Jess’s journey, go to

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