Being in an AMWF relationship and marriage means that I hear all sorts of notions. Here’s three of the most recent:
1. Does your husband speak English?
I want to answer this question in the same manner as when my students used to ask me if I could use chopsticks. Students asked me this when having lunch with them, knowing full well (forgetting, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt) I’d been in China for three years. My answer takes two forms, depending on the audience and whether I may employ sarcasm. A simple yes, or 是的 if I’m so inclined, perhaps “of course” all while muttering/thinking “duh,” “thank you, captain obvious”, or “wow, sherlock holmes.” I expected and regularly deflected the above whilst in China, but in the US, come on, the callousness of life and burden I would carry if ZJ wasn’t at least conversational may have led me to reconsider such a big move.
2. Your husband speaks English well!/You speak English well!
Conversely, strangers will compliment me (or him) on his impeccable English skills. I’ve put the “compliment” directed at me first because usually they speak to me, assuming he can’t converse in English. I managed to get by with Mandarin, but ZJ does not get by in English. He’s got a keen sense of humor, a knack for sarcasm, and banters with his MIL quite well. (😄) I know it’s because plenty of Chinese who visit or reside in the US may not feel comfortable using English; I saw this regularly with my students many of whom learned English for many years or had traveled abroad. ZJ isn’t too shy to speak English, albeit he’s the quiet type, however, when he does speak up he’s fairly confident and doesn’t need me. Interestingly, he applied for his social security card without my presence. That’s part of a to be continued story…
3. Oh, he’s so Americanized…
With my new part-time job comes the immense pleasure of explaining my four year sabbatical from a life in the US. When a coworker asked me about number one, I retorted by telling him about my husband’s mix of American and British humor and this third statement is what he followed up with. I mention my husband’s sense of humor because I struggled in my classrooms back in Xi’an to get anything more than a blank, zombified eyebrow raise from students and when around ZJ’s friends and family, his friends in particular, didn’t seem to appreciate his humor. I had the occasional student who laughed but her/his peers looked bewildered. Humor also doesn’t always translate well across languages.
What proclamations are you tired of hearing, whether you’re living abroad, returning from abroad, in a AMWF/cross-cultural relationship or marriage?