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Meeting the Malaysian Chinese Parents...


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Hi everyone,

I'm an English girl dating a Malaysian Chinese guy, we both live in London and have been together about 7 months. In June we are going on holiday together, and we are going via Malaysia where we will be staying with his parents for a few days. Now i'm 21 and a university student, and he is 29 and an accountant, so I'm a bit scared of being introduced as his girlfriend because I think perhaps they won't take me very seriously or think I am too young.

Anyway I was wondering if you could share with me some advice about staying with them, as I want to do my best to get along with his family. The only thing my bf has said so far is that his mum might judge me for not being skinny, because they are Chinese and have a big thing about 'face' and appearance. I'm going to the gym everyday but I know I won't be very thin by the time we go!!

Also if there is any advice on gift ettiquette I would be very grateful! He has two brothers and a sister too (all younger than me), should I take them something too?

Thanks :)


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Well, you are going to be staying as a guest in someone else's house, so be prepared to adapt to their rules. That may mean not sharing a bed with your boyfriend. Don't get into pointless arguments, but show respect for their family values. And don't let it be a surprise if your boyfriend behaves differently while staying at his parents' place. Are his siblings still living with his parents? In that case, bringing something for them is of course a must. I've also found it useful to take a couple of little thingamajigs with me wherever I go. You never know how many other family members show up expecting you to have brought them a nice tacky London souvenir.

I don't think the age difference is necessarily going to be a problem for them, although you never can be sure. It depends on how conservative they are and more importantly, on how you behave. In my experience, if you behave like an adult, you will be treated like one.

Malaysia is a pretty tolerant place, but his parents may still disapprove of his dating a foreigner. Then again, they might also be very happy about it. You could ask him what their reaction was when he told them about you :)

Don't worry too much about the entire thing. You can only do your best and they will recognise that. Be interested in their way of life and don't just talk about your life in London. They will of course want to hear about that, but you should keep making an effort to get to know them as well. I guess it boils down to: you are their guest, so behave like one :wink:

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Yes, do bring gifts for everyone, especially the parents, but also for any other family. When at their house, make sure to help out (in the kitchen especially) whenever you can, and don't take no for an answer on that. Be as polite as you can, and as Daan said, when in their house, go by their rules.

Also take a look at this thread, about a similar situation.

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If they are like the mainland Chinese parents then it really depends on how traditional they are but in any case buy good gifts for all of them cuz they will judge you by your gifts. Usually Chinese people like modest and polite people. Don't be too straight-forward in front of them. Usually Chinese people say something but think something else. For example they might say that you shouldn't help in the housework but in most cases they actually expect you to do it. It's an interesting game and you will learn it if you stay with them longer.

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Dear friend,

Being a psychologist, I would like to help u overcome the troubles u would be facing in the future. I read ur post and i understood the situation. First of all, congratulations to you both for the relationship(hehe!). Secondly, it is very good if you take some gifts with you for your bf's brother(s) and sister(s). This act would be very useful to you to create some affection between you and them and possibly between you and his parents. You should be talking to the family in a very good manner, not letting them know your other side. Best policy is to "do as they do in Rome" i.e do everything in the way they do or they like. Your skin wont matter to them then if you try to be like them and copy their actions, without letting them know that you are copying them. And other things u would be knowing i,e shake hands, smile at them and keep smiling, when you talk keep looking into their eyes with the smile. Put a very good first impression on everyone. Try to deal everyone according to their ages and minds. be a kid with kids.

Hope you find this useful,


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As a Singaporean I'd say they'll probably judge you by your weight internally, but whether they mention it depends on how polite they are. If your boyfriend has been living in the UK and earning his own keep for a long while, then I don't really think it matters. I wouldn't expect them to really interfere in his love life - just pass a few comments at most - unless there's something they seriously can't stand.

Bring those extra gifts and enjoy your vacation :) Eat lots of local food, because Malaysia's great for that!

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1. The age difference is kinda pretty big. And you're indeed very young. So my guess is that they will not take the relationship too seriously, the relationship, not necessarily you personally, because usually people at your age haven't started seriously considering marriage while people of your bf's age would have, which affects the expectations of both your bf and his parents regarding this relationship. That doesn't mean they would give you a hard time, but I guarantee you that behind your back, or even before the whole trip starts, there will be or must have been some kind of communication between your bf and his parents regarding the prospect of this particular relationship leading to marriage. In any case, it's more a problem of your bf's and what he expects out of your relationship, you don't need to worry about it too much.

2.Ask your bf what his parents and sibling like, buy some nice gifts for each of them. Don't need to be anything expensive or fancy. If possible, but something they like or need. If even your bf couldn't be sure, be sure to buy something for everyone. It's a very important gesture.

3. Help in the kitchen is kinda an iffy thing because I don't think they would let you. It's your first visit, and if I'm correct, they would have somebody at your company at all time to chat with you, and to put it bluntly, helping in the kitchen kind of things would be reserved for later visits when you're more comfortable with them, and more importantly they, get more comfortable with you.

Right now, you're an special kind of guest, but a guest nonetheless, people don't ask a guest to help them in the kitchen, it won't be a too comfortable experience either.

4. As somebody said above, sleeping with your bf is out of question while you're still under their roof.

5. Pay more attention to the mother, because she'll be the one in the family that pays the most attention to you.

6. Ultimately, it's about your bf and whether or not he likes you enough (any problem that may pop up could be sorted out if he really puts his weight to it.) He should understand your anxiety and do what's necessary to smooth things out whenever necessary. Show his family verbally and maybe in some non-verbal ways that you really like him, really care about him (don't get "affectionate" though.).

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Thankyou everyone so much for the replies!

Daan and Lu: The gift thing is tricky, as some people have said to me that I don't need to take gifts for his siblings as that is over the top. I on the other hand think it's a good idea, the only problem is that my bf doesn't really talk about them that much so I have no idea what they like/are interested in! I'll ask my bf but he keeps playfully telling me to chill out. Also one of my Chinese friends said that parents always prefer a 'useful' gift, not a souveneir, which makes sense although it makes it even harder to think what to get them! Saying that, is food an acceptable gift? If so, I thought perhaps something sweet like biscuits/chocolates from Harrods or Fortnum and Masons (but then that might not go down so well with the whole being judged on my weight thing, haha)....

Lu - I saw that thread! It's what inspired me to start this one. Sometimes I think maybe if I was his fiance it would be easier because my position is established, whereas right now I don't know if they will just dismiss me as a fad or irrelevant, or take me too seriously and feel threatened by me unneccesarily. There was a lot of good advice over there though, I was really impressed with how Xuefang dealt with her situation. I hope I can be as well mannered and consciencious as she was!

Scoobyqueen and creamyhorror: I did feel kind of annoyed and sad when my bf said that to me (especially as I'm not overweight by English standards), but I guess at least he's being honest. I do have a lot of chinese friends and they are all paranoid about their weight, especially when they go back home to Hong Kong/Singapore and have to be around their parents. Plus I'm at a racial disadvantage as us English people aren't built as slightly as our Asian counterparts! I think my bf then tried to justify it by saying that as his gf, his mother will want to show me off, so she will want me to be as attractive looking as possible (argh!!) I guess the only thing I can do is be extra wary of my appearance and hope that she doesn't take it too seriously. If she does mention it to me or behind my back I will be sad about it but I suppose I have to hope that she will just like me as a person and ignore it.

eatfastnoodle -- Regarding the age/marriage issue, my bf has made it clear that he isn't thinking along the lines of marriage or anything, he's quite relaxed considering he's almost turning 30. I'm not sure if his parents know that though, so thanks for raising that point! I might just bring it up with him to ask how seriously they will take our relationship and if he needs to reassure them that he isn't bringing home his potential bride or anything. Also, to balance it, I think I'm pretty mature for my age -- whilst marriage is like a bit scary WOAH step that obviously isn't my priority right now, I do take our relationship seriously and I think we make it work well because of that.

Rezaf -- Hmm, that's a really interesting point. I'm concerned also because while we're there I really want to do some sightseeing, and my bf said that it will most likely be his dad that ends up drives us around, so if they say one thing but don't necessarily mean it, I will have to be careful that I don't end up mistaking their politeness and accidentally forcing them take me out sightseeing when really they want to stay home, or change their arrangements. That's one thing I'm worried about, I don't want to get in the way or mess up their routine, but it's both a town and a country that I've never visited before so I will be relying on them for transport etc. Difficult!

Lionheart -- thankyou! And yes, your points are very useful. His siblings are 13, 16 and 21 so they are younger than me, but I don't want to talk down to them or offend them. I am really excited to meet them! Is it the right ettiquette to shake hands with everyone when I meet his family? Should I start with his mum, or stepdad?

In general I really hope I can be polite enough and helpful enough so that his family like me and I don't inconvenience them. I wonder also if anyone has any specific advice regarding Chinese Malaysian parents -- are there any Malaysian customs that I should be aware of too? Also, his family are part Christian and part Buddhist, and I know nothing about Buddhism (yet!) -- is there anything particular I should know to avoid a faux pas, like with food or religious days or greetings?

Thanks so much again for all the advice! :)

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right now I don't know if they will just dismiss me as a fad or irrelevant, or take me too seriously and feel threatened by me unneccesarily.
While it's good to be prepared, I think you also need to not get overly nervous and expect a worst-case scenario. For all you know they'll just be delighted to have a guest from far away. Just be nice and polite, and open to cultural differences.

(And I don't think gifts for the siblings are over the top. Something small, souvenir-ish should be good, or a local specialty.)

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Daan and Lu: The gift thing is tricky, as some people have said to me that I don't need to take gifts for his siblings as that is over the top.

Well, I was once in a similar situation myself, quite a few years ago, and I would have felt decidedly awkward walking into their house without gifts for all of them. Bringing a gift for the parents is a must, and so you need to give the siblings a little something as well because otherwise they'll be sitting there watching their parents accept their gifts while themselves receiving nothing. That's quite awkward, especially since you need to be accepted by the entire family, as you will be staying with them for a while.

His siblings may actually not feel this way, and be willing to accept that only their parents are getting a gift, but you will feel awkward about it yourself as well and you don't want that. Don't bring anything expensive, just bring some souvenirs. It's about showing respect for them and letting them know you understand your role as a guest, not about buying their acceptance.

That's one thing I'm worried about, I don't want to get in the way or mess up their routine, but it's both a town and a country that I've never visited before so I will be relying on them for transport etc. Difficult!

Can I ask where exactly you are going to be staying? For example, in Kuala Lumpur, public transport is pretty decent. But of course, on the east coast, you'd indeed need them to drive you around. By the way, can't your boyfriend drive his family's car?

I wonder also if anyone has any specific advice regarding Chinese Malaysian parents -- are there any Malaysian customs that I should be aware of too?

I've been to Malaysia quite often, but I can't really think of anything you would absolutely have to know to survive there. People are very friendly and I've never felt discriminated against. Most Malaysians speak at least a smattering of English and are easy to get along with, in my experience. You'd have to ask your boyfriend about any specific customs within his family you should know about, although he is probably right that things will work out fine. You seem interested and polite enough.

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Hi Daan,

Unfortunately my bf still cannot drive! It is the source of many jokes... but no, they don't live in KL, they live in Ipoh, which I think is still a pretty big town but very hard to find information about.

Now all I have to do is find some appropriate gifts! :D

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