對人說我愛你 – saying ‘I love you’

I’m a big fan of YouTube channel called Off The Great Wall – they had a Hong Kong girl, they have a Shanghainese guy and a Cheesy-Mike, all of them make what my husband is. When we watch their videos he often refers to them like ‘That’s what I do‘ or ‘That’s how it really image (4)is‘ or ‘I used to sing this song on karaoke with my dad, when I was young I sang the best when it went to female parts‘. Believe me, you don’t want to hear him singing ‘little sister sitting on a pier’ part in 縴夫的愛. You just don’t.

Anyway, they post many kind of videos, from culture-related stuff to ‘Asian parents vs. Western parents’. Recently they added a really funny and heart-warming video of Chinese kids saying ‘I love you’ to their parents (if you want to see it just click here) and that inspired me to write this post.

Showing affection towards family is like a sky and earth when it goes to my family and Sing’s family.

I’ve always been close with my parents, I hugged and greeted everyone when they came back after work (usually to report house damage before my dad tells my mom how much mess I did), but saying ‘I love you’ or ‘Thank you’ never been a problem. We say thank you for even a small things like if they pass me something or before and after the meal. Now since I moved out across the ocean and I’ve seen them only for a month in past one and a half year, I say ‘I love you’ everyday when we end up a Skype call. Pretty normal, ordinary family, right?

Now you have Sing’s familyI never heard them saying anything close to ‘I love you’ – neither in Cantonese or Shanghainese. Even ‘Thank you’ is like a forbidden word. Mom sent you some pocket money? Nod your head and add ‘mmm’ to it. Your son and daughter-in-law got you a watch as a gift? Keep on punching your son in his arms while you repeat his full name. It’s even more awkward when you actually witness that. I can only imagine my FIL’s reaction to those words since when I say ‘Hi’ to him or whatever he’s just saying ‘Hahaha’. If a simple greeting can make you feel so uncomfortable you can predict how other signs of affection would give.

image (8)I asked him did he actually ever said to them he loves them… His reaction? He made extremely disgusted face and said ‘ Maybe as a child, but now I’m a grown up man and when we grow up we don’t do this, too intimate’. Can you imagine I had to tell HIS mother that he actually LOVES HER. Yes, I told HER.

You think that is the most awkward thing? When she was at the airport in Poland, leaving back to Asia, my parents had to push him into his mother’s arms and they hugged like both of them were dirty, leaving like 30 cm of space between each other and it didn’t last more than 5 seconds. Can it be even worse? From what he told me, this time when she left (I was already in Poland), she just slapped him in the back and ask go to back to work – ‘I won’t see you son for next year, let me hit you’.

No matter how much I try, I cannot accept that part of what he calls ‘his culture’ or just an excuse not to get close to his own family. Maybe it would be easier if he wasn’t so cheesy to me (Linda from Linda living in China can confirm Sing even hugged me once in front of her!), he can easily say to our cat ‘I love you Biscuit, so come here and let me rub your belly’ or even ‘Kocham Cię Mamuś/Kocham Cię Tatuś‘ (the only sentence after ‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ he can say in Polish) to my parents but you just cannot force him to show any love. I tried to convince him that even though Momzilla says ‘Study well, get a good life, be happy, that’s all I want‘ it will make her extremely happy if he one day simply told her ‘I love you’ in her face. You could see that in his last guest post on this blog (click here if somehow you made his creative-writing masterpiece, in his mind of course) he had no problems in saying to people he doesn’t really know that he loves his mother, but I think I will die before he dares to say that to her in person.

Why do I even talk about it? Because it started to make me wonder about our future children and how will they show feelings towards us.DSC2021 Don’t get me wrong but after 9 months of sitting in my belly, making me gain weight, throw up further than my sight can reach and feet so swollen I’m close to look like Shrek I want my baby to love the crap out of me. I have so much love inside me towards other people, not to mention a little human I create myself (with some small help from Sing, I should give him some credit for that) and I would never be tired of hearing ‘I love you, mom‘. I cannot imagine my child following his father’s path and just nodding the head or doing ‘mmm’. On the other hand I also wonder will Sing follow his parents path like it wasn’t awkward enough. Imagine that family Christmas meeting where you have like 10 or 12 people and all they do is just nodding their heads. With all the head moving you would have a literal ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.

Do you have any problems with saying ‘I love you’? Is it common in your culture to not show affection to your close ones? Is it different for you to say it to your parents than to a partner? Share your view on this topic! We cannot wait to read it! 🙂
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58 thoughts on “對人說我愛你 – saying ‘I love you’

  1. the only time my parents and i say ‘i love you’ is on the phone, when we’re about to hang up, as in ‘love you, byeee’. We’re close when it comes to some things, but saying ‘i love you’ to each others face is too dramatic for us, haha. We dont even say it on skype!

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  2. When we were growing up, it was a difficult thing to say I love you to our parents as its not part of our culture either, so for me it was a bit awkward. But as our society became more western these little western things started to creep into our lives and we started saying it to our parents especially if we were not going to see them for a few days. Now its second nature to us and if my girls dont tell me every day that they love me, i think i’ll die of sadness.

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    1. don’t get me wrong but I think that’s one of the few good things that a western world could bring 🙂 I think I would feel like dying too if one day I have my child and it would refuse to say ‘I love you’ – even though I might know that it’s the way they feel, I think no one can be tired of hearing it 🙂

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  3. It’s so true. But what I find quite awesome in a way is how the kids end up saying “I love you” more freely to their partners, despite the fact that they haven’t said it to their parents (or haven’t said it in a long time). My boyfriend literally tells me that he loves me a billion times a day :p haha. Yet, I’ve never really seen him show much affection to his parents. But when it comes to me, it’s like he showers me with his love. We literally cannot stop holding hands and hugging! haha. I guess maybe it’s the exposure to the West, but it seems more and more frequent for the younger generations to be more carefree about saying that they love someone :).

    When my boyfriend and I were in the earlier stages of our relationship; he wouldn’t say “I love you” but rather “I woof you” haha. Close enough, right? 😛 What I’m trying to get at it that he actually said it quite easily and quickly! 🙂

    Last point (I promise 😛 lol). My boyfriend is extremely loving towards his little sister. He always tucks her in, in bed at night, gives her a long and lingering hug whenever we go out, and frequently says “I love you, sis” 🙂

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    1. that’s so sweet of him! 🙂 especially with the little sister! he can be my older brother too, I never had one haha 🙂 maybe since now you will have a little ‘parents’-love-radar’ and try to look if it happens at all haha

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  4. I’m really impressed you’ve gotten your Eastern European parents to show verbal affection! I think my parents last said it to me (semi-begrudgingly) as I was boarding my plane to Shanghai, but they are incredibly affectionate with hugs, if not with words. 🙂

    I think my inclination towards apologizing for everything is something I picked up in the States though.

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      1. haha my parents are very much a show, don’t tell kind of people. My mom is extremely (a little too) affectionate, but my dad has that stoicism thing down pretty well 🙂

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  5. It is the very same thing with my wife’s family. No ‘I love you’ or ‘thank you’ being ever said. However when my parents were in China they hugged my in-laws and they actually hugged back! Okay okay, FIL didn’t look so comfortable but MIL seemed fine and ever since they MIL hugs us both when we arrive and when we leave (FIL vanishing suddenly at that moment always:) )

    I read some article few weeks or months ago about chinese saying ‘I love you’ to their parents and they were actually worried if their kids were drunk or in trouble…

    Love the show off the Great Wall, used to watch it from time to time but recently not at all due to obvious troubles which come when moving abroad once again, paperwork, paperwork, finding job, renovations, paperwork and oh, did I mention paperwork (got to love german paperwork…)

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    1. Don’t get me wrong but I tried to imagine your MIL saying I love you to anyone and then I just started laughing to myself because the only person I could see she’s talking to was herself 😀 and your lovely baby eventually 🙂

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      1. I really think my MIL is only saying I love you to her mirror reflexion and these days to Nathan!

        Germany seems to be the most eco unfriendly country when it comes to paper usage in office. It is just terrible. My wife is registered there for less than 2 months and her FOLDER at the migration office is already several centimeters thick. And of course every document needs a stamp, I cant even remember if I ever got a stamp in Finland, everything is digitalized there!

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  6. When you have children, it should never stop you as a parent to demonstrate your affection to kids/him –regardless of his style. You’re you, not him.

    You cannot ask/force him to hug his parents. Better to expect, that over time it’s easier that he expresses thank you and love to his parents directly. That will take time. Start with celebrating Mother’s DAy, Father’s Day…it’s an opportunity for him to directly express thank you. I know my parents greatly appreciate the words thank you for their hard work… Every year they appreciate.

    It has taken many years for myself and siblings to be this for our parents….and we are born and lived in Canada our whole lives.

    Yes, I learned to hug, kiss ..because my partner is German and yes, they can be less expressive than ie. Spanish. But still warmer than a lot of Asian cultures.

    YOu must allow dignity/grace and lots of space for him to change slowly with his parents.

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    1. you are right, but it’s also from her side – I was the first one to ever celebrate Momzilla’s birthday, I tried celebrating mother’s day but she just did the disgusted face and called it ‘waste of money’ etc. so I think it might never change. but you’re right that I cannot force him to do it the way my family does 🙂

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  7. If I say to my parents “I love you” now, their likely responses will be: “You are acting strange, are you sick?” or “Do you need to borrow money from me?”.. It just doesn’t work anymore over here :/

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    1. my dad did until I got married with Sing – probably he assumes he is my ATM now haha but the fact is if I ever wanted something I always went to mom, not to him haha 😀
      like in the video! too bad you cannot hear ‘are you pregnant?!’ 😀

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  8. Personally, I think it varies from family to family. I know my husband had difficulty expressing his feelings when it came to his mom. However, since my husband and I have become a couple, he is more willing to express his emotions. For example, when it is mother’s day or his mother’s birthday, I arrange to have a special meal with her to honor the occasion and I invite the entire family – before that, no one really celebrated special occasions or her birthday. Also, I insist on taking family photos during Chinese New Year as everyone is together and it is a special time for the family. And because of this, I feel that I have a special bond with my mother-in-law!

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  9. This is so interesting, I actually have problems saying this to my parents, I have said it before, I always say thank you, and I am always polite, although “I love you” I’ve said it a few times, not often though, – but in Norway we are not good at talking about emotions and feelings. For some reason it comes more natural to me when I say “I love you” in English. To my mother and father-in-law I have said I love you once or twice, I haven’t heard CC say it but he told me he loves them, so I told them for him, just like you did! haha.
    He’s parents are very emotional and always show feelings though, like when we left China almost 2 years ago they were crying and telling us they love us, it really surprised me as I always thought Chinese (especially my in-laws) were not that “open” like that. Turns out they are quite open 🙂

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    1. that’s surprising 🙂 haven’t seen any emotional Chinese people haha I wonder if your plan comes true (the one we talked about) will you tell it to your parents more often? it was like that from me, I haven’t say it a lot, but now everytime we end up a Skype call there’s love you from me and sometimes from Sing (but never to his own parents :D)

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      1. Haha, I know it is quite surprising! What’s even more crazy is that after I said bye to he’s parents at the airport, he’s dad called me on the phone and he was just crying.. He is really good at showing he’s emotions, but I got this soft spot for men that cry! haha. So that phone conversation ended up in just crying hahaha. Hopefully it will come true 😀 I am becoming better and better at telling my parents I love them 🙂 CC and Sing are the same kind of people! haha, he is always so sweet to my parents but he’s parents it like no feelings! hahah

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              1. hahah, oh yeah that’s right, maybe the posts that you are trying to forget about , you know .. the ones where the momzilla is taking over your home and overfeeding your cat.. hmmmm … haha 😀

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                  1. hahaha, oh the joys of a momzilla! Trust me, my MIL is evil compared to my FIL. My FIL is so cool, he ask me to go drinking with him, and don’t care really. But my MIL always make sure I do things the right way 😛 … >.< haha. But its ok, they are not as bad as I expected them to be 🙂

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  10. Yes! Totally Asian thing. My mom always says “Actions speak louder than words.” I feel a bit awkward to say I love you but I should say more to them.

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  11. Great post on a topic I’ve considered before! The funny thing is my husband has gotten to the point where he does tell me “I love you” but in English (b/c it’s more comfortable for him since it’s not his native language and he’s not used to saying, “Wo ai ni!”

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  12. I am about to be married to a Shanghaiese man who moved to the US twenty years ago at the age of 29. Coming from a large American family, there were always lots of “I love you” statements everyday. My fiance can’t say he loves me in those words. But he says he loves me every time he makes sure I don’t skip meals when I am busy. He says he loves me when he sees I am stressed and just comes up and hugs me. He says he loves me every day in so many little ways that it makes me feel wonderful.

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    1. awww that’s a really sweet comment 🙂 I’m sure one day he will open up, plus btw. Shanghainese are known to be good husbands 😉 although they come with crazy-speaking mothers but I’m sure it’s just my mother in law 😉 I wish you two happiness and hope you can talk so sweet about him for next 50 years at least 🙂

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  13. It REALLY is a cultural thing, I know it’s difficult to accept but can completely relate. I too am very “cheesy” towards past gfs, friends even, but when it comes to MY parents… there’s a sort of “professional distance” between us. It just is. Doesn’t mean I don’t love them any less, or them me. It’s just how we were brought up.

    When Sing becomes a father, rest assured your kids will be saying I love you all the time, because chances are if he is like me he will not raise them up the same way he was raised up.

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    1. does it like disappears when you get older or what? you actually made me realize I never hear our landlord’s child saying that (and we have thin walls), but I know they love each other very much, son is really close to his mom.
      It would be awkward if Sing told our cat he loves her, but just ‘mmm’ to our child haha 🙂

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  14. I can totally relate to this! My husband and sister-in-law NEVER tell their mom and dad they love them! No hugs, no “I love you!”, it’s so strange to me coming from an American upbringing where we hug and say love you to friends as well as a family. My MIL is tickled just to hear me say I missed her, let alone that I love her. If she gets a hug from me, she hugs me right back! But she won’t try to hug her kids and their partings are always just goodbyes and waving of hands, no affection.

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  15. No I don’t think it ever disappears. It’s exclusively the son to parents relationship though. Don’t think it will pass on like some genetic thing. You can see that with your bf, you say Sing is all lovey dovey, so it’s not like he is just emotionally distant for everyone. Therefore he’ll be great towards the kids.

    To be honest I don’t know if this a generational thing or not – I see all asian couples together and some are touchy in public, others are also distant. Regional differences maybe? That’s another benefit of amwf I suppose – you can “force” him to be all cuddly with you and the kids.

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  16. Actually now that I think about it more, it wasn’t always like that – up until around 3 or so my parents were always huggy and lovey towards me. I remember my dad picking me up and hugging and stuff… although don’t remember mum doing the same, but she did do kiss cheeks all the time.

    But all of that just stopped. I honestly can’t tell you why. Maybe they thought not I’m a “big boy” I didn’t need all that stuff.

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  17. And more!!! I think it did affect me as well – when I had my first girlfriend, I was always physically distant from her – I didn’t reject her when she wanted to be close, but I did feel very awkward for a long time about it. At the time I put it down to inexperience, but now that you mention all this… maybe the lack of physical contact with my parents led to that???

    Luckily though, now that we know all this, we can learn from our parents’ mistakes and make sure we are always kissy with our kids all the time, even in their teens!

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  18. Interesting! I never really thought about how YJ interacts with his family. They probably don’t say “I love you” much (or ever?) but they are quite affectionate with each other and tease each other often. There’s definitely no problems with thank you’s, but otherwise I guess there’s a lot of pats on the shoulder, haha! (At least between the men.)
    Thankfully, he’s very affectionate with me and has no problems saying he loves me, which I know is an issue for some of my friends in relationships with Japanese men. :/

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  19. haha its true, Chinese men don’t say love word too much. Because of our culture and social environment. They prefer to show their love into actions such as buy you a gift, cook a meal etc instead of saying love you

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  20. My parents didn’t use to say I love you that much when I was growing up (I think it’s a cultural thing). My husband tells me that he loves me quite often, and he’ll also say it to our son frequently. He’s not old enough yet to talk, so I’m not sure if our son will say it or not. But my in-laws not telling my husband that they love him has nothing to do with his ability to tell our son that he loves him. Don’t worry, your kids will be fine :D!

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  21. I’ve got no problem telling any member of my family I love them, even as a grown man. I hug my dad and tell him I love him. For me it’s like, if something were to happen, what would you want your last words to be to that person? What better thing to say than that you love them?

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post, it is was very interesting and fun!

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  22. I think this is the Eastern Cultures where when we are young our parents don’t do that to us and it has been pass down generations and generations so for this new generation I will be easier to say “I love you” but not my this generation where we still find difficulties to say that to our parents or sisters or brothers, husband or children.

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  23. Hey! I can’t remember if I commented. In Japan, I think affection towards family is pretty much behind closed doors. Hubs and I are affectionate with each other and I think his family is now used to my bear hugs. 😀 As for saying I love you to parents, it is different compared to between each other. And hugging with others outside family is still awkward for hubby and frankly, it got weird for me to after being in Japan. Interesting topic!

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  24. i think this is very much an asian thing. my family also doesn’t do it. nor do my friends’ family. i now say ‘thank you’ but have yet to utter the words ‘i love you’ in any language to my parents. sigh… 😦

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  25. Like many other commenters, I also was not a huge sayer of “I love you” to others. this is until I moved to Korea. Now, that I am so far away I realize that the feeling of friendship I have with so many people back home is love, both familial and platonic. I think it’s quite an Irish thing to be unable to express emotions, but as I’ve grown older and moved through my life I have much less care for how it will be perceived if I do say it. Although, as I said I’m quite a ways away from home so maybe the distance makes it easier too!

    PS I really enjoy your blog and the new theme is very nice, the font is really easy on the eyes!

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