Cultural differences or spoiled daughter-in-law?


Posted by bfollowell 4 yrs ago
My wife and I are having a major problem with our daughter-in-law. We are U.S. citizens, living in Indiana, U.S.A. Our daughter-in-law is Chinese. We are having some major difficulties and we're not sure these are personality issues with our daughter-in-law or larger, cultural differences, or possibly some combination of the two. Our son and our daughter-in-law also live in the U.S.A. in Indiana.

Let me start by clarifying, in the U.S. we embrace our adult children's individuality and their independence. As a whole, we do not continue to provide for our adult children if they are capable of providing for themselves and their are not extenuating circumstances. My wife and I have seven children between us. We have raised them and provided for them and they are now adults. We expect them to provide for themselves and their families. We would always help if needed, but we do not shower our adult children with money or gifts. Our daughter-in-law seems to have other ideas. She seems to equate love with money. If we're not showering them with money or buying them things, then we do not love them and they cannot count on us; our love for her, our son, our grandson means nothing.

We would never let them do without. If they were in trouble, we wouldn't hesitate to help out. But, otherwise, they are adults with their own family and we expect them to provide for themselves.

Let me give a couple of examples. We were visiting them after the birth of our grandson. When we arrived, there wasn't a lot to eat in the house. They also had things they had not purchased for the baby yet. They asked us to go to the store to get some things for them. We were glad to help out, but we never expected that these items, many personal items, were meant to be gifts. We spent almost $400 on groceries, baby items, and personal items for our daughter-in-law. We just mentioned to our son that he could pay us back $300 whenever they were able. He wrote us a check and that was that. Now, months later, our daughter-in-law is extremely upset that we "demanded" that they pay us back when money was so tight and she'd just gotten out of the hospital. She says our love is just words because we do not back it up with money.

When she was in China for several months with our grandson, visiting her parents, establishing his Chinese citizenship, and waiting for her visa interview, she had to take our grandson to the hospital. To make a long story short, they had $3,000-$4000 worth of doctor bills. Her parents paid for quite a bit. We gave them a $1,000 to help. Since returning, we've urged them to get documentation from the hospital so that we and her parents can get partially reimbursed for our money through our son's medical insurance. Our daughter-in-law can't be bothered to get this documentation. She said her mother lost everything and that the hospital doesn't care and won't give copies. She seems extremely concerned about "their" $300, but not the least bit concerned about the thousands that her parents and we paid towards our grandson's medical care.

To us, our daughter-in-law seems very shallow, but she thinks the same about us.

Are these misunderstandings the result of a very spoiled girl or cultural differences or possibly something different altogether?

We want to have a good relationship with our daughter-in-law but are worried that this will always be an issue between us.

Thank you to anyone that may be able to offer information or advice.

- Byron

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JenKruger 4 yrs ago
I want to comment on this because I have spent the last two summers in rural Indiana. (Remington). I have been just astonished at the high percentage of Indiana sons marrying East Asian women and eschewing the local girls. It is a trend that no one can ignore; sitting around the picnic table in the mornings with 6 farm families and their significant others home for a week in the summer, over half of the sons present had married Chinese or Korean girls.// A lot of the gossip was concerned with money; the girls had access 'to everything' bank accounts-wise, the girls were sending money home to their parents, etc. The local Indiana girls were marrying American men from poorer backgrounds or staying single....and were often the ones staying on the farm or near the farm and actually taking care of their parents.//// I would say you need to count your lucky stars that the girl your son married has parents who can afford a private hospital in China, and that she is prescient enough to secure Chinese paperwork for her son. She sounds on-the-ball. I would say it's very rude to ask for money back if you were just shopping for stuff for your newborn grandson....the concept is that you are supposed to thank THEM and thank her especially because that is the next in your paternal lineage. However, we don't know: 1) how many other grandsons you have? 2) where in China she is actually from? 3) what your son's income is.// Overall, I would say you got off easy and this young lady is really organised and don't talk about this anymore. If you don't want to pay for stuff in the future you need to find a way to defer, not ask for money back after the fact.

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bfollowell 4 yrs ago
It seems rude to you to ask for the money back?! They never asked us to pay for these things for them and we never offered. It wasn't a gift. They basically asked us to go shopping for them and run some errands while they stayed home with the baby. We were certainly not out just shopping for our grandson on our own and then asked them to pay us back for things we bought unprompted. They asked us to pickup this, get that, get some groceries; that sort of thing. Basically, we were just doing them a favor by doing their shopping for them. We had to pay for the items ourselves because we were doing the shopping, but we had no intention of just going out and stocking up everything for them, buying soap and shampoo and personal items.By whose standards do you say this is rude? It certainly isn't considered rude by any U.S. standard, so I'm, assuming you're referring to a Chinese standard that this would be considered rude. In the U.S. it would certainly be considered rude to ask someone to go buy things for you for no reason, when there was no hardship involved. I'm very confused by your response.

As far as where our daughter-in-law is from, I believe she is from Shenzhen in Guangdong Province. At least, that is where her parents live now.

We have one grandson by this son and daughter-in-law. We have other grandchildren from other children and their spouses.

I am not 100% certain what our son's income is. This is really none of our business and would be rude of us to ask. I know they have no problem buying the things that they want or need.

You are correct. We will not be talking about it anymore, because it will never happen again. We will not pay for things like this and will not allow this situation to arise again.

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JenKruger 4 yrs ago
Because you say 'other grandchildren' it sounds as though this is your first grandson. From the Shenzhen family's perspective, you OWE THEM BIGTIME because it's a son. Usually in China there would be actual money gifts. A car, etc. I think the fact that it's your first grandson is the mis-understanding here. LOL! LOL!

Make sure your son takes steps to protect himself. DO NOT mix bank accounts and finances completely. DO NOT get into a situation where the child is only with the mother in China (when the child is older) if there are any marital difficulties....she could annex the son with almost no effort. Half white- half Chinese kids are considered very very very beautiful in China and get modelling contracts from the youngest ages (even ones we don't think are that cute). Many risk management issues here. ALSO. If they live in Shenzhen they are a bit well-to-do so that is great, but they are probably from somewhere else like Chongqing or Jinan, etc....try to find out. It has an impact on the type of Chinese they speak, etc. There are many opportunities here that go along with the cross-cultural money handling problems, e.g. your grandson might grow up bilingual or even trilingual (depending on their local dialetc). Good luck!

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bfollowell 4 yrs ago
Ok, that is starting to make a lot more sense then. It doesn't mean I agree, and we're certainly not going to adopt the sorts of behaviors, but at least I understand. Our son has married a Chinese girl after all, but we are certainly not Chinese.

I believe we may all need to sit down and and have least some discussions on cultural differences and the expectations of each, in order to avoid these sorts of misunderstandings. Unfortunately, it's not as if we received and manual entitled "So, your son has married a Chinese girl..."

Thank you for your insights.

- Byron

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bfollowell 4 yrs ago
I will look into that book, and others. Again, while we aren't going to completely change our culture, we also don't want our daughter-in-law to feel like she's from another planet! We want to welcome her as much as we can.

We are certain that our grandson will be bi-lingual. We're pushing for him to be, and for them to embrace his Chinese heritage actually. And yes, our grandson is one of the most beautiful children I've ever seen, and not just because he's ours, so I know what you mean there.

This is a second marriage for both of us. One of my sons and his wife gave us a grandson two weeks before this grandson was born. He may not be technically the first, but the first lives 8 hours away in Michigan, so this grandson is the one that we will get to see much more of, and will likely be much closer to, and he is the first grandchild from that line, from my wife's children.

Thank you for your book suggestion. I'll see if I can find a Dummies Guide for us to read!

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tieniefraser 4 yrs ago
Just hang in there .....they are generally fantastic wife's and will make your son happy......that's already a bonus

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bfollowell 4 yrs ago
I understand that these are Chinese cultural standards and beliefs, but, we are not Chinese. We are not going to become like the Chinese for the sake of our daughter-in-law. We will try to embrace some of her culture, within reason, but we will not be supporting our adult son and his family, period. That is just the way things are and that will not be changing. If our daughter-in-law sees that as being stingy, well, so be it. I have worked hard all of my life to raise and educate my children and provide a comfortable retirement for myself and my wife. That did not include supporting an adult son and his family. I believe those are pretty standard, normal, Western cultural standards and, after all, she chose to live in the U.S., we did not choose to live in China.

I also understand the importance of sons in Chinese culture, but we do not love or revere this grandson any more than our other grandson or our granddaughters. Again, we are not Chinese. We did not move to China and will not be changing to a Chinese mindset.

Our daughter-in-law chose to marry our son, and live in the U.S. As a result, much of the cultural adjustment will, by necessity, fall on her, just as it would fall on us if we had chosen to live in China.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am glad to know these things as these will help us understand each other better. But understanding does not mean we will be embracing them in any way.

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alwan 4 yrs ago
Have lived in HK for more than 20 years and believe I have observation about Chinese culture. Chinese people in general are very money orientated and often have high expectation that parents will continue to help out adult children to the extent of putting deposits on a flat or even paying for a flat itself. On the other hand, say the parents are indeed elderly and the child not in his/her 40's, there is expectation that each adult child contributes to the modest lifestyle of the parent. Personally everyone "helping" each other is an admirable trait I believe. However, greed is not! Chinese women are known as "greedy and demanding" among westerners in HK- i.e. those who are here long enough to make observations and hv experience. Whoever spread the belief of Asian women as "delicate wall flowers" is way wrong....You've heard of "Tiger Mum" right? From your outline, I feel your daughter in law is an aggressive and demanding woman. If your son were to fall on hard times, don't count on her support. She'll be bailing out!.
Warning to all those Western guys looking for a "delicate wall flower!"
My perspective- English Xpat in HK , female, married to a Peruvian guy.

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Ranilop2002 4 yrs ago
I totally agree with you ALWAN!!! That's fact.

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Gdawg 4 yrs ago
I'm from Oklahoma and I live in Hong Kong. I have not married or had children but I have a serious Hong Kong girlfriend and I would only date an Asian gal. I completely understand your question in that I went through a rough process to come to understand the differences of Chinese gals. At first I was appalled. When I'm tired they say "you look tired. Are you ok" they give gifts of money at Chinese New Year and love designer hand bags. Over time I realized that they are very honest and direct and that money is a way of showing love. Meals are the cornerstone of the family and food is another form of currency. it was difficult for me to understand for a long time but since I've embraced it I love it. My girlfriends family embraces me and would do anything for me of for each other. They constantly give gifts to each other out of love. I applause your reaching out to this site for an objective opinion. That was the right thing to do in my opinion and I implore you to continue your efforts to embrace the Chinese culture and love your sons choice of a wife. As a midwestern American I have come to really value the Chinese culture and family values and I think you will be rewarded if you do the same. They will take care of you in your old age. I know we Americans like to think we won't need but that is basically the Chinese transaction. You take care of them when they're young and they take care of you when you're old. Congratulations to you.

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lagrue 4 yrs ago
I would also add that I agree with Duracelll that Asians are more money oriented than westerners, adding that this may be a result of the perceived financial insecurity in this part of the world where governments aren't particularly socialistic.

Furthermore, it might help to understand that Asians (as a generalisation) appear to be more transactional. i.e. you do things for others and expect a "return" sooner or later. So your daughter-in-law has done you a favour by giving you a "owe" her a big one....hence the need to repay the favour.

Hope this helps you understand a bit more.

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littleblackdrezz 3 yrs ago
I agree with MISS HAVISHAM and.......I think it's part of your daughter-in-law's personality and how she was raised (not really a culture thing, could be how her family spoiled her).

I am Chinese (born and raised in Hong Kong but have spent years in overseas) , my husband is American, we've been together for almost a decade and we have two kids!

I must say the first year of relationship was a bit confusing since we combined two individuals from different backgrounds and cultures together but that's part of the marriage.
Once you are married, you aren't only married to your beloved husband /wife, also his or her families. My parents are Chinese + Indonesian, they have never asked my in-laws money when my husband and I got married.

We also are grown adults and would not ask our families to pay for things, instead, we try to buy them dinner or do nice things for them as return (for raising us).

My mother-in-law and I both get along very well, so does my husband who gets along with my family (although his Cantonese isn't that good), we hang out quite a bit when we are in town together and would also send emails/ or facetime back and forth. I can't imagine if I put my husband in the middle ( you know those daughter-in-law and mother-in-law always bitch slap each other), it's not gonna do any good.

Communication is always the key, we would sit down and chat, get to know each's background, culture, personalities, way to do things, standards and etc.
Even when we disagree on something (everyone's got different views, we don't have to like what other people like) , give each other respect.

Maybe you, your family and daughter-in-law need to sit down and talk so things come clear :) (talk, not argue)
Try to see if you guys can meet the half way.

Good Luck and Hope things go well :)

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