The Asian “I Love You”: When His ‘I Love You’ Is Different From Yours

I guess you could call me lucky.

DAT HAIR GAME DOE

DAT HAIR GAME DOE

Growing up, I was an incredibly tame yet cheerful child. I’m willing to wager that this was due to my close bond with my Mom. Even to this day, she’ll ask me to sit on her lap like some 160 lb man-child while she recollects stories from my childhood. The struggles we went through when our family immigrated and what a blessing I was in her life. Most importantly, she said and still says: I love you – and I’ll say it back.

I guess you could call me lucky because when you compare my warm upbringing to the one other Asian Americans and Asians experienced, like a debate over which is better, Pho or Ramen, the two are total opposites:

You could brush it off and say, well, that’s the culture! They say I love you in different ways! True. Very true. But when you’re an Asian American man dating interracially and your wife is, say, African American or Latina American and they are used to expressing their appreciation and love in a most verbose way, using carefully chosen words to convey their emotions, where does the Asian “I love you” factor into it all? What happens when verbal and non-verbal “I love you’s” collide?

"What the hell, man! Why didn't she swoon over my cover of Maxwell? I KNEW I should have given the final rose to the Black chick with the natural hair!!"

“What the hell, man! Why didn’t she swoon over my cover of Maxwell? I KNEW I should have given the final rose to the Black chick with the natural hair!!”

Each and every one of us regardless of culture or gender all possess a unique set of love languages: ways that we feel love. For many Asian cultures, love is shown through gifts and actions. That’s probably why the parents of your Asian boyfriend of 2 years haven’t said they love you but they always bring over food or give you plastic bags filled free slippers or apples. Random gestures that, in your western mind, may mean nothing but, to them, mean everything.

"Bai Li, I bought this Physics book at the garage sale so you can prepare for 3rd grade! WHAT? Not Interested?! YOU DON'T LOVE ME!!!"

“Bai Li, I bought this Physics book at the garage sale so you can prepare for 3rd grade! WHAT? Not Interested?! YOU DON’T LOVE ME!!!”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Western love: it’s shown through words and touch. Peek your head into any sleezy nightclub and you’ll definitely see guys wording and touching their way into a girl’s heart via “let me touch your boobs.” See where things get complicated? See why interracial dating in the AMXF landscape can be so difficult? The way a person demonstrates love is often the method they expect to see it returned. A kiss for a kiss, not a kiss for a bag of persimmons.

So tonight, ladies and gentleman, when you go to bed next to your Asian boyfriend or Latina American girlfriend, make sure you show your love in a way they can understand. Be it a foot rub, a surprise cookie from Ms. Fields, whispers of sweet nothings into their ear, or a gentle kiss on the cheek. And maybe then they’ll close their eyes, kiss you back and think to themselves…

“How did I get so lucky?”

Farhia-and-Jason-Somali-Japanese-18

10 thoughts on “The Asian “I Love You”: When His ‘I Love You’ Is Different From Yours

  1. When my boyfriend’s mum gave me a special china tea pot as I present, it really made my day, as I knew that it was her way to appreciate me and tell me that she cares for me…I prefer gestures to words, I think they say more 😀 … I am the same with my parents, I don’t tell them “I love you” but I do things for them to show how much I care, same from them to me.

  2. Great post!! I have been so confused and frustrated with the lack of verbal and physical affection from this Korean girl I’m dating, but I see now that it’s just a mistranslation . Thank you!

  3. I have always considered myself a considerate,open-minded, and unbiased person who loves to show and receive affection due to my upbringing. Thank you for this write up and reminding me to watch my words and to take things from the other person’s perspective . It has opened my eyes. Ive always known that different personalities show love differently – so why should culturally be any different. I don’t like to compare cultures to each other; but individuals.

  4. Great article. Appreciated the education and candor. I feel like American culture is so hypersensitive to any open discussion about most topics on race. I’m so thankful for the insight and feel like I can approach men with a better understanding.

  5. “A kiss for a kiss, not a kiss for a bag of persimmons.” This line made me smile. My fiance is Chinese Australian and while he is extremely affectionate to me I have had to see love and affection completely differently when it comes to his parents – often in the form of a bag of fruit!

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