A loss of face

This is part 2 of the story of a family dinner with my husband’s extended family in their hometown Siping in Northeast China. In part 1 (“A family dinner and to raise or not to raise your glass”), daye, my husband’s oldest uncle wants me to raise my glass to him. Will I give in to his pressure? Read on for the answer.

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

I feel uncomfortable with the way daye treats me. It’s not just what he says, but also the way he says these things. I don’t like it if everyone’s attention is on me. I feel embarrassed, am angry and fighting with tears.

Y tells daye: “Oh, come on, leave your office at the door.” (Daye is working as a government administrator). “This is a family dinner, for god’s sake. We’re already legally married, we don’t care for your approval!”
Daye: “These are our traditions and she should respect them.”
Y: “Well, you know, it’s not only her who should respect our traditions. We should also respect that she comes from a country with traditions that are different from ours.”

Daye is still waiting for me to raise my glass. If it was only raising a glass! While you raise your glass, you also have to say a line that goes something like that: “Daye, I show you my respect (大爷, 我敬你).” I really don’t know how to do this.

When daye sees that I’m still not moving, he tells his sister-in-law: “I’m in a bad mood.”
She: “Just drop it. She doesn’t understand how this works.”

Finally,  the people around the table start talking again. This evening, I don’t raise my glass to daye. I’m not the only one. Y and his cousin don’t raise their glasses either. So much for traditions. I can see that daye is in a frenzy. I’m still fighting with tears. Yes, maybe I made him lose face. But tonight, he’s not the only one who did lose face. Because, although that’s maybe not what you’d call it in Austria, putting someone in an embarrassing situation like this equals not giving this person face too.

What do you think? Would you have acted differently? I’d love to read your opinions.

The dinner is over, but this story is not over yet. Stay tuned for part 3 in which I’ll reveal what happens after the dinner.

On a side note: My husband’s other relatives have all been very welcoming hosts and I got accepted by everyone right away. Daye was the only exception. Also, my husband has been accepted by everyone in my family. We are very grateful for both our families’ support.

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15 thoughts on “A loss of face

  1. It really sounds like he was picking on you. You can’t be expected to know everything. It’s sad you had to feel so embarrassed and upset by it but I think just doing nothing was probably the right thing. I’m concerned now for part 3 0__O


    • Even if I knew, I’m not sure I would have actively raised my glass. I do raise my glass if someone wants to “ganbei” with me or if the whole table raises their glass and while I think that some traditions should be respected, if someone uses the word “tradition” to make other people feel bad or to look down on them, I’m not one to support that.


  2. I meant to leave a comment after your last post, it made me feel so angry after reading it – you must have been feeling fragile after not being well. It is nice to see that the rest of the family showed solidarity, in your favour 😀 I thought you would be forced in to toasting but am pleased for you that it turned out the way it did.

    At least now you know about the tradition, if you wish, you can do it on your own terms which will surely mean more to both parties.

    Looking forward to the next installment – I love reading your short stories.


    • Thanks and thanks for your comment! I was very emotional and exhausted that evening and would have preferred to just stay at home alone. But I didn’t expect the family dinner to turn out that way, and wanted to show that I care, that’s why I went in the first place.


  3. oooohhhhh…my sympathies….I would have felt the same way-horribly awkward moment. But since he wasn’t acting too polite to you I think you can’t continue to feel too bad about it either. My motto is “it’s more important what you think about them than what they think about you”. I am wondering what happens next? Does uncle apologize to you?


  4. Pingback: A family dinner and to raise or not to raise your glass | China elevator stories

  5. Pingback: After the family dinner | China elevator stories

  6. Pingback: Top 10 posts on China Elevator Stories, post 51-100 | China elevator stories

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