Our today´s featured intercultural couple are Laura Alvarez M. and Wang Jian Jian (Tony). They´ve been together for three years and been married for a little over eight months. They currently reside in Shanghai, P.R.China. Let´s take a peek on the bliss and challenges of their interracial and interfaith marriage; indeed, a doorway to a new world.
What makes your marriage offbeat?
Our marriage is both, interracial and intercultural. Laura is Spanish, from Asturias in North Spain. Raised as a Christian and atheist since asked about her faith. Tony comes from Shandong province in North East China. Though Tony’s mother is Christian and goes to church every day he has never believed in any God.
We think that every marriage is intercultural. Every family has different traditions.
What made you end up in an intercultural/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture or faith?
We have never seen culture or race as a barrier and therefore there was no need of balancing factors. We love each other and have many values in common. To us values matter. Family, respect, support, honesty.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious or cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
Our different cultural background did influence our wedding.
The day before the wedding the groom walked to every house to deliver the invitations by hand, this started at 5am. That evening we had a noodle ceremony (noodles represent longevity) and our nephew scrolled in our bed to wish us fertility in our new life together.
We had a Traditional Chinese wedding in Shandong. With over 130 people, 18 different courses, lots of red, tea ceremony and fireworks of any color you can imagine.
Tony wore a traditional suit, all in black except for a white shirt. Laura was wearing a red and golden qipao.
After the ceremony our guests ate and we did a round, table by table, to offer them rice wine. Once everyone finished eating we continued at home, everyone wanted to see the newlywed and exchange some words.
That evening we did the accounting of the hongbaos (wedding money) with our relatives and we went to the KTV with friends and sang all the songs together. When we thought that the process was finished Tony’s mom reminded us that next day we needed to visit the ancestors and offer them ghost money, food and rice wine. So we did.
This year we will organize a small event for our relatives in Spain, something simple and with only our closest relatives.
What are your biggest challenges (as an intercultural/interracial couple) and how do you solve them?
Language plays a key role, so it does willingness to understand.
Our biggest challenge will be raising our kids. In China many children are raised by the grandparents and in some marriage the son and his wife move in with the grandparents.
In Spain the children are raised by the parents, the definition of motherhood is linked to raising the child. And therefore we wanted to communicate in advance so that we all understand how the dynamic will be in the future. We did and now we all have a clear picture of how things may work if we have children.
We all want the best for the children, and is great when you realize that your children will have lots of love. Communication will be needed often.
Parenting will be a phase full of challenges and I am looking forward to learn from them.
Whatever challenge we may face, we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
Like in every marriage, compromises are needed. Laura was living in China when we met and she decided to stay. We are both learning our languages.
In our case, our families also compromised to give us space, and to be open to our decisions. Some of our relatives even learned few words in English to better communicate.
Sometimes you have to pause and think. Re-think and then act.
Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?
We have never met anyone who disapproves interracial marriage but we have met people who shows a negative attitude towards Chinese people or China as a country. This is also a form of disapproval and if someone touches that topic it touches our marriage and us as individuals.
People we have met ask if our families were easy on this subject and are interested in hearing about it but never say anything negative about it.
How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?
Both sides were very happy for us. In fact, for our surprise, before we got engaged Laura’s father left a video in our laptop and he didn’t tell us where to find it until he knew we got engaged. In that video he talks about us, about what he can see in us and supporting our life together.
Also Tony’s parents asked us about marriage at the beginning of our relationship.
What are the benefits of an intercultural/interracial marriage?
I like to think our marriage a doorway to a new world.
When you marry someone from a different culture you gain an insider point of view to his / hers culture. Living in China with a Chinese husband helps in tremendous ways to see from a different point of view and traveling to Spain and spending the days with our Spanish relatives Tony also gets to be part of our culture in a way that many other people can’t enjoy.
You are part of the culture and traditions and have the chance to start new ones together.
What are the things that you learned about each other’s culture? How does learning about each other culture benefit your relationship?
Laura believes that when you are Chinese you have to be thick skinned because you get a taste of the attitudes minorities have been facing for years.
Learning that what seems difficult right now will seem easy in a couple of months helps to see things in a positive way.
We learn something new every day, and without our willingness to learn our relationship could not work.
We became more flexible and we are willing to flow as life comes at us.
If children come, of which culture (and religion) do you plan to raise them?
Our kids will be raised of both cultures and will be given the choice in terms of their faith. We would like to teach them about all the religions and options in terms of faith.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
We love to go a-wandering and ride our bikes.
What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?
We show appreciation every day and we like to carve out time for our relationship.
What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage?
Difficulties can be handled in healthy ways. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride.
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