Growing up, I often gravitated towards foreigners in the US who didn’t speak native English.
When a young girl from Belgrade joined our high school orchestra for a period of time, I loved hanging out with her in the hallway and hearing her spin stories of the former Yugoslavia through her splendidly imperfect English.
In college, I used to enjoy green tea with a couple of Japanese guys who sometimes paused in the middle of a sentence, and once helped put together a party to welcome a gaggle of Brazilian girls who spoke English with heavy accents.
None of these imperfections in their English bothered me in the least.
On the streets right beside our apartment, we can dine on cross-the-bridge noodles from Yunnan, spicy BBQ from Chongqing and Hunan, Lanzhou-style pulled noodles, and at least four or five different specialties from cities in Zhejiang province you’ve probably never even heard of.
When you move to America, you’re trading in that kind of rich culinary heritage for a blandly bastardized version that’s either breaded and deep-fried or drowning in some unnaturally pink glop. If you’re lucky, one or both of you can actually cook decent Chinese food and satisfy those cravings on a regular basis. There are some things that are WAY too complicated to prepare on a regular basis (Beijing duck, anyone? There are others you’ll struggle to buy or never find at all, such as fresh Spring bamboo roots, tang hulu, and Suzhou-style mooncakes.
John and I felt like the odd-couple-out at hundreds of social gatherings in the US, surrounded by Americans who would rather talk about TV shows neither of us had ever heard of.But it’s going to be that much harder for your spouse because they’re not used to it – and, if you’re white, neither are you.Even worse, if you’re like the vast majority of white people (who have no people of color as friends), you’re going to feel incredibly isolated when your spouse finally experiences the worst.Ultimately, the few people who actually wanted to talk China were usually from the country, former expats, or traveled there once upon a time.And sadly, there were never enough of them to go around.