While waiting for my luggage at San Francisco airport, I chatted with an Indian-American woman who had just returned from a trip to India.
She asked: “What did the immigration officer ask you just now?”
Me: “What the purpose of my trip back to China was. Why, what did they ask you?”
Her, with a slight smile: “Whether I had brought any sweets.”
Indian-American woman standing next to her interjects: “Oh yeah, me too.”
Me: “Really? Does this happen often?”
Both of them nod vigorously: “Every time.”
So now you know. Apparently Indian-Americans are known to love carrying sweets back from their motherland. Can’t say I blame them, yum.
Interesting related tidbit from a friend of mine who’d done some contract work with TSA – the guy said he looks out for cookware when Mexican-Americans come back from Mexico. Why I have no idea, but perhaps specialized cookware to make authentic food?
Either way, I love how both Indians and Mexicans are known to bring back goods in the food category. I can absolutely understand that, having ferried handmade woks (I know, how more stereotypical can you get? Hah!) and countless bags of tea, speciality Hong Kong snacks and so forth.
I could go on and on and wax lyrical on how fundamental food is to culture and identity, but I’ll spare you. Basically, this is an empathic nod to others like us.
You know you’re a die-hard people watcher when after years of consistent flying, you still find the pre take-off airplane belly view fascinating!
Are you about to meet the Chinese parents? Are you worried about how to make a good impression?
If so, never fear, the basic cheat sheet of how to woo Chinese parents is here!
I initially threw this together for my non-Chinese significant other as I have very traditional Chinese parents and noticed that friends of mine were in the same boat, so I thought I would share. Hopefully it’s helpful!
1. Never Stop Pouring Tea
Chinese tea is usually drunk out of tiny teacups. As a sign of respect, you should park yourself near the teapot (or just grab it) and keep everyone’s – ESPECIALLY the parents’ – teacups full at ALL times. There should never be an (god forbid) empty teacup for longer than 3 seconds.
I don’t care if you’re trying to expound on your five-year plan under one parent’s intense, skeptical scrutiny. If the other parent’s teacup is almost empty or completely empty, use your peripheral vision to reach for the teapot and fill ‘er up.
Anticipate. Keep an eye on all the teacups on the table at all times.
Pro tip: Once you’ve poured tea, remember to hover. The parent may immediately drink all the tea you just poured and put down an empty teacup. You need to hover and refill so you’ll always withdraw with your task accomplished.
2. Offer Them The Best Food
No matter if you’re at a restaurant or at their home, always offer the best bits of food to the parents. What do I mean by offer? There are several ways:
I wouldn’t call myself an illustrator, but I can draw well enough to impress a typical 5 year old – specifically my cousin’s 5-year-old daughter Natalie.
To reward her patience for sitting still during a very adult sit-down dinner one day, I let her sit on my lap as I drew her a colorful parrot.
Natalie was wide-eyed and wriggling with glee by the time I was done. She twisted around on my lap, rubbed my arm enthusiastically and casted about for an appropriate response.
Out tumbled: “You…you…you’re such a GOOD GIRL!”
In her 5-year-old world, there wasn’t any higher praise than that! Nice little reminder on perspective.