Tag Archives: Chinese wedding

Wedding Guests: China vs Europe

Right, so finally it’s time to get back on topic: WEDDINGS! That is after all what this blog is all about, isn’t it? The only excuse I have for not keeping up my writing until after both weddings have happened is that now I have both wedding experiences; the better to compare. This is what I intended all along! *wink wink*

So, this is the first in what I think will be many comparative posts on our two weddings: the wedding guests.

Now, if you’re not already aware, there is a difference between your average Chinese wedding and you average European one (and by average I mean non-celebrity, mere mortals like myself) in terms of the guest list. While in Western media there is an on-going joke about how everyone wants to be invited and how the guest list gets out of hand at a wedding, generally I have found that most weddings of my friends and family have fitted into the reasonable-sized category. Mostly around 40 to 70 guests, I’d say. At our German wedding we only even had 25 guests; and that nothing to do with us wanting to save every Yuan we could and all to do with the fact that we decided to keep it highly exclusive, VVIPs only, you know, like the highly exclusive people we are. (You think they bought it?…No? Damn.)

Now in China, even daring to consider having such a small number of people at your wedding is an irredeemable insult to your ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors’ accountant. Again, it’s all about that face, ‘bout that face, no trouble. Hoping Meghan Trainor won’t throw a copyright lawsuit at me for borrowing her legendary lyrics for inspiration. Anywho, digressing again. At a Chinese wedding, lots of people equals face and so the more people attend the wedding the better. Not only that, there is actually a financial incentive to make it as bloody big as possible.

Let’s have a wedding to make some money!

What on earth, financial incentive?! Yes, indeed. While in the West, we are busy losing hair about whether or not to invite Great Aunt Beryl, because that will mean another 60 or so Euros each to pay for her, and her husband and her two brat kids, in China you’ll be sure as heck hoping that Great Aunt Beryl brings her cousin twice removed and their whole clan. Because of the Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes filled to the brim with cash, rather than another embroidered gold toaster to “start married life together”, a Chinese wedding is seen by many here as a) an opportunity to make rather than spend money and b) earn back the money that they’ve spent on other people’s weddings – as you did with Great Aunt Beryl’s two brats. I have to say, they’re really onto something there and thankfully my mother decided to “go Chinese” in terms of wedding presents in Germany and our 25 exclusive guests generously followed suit. Thank you for that!

Intimate Affair vs. Catwalk Spectacle

Now, if you are more of the type of person who prefers an intimate affair for a wedding with just your closest friends to give it all more weight and meaning, the Chinese way certainly isn’t for you. In China, the parents-in-law will literally invite anyone and their dog (as long as the dog brings its own Hongbao of course), with the big company bosses being particular favourites since they rake in the most money. It means that on average 200 people will show up at your wedding, 90% of which you’ve never met before in your life. Especially from our Western perspective, we can quickly feel like this makes the wedding incredibly impersonal and just doesn’t feel right. Indeed, Mr Li was completely won over by the intimate ceremony idea. To this day he will tell anyone who is willing to listen how he much prefers the intimacy of Western weddings.

On the other hand, if, like me, you enjoy feeling like an A-List celebrity walking down a huge catwalk with 200 pairs of eyes on you, this will probably be one of the best days of your life. Especially considering that people even paid money to look at you, it’s almost like you’re Beyoncé…well, minus the voice of an angel and the sexy dance routine. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never get this much attention again!

Feeling like Beyoncé – if only I could walk sexy in this dress..

Engagement Photos from Nanjing to Inner Mongolia *FINALLY*

Hello my dears,

very sorry for my prolonged absence, which I cannot excuse. All I have to say for myself is that I have busy with a couple of other projects, but more on that in the next post. In the meantime, Jocelyn’s recent post on WWAM BAM!, which collected some amazing wedding and engagement photos inspired me to set up this long, long overdue post – a best of of the engagement pictures we took in May and August 2015. We basically had two photo sessions, one in Nanjing which had been extensively researched and which I have also written about at length, and a second spontaneous one in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia just three days before our Chinese wedding. So without much ado, here are the pictures, and some tidbits about the shoots, hope you enjoy them!

Round 1: Western Glam and Old Shanghai in Nanjing


After weeks of research, I decided to book the engagement picture shoot in Nanjing, rather than Beijing, since we would get double the value for half the price. We started at 8am and finished around 6pm, had 7 different sets of clothes and 14 locations – 2 per each costume – 300 pictures taken, half of those retouched, 3 print-out photo albums and more framed pictures and nicknacks than we knew what do with; and all of this for merely 3200 RMB from Bazaar Photography.


It’s not so obvious in this pic, but my makeup artist/hairdresser was an absolute genius with a brush and comb, she is the only person who has ever managed this elegant hairdo, and I have tried to get it replicated twice – no one else can do it.


We had two Chinese-style costumes and five Western ones, which was a bit of a shame, because the Hanfu set and the Old Shanghai ones are definitely the highlight of the Nanjing bunch. The picture used in Jocelyn’s group post is probably my favourite out of all of them.

5H7A9257 60寸白色浪漫 (1)

The indoor pictures were taken at the company’s photography villa – a massive two story mansion that has around 20 to 30 different indoor sets, all of which have varied themes. Street cafe, library, church – you name it, they’ve replicated it in small scale in this human-sized dollhouse.


This is the masterpiece and the reason I chose to stick with Nanjing rather than the Northern capital. I love old Shanghai style and had seen some stunningly beautiful pictures online of brides-to-be in their Qipaos, with 1930s themed locations that just oozed elegance, history and a mix of Chinese and Western culture – so us, no? Looking at some of the wedding photography in Beijing, I did get the feeling that my Chinese friends’ repeated warning that Northerners can’t do a “Southern style” like Old Shanghai seemed to have at least an ounce of truth to it, as they struggled to make it look as glamorous. This hairdo was another one that no one has been able to replicate in that fashion.


Our outdoor shots were taken in Lvbo Yuan, the botanical gardens in Nanjing right next to the Yangtze river. It’s definitely a fave for engagement shoots, as I spotted ten to twenty couples just in our immediate vicinity.


This beauty is the only dress I brought that belonged to me – bring your own also an option in case you’re wondering – and it’s a German dirndl, a nod to my Germanic heritage. Part of this set of pictures was taken in front of the Dutch windmill in Lvbo Yuan, the one sponsored by Eindhoven, so it has a really fun feel to it. But this is probably one of the very few photos that we freestyled – a lot of the shoot was posing very gracefully and glamorously, which was fun but also not really us. So in this final shoot we decided to mess about a bit instead.

Round 2 – Inner Mongolian Grasslands…well, kinda…


After we showed our engagement pictures to my MIL, she then said we should have done some Mongolian style ones. She didn’t have to tell me that twice! For this shoot, we rented the outfits from a genuine Mongolian dress shop and so they were much more high quality than the slightly tatty ones in Nanjing. Big thanks to my MIL, whose wedding treat this was.


Absolutely adored the colour of this dress and the pearls used as head decoration, still one of my favourite outfits to this day.


And then we got a horse…as you do. Feeling so Mongolian princess 😉


In the background is the Mongolian yurt in which I got to change my outfits while repeatedly banging my head on the beams. It was a new sensation, I’m 1.55m tall, I don’t hit beams often.  This is finally the matching dress to fit Mr Li’s outfit, the poor man didn’t get to change his clothes once (for which he is probably grateful at heart). Oh and btw, we weren’t actually out in the grasslands but rather a patch of grass that belonged to the photo studio.


And now for the final reveal – my parents joined the fun and so did my MIL. We had such a good time together, it was the best day! I think all of us make fabulous Mongolians, don’t you? Especially my dad. Watch out Genghis Khan, you have competition!

Where did you take your engagement pics? Did you dress up in local costumes?

An Ode to Inner Mongolia

As the Chinese New Year approaches fast, so does my typically longest visit of the year to Mr Li’s hometown, Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. Since the beginning of time, there’s been a bit of animosity between the two of us caused by our differing perceptions and opinions of the place. I, as a person who enjoys tropical weather, humidity, multicultural society and distinct architecture, have had quite a hard time embracing this city that is characterized by a desert-induced dryness that will make the skin peel off your hands (true fact), -20 C° degree winters, and fairly homogenous, Han style construction with hardly more than 10 buildings to be found in a city of  that have any kind of architecturally distinct or fascinating character; and that in a city of over 2.8 million people. I realize it’s a tad snobbish to reject a city based on it’s architecture, but to me buildings have always been a major part in creating the feel of a city, and when you’ve lived in cities like Vienna, London or Nanjing, I guess your expectations as to architecture tend to be a little bit on the high side.

Anyway, because Mr Li has this base urge to spend every CNY back home in Hohhot (though partly I cannot blame him, seen as ticket and hotel prices are horrendous at this particular time of year), he has been trying very hard to show me that there are also some pretty fun things about his place of birth. And I have to admit that through his efforts, the city has been slowly growing on me. Not so much, I’d ever consider living there, I grant you, but we do manage to have a good time.

So, I thought it was time for me to admit to some of the cool aspects about Hohhot. Enjoy!

Number One: Food in Inner Mongolia is Da Bomb

Vegetarians, you’re going to want to run for cover. But for meat-eaters with a preference for lamb, ohhh, you’re in for a treat. My personal fave are Chinese dumplings filled with lamb and carrot, a CNY treat that I could gorge myself on until I keel over.

The other massive favourite is Huicai, which I reckon you’d best compare to a stew. Just a few minuted walk from Mr Li is his local Huicai joint, where they stew green beans, tofu, potato and fentiao (thick glass noodles made from potato starch) into carb-overloaded, mushy goodness, of course with a bit of pork for flavouring – sorry, vegetarians, you really will struggle to find anything edible on the local menu.


Lamb Dumplings yumm, yumm, yumm
Super Fun Inner Mongolian-Western Fusion Restaurant

While I might have turned my nose up at Hohhot for its lack of international cultural in the past, it has started to cultivate a more global restaurant scene. One of my personal faves, introduced by Mr Li’s cousin, a young, vivacious girl who knows all the best haunts, is a Mongolian-Western fusion restaurant. I never imagined myself slurping some Spaghetti Carbonara and then turning to a huge pile of stewed Sauerkraut, beans and tofu to wash it down. It totally works and has become one of my must-visits whenever I’m up there!

Number Two: Watching the Fireworks from our Balcony

Beijing has banned fireworks due to such minor considerations as, you know, environment 😉 But out in Inner Mongolia, the Wild, Wild North of China, try as you might, people will turn Chinese New Year into a festival of fireworks. When the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve the racket starts and usually I will be standing on the balcony of my MIL’s flat on the 11th floor enjoying the view of fireworks everywhere. Most year’s Mr Li will have already passed out by this point, which has been a major irritation, let’s see if I can keep him awake this time around. Might have to give him some coding exercise – that’ll keep him awake till 3am.

Spring Festival Fireworks as viewed from the balcony – love it!
Number Three: Inner Mongolia, A Great Place for Winter Sports

To me the major advantage of snot-freezing temperatures are the accompanying winter sports. As a former ice skater, going to the local park for a spin on the lake is a must. Ironically, I had never skated on a lake before coming to Inner Mongolia, only ever on man-made rinks. I love being outdoors without a roof above my head and some, albeit leafless, trees framing my view.

Look at meeeeeeeee
Look at meeeeeeeee
As I mentioned in the year-end review, IM is also the place where I learnt to ski for the first time. While it doesn’t necessarily house Swiss Alp style slopes, for an absolute beginner the man-made slopes are a very good place to wet your feet, or rather your backside when you tumble.

Number Four: Inexpensive Entertainment

Once you dig deeper, Hohhot actually has quite a lot of fun things to do. Such as pleasantly affordable Laser Tag, such fun, and a “cinema” that has private rooms for groups of around five people and uses streaming services, the legality of which I have decided not to think too much about. It’s a comfy fun way to relax on an afternoon.

Number Five: The Air, the Air, the Air. Did I mention the AIR?

Oh, yes, Hohhot’s number one selling point still is the air. While in recent years, pollution has slowly been starting to take hold, overall Hohhot, whose name in Mongolian means Blue City, is much better off air-wise than the capital of recurring airpocalypse, Beijing. This means that every visit is a much needed opportunity for your lungs to get some rest.

Would you look at that AIR – Blue City, indeed!
Number Six: THE Blind Massage Parlour to END ALL BMPs

As a victim of desk jobs and terrible, terrible posture, I am one of those people whose neck and shoulders tend to be as a hard as brick. Seriously, you could injure your head should you for some weird reason smash it into my upper back. As locals, of course, Mr Li and his mother know exactly where the best massage parlours are, and so I was introduced to my favourite – back-crushing central. Yes, I will have bruises and feel tender for days to come post-massage, but I love it. Sadly, they usually aren’t open for CNY, and even more devastatingly I’ve heard rumours they’ve entirely shut down. But they’ll always be in my heart…and knotted shoulders.

Number Seven: Some Seriously Cool Local Architecture

Once I got over myself, I found that there’s actually quite a few interesting buildings to be discovered in Hohhot, a pagoda here, a temple there, but most interestingly the Hui Muslim district, which has a beautiful mosque and some very interesting architecture reminiscent of Arabic countries. Last time around, we even discovered a Christian church! And all it took, was for me to just get off my high horse and open my eyes.

Hohhot’s Stunning Mosque ❤
And there you have it, my Ode to Inner Mongolia in seven neatly packaged reasons. Wishing you all a very happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster! Where will you be spending yours?



What’s in a Name? – Name Change in International Marriages

So, you’ve decided to get married to Mr Li, Zhang or Wang. Congratulations! But, what are you going to do be called from then on?

It’s a big question, and one that can have unexpected repercussions on your life.

Chinese Traditionally Don’t Change Their Surname

It gets all the more confused when the traditions in your native country differ from the ones of your husband. In China for example, it isn’t a thing for the woman to change her surname to her husband’s name at all. Rather, she keeps her own family name, since the most important aspect of getting married in China is it gives you the green light to have a baby, and secure the continuation of the family bloodline. His family bloodline.

That is why usually the child will be named after the father. Only if the father has married into a more powerful/richer family, could there be an insistence from her family to choose their surname. However, this amounts to a serious loss of face, it’s a practical emasculation for said man. In many cases, if a couple gets divorced and the child stays with the mother, it is also not uncommon for her to change the child’s surname to her own. So, in China, while there’s at least no discussion about whose surname to take, there still can be a lot of politics surrounding the child’s name.

I am not a fan of not changing your name at all for a number of reasons. From my Western perspective the keeping of the wife’s surname felt very at odds with the general idea in China that the woman becomes part of her husband’s family upon marriage. It felt to me like a way of making sure the woman knows she has to serve her “new family” while at the same time not even granting her the right to fully become part of the family; even by name. But that might just be my cynical interpretation.

Name Change in Europe – So Many Different Options

In Germany and England, my countries of origin, there is an array of different options of what to do with your name once you get married. Traditionally, of course the woman would take on the man’s name, as she joined his family. However, following the feminist movement and increasing independence of women, some have equated this to a submissive act from the woman’s side, and so it’s now quite common to hyphenate both surnames. In few cases, the man might even take his wife’s name – although I’ve never met anyone who did this – and then there’s of course the option of going “Chinese” and no one changing any of their names at all, in which case you wouldn’t know they were married in the first place. This is becoming more common as people can’t be bothered to deal with the ridiculous paperwork associated with changing one’s name. However, I still prefer the idea of Mr Li and I somehow indicating our not-so-holy union.

My History with a Boringly Common Surname 

In my case, since we got married in China, there was never really any question about whether or not I wanted to change my name. Ironically, I did. Having grown up with both the most common first AND last names you could imagine in Germany, I have always been keen to swap my last name for something more “fancy”. For the longest time, I wanted to take on my mum’s maiden name – Nutchey – which I’m told is connected to our family’s Spanish heritage. That’s way better than being known as the German equivalent of Smith – and therefore instantly identifiable as German as well, I thought.

Anyway, 18 came and went, and I kind of put that wish to the side, thinking that you never know who I’d end up marrying. They might have a seriously cool name, after all!

What Does Taking on an Asian Surname Mean

Enter Mr Li. And with him the question of what to do with our names once we were married. I had a discussion with some fellow WWAM (AMWF) friends about this topic and it brought quite a few interesting and some disturbing truths to light.

If you were, say, to take on just your husband’s name, this could affect you in the workplace and sometimes in a negative way. If a recruiter reads a very Chinese sounding surname on your CV, they might assume that you are Chinese and in some cases, the sad truth is, that might lead them to think you are no native speaker and not up to the job. We like to think that people are wiser than to assume such things, but the sad truth is that this isn’t always the case.

The same goes for Mr Li taking on my surname and then appearing at interviews. I remember the painful story of a friend with African heritage who passed a phone interview stage for a job in a European country, and when she came in for the interview, the surprise of the interviewers that she was able to speak the local language was evident – she had grown up in said country. People are quick to make assumptions, it’s a bitter truth.

Mr Li and his Relationship with his Chinese Surname

In our case, there is actually another layer to the whole name debate. Like me, Mr Li has also been considering whether or not to change his surname irrespective of getting married, since he is the child of a broken home. However, his mother decided not to change his surname to hers, and so he is still named after his father, with whom he has always had a rocky relationship and in the end broke off contact.

His surname is therefore the only reminder of the ties to his paternal family. He even came to a point when he told his grandmother on his father’s side he planned to take on his mum’s surname Feng. She broke out in tears. He hasn’t changed his name yet, mostly I believe due to his attachment to that grandmother, who looked after him until the age of 6.

Coming Together To Create Something New

In light of all these feelings, we had many discussions about what to do about our surnames. Laura Li? I liked the ring to it, (Mr Li thinks it’s sounds like a porn name, harr harr), but for both CV and father-in-law I put that one to rest fairly early. Mr Li played with the idea of taking on my name but that would also mean giving up his Chinese heritage in a way, and I didn’t like that (aside from still wanting to flush a certain common surname down the drain).

The next idea was to return to the Nutchey option. I wasn’t entirely happy though with the idea of just my culture being represented in our surnames. So, a combination was in order. In light of the initial idea of Mr Li to take on his mum’s name, and with Nutchey being my mum’s maiden name, the surname Nutchey-Feng came into existence. Also, when he mentioned to his mother the idea of taking on my mum’s maiden name, she wasn’t what you’d call pleased.

In the end, this is the surname that represents both our origins and very fittingly makes you think of nutter and fengzi (which means crazy in Chinese). Couldn’t think of a more appropriate choice, could you?

So there we have it, Nutchey-Feng, the surname we would like to one day legally take on; and the very lengthy explanation as to how it came about. You know me, words…there’s just so many of them. And they’re fun to use.

Now the only hurdle is to get the authorities in one of my home countries to agree to this name change…yeah, that’ll be easy, I’m sure of it…

What did you do with your surname? Let me know in the comments!

New Year, New WWAM Project

Hello My Dears,

And a wonderful New Year to you!

As we are getting settled into the fact that it is no longer last year, we realise that the world is still very much the same. Except for one little detail: the launch of our new WWAM BAM! website, a page about Western Women dating or married to Asian Men.

I am super excited to be part of this blogging collective among a stunning group of talented bloggers (or should it be bloggerettes?) and authors, including Susan Blumberg-Kason (author of Good Chinese Wife), Jocelyn from Speaking of China, Becky of BeckyAnces.net, Ruth of China Elevator Stories, Kimberly of Nama Mama, and Susie of the Daily Susily.

Here’s a quick idea, what it’s all about:

We are a group of women from a Western background who are dating or married to men from an Asian culture. AMWF (Asian Male Western Female) couples, or WWAMs (Western Women Asian Men) as we prefer to call them, have in the past been few and far between but in this increasingly globalized world are becoming more common every day. Still, there are cultural differences that such couples will face and our site is here to help you navigate them. At the same time, we make it our mission to weed through the racism and stereotypes about Asian men and culture out there. We all know the truth is never just black and white (or yellow for that matter).

Aside from gripping personal experiences of relationships with Asian men and their families, and of raising AMWF children, this site takes a look at the portrayal of Asian men in Western media and reviews AMWF related productions. We furthermore will spotlight the amazing women out there who have made Asia their family; past and present.

We’re on the lookout for Western women who love Asian men and writing. You could be a regular contributor or even just a one-time guest poster. If you’d like to be a part of our new group blog, email us at contact@wwambam.com.

We look forward to seeing you on the WWAM side!

Find us on   Facebook    Google+     Twitter    and    Instagram wwambam-pink-light

A Love Letter to my Chinese Mother-In-Law

Looking back at some of my posts, I realise that most the quirky anecdotes and the weird stuff tends to involve her, my MIL. That might give the impression that we don’t get along but that’s actually not the fact at all. The main reason that most of my funny and weird China stories, such as rearranging wardrobes, happen with her, is simply because she is the Chinese person I am closest to and spend the most time with. Mr Li doesn’t count, as his long time in the West and my terrible influence have turned him into as much a confused culturally non-identifiable mashed potato as I am. After five years of having him in my life, and thus her by association, I have come to learn a few things about her in relation to other Chinese mothers-in-law that make me thank my lucky star that she is indeed the MIL I ended up with. So, here we are. My love letter to my MIL:

Being Supportive of us Dating

To start off, I have to say cudos to my MIL for never once suggesting to my husband that dating a foreigner was something bad. I know a few other WWAMs, such as Jocelyn, whose potential parents-in-law had misgivings about their son dating a Western woman, since we stereotypically tend to be seen as “loose” and heartless monsters who will abandon their duty to look after their parents. My MIL was never anything but welcoming to me, even when I could be a total bitch when I was struggling with culture shock.

The day we got our certificate

A Strong Woman to Look Up To

I think one of the things that I really appreciate about her is the fact that she is a business woman, who owns her own kindergarten. In a country, where still the ideal role of a woman is to take care of the family members, young and old, it is rare to find a woman who has such a successful career, and a family. Actually, being a divorced woman in rural China in the 90s – that’s some pretty tough stuff –  and she has been through some really intense shit in her life. But she came out of the other end a strong and successful woman, a total trail blazer. I have only two words for that: Absolute Awesomeness.

Giving us Space

I find one of the common worries of dating Chinese men can be the fact that many Chinese family members, particularly the mother, struggle with the concept of personal space in the way we Westerners think of it. Most Chinese parents expect their sons to live in the same city as them, many even on the same street or (scary thought) under the same roof. However, this, from what I hear and experience myself, can lead to conflict very quickly, as two strong headed women from two different cultures often tend to have clashing opinions. Our husbands, the poor sods stuck in the middle, are often not outstanding at managing these cross-cultural issues either. I’m therefore incredibly glad that my MIL is accepting of the fact that we won’t be moving to Inner Mongolia and have our own lives.

Not Pressing Us on Children

While the rest of the family is a different story, I am incredibly lucky since my MIL doesn’t put pressure on me to have child. This is very uncommon in China, and I think it has to do with the fact that my husband’s parents are divorced. Maybe she wants to see if we can make it last? Who knows. All I know is that all I get from her in terms of procreational pressure is the occasional “Doesn’t your husband look cute with his little niece.” Thanks MIL, I really do appreciate it.

After marriage pressure comes…baby pressure!

Being OK with Us Moving Back to Europe

This is a big one. Many Chinese parents I know of, and more so those with sons, are heavily opposed to the idea of their child moving to another continent, because “who will take care of me in old age?” So the fact that my MIL is totally on board with the idea of us returning to Europe at some stage (mainly for breathable air) is not a given. She went to Germany for the first time this summer and overall seemed to quite enjoy it. There is of course a possibility that she would like to join us in Europe but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Home sweet home.

Almost Always Picking My Side in Fights

This is a really interesting one. From the beginning, when Mr. Li and I tend to go at each other, I’d say 90% of the time my MIL would be the one to talk him down and who picks my side. Especially in the beginning of our relationship she was the reason we didn’t break up many, many times. I have actually had to force myself not to call her to knock some sense into him when we have had the occasional fight. This has been a massive help to me, since I am aware that especially when it comes to cultural conflict, it’s an easy thing for the Chinese relatives to gang up on the foreign partner. It’s probably the same the other way around. So her being able to see my side is something I really appreciate about her.

Spoiling Me

Yeah, I have to say, my MIL tends to spoil me rotten. She will always buy things that I don’t ask for and often even feels the need, when she buys endless stuff for Mr Li, to buy me something too so I don’t feel left out. She will go out of her way to make me comfortable and constantly feed me food, if I let her. When you are in a country far away from your own mum, it does feel nice every now and then to be showered by such affection.

Being Pretty Cool to Travel With

I think this is the funniest one in a way. After Mr Li and I got married in China last year, I went on a 2-week honeymoon not with him but with my MIL. He was working as usual, the workaholic. And it was actually pretty awesome. She never travelled much in the past but is now in a phase of her life where she is really enjoying exploring the world. And so I know that if I ever want to travel to a cool place and my hubs is busy, I can just ask her if she wants to go. And actually, she is as active as I am, so she is totally down for a busy schedule and looking at loads of places, as opposed to my little couch potato of a husband ;P

Our MIL-DIL Honeymoon at Qinghai Lake

So, yes, while at times certain elements about Chinese culture drive me insane, I have to admit that overall I have been incredibly lucky with my MIL. She’s definitely not what you’d call a traditional Chinese mother-in-law!

2016 Review – Weddings, Traveling & Moving

So, as the last couple of weeks of this crazy year are whizzing past, I figured it was time to take stock in my annual review.

Let’s start with the not so pleasing aspects of this year.


Not very content with my blogging this year. Couldn’t say why exactly but I have been much less active and need and want to get back on track. There are a few new projects in the works for 2017, so I’m hoping to write and create much more content in the coming year.

Losing Stuff

I have to say 2016 has been absolute horror for my personal possessions. I am a clumsy person in general but never ever have I lost items on the scale that I have this past year. I am very much considering getting my head checked since I have been losing items literally every single week, from my metro card, which was linked to a public bike account, and caused a lot of hassle, to quite a few personal items of mine that I am still upset about and haven’t been able to admit to the people involved. I won’t recount here which they were because a) too painful and b) too embarrassing. Getting my scatter brain under control is a major project for next year.

So let’s move on to the more pleasurable parts of 2016.

First Time Skiing

Yes, CNY of 2016 has been the first time in my life that I went skiing. The same goes for Mr Li. And that from a former ice skater, I hang my head in shame, and secretly kick myself for waiting this long to try it. It. Is. So. Much. Fun. Even Mr Li, who is seldom over enthused with anything besides computer code (yepp, I’m an IT widow), couldn’t get enough.

Look at meeeeeeeee

Weekly WWAM Lunch

Following on from a few fun group activities with WWAMs (AMWF) in Beijing, I met two great women who incidentally work in the same area as me. As a result we started a weekly lunch routine, which has become the highlight of most of my weeks, especially the more arduous ones. Thanks to you two ladies for constantly putting up with my big gob.


German Wedding 

I need to say a massive, massive thank you to my awesome mummy, who single handedly organized the German wedding, including email instructions that could have been a strategic army action plan. All I had to do for my wedding really was pick a location, a colour, the food (most important of all!!) and show up. I’m so glad we had the German wedding since it was an opportunity to show Mr Li (and MIL) what a real Western wedding looks like. It was small and I loved every second! Big fat fank you mum for organizing my favourite day of 2016! And of course huge thanks to all the friends and family who made the trek into the hidden depths of the Black Forest to be with us on this occasion!

Ever the elegant munchkin bride
There’s a story behind the shoes…I’ll tell it someday.

More Work Travel

I definitely traveled more for work as the year progressed and got to go to some pretty cool places such as the Tibetan plateau of Sichuan, as well as a short trip back to Nanjing. I got to work on some amazing topics from China’s space programme to marriage pressure and pandas. It’s not always easy, but at the end of the day I’m so grateful for the people I get to meet and the places I get to see.

Fresh air in Sichuan

Xiamen Trip

FINALLY, after 4.5 years of begging and moaning and complaining I managed to drag Mr Li to Xiamen, my absolute favourite city in all of China. I am happy to report that at least on the topic of this beautiful island we agree – it’s the best place ever!

Can I move here please?

New flat

Oh yes, one of the big changes this year was our move from the Northern part of Beijing to a slightly more Southern area. It was bitter sweet since I had to say good bye to our cat army, a group of wild cats who moved into our garden as we started feeding them and soon multiplied to about 10 little rascals. Just staring at them eat was such a stress reliever and it broke my heart to leave them. Only binge cat-watching on Insta keeps me sane now. But we exchanged our over priced slightly tuhao (garishly luxurious) but tiny flat in the north to a two bedroom in an older compound down south and I couldn’t be happier. Mainly because of the  walk-in wardrobe, that I now call my own.

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings

2016 truly has been a year of weddings, and funny enough majorly WWAM weddings. Three of them in total, and I loved every single one of them. Most people don’t enjoy weddings in China since it means giving Hongbao (red envelopes) and spending money, but for me there just is nothing like a good wedding. Especially cross-cultural ones, where you tend to get the best out of both worlds. They can be pretty stressful, as I found out, but they are so worth it!

A year of cross-cultural weddings

So overall, while the world around my seems to be going to shambles, looking at this past year I think it’s been a pretty good run. How has yours been?

Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year and the best of luck in 2017. I hope I’ll see you there!

What I’ve Learned About Cross-Cultural Weddings 

So, ever since my own wedding last year, I have been so lucky to attend a constantly growing number of international weddings in China. It didn’t take long until I realized certain similarities and themes emerging at these events. So in case you are getting ready for your own cross-cultural wedding in China or with a Chinese groom/bride, here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. Be Prepared for A Culture Clash

I find that we tend to not take the effect of two cultures meeting seriously enough. After observing both myself and Mr Li when we are together, when we are with his family and friends and when we are with my family and friends, I have come to realize one thing. Both of us have very different personas depending on which people we are with and which cultural environment that creates. I behave a lot more brash around foreign friends and Mr Li worries much more about what people think as soon as he is around his Chinese entourage. For a cross-cultural wedding this means there is bound to be conflict as you not only struggle to communicate with and keep both sides entertained; you are also trying to be two people at the same time, while your partner might not be happy about you exhibiting certain behaviour in front of their own culture. It is a stressful time, and it is good to be aware of this fact, as it will creep up on you quite unexpectedly.

In the case of China and a Western culture, I have found that there are two aspects in play that make it even more difficult: culture shock and communication style (peppered of course with a nice dose of jet lag).

No matter which country you are holding your wedding in, inevitably the “other side”, if they chose to come, will experience culture shock. A wedding, an event loaded with new people and full of local traditions, is just extra stress. So chances are some of those relatives and friends might get upset or grumpy at things they usually wouldn’t, and often they don’t even know why. It’s just the stress of being thrown into the deep end of the pool in a new country and a bunch of strangers who do things you might find offensive.

In relation to Western-Chinese weddings in particular, I find another challenge are different communication styles. The Western side will simply express their displeasure at certain things, and while it’s not necessarily pleasant to have to deal with complaints and grumpy-faced Westerners, it isn’t a big deal in itself. However, on the Chinese side, where it is common to swallow your complaints and hide you displeasure in front of strangers in particular, such displays of discontent are incredibly upsetting and serious. And so, I found at the wedding, when Mr Li went into China mode and I went into Western mode, there were all of a sudden plenty of things that he felt offended about where I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about.

2. Try to be informed and keep informed

I have found in particular the Western side, but also the Chinese if they come to a Western wedding, really struggle with not knowing what’s going on. Very few of us are able to just “go with the flow”, especially the parents of the Western partner. Therefore, it’s a good idea to try and make the whole wedding process as clear to your Western family as possible by doing two things:

1. Get a good interpreter, not just for the wedding ceremony but also to take care of the “foreign” side throughout the day.

You should make sure that the person conducting the wedding (an MC in China and a priest or officiate in the West) has met the interpreter and maybe even practiced the ceremony with them. Since few officiates are used to bilingual ceremonies, they don’t know when to pause so the interpreter can catch up. We didn’t have an interpreter for either of our weddings, and luckily both of our families were fairly relaxed about it, but I do know that to some parents this is a very big deal and not being able to understand can drive them crazy.

2. Try to discuss in advance with your family what exactly is going to happen and when; in the case of Chinese weddings that is next to impossible, but still it is good to give them a run down of the day. In the morning, the groom will pick the bride up, there will be door blocking, and shouting and red envelopes and games, once she is taken to his house, her parents can rest until the ceremony and so on and so forth. Try and get as many details from the family members as possible and let your family know, as it can be really stressful and upsetting for them to not know what’s going on.

3. Accept that it will be chaos anyway

Despite all your best planning and efforts, the fact of the matter is weddings, and especially Chinese ones, are utter chaos. There isn’t one person who knows what’s going exactly but rather each family member knows one or two customs that need to be upheld and rather than telling you before hand you will often get a message on the day saying a group of Chinese people will show up in twenty minutes to hang stuff up in your room. So prepare your family members from abroad for the fact that it will inevitably descend into chaos and pray that they will be able to cope.

4. If you have two weddings, make them local

A small regret I have, though I loved my Chinese wedding, which was terribly grand, is that I kept it in a Western style. We recently visited a traditional Chinese wedding with some Western elements and I really, really enjoyed it and felt that this is a really good idea, especially if you have another wedding in your home country. This way you get to experience two very different ceremonies, so thumbs up!

5. If you have one, make it cross-cultural

If you are having one wedding, then make sure to incorporate elements of both cultures. For example, the same traditional Chinese wedding featured a Scottish dance class for the guests and the bride and groom drinking a mix of Baijiu and Scottish whisky from a Scottish chalice. It’s not only fun to be creative and innovative with your wedding it also ensures that you feel like its yours; and it certainly gives the guests something to talk about.

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself on your exciting, tiring and crazy day of cross-cultural union!

What have your experiences been? Do you have any tips for future cross-cultural brides and grooms?

Goodbye 2015, Welcome 2016

I know it is slightly cheesy to do the “last year roundup” post and sort of the obvious choice, but still at this time of the year reflecting on the past 360 odd days is just what you do, right? So here goes my exiting 2015, a crazy year of traveling, moving and marrying.

January – March

The first quarter of the year was definitely travel-heavy. After spending New Year’s Eve in Vienna, we traveled to Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao for Chinese New Year, but only after finally tying the knot in Hohhot on Feburary 9th. It was the grand finale of half a year of bureaucratic battle between China and Germany; but we both won in the end. World, welcome Mr. and Mr. Li (well, haven’t really changed our names yet, but just for show, let’s pretend, ey?).

Restaurant Inner Mongolia

April – June

The second quarter of the year took Mr Li to Shenzhen and me with him part-time, as my employer in Nanjing generously allowed me to work remotely for a number of stretches. I really enjoyed Shenzhen, it’s a multicultural city that offers everything that’s great about Hong Kong but at mainland prices. Good food, seaside and fresh air; Shenzhen has since become one of my favourite Chinese cities and I do hope to spend more time there one day. This part of the year also got fairly busy in terms of wedding as Mr. Li and I took our engagement pictures, one of my Top 3 moments of 2015, and I went on a little excursion to Suzhou going crazy on Wedding Dress Street and ending up with not one, not two, but THREE wedding dresses. And just over my 1000RMB budget; you’ve got to love Suzhou.


July – September

Definitely the busiest and craziest quarter of the year. After landing a job in Beijing, where Mr. Li had returned to after a few months in Shenzhen, I was sad to say goodbye to Nanjing and my job as Executive Editor for Sinoconnexion. The two years I spent in the Southern capital were an amazing ride and there are many things I still miss about my NJ life.

But I had little time to mourn what was gone as August rolled around and so did the crazy wedding. My friends and parents came from all corners of the world, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that they did. The wedding was bombastic and stunning, the wedding planners I had so painstakingly picked out did a fabulous job and while the whole day kind of went by in a haze of nervousness, hunger and Baijiu-incurred drunkenness, it was crazy fun.

But no time to rest yet as two of my best friends stayed on after the wedding and we climbed the unrestored section of the Great Wall, rushed to Nanjing for a dose of Southern Imperialism and spent a day in Shanghai gallivanting on the Bund. Still waiting for my visa transfer, I then embarked on a two week-long trek to Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces with my mother-in-law, a bonding session that taught me a lot about my husband and myself. I still plan on writing more about this experience in this blog.

October – December

And just like that I had become a Beijinger. We found a ridiculously expensive flat in a fairly central location. It is terribly grand; the decoration reminds me of what Chinese people think the UK looks like, visions of Downton Abbey and high tea. I haven’t felt more at home in years.

I also started my new job and struggled with adapting to my new life and my return to “full-time couple” after two years of long distance. It’s been a rocky first three months in Beijing as I’m still trying to find my place and as the infamous pollution has reached new and pretty intolerable levels.

December was busy with more traveling; a short trip to Shanghai for work and a busy Christmas in Hong Kong, where finally after over 20 years of waiting, I visited Disneyland. It was every bit as fun and incredible as I hoped it would be.

Welcome to 2016 – What does the future hold?

I can honestly say that I have absolutely no clue. I remember spending my New Year in Vienna last year thinking “Wherever will I celebrate next year?” Now more than ever I have nit the faintest idea. Beijing, another Chinese city or back in Europe? It is all possible. The only one thing I know for sure is that in July 2016 I will be in Germany, and visa be well so will Mr.Li, for our German wedding. New year’s resolutions? I don’t have any. Life in China is so changeable, there isn’t really any point. Any resolution you make could be overthrown at any second. But I’ll say this for our China life. It never gets boring.

What were your highlights of 2015? And what are you looking forward to in 2016? Let me know!

Bridesmaid Drama Continued…Five’s a Party and the Return of the Superstitions

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my bridesmaids had to cancel attending the wedding, which put us in a rather awkward position as in my mind it meant we had to de-throne one of the best men; in Chinese culture the number of bridesmaids and best men has to match up as they walk in before the ceremony all paired up. But wait, I had, as usual, made the rookie mistake of not taking into account the Endless Rule Book of Chinese Weddings and Superstitions, of which there should really be a print version (though it is probably better this way, as it would be so thick as to cause the deforestation of an entire Chinese province if published)

“It is impossible for you to have four bridesmaids” an ever vigilant Mr.Li informed me. Four is an unlucky number, as many of you who know China might remember. Once again, fiery bridezilla reared her head. It was not like I was having enough problems with Austrian customs, unfitting dresses and unreliable bridesmaids, now I had to procure an extra bridesmaid out of thin air. I was almost tempted to look on Taobao for a Bake Your Own Bridesmaid Set. “We will just ask one of my female relatives”, my ever sentimental groom announced. Once again, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, Chinese have a pragmatism that defies all logic, considering when it comes to organisation they will literally book a hotel room for the night  as they walk up to said hotel EVERY SINGLE TIME. I am still waiting for the day we will have to sleep on the street because there are no rooms. 

I mean, these are my bridesmaids, these are my closest friends; how can I ask a total stranger to be my bridesmaid, it makes no sense at all! While Mr.Li suggested I take a time out before I climbed through the computer screen and throttled him at the suggestion, I was frantically thinking about what to do. I certainly did not want some random female bridesmaid in my consort. So I started going through all my female friends in my head but after crossing off the ones who could not make it to the wedding at all and the ones who were already married and the ones who knew about the flight of the bridesmaid fiasco as it henceforth shall be known and might feel offended at being back-up bridesmaid, pickings became fairly slim, and by that I mean none what-so-bloody ever. 

This was when I decided a change of tactic was needed. What female friends did Mr.Li have that I got along with? You could almost hear the sound of the switch being flipped, as only one person came to mind. A common friend of ours who had also studied in Newcastle, came from Hohhot, was currently back in her hometown and has even offered during my struggles with wedding planners to help me do the decoration on my own. Perfect pick! 

Now the next fun question is what to do about her bridesmaid dress. Luckily she is stick thin, but on the other hand for a Chinese girl rather tall. Why do I feel like I am going round in circles?