Expat Marriage Issues

Temporary stints are made of this Eagles - Hotel California (Lossless Audio) - YouTube, especially where there is disharmony.

1 Like

You are assuming there will be many people.there interested in a meaningful conversation with a laowai suddenly?

I’m not saying it wont help with his communication with those around him, but I doubt a) it will happen and b) it will make any significant difference even if he became very fluent .

Remember he is living in an extreme version of a mono ethnic community. And is he happy with living there and his kid going to school there? Nope.

1 Like

Well, here’s the thing. I won’t pretend I know much about the mainland, where I’ve only been for 6, 8 months at the max (that plus a few years in taiwan), and I have experienced this by myself, and I can absolutely say that yes, it absolutely works. Now will he suddenly have people orbiting around him or suddenly inviting him for poker nights ? Maybe not. But his coworkers, clerks and neighbors won’t have to be worried about having to deal with OP’s lack of English in fear of looking stupid -let’s face it, we all feel a little dumb when speaking a second laguage, now imagine you live in a culture where face is key and you realize why having a Chinese speaking interlocutor makes things that less stressful. In OP’s case, that translates to coworkers that are more open, and him not having to go through someone who’ll do the translating and sugarcoat the hell out of everything he says. Maybe you’ve never tried being fluent in another language just to see if it makes a difference, but I did, and it works. Monoethnic or not.

Also, all of the above is, again, merely secondary. A perk, something nice to have, but many have done without. What is more important here is the relationship between his wife, kid, and inlaws. If, based on what he says, his wife doesn’t get most of what he says, then every nuance he brings to the discussion can be considered lost in translation. If he can’t convey to his in laws his point of view without his wife translating (imperfectly), they’re probably riling each other and their daughter up and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Happiness is a complex thing that stems from many factors. If I were a Frenchie(which I am) living in the UK with my british wife (who kinda speaks french but not that good), but I dont speak a lick of english, work in an english(or maybe not after all, OP did not specify that) environment, have english neighbors, with a kid that speaks english 50% of the time, will I be happy ? I’ll probably have my issues, but I would definitely investigate the idea of learning english harder. It is of course not a 100% transposable example, due to the political climate in China, but if anything, it will give more insight on the situation and is clearly something that you can go back on. Good luck going back on a divorce that complicated, cuz thats another story.


The UK is the polar opposite of China in terms of openness to foreigners of all races. The UK is full of foreign immigrants of every description. Even after Brexit …

China and even Taiwan is quite hard work where they always always always try to put you in the -lao wai- box. You bacially have no hope in hell of integrating in China and culturally its so different its probably impossible for most westeners (and legally its impossible .

Which leaves hanging out with foreigners… but when there are no foreigners …

Get the hell out of dodge and stop wasting your life I say !

China is a dump right now look at Shanghai even. Horrible place.


Relationship with inlaws is the major marital issue in marriage between Taiwanese, don’t think this is an expat only issue. It’s actually worse in Taiwanese marriage because often the wife will go live with the in laws. That recent news about a woman kicked out of the in law’s house because of a positive covid diagnosis is indicative of the problem.

The problem is Taiwanese/Chinese still clings to the notion that because China has been around for a VERY long time, that they will not adapt to the rest of the world. That laowai box is pretty much universal in the Chinese culture, even in the US/UK. Yes those cultures are polar opposites compared to Taiwan/China when it comes to acceptance of foreigners, but they have their own set of issue.

I believe fear of inlaws is one reason why so many Taiwanese couple just put off marriage for quite a while. That and the stupid custom of the groom’s family buying a house. With real estate price being what it is, not many people can afford marriage.


It’s a perfectly valid example in that it shows that if you haven’t given what is litterally considered the level 0 of effort when it comes to integrating in any country, be it the UK, USA, etc., you can’t really just give up and be like “oh but they’re monoethnic anyway !”. If one thing is certain, it’s that your quality of life gets so much better if you speak fluent mandarin in Taiwan at the very least. I’m pretty sure it’s true in China too, albeit on a lesser level. If anything, it’ll at least help in understanding his family and in-laws better. Saying stuff like “i won’t feel welcomed anyway because i’ll always be that laowai” really just sounds like a cope from some of the more OG expats who’ve been there for very long, yet have never given the language a shot (not you OP, since you’re at least trying).

Almost all countries around the world are countries where you’ll never fully integrate. Any 2nd gen immigrant will tell you that you wear your passport on your face. If your solution to that is “pack your stuff, leave your wife and possibly your daughter and go home” rather than “maybe things could go better if I learned the language everybody spoke around me for the better part of X years”, then no wonder why locals basically assume that every laowai is an eternal tourist.

1 Like

I can’t believe you gave an example from the UK to compare to China. The two places couldn’t be more different in terms of options for foreign residents and potential for integration .

They are on completely different ends of the spectrum.

The OP has some Chinese, having fluent Chinese isn’t going to change the isolation a whole lot unless he suddenly likes to do all the Chinese stuff aswell… As there are no foreigners where he is has very crappy choices. The whole town where he lives has no foreigners! Your little street in the UK probably has more immigrants than his entire town.
.He also noted he is the only foreigner in his company. Again, unheard of in Europe basically

Best thing for him is to cut his losses after 15 years.

1 Like

Absolutely, I’m not saying it’s an expat-specific issue, but having no way of getting through to your in-laws in situations like this can’t be good. Actually, the issue i’m discussing here is not even something related to Taiwan, that’s true of every family around the world. If your mother in-law learns from her daughter that your couple is in shambles and whatever biased stuff she might say that you can’t really correct, there will be a negative feedback cycle in which one gets riled up and riles up the other. You can only be of good faith so long until it’s been months that your child has been feeding you that everything is going to hell in a handbasket and that the situation is getting untenable.

If anything, the fact that in-laws here hold so much weight would actually help in your favor should you actually get better at mandarin, because then, your position being reasonable enough (and i don’t think that moving to the US is unreasonable as long as she didn’t try it for the long haul), you could actually get to them, which in turn prevent them from pushing her in the wrong direction at the very least.

1 Like

Getting better mandarin would take years.

Meanwhile he’s still desparately isolated and unhappy after 15 years already.

Yeah look, I feel like this is either going into bad faith territory, or you just didn’t get my analogy. That’ll be my final answer for this particular thing.

Believe it or not, laowai box or not, there ARE levels of integrations in every country. The level 0 of it is… You guessed it ! Speaking the local language. If I go to Great Britain for 10 years and I don’t speak English, there is no way in hell that i will ever be considered as a Brit, no matter how understanding and tolerant the brits are. Now whether or not you’ll be considered as such once you speak it is another question but we aren’t even on that level. So why argue that “even if you spoke fluent Chinese, it wouldn’t work !” ? Have you tried it ? Because I did, a lot my friends did, and it did a lot of good to us. Also, and i’m repeating myself for the 3rd time i think, if it only serves to improve his standing with his wife until he can figure out a way to go to the US without losing too much, it’d definitely be worth it.

Integration isn’t a binary. It’s more of a spectrum, that you could roughly approximate to a 10 degree scale (10 being fully integrated and considered from that country, 0 being a complete stranger). You may never get a 10 by China’s book or its citizen’s (or even Taiwan’s), but you can certainly get a 5 or a 6. That will improve your quality of life far more than if you stayed at a 0 or a 1. It also shows some good will on your side, whereas a complete lack of it shows that you clearly don’t care about the place, yet you expect that a local should go out of his comfort zone in his own country to communicate with you. You know who does that in western countries ? The French. And we, quite understandably, take shit for it.

The OP clearly specified that his level of mandarin wasn’t sufficient to understand his wife, so yeah, more work is needed.

1 Like

Takes far less if you’re taking intensive courses and you already have a background in Chinese.
Something that you definitely should do after 10 or so years of being there, and that your marriage hangs in the balance, etc. Going back in the US in no way guarantees happiness.

1 Like

If anything it would probably exacerbate things, especially when the problems that the US has sets in. Remember the wife is likely to have little to no support there.


This. Is your life man. No need waste it in a hole like China is.

You are very unhappy, and if your wife understands how much you really struggle and suffer there, she should give you support. My partner did. She understood my options are limited in Taiwan. At first she hate moving to West, but actually I think she is happier now. No family pressure, relax job, while she has a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese friends. We cook and hang our together, kids are bilingual. When I ask her either she is homesick, she will be like I really never think of it.


The wife doesnt give many shits right now as far as i can tell.
To me the answer is obvious, move to Taiwan or the US (both great places to live imho ) and see how things shape up.


This probably depends a lot on the wife’s personality and temperament. Some Taiwanese thrive in the U.S., while others seem to hate it.

1 Like

I doubt the in-laws understand themselves and each other that well either. :laughing:


That’s great your partner understood where you were moving to. I am very interested in how you were able to achieve moving to the west successfully with them? Finding a suitable place where my wife is comfortable has always been a huge amount of stress me. May I ask where you live?

1 Like

For the experiencing the culture here, I have been a part of the culture. Especially my first few years here when I was infatuated with China and the experience here. I traveled to so many different places and embraced the culture a great deal. It’s just that this eventually has faded over time.
I find that as an expat, I am always in the middle - between my family & friends in the US (as they just can’t relate directly to my experiences) and in China with colleagues and family here as a Laowai and not totally a part of Chinese culture.
Therefore, I remain ingrained in US culture – news, politics, sports, movies/TV shows. I think the fact that I can keep this connection but live in China is a big reason I have been able to stay for 15 years.
I remain grateful for all of my experience here – despite the situation I am in, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s pretty unique and I feel appreciative that I can say I’ve been to so many places and experienced things that many people will never get to in their life.
I am continuing to learn Mandarin and will continue, but I want to ideally move in summer 2023. The hope is to move back to the US, so of course English will be the dominant language. I will plan to continue to learn for my daughter and wife’s sake however.

For my in laws, I have spoken to my brother in law and sister in law, and they support us moving to the US 100%. Her father also mentioned that it is ok, so I feel I have their “buy in.”
With regard to us moving to the US, I also want to make sure we are in the best situation for all of us. My hometown is a small town in the Midwest, so I know that is not really the most suitable for my wife and us. My company has a location in Las Vegas, and it would be far less stressful if I can just move to that location (which I believe the company will be ok). I’ve researched, and there is a small Chinatown and there are tons of Asian restaurants – most notably Taiwanese and hot pot restaurants, which are key. I also feel it will be a good place for her family and friends to want to visit.
My wife does have a little bit of family in the US, and I would of course encourage to visit and have them visit us.
Also in this case, I plan to own the home and will be able to get back more “power/control” in the relationship, that has been so unbalanced for so many years.

1 Like

We live in West Germany. I already told her I want to live in Germany or I prefer not to marry. Marriage is a relation between two. They must be sacrifices on both side. Typical Taiwanese have no idea of difficulties foreigners facing in Taiwan. Meanwhile she and her parents ask me for a bunch of traditions. I had to spend money left and right. Ok, you expect I spent money for marriage and I expect we live in Germany after marriage.My in-laws also wanted to purchase house for us in Taiwan. I said no, cause there really isn’t a free lunch. Wanted my kids, spouse are westernized and to live our daily life without intervention of in-laws. Is easier to settle those deals before kids. Cause once kids are there, everyone is too lazy to move.I believe education and child care is better in Germany.

Wife has adjusted, was hard at first, especially learning German. I arranged her part time job and full time language course. She visited really good psychiatrist and I pay her professional training for job market. She had a feeling she is not alone in this and could build up confidence.
Key thing is being smooth and confident yourself. You need to lead your wife. Find apartment, find decent school for your daughter and be just cool about it. At the same time prepare yourself when things does not work out. I heard divorced laws are brutal in USA. You try to work things out, but be prepared for everything. I agree with you, it can be a new beginning for two of you, so make sure you work on dynamic of ralation. To be in power position. Like tell wife, groceries are cheaper in usa, will cook more at home. Is time we learn daughter how to be useful, active at home. Key thing is make your wife busy so there will be less time to think about nostalgia.
Personally I wouldn’t ask/tell in-laws about moving. I would skip. Is your marriage and your family. You don’t need their opinion, thoughts or permissions.
Ignore comments about staying in China.Is your life and your family. When you feel and want to move back to USA, go for it

Not to sound like an arse, and no nothing can or should delegitimise the way you feel, but it’s true that we only have one side of the story here.

If her “not compromising” means not giving you what you want, then that’s not compromise. From the sounds of it, it’s not our move to America, it’s your move. If she agrees to move to America, where she will be extremely isolated (no a bunch of restaurants don’t count), then what exactly is your side of the compromise?

I imagine she’s on some Chinese language forum or social media posting complaints about her lazy American husband who still can’t speak Mandarin, gave up on fitting into her culture, made her daughter grow up Catholic, and now insists on dragging the family to America.

Just make sure that you’ve made a true good faith effort to understand her, and understand what she really wants. What made her give up on the love in your marriage, and what are you willing to do to compromise? I’ve seen a lot of cases where one side accusing their spouse of giving up on the marriage is really just an excuse for themselves giving up.

And if she is cheating then you may want to get an STI screening.