What would you prefer?

Hey guys, I need some help… :laughing:

I am going back to TW for a month, and my partner of four years is going to visit for 1-2 weeks and meet my family as well. (He is going to be in Thailand around that time and will be traveling to meet me in Taiwan after I get there.) This is going to be his first time in Taiwan and first time meeting any of my family members, so I am trying to weigh a few things in my head…

Financially, it makes sense for us to stay with my family. At the same time, isn’t it overwhelming to meet your girlfriend’s family AND live with them right away? What do you think? I am thinking maybe it will be a good idea for us rent a room at a hostel for the duration he is going to be in TW. It’s important to me that I do what I can to smoothe the process for him as much as possible. I love my family, and they can still be a handful even for me re: privacy & expectations. I have had years of dealing with them; he doesn’t, and he is going to meet ALL of them in that short period of time.

Anyhow, I am thinking that many of you probably have had this experience: going to TW for the first time and meeting your SO’s family. What helped then? What were some of the things that your SO did for you that was helpful and made the experience better? What were some of the things that you wish you SO had done for you to help you have a better experience? I’d really appreciate that information…

THANKS! [/url]

No offense, but I think it would be hell on wheels for him to stay with your family.

You can get a cheap but clean hotel room for super cheap. Or, better yet, an apartment. Pay one month in advance. Means you guys could go out on the town and go back to the hotel and visit your parents often or even stay over there some nights. Or you could stay at your parents many nights and he at the hotel or apartment. It’s not very much money.


None taken. (Hell on wheels, that’s a good one; it actually made me laugh pretty hard…haha.)

Did you guys actually go through similar experiences? I am asking because I am wondering if you have other pointers…anything else you remember that was helpful?


Make sure he doesn’t try going to the bathroom while granny is in there. BIG mistake.

Play it by ear. If there is room at your house and the offer is made, not staying would be rude, no?

I stayed at my wife’s house B4 we were married in a spare room. No big deal. Just tell him, “Never touch me in front of them.”

Good luck.

My family is quite used to me making my own arrangements…they do think I am “rude” at times; I am sure. Thank God we love each other still anyway. They push at my boundaries, and I push right back, repeat this several times, and everyone is happy at the end. (It’s the process that can look a little scary to outsiders; I think. I want to spare my SO having to deal with all this “pushing” as much as possible, or in small doses…)

As for the touching…well, my family is also used to feeling shocked by me. I really find it paying off now having been the black sheep in the family during my formative years. Their expectations of my following rules have decreased quite a bit. Me likes that.

I am more wanting to know about things that would help my SO, specific things that I can pay attention to to help this process easier for him. He is so sensitive, aware and polite in general that I am not worried about him offending my family…it’s the other way around. Any ideas?

Is your SO a seasoned traveller who has been to Asia before? Does he speak Chinese or Taiwanese? That might make a big difference in coming to your decision.

I came here totally green, had never been to Taiwan or Asia before, and didn’t speak any Chinese, but my wife’s family made very generous accomodations for me for which I’m very grateful. I was completely clear from the outset that I didn’t want to live with her family, and wasn’t going to do well with sleeping on a wooden bed or with not having any a/c at all. Looking back on it, I was right to be concerned. My adjustment has not been easy. Life in “rural” Taiwan is shocking enough as it is, but I’m starting to get used to it now.

We settled in Kaohsiung mainly because Ma is letting us use a house that belongs to my brother-in-law. We’re only 5-10 minutes away from Ma’s house, but having our own space allows me to be at my best for family meet-ups. I am very grateful to all of them, and want to be as agreeable as I possibly can. I still have a hard time going over there, though. It’s a cramped place with nowhere comfortable to sit, it’s hot, and my wife is the only one who speaks English. My Chinese is getting better, but it’s still crap. A couple of hours of visiting per week is more than enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like living at Ma’s. Good thing I have two nephews to play ball with, otherwise It would be a lot worse.

You seem pretty clear on how you’d like things to work out, and as long as your SO is a lot more experienced and adventurous than I am, it might be OK. Maybe you should provide a respectable, face-saving “way out” for him if he starts to freak out. The Hotel sounds like a good thing, in that case.

Best of luck!


My SO is not a seasoned traveller, although he is becoming one: just left a month ago to go to central and south america and will move on to Asia in Nov. Doing his thing. Before that, he did some traveling but not that much. He does not speak one bit of Chinese…

Plotch, thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s giving me a clearer idea what he may be up against when december rolls around. Although I know how it feels like to not be able to speak the language and feeling lost, it was a long time ago I had that experience. I am definitely going to check into the hotel thing so that he has some room to breathe when/if he starts to freak out…

Was there anything else that your wife did for you that was helpful? Anything you wish that could have had been different?

THANKS! :notworthy:

I’ve always hated staying in other people’s homes, whether they are relatives, relatives-to-be, friends, or whatever. I’m pretty sure it would be best for him and the two of you to have other accommodation if he can possibly afford to pay for it. Then he’ll be able to enjoy his stay in Taiwan a great deal more, avoid inadvertently getting on the wrong side of anyone in your family, and is more likely to be interested in coming back to Taiwan, maybe for good, if such a possibility ever gets floated in the future.

Nephews and nieces to play ball and other games with are a tremendously precious resource when visiting the in-laws or in-laws-to-be, especially in those awkward early ice-breaking getting-to-know-you meetings.

I actually think the most important thing is for you to clal him and ask him what he wants.
Tell your family he will be staying in a hotel so that they won’t be surprised if he does (lessens offence) but give him the final descision. Make sure he knows you won’t be upset with anything he decides.

And even if he does stay with your family, maybe get a night a week somewhere else to have a night of privacy.

My wife is exceedingly thoughtful and forbearing, though at times I have not been as gracious in return. We moved into the new house in “rural” Taiwan, and all the locals were staring at whitey, the street was very loud and filled with smoke from all the prayer money barrels, and there was no a/c anywhere in the house. I simply melted from the heat and no amount of water or beer seemed to help. (the temp inside the house was 31 during the day) I had a number of hissy fits about stuff like this. I didn’t sleep well and the food turned my guts to jelly… especially Ma’s cooking, for some reason. I also got pretty down on Taiwan and the crazy way things get done here, but I realiize I was a little too insulting and unfair the the place at times. For a while there I just wasn’t myself, but my wife and the family seemed to understand.

The upside of living here is having a free place to stay, so I’m not under intense pressure to find work right away. I’m taking a Chinese class in the morning during the week in K-town, so now I’m versed in the art of combat driving and am no longer afraid of driving to town. I have a routine of sorts, and a pleasant amount of free time. Having a few months to learn the language, look for work and establish a routine is what I get in return for being the provider in the UK for the last 15 months. I keep myself busy with household stuff when I can, which I would not have been able to do if we were at Ma’s. Housework keeps me plenty busy for now… busy is good.

My wife also takes time to act as translator so that I can have some social interactions in the neighborhood. So now the local A-Buh always has a kind word for me, and her son has me over to “he jiu” every now and then with another Da Ge, his friend. The people here have been great.

Though we’d probably save some much needed money by eating Chinese/Taiwanese for every meal,
I have been provided with a small stock of familiar food from Costco, and we have ADSL from So-net so that I can e-mail, and stream radio from the US and the UK. The ADSL was a hassle to arrange and set up, and it took away from my wife’s valuable work time to arrange it for me.

The downside of living here, not working, and not speaking the language, is that I’m nowhere near as useful or self-sufficient as I was in the UK, and it’s extremely frustrating. When I moved to the UK, I took two days off to move into our rental house, and went right to work the following Monday to support the household. I had health coverage right away, so I wasn’t afraid to go ride my bike and explore during my free time. Here, I’m reduced to having to ask my wife how to ask the laoban for “all-purpose-cleaner” so that I can clean the house! Whoopee! How exciting!

I made the mistake of not thoroughly checking out my options for health coverage in Taiwan, so for now, I’m without and I’m cautious about where I go/what I do. It’s limiting.

Even though we talked a lot about the house beforehand, there were still a number of things that were “not in the brochure” so to speak. At my request my wife’s little sister took extensive pictures of the house, room-by-room on the inside, and some views of the street so that I could get some idea of the space and the surroundings, which helped a lot. With those pictures I was able to get an idea of the floor plan of the place and to voice my preferences for how the place would be furnished, which was a great help.

In the end, a few decisions were taken by Ma which were both a waste of money and not to our liking. The first floor balcony, which had a nice view and would have been great for plants, got converted into a kitchen, and it’s hot as hell in there when the sun shines on the cheap aluminum walls. The walls leaked during the typhoons, and it’s been hard getting the contractor back to fix it. However, it was a decision that was made out of generosity and concern, so it’s hard to get upset. I could have saved her some money, and maybe even done a better job myself, but then again, it’s hard to talk Ma out of doing what she thinks best.

So, in addition to some mis-communication about how the house was going to be set up, there was mis-communication between my wife and I over the basics of what IMHO constituted a liveable environment. I took it for granted that Taiwan would be similar to Texas or Florida, where everyone has central a/c and lives indoors for a few months during the hottest months. After a lot of complaining on my part, we now have just two rooms in the house with a/c, and the kitchen has none, which is not at all what I expected. The tai tai is perfectly happy without any a/c at all, and I find this hard to understand. In the end, we spent a fair amount of my money to put a/c in the bedroom and my study, which required having a local a/c guy come and talk over the plans: more work for my wife, but for which I am truly grateful.

Ma had supposedly cleaned the place before we arrived, but when I got here, It was, to my standard, unacceptably dirty. I spent more than a week scrubbing tiles, washing the bathrooms, and cleaning windows. There were ants everywhere, and I had to ask for “Raid” ( tai tai: “what’s that?”) There are no closets here either, and only one dresser, and almost no shelves. Where would I store everything neatly? The one dresser we do have is one of those Camphor wood types, and I don’t want my clothes to smell like that, so I don’t use it. I found it hard to make myself feel at home when I couldn’t set up my living space in what I thought was a neat and orderly way.

We bought a car here, and that turned out to be somewhat unpleasant because of unwanted help/interference from her family in what I expected to be a private decision between my wife and I. I wanted to look at a Mazda 3, Ma wanted us to buy a car from her nephew the Toyota salesman, my wife’s nosey big sister wanted us to buy an SUV :loco: , and kept saying she’d haggle the price for us. In the end we went to Toyota, but I’m still feeling a bit frustrated about how the whole thing went down.

Last but not least, whenever any family decisions are made, I’m always the last person to know anything, because the information I get is translated from one source… my wife! Of course, the translation only occurs AFTER the discussions are had, the merits of each course of action debated, and the final decisions are made. Ma and my wife’s sister don’t always allow a pause in the discussion for the info to be related to me, or for my opinions to be heard. Finally, my wife sometimes says that she gets tired of translating for me! All this is a very strong incentive for me to learn Chinese.

Well, that’s a long post, but I hope there’s something in here that helps you. You should also bear in mind that I’m something of a fussy pain-in-the-a** :wink: , so with any luck you’ll fare better with your SO than my saintly wife has with me! Talk everything over beforehand, and look out for the stuff that’s “not in the Taiwan brochure”.

sigh then again, if he’s only coming for two weeks, it’s probably not such a big deal, :unamused: especially in December when the weather is more pleasant(?) Enjoy the visit.

If you decide to have him stay with your family, set some ground rules. It’s your parents house, but tell them up front what they can expect. Ask what they want from him.

Personally, I’d be more worried about him being bored than getting offended. At a hotel you can always go out, use a laptop, or watch TV without feeling like you are being judged. I am really self-conscious when I visit someone else’s home.

I like the previous posters’s suggestion of giving him the choice. Let him know what you expect he’ll face in terms of uncomfortable moments and let him choose.

Don’t stay with the your parents. It will be too weird for him.
Make sure he is good with chopsticks, then when you have dinner with the family for the first time, they can say how well he uses them.

Hey Plotch, thanks for such a detailed response! You are really giving me something good to digest here, really. Even though my SO is only going to be in TW for two weeks, it’s so helpful to hear from you how your wife’s patience, kindness, respect and consideration seem to make the process better for you. It’s something I need to remember. I can see myself getting irritated without keeping in heart how a person feels when they simply just don’t understand what is being said at the moment in their environment…been there myself; gotta remember that. Thank you for your sharing…my SO is going to appreciate it!

I am definitely going to talk to him about living arrangements. Neither of us ever makes unilateral decisions when the decision impacts both of us. It’s our agreement to show our respect for each other this way. In the mean time, I always want to be able to relate as much as I can, which was why I wanted to hear from people have had these experiences, and you guys have been great help. Thanks!