Friends and family from afar can be a burden instead of joy
The issue of overbearing Chinese in-laws has become a hot topics lately, after a post by netizen @依恋雨中的你, complaining how her husband’s relatives frequently drop by the couple’s apartment unannounced and stay for days, went viral last week.
The netizen said she was from Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, while her husband was from a smaller Hubei city. The couple had bought a duplex apartment in Wuhan with their parents’ help, but unfortunately, the husband’s more provincial relatives seemed determined to turn the apartment into a free hotel while on errands in the city, and with one uncle effectively moving onto the sofa. Meanwhile, there is little in the way of reciprocation, such as gratitude, return invitations, or even hongbao for their children during Spring Festival. The husband, the wife added, has protested that his parent’s share toward the purchase price entitles the extended family to stay.
The OP hostess’ situation touched a raw nerve for many Chinese, who have shared similar situations from their past, some of which also hint at a rural-urban divide:
Plenty showed their understanding and support for the OP:
However, some netizens regard being hospitable and family-oriented as traditional Chinese virtues. As Confucius said, “Isn’t it joyful to have friends visiting from afar?” Even if they are not actually happy to see these friends and relatives, ther could be need to save the mianzi (面子, “face”) for both parties concerned—the guest’s by not being turned away, and the host’s by letting them demonstrate they have the resources to accommodate guests.
Meanwhile, some netizens pinpointed the problem to class differences arising from marriage between urban and rural families, who may have different attitudes toward kinship. Some suggest that relatives use crashing as a way to show (or test) their affection.
On the other side, some used this case to argue that an ideal marriage is between two parties on equal social status, or otherwise, the couple may encounter troubles in their family life.
In this sense, guests could also be afraid that going to a hotel when they already have family in a certain place may be seen as a “snub.” Family relations and the giving of mianzi are quite the social minefield, only likely to get more complex as Chinese family and home sizes, resources, and values toward interpersonal relationships change.
Ironically, the root cause of the whole fuss— the meddlesome uncles and aunts—will likely know nothing about it, despite all the heated debate, as people of that age and class rarely have social-media accounts or awareness.
Cover image from Pexels