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American vs. Chinese:Cultural differences in marriage and family
author:Anonymous Date:05/28/2010 Source:Internet [Font-size:Big Middle Small] Comments(0)
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As we all know, different countries have different cultures. Culture is the collective programming o

As we all know, different countries have different cultures. culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.

The cultures between our China and America are distinguished by a rather large scale. Such as the opinions and ways of thinking. For the marriage and family part, China and America have many cultural differences.

Firstly, let me show you a little case:

Dr.Gilpal is an American who teaches English in a Chinese university. And professor Wang, who is a Chinese. He needed a native speaker to do some proofreading for his two books were to be published. And Dr.Gilpal said that he would be very glad if he could do the job.Dr.Gilpal and his wife, each of them took a copy of the drafts. When the publisher asked for the name of the proofreader, Wang told the publisher which was done by Dr.Gilpal and which was done by Mrs.Gilpal.But,when the two books were out of print,Dr.Gilpal’s name was on both of the covers of the two books .When Mrs Gilpal knew about it, she got very angry, she said to professor Wang “Mr Gilpal is Mr Gilpal ,Mrs Gilpal is Mrs Gilpal!”

   From this case, we may see some cultural collisions and frictions between Chinese and American.

 Let’s think about the following questions:

——Why the publisher printed Dr.Gilpal’s name on both books ?

——.Mrs Gilpal and Mr Gilpal are couples. Wang had apologized to her, why she still got angry? Are the relationship between her and Mr Gilpal not good? Or are there some other reasons?

The answer to these questions are something about the cultural differences. For question 1, the publisher thought Mr Gilpal was a doctor, so using his name had  better effect on the book than Mrs Gilpal’s. The publisher is a Chinese, In his mind, Mr Gilpal and Mrs Gilpal are coulpes,so it doesn’t matter whose name is printed on the cover of the books. For question 2, because Mrs Gilpal is an American, in American’s mind ,husband is husband, wife is wife. Their property and fame are distinguished from their spouse’s.

      SO, from this case, we can find that there are many cultural differences in marriage and family between Chinese and American.

Look for spouse——dating advertisement


     When Chinese look for spouse, they usually emphasize on age, appearance, stature, family background, money, house, work and so on. Chinese are more realistic than American. The standards to find a spouse attach much importance on material aspects. Finding a spouse is not for themselves ,but also to satisfy others’ aesthetic sense. For example, if a Chinese woman find a spouse who is much shorter than her, when they walk together, in the woman’s mind,  other people will feel strange when they look at them. The Chinese view of marriage is that      the marriage is the end of romance and it is the begin of the ordinary life.


When American look for spouse, they emphasize on religions, hobby and characteristic. Dating advertisement is none of their parents’ business. It’s only their personal affair. Common people or prince, We can’t recognize  people’s status in the dating advertisement. Their view of marriage is that the marriage is the begin of a happy life, and the continuation of romance.

I love you

   In China, the phrase “I love you” is comparatively narrow sense. in most cases, “I love you” is only used between the man and woman who are fall in love. However, in American’s mind, the phrase has a broad sense. But, the Americans just usually use “I love you” to their family members. They will not use it to strangers. In China, although the phrase “I love you” has a narrow sense, many people usually use it to the music stars or film stars who they admire. But in America, people will not do it. If you say “I love you” to a music star who is of the same sex with you, the others may think you are a gay. So in America, When you want express your admire to others, be careful of the usage of the phrase “I love you.”


As all we know, Chinese are implicit, so they are not accustomed to kiss in public and the Chinese only kiss their spouse and little children. Even more, the couples will not kiss at their children’s present. Compared with the Chinese, the Americans are open in mind .They kiss their friends, relations, parents and even the strangers when they greet.


Chinese wedding is buzzing with excited and it is usually hold in the big restaurant. American wedding is compound and kind and it’s always hold in the church. Chinese wedding usually last a long period of time, but the American wedding will last only 40 minutes

In China, the wedding cost is usually paid by the husband’s family. In Chinese opinion, if the girl gets married, she is the member of her husband’s family and at the same time, she no longer belongs to her parents’ family. It is just like a Chinese proverb said “嫁出去的女儿,泼出去的水。”However, for the Americans , wedding is just their personal affair, parents will not pay the wedding cost for them. And there is a strange convention, in America, the wedding cost is usually paid by the wife.

Husband and wife

The Chinese couples usually mix their property, house, self space .when a Chinese woman goes shopping, if she find a shirt or watch that is very suit for her husband, she will buy it for her husband. But in America, the wife will not do this. And in Chinese family, it is transparent between the husband and wife .The Chinese will not conceal something to their spouse.

In America, the couples will make property acknowledgement before they get married. When they pay something, the America couples usually pay fifty –fifty .And they have their own mailbox, without the other’s allowance, the husband or wife can’t read his or her spouse’s letters. In comparison with Chinese family, American couples have more independence from each other.



Family members depend on each other for support and they are required to show loyalty to the family and bring demonstrated virtuous behavior, then the whole family loses face. The meaning of “face” should view in relation to the gain or loss of the social status of the family, not just of the individual. Chinese culture emphasizes the collective quality in the nature of individual’s life and behavior. 

The Chinese have stronger sense of family honor than Americans.


Families advocate equality. The husband and the wife usually have an equality voice in decision-making, and on certain matters, Family members are regarded as friend and they should treated equality in daily life.  


Different cultures add the most colorful element to the world of 21st century. The cultural gap should not be the obstacle to the civilization of human being. It ought to be the motivation of our going farther. When doing cross-cultural communication we will face many cultural collisions and frictions. we should think globally by acting locally and learn more about the different culture to do a better communication.


邓光昌 language and culture 外语教学研究出版社 1989

JANE.SUNE Chinese knot and American dream Henan press 2006

许果、梅林 文化差异与跨文化交际能力的培养。《重庆大学学报》(社科版),2002年第8卷第6期


张氏沼,《公务员国际交流》 辽宁出版社,2005

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