Editor’s note: This article, translated from wenxuecity.com, is an extreme example of problems that arise when cultures clash. The tradition of dowries is still well and alive in many parts of China and with the gender imbalance making it harder and harder for Chinese men to find wives, families are now charging exorbitant dowries, or ‘bride prices’ on top of demands that the husband buy a house before marriage.
“My parents want a 100,000 Yuan dowry but his parents in Australia said “No way!” I do not want my parents to lose face and I do not want this to affect our relationship as bride and groom. I do not know what to do.” Su Mo, a young engaged woman from Xi’an is very confused about her current predicament. She does not know what to do and feels depressed about her situation.
Foreigners want to chinese to “do as the Romans do”
Su Mo met her Australian fiancé three years ago in Xi’an. She refers to him by his Chinese name: Dai Ke. Su Mo and Dai Ke planned to get married in Australia during the New Year. However, with the wedding approaching, a conflict between the bride and groom’s families emerged.
“My parents asked for a 100,000 Yuan dowry. My fiancée had worked for a few years in Xi’an but did not have any savings. I wouldn’t have guessed that they would have wanted to go to my Australian in-laws for the 100,000 Yuan,” said Su Mo reluctantly. “My future mother in law flat out said, “No! No way! Just because we’re Westerners you think we’ll give you money. That must be the reason. When I was engaged I did not ask anyone for a penny. When my husband had help from his father he earned the money himself through tools and opportunities passed down to him by his father. When we traveled, we each paid our own way. It can be said that we did not have to latch onto anyone else for money.” Su Mo said that she feels helpless in the face of such cultural differences.
In China, 100,000 Yuan is not a high price for a bride’s dowry. Su Mo knows that her parents only want what is best for her. At the same time, she does not want to embarrass her fiancée. Su Mo said, “At home, people all know that my new foreign in-laws have money. The main point is that it is part of our etiquette to give money as a gift for a bride. My parents merely want to follow this etiquette and save face. They will most likely give the money back to us. But, I do not want my husband’s family to have to suffer a loss.”
Her Chinese relatives’ main argument is, “In foreign countries it is not a custom to pay dowries. However, we must do what others in our village do according to Chinese rules and customs.”
Australian parents already helping pay for wedding
“It is already very expensive to get married in Australia, and we’re asking for more as a dowry on top of this?” Su Mo said that she is very confused about what to do. She said that she has calculated that they will have a pay visa fees totaling 2,000 Yuan, a minimum of two airplane tickets totaling 15,000 Yuan. On top of this, accommodation in Australia is extremely expensive and other travel expenses will add up quickly as well. Su Mo estimated that they will have to spend at least 200,000 Yuan to get married in Australia, which her fiancée’s parents will help them with.
Su Mo was so torn up about the situation that she turned to the Internet for help. She explained her situation to Netizens and asked for advice. Netizen “Gentle Turtle” said, “Can you have a dowry just for show that you give back after the wedding? The bride’s family could give all the money back. Since this is such an important social custom, could you even get married without it?”
Xi’an based martial law lawyer Song Qiang said that, “Dowry gifts are a part of social custom. From an ethical point of view, there are no legal provisions for a dowry. However, if the family specifically asks for money, jewelry, etc., then this violates the General Provisions of the Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China. Article III of the law bans “arranged, mercenary marriages, and other acts that interfere with the freedom of marriage,” and states that families are “prohibited to obtain property through marriage.”
The couple’s happiness is most important
Nationally registered psychological counselor Liu Yao says that couples often receive conflicting advice when it comes to marriage. She said that cultural differences will often make communication difficult and that marriage is a long learning process. In this case, since Su Mo is happy in the relationship, they must remember that, “a good son-in-law can create a noble third generation,” and focus on the people involved instead of focusing so heavily on social customs. However, if they want to follow the social customs and save face they could take out a large amount of money and just tell everyone it is the dowry.
Another solution would be for Su Mo’s fiancée to make his parents understand the importance of a dowry to Su Mo’s Chinese parents. The two sets of parents could talk and figure out a mutually satisfactory amount for the dowry. However, both sets of parents must remember that the couple’s happiness is the most important thing.
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: culture clash dowries China
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.
In Western culture it's normally the brides father that should pay for the wedding and thus I would suggest following both cultures ie. may the grooms family pay the 100 000 yuan dowry and may the brides family fit the bill for the wedding in AUS ( 200 000 yuan). In this way no one is left ignoring their culture and there can be no shame or loss of face.
Jan 15, 2015 18:48 Report Abuse
So, I am Robert Mugabe's daughter?! Lol strange, I didn't know that Zimbabwe was the only african country on this continent, nor have I ever mentionned my nationality for you to be so sure of where I am from. Obviously, being stupid is definitely not a course they teach in school, lucky us! And I guess, you are one of the white people I mentionned in my comment, right? Too bad for you, I am from a French speaking country, and we have far less issues than the English ones. Get a tissue if you are too sensitive my friend,debate aren't for you. Lol lol
Jan 26, 2015 13:13 Report Abuse
This is non sense madness.We have the same tradition back in Africa(actually,most part of the continent)but back in the days,it was a tradition,as a symbol between two families.Nowadays,downry is more like a business than anything else.It shouldn't be about money,but more about a way from one family to show appreciation to the other.Even a 100RMB would be enough in my opinion.This world is so damn crazy!!
Jan 05, 2015 15:00 Report Abuse
Obviously the family is puffing up its face by bringing the problem into the public arena, and to further place pressure on the aussie familiy to haggle off money from "well off" foreigners. But the aussie should probably knowby now how feudal society works, that there 'household' is your responsibility now.
Jan 04, 2015 01:17 Report Abuse
Some people have stupid comments here. I think we should all respect others cultures and keep away for using whores words or things like that. in My opinion as a foreigner in the same situation. If your groom's parents are paying for the wedding 200000 i would try to convinced them to just give that money to the boy. He then Pay's up your parents 100000 RMB as a Dowry and you ask your parents to pay for the wedding in China. I know in China family gives money as a gift , so you will collect back the money and everyone is happy.If you force down your culture on your groom's family. you two will never get married. when it comes to culture and you marrying a foreigner. You should convince your family to go half way and the boy to convince his family to go half way. otherwise you can say to the families to go screw themselves and you marry him without no ones blessing. If the two of you stand strong against your two families then you win. if you let your families run the show ...well you will lose face and no other Chinese boy will marry you again and the boy will suffer your loss and love and hate China for the rest of his life.
Dec 29, 2014 07:55 Report Abuse
Honestly, I hate the tradition of dowry but I understand that Chinese parents do this to see the committment of the man, especially a foreigner. Too many foreigners sleep with their daughters, then go. While this is normal behavior on the inside, even in China, on the surface it still looks taboo. Give the dowry, the parents will return it either in cash or invest in an apartment for their kids future. It's not likely they will go joyriding around the globe on this money, their daughter's face will also be lost. Seems like she is a good woman and really cares about her man's feelings. If I were her man, I'd find a way or at least negotiate something as collateral to appease all parties. I know its a touchy subject amongst us westerners but I have been in China long enough, this woman seems like a good woman in my opinion. I wish I could meet someone like her, I'd bust my tail off and get the wedding done for a good girl like her, unlike some of the gold diggers I have met that ask for laptops and iPhones on second date. I hope this all works out in the end, marriage in this era is precious and should be respected and encouraged, not divorce and breaking up.
Dec 28, 2014 10:22 Report Abuse
That's a laugh and very hypocritical. Chinese men with their prostitutes and mistresses and you're worried about a foreigner running off? Oh that's rich. And the woman really loves the man she won't want money. If she does she's just another gold digger.
Dec 28, 2014 20:31 Report Abuse
There's a huge clash of cultures going on. In many parts of China, 100,000 rmb is actually a very low price to pay for marriage. In the minds of the bride's parents, they most likely feel they are being reasonable asking for such a small sum from a "rich" westerner. To most people outside of China, asking for one penny is appalling, low class and demeaning. The whole idea of a dowry really sickens me. It objectifies a woman and suggests that she is incapable of taking care of herself. I would never pay a penny for a dowry. That being said, tradition is tradition so sure, I can't say the bride's parents are being unreasonable for following their traditions. But their traditions make me sick.
Dec 27, 2014 10:45 Report Abuse
The hilarious thing that gets me the most is that in fact in traditional China, it was always the woman's family that provided the dowry. I can understand the traditional wisdom of the bride's family paying a dowry to the grooms family. Whereas the groom stayed with his parents and the bride moved away from hers and into the grooms family, it would make sense that you would send your daughter off with a nest egg for her and her new husband, as insurance, as the groom was usually a young guy without much wealth, so this way the parents would have some way of knowing all is well, to the extent of the 'headstart' where they were not always able to confirm the new couple's well-being no longer living together. So, the dowry was always paid by the bride's family in traditional China. My how history is so quickly forgotten or turned around and upside down!
Dec 27, 2014 08:51 Report Abuse
Corrupted civil servants, manufacturers and sellers of gutter oil, wall plaster medicine, counterfeit monies, opium laced noodles..... etc. can see the obvious sanity and wisdom demonstrated by those who use insightful arguements such as 'it is how things are done in China'. Apparently those whose brain is saturated with gutter oil have the level of sanity required to understand why so many who practice thousands years old traditions such as corruption are jailed.
Dec 27, 2014 00:42 Report Abuse
Some pretty silly comments among these. Look, requiring such payments before marriage from the husband's family is quite the norm across China. There's nothing abnormal or morally grubby about the wife's family raising the issue; it's just how marriages are done here (and how it used to be done in Western marriages once upon a time). So get real; it's not all about love, and it's arrogant to expect that love would be the foremost consideration of a village family in China. Let me tell you that 100K isn't even that much compared to what Chinese men and their families often have to pony up, especially in the city. I'm not saying that'd I'd agree to pay a hefty dowry or any at all. It'd take a negotiated solution (if that were possible), but you can't begin with the premise that the family of the wife are scammers or cynical opportunists or slave traders or cultists or soul-less reptilians or any of the other lunatic things that have been leveled against them here.
Dec 26, 2014 22:44 Report Abuse
'...When I was engaged I did not ask anyone for a penny. When my husband had help from his father he earned the money himself through tools and opportunities passed down to him by his father. When we traveled, we each paid our own way. It can be said that we did not have to latch onto anyone else for money.' You really have to be dumb if you can't see that this is the kind of girl that makes wife material. The rest is pretty much excuses if not lies.
Dec 26, 2014 17:39 Report Abuse
Isn't it heart warming when parents put a price tag on their daughter? I can't wait to have kids! I hope all of them are girls and I'm still living in China. By the time I've sold them all off, I can retire! However, I won't sell mine first come first serve. I plan on doing an auction. That way I can get as much money for each daughter as possible! Cha-ching!!!!!
Dec 26, 2014 13:22 Report Abuse
If she thinks she will lose face then she should not marry. So many chinese girls are chasing foreign guys for passports. Then they say `It is love` Why Chinese girls tend to marry with guys who hold American,Australian, Canada passport? Why Chinese girls dont tend to marry with guys from Ozbekistan, Pakistan, India, Morocco, Africa ? Where is the love? Give me a break!
Dec 26, 2014 11:40 Report Abuse
Yeap, expose them. Don't let these wolves in sheep's skin gold-diggers get away with both face and money. I respect many a prostitutes who are honest about what they do for a living more than these fake love con girls with decks of hidden cards up their sleeves. Living on lies and manipulation they are far more evil. Money is the source/root of evil applies anywhere. The money-worship cult that envelops China these days tells you where the greatest concentration of evil and thus the real evil-axis on Earth is.
Dec 26, 2014 13:38 Report Abuse
I personally know a few people from countries idiots like you would think are undesirable. Most are married to Chinese women. If you are from one of those listed countries then you have been given a break. Only the gold diggers will avoid you leaving the good ones.
Dec 27, 2014 15:55 Report Abuse
Throw two official brochures in front of the 'parents', one on investor class immigration to Australia, one on Australian university fees for foreign students. Circle the $ amount with the thickest red marker you can find. With a cold stare say, 'this is the MINIMUM $ you owe me'. That's the only way to negotiate with slave traders, pimps, prostitutes, thieves, robbers.....etc. BTW, with 'parents' like this I would take a second look at the girl, better be careful than sorry.....did anyone notice all the girl said was money, money, money.....just like her parents?
Dec 26, 2014 08:29 Report Abuse
I really hate this justification/excuse: "...but you can't say no because it will make my parents lose face." --- If you don't want to lose face, then don't be greedy, opportunistic, money-grubbing thieves. It amuses me that in China shameless/exploitative behaviour doesn't cause loss of face; someone refusing to be swindled does. --- Secondly, if a girl thinks it's OK for her family to milk the other family for money, then she perceives her and her family as a separate camp to her husband and his family. And that is why pretty much all traditional Chinese relationships involve two sets of in-laws who hate each other.
Dec 25, 2014 13:09 Report Abuse
Not only that, but it's pretty stupid when you think about it. Which one sounds better to you "I got my new son-in-law to give me X Thousand yuan" or "We told our son-in-law to forget about paying a bride price. We don't need the money". To be honest it's pretty easy to kill this tradition, just make out like you're giving money to charity if you pay the price. Better yet, make it a national thing too "Poor China needs us Westerners to give them money, Okay, since your country needs it so badly...." Basically make them lose face for themselves and their country and it will die out really quickly.
Dec 26, 2014 12:39 Report Abuse