Chinese Too Shy to Say ‘I Love You Mom’

Posted on May 12, 2009

How hurt would your mom be if you refused to tell her you loved her? What if both of you were too shy to say such a thing?

Chinese Too Shy to Say I Love You Mom picture

Telling Mom “I love you” is an almost mandatory expression of affection in the Western celebration of Mother’s Day, but it’s almost completely absent from the typical Chinese parent-child relationship.

Though 67% of those responding to an online survey said that they would give their mother a gift to mark the day, only 25% said that they would verbally express that love to their mothers on the blessed day. And while that number may seem low, it’s not a reflection of less love – just less love expressed in language.

Many of the 6,000 responding to the online poll from Zhaopin.com said that they were “too shy” to tell their mothers how they felt.

Chinese Too Shy to Say I Love You Mom picture

To sociology professor Hu Shoujun, this reflects the “quiet, reserved, and serious” personality of the Chinese people: “For Chinese, it’s unnecessary and even regarded as ‘weird’ to display their affection for relatives and friends.”

“Very few Chinese, at least those I know, are used to saying ‘I love you’ … they may never even say it once,” said US-born and Shanghai-based English teacher Mike Denver.

The quarter of Chinese offspring who would explicitly express their love to their parents were far outstripped by the 75% of respondents who knew their mother’s birthday and the 51% who planned to phone their mother on May 10, showing that Chinese sons and daughters don’t love their mother any less – they just didn’t feel as comfortable showing it.

Stella Wang, a 27-year-old office worker, was one of these daughters. She said, “I do love my mother deeply but I have never said ‘I love you’ that often. It just feels quite weird for me to say it to her in person.”

Chinese adult children may be trying to protect their mothers’ sense of propriety by avoiding those three little words; they’re saving themselves and their parents the embarrassment of being overly effusive. “I have to say that it’s difficult for me to express my love for my mother… if I did say it out loud, it might confuse her,” said Liang Hao, a 32-year-old engineer.

(link)

Chinese Too Shy to Say I Love You Mom picture
Rachel is a writer and tutor living in Virginia. She loves learning about other cultures and thinks we’re all a little wacky.
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9 comments
tibz
tibz

It's a cultural thing. It's just weird to express love overtly like this, and like pebbles said, I love you is a very "heavy" phrase in Chinese. Not in terms of syllables, but in terms of connotations. I do buy flowers for her, and wish her happy mother's day, and hug her, but I don't tell her I love her.

jasmine
jasmine

lol haha how difficult can it be? OH WAIT A SECOND! yeah, 3 syllable right? wo ai ni- i love you hah! take that mom!!! haha =D happy mother's day! i did to my mom, send my best regards to yours =)

Matty
Matty

So funny, simply, most parents know their children love them, and the children know it. Saying what is already knows seems to be a very western trait to me. It's not that they're shy in the normal sense, it's that they'd be shy to say it so out of the normal.

Loren
Loren

This doesn't surprise me at all. My wife is very shy about saying it to me even. Attempting to post via OpenID: Sorry! You will not be able to login to this website as it is using an older version of the the OpenID technology. Yahoo! only supports OpenID 2.0 because it is more secure. For more information, check out the OpenID documentation at Yahoo! Developer Network.

jaap holm
jaap holm

americans tend to say i love you a lot. Not so in Europe. So watch out if you write "almost mandatory expression of affection in the Western celebration of Mother’s Day"

Loudog
Loudog

Ahh, so true... However, showing my affection towards my mother ended after years of good ol' Chinese beatings.

count duckula
count duckula

Damn you, vile woman, you've impeded my work since the day I escaped your wretched womb.

count duckula
count duckula

This is even worse then when we went to see the "Vagina Monologues".

pebbles
pebbles

"I love you" in chinese just sounds so serious. That's why I don't say it very much either. But since I speak english, it's easier to express that to my mum :P (but I guess that's not an option for a lot of the non-english speaking chinese over there haha)