Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Unique Bond - Logistics

As you can see, I've lost count of my continuing series on Cross Cultural Marriage. We're moving forward with subject titles from this point on. I've gone over some of the theoretical concepts of what it may mean to be married cross culturally and thought it might be helpful to zone in on the logistics.

What's in a name?

Chinese women keep their maiden names, but may be referred to as Mrs. "Husband's Surname". American women generally change their last names after marriage but these days it's kind of your choice. I didn't think about it much and by default took on my husband's name and became Cindy Brandt. Here are some of the issues I know of in picking the right combination of names:

-when people see my name without seeing my actual person they assume I'm Caucasian as Brandt is a German last name, so there's a bit of a disconnect with my heritage.
-If an American woman takes on their Chinese husband's last name, there is sometimes the problem of family/friends not knowing how to pronounce your name.
-choose wisely because once you decide, you better stick with it unless you want to become more entangled in red tape than you already have to be. See upcoming section.

Location, location, location

When you marry someone who is not from your country, you have the joy of deciding where you will live together, and the not-so-joyful process of going through VISA, or RESIDENCY applications. I've ranted about this before, but most people automatically assume when you marry someone of another country, you can easily become a citizen of nation of your spouse. Untrue. Our world may be globalizing but the immigration processes are still developing. In the meantime you'll have bureaucracy to deal with. I think (hope!) things have already improved from when J and I got married, so I hope future cross culture marrieds will have an easier time. On a side note, for some reason unknown to our present selves, ten years ago we decided it would be a good idea for me to apply for the US green card. At the time, we were planning to move to China. So go figure, stupid young Jason & Cindy, what a waste of time and energy. As of this summer, I cut up my green card. Moral of the story? Try to decipher your personal crystal ball and avoid unnecessary paperwork.

Party, baby, party

Cross cultural marriages is a life long fusion event. Your wedding celebration can incorporate lots of fun traditions from each other's cultures, and that's only the beginning. The advice I gave my friends when I had the honor of marrying them was to celebrate all the holidays. That's right, I'm all about partying. In addition to it being plain fun, it's a great way of incorporating both cultures into your family life. Of course, the year calendar might turn into one long party so sensibly you pick and choose. For example, we don't celebrate Halloween, or Valentines, or obscure festivals Teacher's Day. But we do hit most of the major ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. We cross cultural marrieds have to work extra hard to make areas of our marriage work, so we deserve the extra break. Live it up, people.


  1. Thank you for posting about this interesting and important matter! I've been thinking about the name isssue a little bit already. I could keep my own foreign and really unique name. That would be a good choice. But if I choose my boyfriends Chinese name would then people just when seeing my name think me as a Chinese? And is it better that they consider me as a Chinese or as a foreigner when they see my name?

  2. Yeah, lots of things to consider! In the end, I guess it's a personal choice. You could also try a combination? For myself, it'd be Wang-Brandt. That's an option too.

  3. My (Chinese) wife chose a compromise, which is a little cumbersome. She kept her legal Chinese name, but tells everyone to call her by her English name (with my last name). Part of the reason we did this was because I didn't want to mess with changing names during the Green Card process. It's rather amusing when I call the credit card company for her and they call me "Mr. Peng", especially since I'm very clearly a native English speaker! I'm not sure how we're going to handle it in the future.

  4. Hiya! Nice blog, I married a chinese man and the application process is absolutely killing us the amount of things we have to put together is unbelievable in Ireland.
    Character references from friends/aquaintances
    Character references from people in the neighbourhood.
    Detailed account of our relationship
    Job offer for my husband here.
    and the list goes on.

    We are still in the limbo stage at the moment waiting for everything to be gathered and put together. Then we have to wait a year once the visa application has been submitted til then we can't leave the country or do anything.

    As for the name thing. My husband's friends gave me a chinese name Zhi han, so now i am Chen Zhi Han Perhaps in the future we will join the surnames together like Chen-Collins