A question is raised by the reader after reading an interesting article : "Do westerners say this(I love you) more easily than Chinese? Do Chinese find love soo serious, they wanna spare it for special people and special moments? Does this change in the younger generation, because they are influenced by western movies and music, in which "I love you" is said a lot of times?"
I enclosed the article at the ending of this post and here is my thoughts:
Yes, Chinese don't say "I love you" much.
I haven't socilize with european people that much, but from my experience with Americans, yes, they say "我爱你(I love you)" more easily than Chinese. When Americans say I love you, it actually means "I like you, I am happy when I am with you, etc" , well, it also could be serious depends on the conversation context. Chinese people take it seriously and rarly say it in front of people, when they say "我爱你" , they must mean that they want a committed relationship, and for many Chinese they even won't say it to their signifciant other, action is more loud than words in our mind. I even never said 我爱你 to my parents, it is that I or we Chinese are just not used to say it a lot. I guess if I called my mom saying:"我爱你", my mom will jump to a fly to Beijing to see me and thinking that I am mentally-shocked from a incident.
At the beginning of my social life in an America college, A cute girl said that to me when we were hangout at the porch of her house, I still remember her words : [My name], it doesn't mean anything, but I love you. I was confused: she said she love me, and wait..... she also said it doesn't mean anything. With my Asian mindset, I interpret these as : She love me (because when we chinese said I love you, they mean it), but she is shy and want to be less upfront, so the "it doesn't mean anything" is only a cover. See, that is where all the misunderstanding from, and there are many misunderstandings happened during my interact/relationship with non-Asian girls.
Chinese are more likely to say ‘I love you’ in English or other foreign languages than they would in their mother tongue
It is still hard for me to say "我爱你(I love you)" in Chinese , but saying it English is much nature. I believe that language itself can influence people's behavial.
When I am thinking in Chinese , when in situation A, I will choose method X to solve it.
When I am thinking in other language like English, when in situation A, I will choose method Y to solve it.
So when a Chinese couple have the feeling at the moment, in most case, the "I love you" expression will be carried by English(If they think it in Chinese, they will subsciously decide not to say it out).
Why the Chinese don't say "I love you"
Wednesday, 04 February 2009 08:02
Written by Urbanatomy
The Chinese are supposedly prudish about sex, but you can still purchase a 12-inch vibrator at your local supermarket checkout. Meanwhile, the government has recently cracked down on online pornography, warning Google and Baidu they must do more to clean out the smut from their online houses. So, while you can pick up a dildo with your meat and veg, they don’t want you to get off online. Clearly, we’re not in Kansas anymore…
But we’re not here to talk about sex. We’re here to talk about its occasional and often-neglected handmaiden: love.
The Chinese are supposedly prudish about that, too. Shanghai Love Education Institute founders Ni Meiqi and Dong Xingmao say Chinese love is “like a thermos – cold outside but hot inside.” Western lovers (particularly those of the American variety), they claim, say “I love you” far too much, and what’s worse, “they don’t actually mean it all the time.”
So while some Westerners tend to overuse “I love you,” those three little words (or rather, their Chinese equivalent, “Wo ai ni”) just don’t seem to roll off the tongues of Chinese lovers so nearly as readily. Between parent and child, yes; but between man and woman, well, Chinese people seem to subscribe to the notion that some things are best left unsaid.
Why the Chinese don’t say ”I love you”
Yan Wenhua, professor of psychology at Shanghai’s East China Normal University, says part of the answer lies in the difference between ‘high context’ and ‘low context’ cultures.
High context cultures (for example, Chinese and other East Asian cultures), have a strong sense of tradition and history, and change little over time; while low context cultures (for example, American culture) change dramatically from one generation to the next.
People from high context cultures don’t say things clearly or specifically, but instead derive meaning from the context – what you might call ‘reading between the lines.’ In low context cultures, people generally say what they mean.
“Chinese culture is like this,” says Prof. Yan. “I tell you everything around the center. So you must know what I mean. From all the information I give you, you should know; you cannot miss it.’”
In the high context Chinese culture, actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to love.
“To the Chinese mind, if I do all these things for you, then you should know I love you,” explains Prof. Yan.
Prof. Yan says modern Chinese are more likely to say ‘I love you’ in English or other foreign languages than they would in their mother tongue.
“If Chinese say ‘I love you’ in English, it’s like touching someone’s arm who is wearing a coat. If they say it in Chinese it’s like touching the skin, it’s very sensitive. ‘Wo ai ni’ is very specific. It means responsibility, commitment, loyalty, if you say it.”
“In Chinese people’s eyes, if I say ‘I love you’ too often, that is, use a high context way to say it, then maybe you don’t really love me because you say it so much,” says Prof. Yan.
According to Prof. Yan, Chinese culture has devised other ways to express adult love. “Instead of saying ‘Wo ai ni,’ Chinese people are more likely to express the same meaning in a different way. They might say, ‘If I have a next life, then I would like to be your husband or wife.’”
“We Chinese also have a saying: ‘Xin you ling xi yi dian tong,’ which means we have common points beyond language. Even if we don’t speak, you can sense what I sense; you can feel what I feel.”
The other part of the reason why Chinese people don’t say “Wo ai ni” lies in the concept of ‘face.’
“Chinese people don’t want to lose face or let others lose face,” says Prof. Yan. “If I say, ‘I love you,’ and it isn’t reciprocated then that’s a loss of face. So Chinese people use subtler ways to express their love in order to save face.”
James Farrer, Associate Professor of Sociology at Tokyo’s Sophia University, and author of 2002’s Opening Up: Youth Sex Culture and Market Reform in Shanghai, agrees with the saving-face hypothesis.
“George Simmel [the 18th-century German sociologist], said Eros is always about revealing and hiding, revealing and hiding,” says Prof. Farrer. “In any culture there’s this element of showing something and keeping something back. It’s a way of self-protection.”
“In Chinese culture, to say ‘I love you’ is too touchy, too creepy; it opens one up too much. So people find other ways rather than say it directly,” adds Prof. Farrer.
“In Shanghainese, it’s ‘Wo huan xi nong’ (I like you), or in Mandarin ‘Wo xihuan ni.’ The Japanese say ‘Suki de’ (I like you). ‘Like’ is a way of expressing affection; it’s playful, not so serious.”
Why so serious?
Sharon Lui, a marriage and family therapist at Community Center Shanghai, says not saying ‘I love you’ can sometimes cause problems in Chinese relationships.
“I have one case where the husband never said ‘I love you’ until his wife said ‘I want to leave you,’” says Liu, who counsels both Western and Chinese couples with rocky marriages.
“‘Wo ai ni’ is really difficult for Chinese to say,” says Liu, “because essentially the phrase means a solid commitment.”
“In the Chinese culture we don’t really have ‘casual dating.’ We’re either boyfriend and girlfriend, or just friends. We don’t have this Western dating concept where two people go out on a date that doesn’t really mean anything.”
Liu says Chinese also look at love, or passionate, intimate relationships in a much more functional way than Westerners.
“Chinese get married because they need to have children, or because of societal or parental pressure. They ‘fall in love’ because it’s the social norm. It’s more functional then feeling oriented.”
But times are changing. “The younger generation are more open to the dating concept, or what the Americans call ‘seeing each other,’” says Liu. “But in the last generation they don’t have that. Saying ‘I love you’ is pretty much like saying ‘I want to marry you.’”