The greater picture 

It’s mother’s day.

My Taiwanese hubby has the idea to take us out for dinner. Great idea so far. I say: “Where?” He: “How about this Libanon restaurant, you like?” Me: “But the kids don’t like that food.” Hubby: “So? It’s about you today, not about the kids!” 

Then I’m surprised. 

How can he not see the bigger picture? 

If the kids don’t like the food, they will start to complain what they should eat. Then hubby will try to convince them to try something new. Then, best case, they will try and say: “Pah, disgusting, I don’t want that. Where is our real food.” Worst case: “They will start shouting while hammering in rhythmic patterns on the table: “We want pasta now. We want pasta Now! WE WANT PASTA NOW!”

And latest then, we will have the attention of all the people in the restaurant and our peaceful evening out is officially over.

We then probably need to leave the restaurant quickly, no time for dessert, with unhappy and grumpy kids.

How can I enjoy this? How can I then enjoy my dinner? How then can this be about me and be a great gift for mother’s day? 
How can he not see the bigger picture? 
But I have to admit, I also think, there is a different understanding about how children should behave. 

Taiwanese hubby believes, kids should just follow what they are told. I think, this is a Chinese way of education. Not questioning much, just follow, do what your teacher and parents say. 

Recently we argue a lot about this. I believe children are not machines, they are human beings. What is wrong about them asking, which kind of juice they like? If they can have the choice? Hubby would just give them apple juice, just because that is the bottle in front of him, it is convenient for him and they need to accept it. They should be happy with what they get. But what is wrong about having your own opinion? If they insist on having grape juice, that is available in the kitchen, why not? 
Does he not see the greater picture?
Again, I think, he is not seeing it. Independent, self-confident children are good. Maybe it is more hassle, maybe it is more argue, definitely more work to fulfill their needs, but I strongly believe it is worth it. For their future. They know, who they are, what they can do, what they want. They can stand firm, when storm comes, when others attack them. When others try to influence them, they already have their own opinion. Because they learned how to have their own opinion and that it is good to have your own. And more important: they know that they have the right, the right to have their own opinion.
And I believe, in times of Trump, right wing movements all a cross the world, this is so important. So important to give our children the freedom of their own opinion. For a better future. 

The real truth, why my Taiwanese husband doesn’t like planning

Recently I felt, my Taiwanese husband is often times without any plan. Especially when it comes to weekends. Okay, you will say, we heard that before. Nothing new. Germans like to make plans – Taiwanese don’t plan so much ahead.

Yes, but recently, I felt, there is so much more to it.

In the past, when it is Friday evening, my lovely hubby would ask me: “So, darling, what are our plans for this weekend?”, assuming, that I, German wife, would already have set and fixed our plans for the whole weekend. Maybe even detailed plan by hours. Where to go, when, with whom, how to get there, stay for how long, when come back, where to eat, etc., etc.

Before, when I have done that, he would complain, “how can you do that? Make plans to meet so and so, without asking me in advance about my opinion?”  Now, he just asks me, what “we” have planned, meaning what “I” have planned for us.

Well, yes, you might think, the poor man has just given in to his destiny, to just do what his wife has planned for him to avoid any argue. Those tough and strong German women, better not mess with them!  😉

But no, I believe there is more to it. I started to get a little annoyed with it. Especially, when my plans didn’t turn out so well in his eyes, and he would answer me with a grumpy “Ah, yeah, hm, that person, I don’t know what to talk with him, but well, then it’s like that.” So, I told him one day: “Honey, how about you plan what we do for the weekend? Any ideas?”

And then the surprising answer: “Oh no darling, it’s fine. Just let me know.”

Then I realized, he didn’t want to take on the responsibility!

He didn’t want to have the effort to think about it, he didn’t want to handle and manage it, prepare or organize it, nor being responsible if the venture went wrong or was a bad idea.
Instead, he could criticize me and blame me. He found out, that this way is a much better deal for him.

I don’t know, if I should be happy or mad. Happy, he finally started to accept my German culture of planning and organizing ahead, or mad, that he utilizes me to get all the work done and sit happily in the “I can criticize you know” seat.


It’s not so easy to find the best way for different cultures to harmonize. Or to accept, respect or even love each other’s cultural differences.

Yeah, yeah, that’s also not new. But in daily life, it’s sometimes a hard lesson to learn.

Perfectionism – so German

Wishing you all a happy Chinese New Year of monkey! Wishing you all a happy and harmonious year, full of laughter, fun, love and great moments with your beloved ones.

I first need to apologize – again – for the really, really long absence.

First, I didn’t have time, because my Taiwanese mother-in-law visited us in Germany last summer…. more about that experience in another post later.

And then, I had many ideas, but couldn’t get them to paper in a way, that satisfied me. That sounds strange, but let me explain. I just didn’t feel, they were “good enough to post in my eyes”. I had the feeling I HAD done better and could DO better and my readers deserve more. Not just some half-ready ideas that I have on my mind.

And yes – I think, this is German perfectionism. You don’t show anything, if you’re not convinced, that this is the best you can do.

I still remember, when I had a part time job in Taiwan. Translating some English content into German. Proofreading German user guides.
And after 3 days, my supervisor asked me, why I haven’t handed in anything, why I’m still not ready with translating the website. And I said, it’s not perfect. He laughed. Then, he explained to me: “We are always short of time. If it is not 100% correct – nobody cares. If you are late for the deadline – we’re dead. So do whatever you can until the deadline. It is actually designed like that – it can never be finished in time, if you try to be perfect like that. So just skip it.”

Wow. I had to swollow that. And in order to keep my deadlines, I needed to change. I tried to finish as much as I could, and when I handed in the user guide, I knew, there where still some mistakes left. For the translation, I knew, with more time, I could think of some better wording to make it sound more authentic, more convincing, just better. But no time, so just quick word by word translation. (Yes, when you now read a strange German translation in a user guide – could have been me, sorry!)
And with this knowledge on my mind – it broke my heart.

It was aching. Real pain. That’s German perfectionism – it’s in our DNA.

I did this only with great reluctance – to not lose my job. But it didn’t change my DNA.

So, sorry, if you need to wait a little longer for the next post – perfectionism takes time. 🙂

I am Taiwanese – only I can know all about Taiwan!

I don’t know what is this about Taiwanese expertise about Taiwan.

We are back in Taiwan, and whenever I make some comment about where we can go, what we can do, my advise is just ignored, because I am not Taiwanese – so what do I know.

I don’t know – is it also like this in Germany with the Germans? I don’t think so. Not that I remember. But I think, maybe it’s different, because of German history. We used to be a divided country by the Wall into East and West Germany – only united in 1990 (German reunification). So it seems, sometimes we still don’t know so much about ” the other side”, in regards of geography, history, but also about the people and their sub-cultures.
Although I believe, we know more about whole Germany than we think, we are well aware that there are things we might not know about Germany or other Germans.

So, “real” Taiwanese of course know everything about their own country – and more – of course they know the best.

So I tell my hubby, “listen, my German friend heard about this new Thai restaurant in the Eslite bookstore building, maybe we can try that one”. Hubby – Taiwanese expertise – snorting: “Hello?! What does he know about Taipei and where to eat? I am Taiwanese, I know where to get good Thai food here, thank you.”
Sure. Only coming back to Taipei 2 times a year – makes him expert in knowing all the restaurants in Taipei.

I first thought, okay, this is maybe a “man’s” thing, giving a real man an advice is difficult sometimes. But no.

Even humble Taiwanese grandma seems to have those expertise symptoms. When I told her: “my German friend told me about this children culture and activity center in Shilin district, we could go there with the kids…” She snorted: ” Of course I know that place! You think, that I don’t know this place or what? Pah, I live here long enough. Is not so special, so that you know. That’s why I haven’t proposed it.”
So I didn’t say anything further to go there. Seemed like she would “lose her face” to admit a foreigner had a better idea – or worse, knows Taipei better than her.

Hah. That Taiwanese pride.

I know, we Germans are often lacking of our German national pride (because of difficult German history), but man, give me break. I’m just making some proposals, sharing some ideas, I’m not attacking your country or nationality. And really – even foreigners can sometimes have a good idea about Taiwan and where to go. Really, just try it. Listen. Once. Won’t hurt. Promise. 🙂

Muttersprache (“Mother tongue”)

Sorry guys! This post is in German only! More posts in English language will follow soon!!

Letztens musste ich weinen. Spontan. Unerwartet. Im Auto. Als ich ein deutsches Lied im Radio hörte. Ich war darauf nicht vorbereitet. Christina Stürmer. “Was wirklich bleibt”.

Und das mir, die ich eigentlich keine deutsche Popmusik höre, sondern nur englischsprachigen Soul und R&B.

Ich dachte, okay, ein guter Song, trifft mich wahrscheinlich so, weil es genau das aussagt, was ich mich gerade frage: was will ich wirklich im Leben, tue ich etwas, das wirklich wichtig ist? 
“…aber woran wirst du dich erinnern… und dann schaust du zurück, zurück auf das was wirklich bleibt…”

Dann gestern. Im Auto. Es hat mich schon wieder erwischt. Aus dem Radio kommt: Sarah Connor. “… Ich seh dich, mit all deinen Farben, und deinen Narben, hinter den Mauern. Ja ich seh dich. Lass dir nichts sagen. Nein, lass dir nichts sagen.
Weißt du denn gar nicht, wie schön du bist?” 
Ich dachte, ich werd nicht mehr. Ich konnte die frühere Sarah Connor “Let’s get back to bed, boy” (übel oberflächliches Lied) trotz guter Stimme beim besten Willen nicht leiden. War so gar nicht meins. Aber die neue Sarah Connor, 10 Jahre später, singt so emotional, so echt, aus tiefster Seele, auf deutsch, mir kommen schon wieder die Tränen.

Ja klar, jetzt könnt ihr natürlich meinen, ich bin zu nahe am Wasser gebaut. Möglich. Oder ich stehe zu sehr auf schmalzige Popmusik. Ist sicherlich was Wahres dran. Aber darum geht es mir hier nicht.

Mir wurde nämlich eines schlagartig klar: nur in der Muttersprache konnte ich so von Worten gepackt werden, dass mir die Tränen kamen. Und so heisst auch Sarah Connor’s Album: “Muttersprache”.

Und daher auch dieser, mein neuester Blogeintrag. Ehrlich. Emotional. In meiner Muttersprache. Auf deutsch.

Ich versuchte dann vergeblich meinem geliebten taiwanesischen Männel das Lied näher zu bringen, indem ich für ihn den Text auf englisch übersetzte. Aber das ergriff ihn in etwa so, wie wenn ich ihm einen Witz erkläre und er danach dann so tut, als würde er ihn verstehen und lustig finden. Ich meine, das Problem erklärt sich ja an sich schon durch den Begriff von selbst “einen Witz -ERKLÄREN-“…

Und dann – war ich traurig.

Kann es sein, dass mich mein Mann eigentlich grundsätzlich nicht so richtig versteht, wenn ich ihm nicht mal einen Liedtext nahe bringen kann, der mich derart berührt hat? Kann es sein, dass wir trotz beiderseitiger sehr guter Englischkenntnisse ständig aneinander vorbeireden, weil er eben nicht dieselbe Muttersprache spricht wie ich?

Ja, durchaus möglich.

Aber dann war ich wieder etwas beruhigt. Wir waren für ein paar Tage nach Berlin gefahren. Ohne Kinder. Ein paar Tage nur für uns. Wir hatten keinen festen Plan, wollten nur die traute Zweisamkeit geniessen. Und doch ohne Worte wussten wir, wohin wir als erstes gehen würden. Ins taiwanesische Restaurant auf der Kantstrasse. Ohne Besprechung, Erklärung, Fragen, Diskussionen. Er bestellte meine liebsten taiwanesischen Leckerlis, die wir hier in Deutschland leider viel zu selten zu sehen bekommen. 🙂 
Manchmal geht Liebe doch durch den Magen. So ganz ohne Worte.

Me – the “practical” German

I always thought of myself to be rather messy and chaotic, but compared to my Taiwanese husband, I am super organized, plan ahead and execute with discipline. Very “German”, indeed. 😉

I don’t know exactly, if it is my fear of the unknown, my hesitancy to do something spontaneous or simply my clear and practical “German” thinking.

An example. My hubby dreams of having a dog. My first reaction: I say NO. Hubby: “But why? You don’t like dogs?” Me: “well, apart from the fact that I am not tremendously fond of having dog hair spread all over our apartment, let me ask you, who is going to walk the dog every day about 3 times (at least)?” Hubby: “Ehhhh… Hm…. Ehhhh… You!” And he is is giving me a big smile, like he solved a problem worth receiving the Nobel prize. Me: “Exactly!” I continue: “And who is going to the animal doctor to get the vaccinations, freeing the dog from flees, training and educating the dog, cleaning the apartment from dog poo, etc., etc….?” Hubby, happily replying now quickly: “You, honey!” Me: “Exactly. And that’s why we won’t have a dog, honey.”

I know. We Germans, Pffff. Such fun killers. But what can I say. The minute he announces the idea, I can see all the consequences, pros and cons, and I already know how to execute it – or if it is not doable – the “practical” German appears.

Or he has the idea to live on the country side. He. The city kid. Who only knows animals from the zoo behind bars. Who already complains that in our little town that is 20min away by car to the next big city, that there is no decent restaurant here and totally boring with shops closing at 4pm on a Saturday. Ha. Yes, this IT addicted man, who can not survive without his iPad, iPhone, kindle and laptop wants to move to a remote countryside cottage with a huge garden and dogs and sheep.

He has no idea what he is talking about. I asked him: “Aha. So you will mow the lawn and pulling out the weeds? Paint the house and repair broken wood? And what do you do, when the next restaurant is about 30min away by car?” Hubby, thinking hard, then frowning: “No, I will not be bored. And I will hire a gardener.” Sigh. Yeah. And I see myself ending up being this gardener.

And here we go: me, the fun killer again.

Also when we decide to go to a park with the kids, it takes too long for Mr.Taiwan to get ready to start. “Let’s go! Let’s go now! What are you still doing?” 
Well, I pack something to drink, some snacks like chips, crackers, gummibears, apples, tissues, wet wipes, spare clothes for the kids, diapers, Sun hat and lotion, sand toys, the picknick blanket, and an additional blanket to cover later sleeping child, jackets for the chilly evening, small bag for the dirty clothes, bandage and soothing lotion in case kid gets hurt, newspaper.
And when we are finally in the park, my Taiwanese hubby lays down happily onto the picknick blanket in the grass, using the other blanket as pillow, unfolding the newspaper, grabbing some chips and asking me: “I really don’t know, what always takes you so long. You are so unspontaneous.”

Sigh. How I wish, my lovely husband would appreciate more my “German practical” side.

You also got some characteristics, your other half doesn’t appreciate? 

Are our kids more German or more Taiwanese?

When a child is born, usually all the family will come and see the baby. Then they will start discussing, if the baby got mommy’s eyes and daddy’s nose, and if her smile and cheeks is totally like from the side of the father’s family etc. etc.

But for us as intercultural parents, it seems like we took this to a totally different level and got some secret competition among the nations going on.

My Taiwanese hubby would say to the kids during dinner: “You like the tofu, right? Sure, you do! Of course you do, you are my daughter! You are Taiwanese!”
Or he has cooked Taiwanese style fried rice and would say to them: “That’s yummy! Yummy, yummy! Not like the German bread from your mom, bah, ugh, right?”

I’m not doing it like this, I am not so direct. But I need to admit that I do feel satisfied, when the kids love my German food. E.g., they love to eat boiled potatoes and turnip cabbage (German “Kohlrabi”), and when my hubby sees them eating it happily, while his face is expressing his disgust, I cannot but show him a big smile, like saying: “See! They just love it! They are sooo German!”

But then, there are those moments, when we both are speechless.

So to speak, when our daughter turned 2 years old and started to wipe and clean everything and loved to use the little vacuum cleaner, that we used to hide in some dark corner.

My husband looked at me, of course immediately assuming this strange behavior must be “German”, and asking me: “She got that from you?” I needed to laugh. I laughed so hard, my belly hurt. Me? ME? I always hated cleaning, wiping, name it, from the dust I got allergies, so I definitely tried to avoid using the vacuum cleaner. I shook my head and told him: “Must be from your side, then.” Then he started to laugh – and we both laughed like something.

We watched silently our little angel dancing thru our apartment, wiping and cleaning all the furniture happily.

And we realized, our kids are not only German, not only Taiwanese, they are unique. And very multicultural. 🙂

Oh dear: My Taiwanese husband is cooking!

When my Taiwanese husband and me first met, neither of us could really cook. My hubby could “cook” “pao-mian”, the instant noodles, and I could cook “Knorr fix” dishes, using instant powder to create some sauce and boil the water for the pasta – done.

This was totally fine – in Taiwan. With millions of food stands everywhere, delicious and international dishes available for little money – why should anybody cook himself in Taipei? Many student flats therefore have even no kitchen at all. Really.

But now we’re living in Germany, and eating outside is not really an option. Too expensive – and the lack of good Chinese, none to speak Taiwanese food. So – we learned cooking.

My lovely husband watched a lot of Taiwanese cooking shows from Taiwanese TV (from the internet), and can cook now some really delicious Taiwanese dishes. “Niu-rou-mian”, the traditional Taiwanese beef noodles soup, “ke-le-ji”, the juicy chicken legs in cola sauce, and some others. Although the dishes are yummy, I always hesitate to let him cook. Why?

1. After cooking, the kitchen looks like after World War II. I think, the cooking shows got him adapt some impressive cooking behavior: e.g. to make an egg sunny side up, he always holds his hands 1 meter above the pan, and then let the egg fall. Exactly, you got it, making a big waving movement with his arms – like a real chef – and splashing the oil all over the place. Same for the meat – he basically throws the meat into the pan like he is rolling the dice – wondering why the hot oil is splashing so much. I asked him once, why he is doing it from so high above – he, the chef, said, kind of offended: “That’s the way it’s supposed to be, okay?”

2. The huge pile of dirty dishes after cooking: for every ingredient, he takes out a new bowl or plate, or even frying pan, so sometimes, there are 3 dirty frying pans left to clean after cooking one dish. Never had those amounts of dirty dishes before – not even back at the time when I was a university student!

3. He doesn’t clean up, while he is cooking. I don’t know, if this is a German thing, but while I am cooking, I am also cleaning up at  the same time. E.g. when I am done with frying something and the water is still boiling in another pot with something else, I can already clean up the frying pan, or? But no, my hubby stands there, watching the boiling water – and the growing pile of dirty dishes. Yes, right, he needs to monitor the boiling water. AAH! Watching this is making me crazy. Is this the German organized person inside of me rebelling? Or is it, that I don’t want to believe that men cannot do multi-tasking? 😉

Don’t get me wrong – I really like the food he is cooking. It is still worth all the mess! But I learned to not enter the kitchen afterwards, it would destroy my happiness about the delicious food. To be honest, sometimes I am not “German” at all and let the piles of dirty dishes wait for me until the next day.

Oh my God… have I changed to become messy as well?!

Me – the “in-between-er”

Last weekend, we joined a big Taiwanese gathering to celebrate Chinese new year.

And it was one of those events where I always feel, that I don’t belong to any group.
I am not really Taiwanese, although I look Asian and can speak some rudimentary Mandarin Chinese. I know how to say “happy new year” in Chinese and more and I know about the traditions because I studied it before. But when it comes down to the details, I am not one of them. I didn’t bring red envelopes or gifts for friends, I didn’t wear a red dress, and in the children corner, I didn’t bring the tools as we were told so in the newsletter because I simply couldn’t read the Chinese newsletter in Chinese.

But then, I somehow also don’t feel like really belonging to the group of clueless Germans, who cannot speak Chinese at all, have hardly knowledge about Chinese culture and traditions, a true “lao-wai”, no, I wouldn’t say I’m one of these. (Well, at least, I desperately hope, I am none of those “lao-wais”… probably most of the Taiwanese would still regard me as one…). I even felt a little ashamed, when a German came to me and said “xie-xie” , which means “thank you”, then realizing, this is not what he was meant to say, then saying “gong-xi, gong-xi”, the words you use to wish “all the best to the new year”. No, I am not one of those Germans.

And this is exactly the problem: I am a “in-between-er”. Between two cultural groups.

Have you ever felt, you are stuck between two groups and don’t know where you belong?

I think, it all started back the first year I lived in Taiwan as a student, it changed my life forever. After this year abroad, I have never been the same, my view changed, my horizon changed and me as a person, I changed. (Regarding this topic, the movie “Outsourced” is a great example, how a time living abroad can change you forever.)

After this year, I started to drink Volvic still water, not the German sparkling water anymore. After coming back, I realized why I didn’t like to eat rice before, because I hated just the “uncle Ben’s” rice, I loved the sticky Chinese rice. After coming back, I started to appreciate a heating in winter and started to wonder why we Germans complain about the “horrible” working conditions, while in Taiwan you work every day until 9pm, no overwork pay and no pay when you are sick at home. After coming back, I knew that my joy talking about food all day isn’t weird, as Taiwanese people do that all the time, especially after eating. After coming back, I started to walk around proudly with my pink ladies bag, no matter what the serious Germans all in black and grey would say. After coming back, I knew, a “normal” German boyfriend could never match anymore (probably would have never fit anyway). I changed. And here I am, married to a Taiwanese guy, I met the second time, I went back to Taiwan.

Taiwan, my love, you have changed me forever.

Be flexible – with Taiwanese!

It is always surprising to me how flexible I need to be with Taiwanese people. I thought of myself to be rather open and flexible, but hey, compared to any Taiwanese, I always realize how “German” inflexible I really am.

Last Saturday, we were invited to a Taiwanese/German couple for having lunch together at their place. Making dumplings together. We would go there right after some big Taiwanese gathering in the morning.

Friday night, the Taiwanese mom called me. Their daughter had fever, so maybe we postpone the lunch date. Sure, no problem.

Saturday morning, she told me, oh, the fever is gone, so we could have the lunch date? Okay, no problem, we’re flexible.

1 hour later, she came again, saying, hm, the other couple she invited, they already rearranged their schedule and are not available anymore. If we maybe postpone? Sure, no problem. Back to the original plan.

Then she came back, 30 min later. The other couple tries to rearrange their new arrangement. Maybe we will still do it. Okay, no problem, just let me know.

30 min later. The other couple cannot rearrange their new arrangement. So we just postpone it to next week. Okay? Sure, no problem. Back to original plan. Postpone it is.

Then she said: What a pity. She already bought all the food. Hm, she will check something. 30min later, she came back: she found another Taiwanese couple who can join our dumpling cooking event! If that is okay, we can come to the lunch gathering now?

Sure, no problem! My mind meanwhile  didn’t go crazy, and I am – a super flexible – German. 😜