Love in the Time of Migrants

I recently received an email from an expatriate friend involved in a cross-cultural relationship in one of my favorite Chinese cities. I asked, and received permission to publish this passage, but only with name excised, and as a stand-alone, no comment. So, without further ado:

Often, I think, I love the places from which X came more than he does. For him, they’re something to leave behind; for me, they’re hints of something that I’ll never understand. A few times I’ve found myself asking X the same sorts of questions that I reserve for my grandparents in their more reflective moments. But with them, of course, it’s shared history that I seek; with X, well, it’s love.


  1. I wonder if this is a girl thing. My husband’s and my childhoods were only separated by 17 years and 60 miles, but I am also fascinated by his life without me. I grew up in an industrial town, watching hair metal bands on MTV. All his family and neighbors were farmers or coal miners. He played his guitar along with his favorite songs on vinyl. I think about him in high school, picking cabbages with other boys working on the farm for the summer, singing new songs like “American Pie” to help pass the time. How magical was it, I hope to understand, to be young and this music was fresh?
    To my husband, it is all too ordinary.

  2. Sounds familiar. Where I see the peace and quiet and relatively clean environment of my wife’s village, she sees the closeness and claustrophobia of village life. And of course, all that fascinating stuff for me to study and learn about has been part of her everyday life since she was born. I’m looking forward to roles being reversed when we (eventually) go to New Zealand.

  3. Seems nearly all the Chinese I know from anywhere other than a first or second tier city, no matter how beautiful, are just glad to have gotten out and do not look on their hometowns all that fondly.

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