The 5 Love Languages – Asian Edition

Sunday, after I wished my Dad a “Happy Father’s Day,” someone asked me why it seems like when I see or talk to my parents, I never really say “I Love You” and it got me thinking, why don’t I ever say that, and why don’t they ever say that to me?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, of course I love my parents and they love me (I hope).  It would be almost weird or strange to say it out loud and would make things really awkward.  In my family, we didn’t talk about feelings, we ate them 😂.  It also got me thinking about something I read about a little while ago called The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman, which essentially breaks down relationships and love into 5 categories.  It teaches you to discover how you give and receive love.  These 5 categories that are traditionally outlined in the book are as follows:

  1. Words of affirmation – Using words to build up the other person.
  2. Gifts – Giving or receiving gifts.
  3. Acts of Service – Doing something for someone.
  4. Quality time – Giving others your undivided attention.
  5. Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc, are all expressions of love.

Now it wouldn’t be a Dose of Asianess if we didn’t somehow tackle these 5 categories and see how they may have been different for myself growing up and maybe some other Asian families as well.  Let’s see what these categories mean when growing up Asian!  These are just some examples of my experience growing up, and may not be exactly the same for other Asians, although I am sure they may be able to draw some similarities.

  1. Words of affirmation – Non-existent, More like words of confirmation.  When I was in grade school, If I got straight A’s, it wasn’t a, “I’m so proud of you, great job!” but instead more of a “that is what you are supposed to be getting.”  It definitely seemed like the total opposite as getting an A- was grounds for words of disappointment!  That is some tough love.  Probably safe to say that this is not one of my family’s love languages.
  2. Gifts – My tuition in college was a gift, the roof over my head is a gift, the clothes on my back are a gift!  Gifts in this case, are necessities that were given to me.  I guess the understanding here is, my parent’s didn’t have the same privileges as me growing up and I should be grateful for everything I have and not be a brat.
  3. Acts of Service – Remember how I said, we ate our feelings?  I am 95% confident that if you ask any Asian family how they say “I love you,” it would be with food.  My mom, aunts and uncles would feed me until I couldn’t even take a sip of water to show their affection and love.  They still do.  “Have you eaten?” is one of the most common greetings across Asia and shows how important food really is in culture.  It is literally the first thing I get asked when I visit home or a relative’s house.  The second thing I get told is “Come on!  Sit Down! Eat! Eat!” regardless of my answer.  I can say that I just came from lunch or dinner and 2 minutes later I would still be sitting down chowing down.  You can never turn down a meal for fear of retaliation as this is the main form of love that you can receive.  It would be equivalent to someone saying “I love you” and you just saying “No thank you.”  I think it is safe to assume this love language category resonates with most Asian cultures and is one I understand clearly.
  4. Quality Time – Parents are working to make sure you have a better life than them when they grew up.  Quality time should be spent on studying, or cleaning your room and not playing.  There is no time to play!  Your textbooks should have your undivided attention.
  5. Physical Touch – Physical affection signs were very few and far between.  It is highly unusual to see Asian parents display affection in front of their children or others.  Sometimes I got the occasional pinch when I was misbehaving.  Ok, I often got the pinch for misbehaving,  but you learn pretty quick what not to do.  That is probably one of the most frequent forms of physical touch I received as a child, but then again I probably needed a little bit of discipline.

Jokes aside, I think that the context in how we give and receive love in Asian families greatly varies and you just have to look at it with a different lens.  The categories may not be as defined in the traditional sense of the love languages book because people show love in very different ways.  If you have some time, maybe you should take the love language quiz and figure out what your love language is.  Speaking of love, I think there are some leftovers from visiting my parents of one of my favorite Thai dishes in the fridge I might go heat up.

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