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The role family plays in a romantic relationship is not alien to any culture, in no way is it unique to Asia. Yet there are some peculiarities more commonly seen in Asian realities than what the rest of the world could imagine. Certain norms on how family plays a role in love may seem natural to Asians but on closer examination, are not common customs to be taken for granted.

Reflected in Kelvin Kwang’s book and further popularized in the Hollywood hit, we zoom in closer on a few observations about Asian Family Values mirrored in the book and movie. In addition to promoting better understanding of our culture, custom and tradition, our reflections also allow us to take a step back in evaluating established thinkings and behavioral patterns to discover perspectives, both old and new.

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Compatibility in “being door-to-door”  – Rachel v. Nicholas

“门当户对”,literally translated to “being door-to-door”, which essentially means compatibility between two families in social standing, is an important criteria in more traditional Asian families.

As early as a thousand years B.C., social status compatibility was an established criteria of marriage in ancient civilizations like China and India. From the ruler’s point of view, it consolidates social and economic power and therefore ensures social stability by entrenching social classes. From the individual’s point of view, in times where information is not commonly available, social status is a visible indicator of a potential good match. The visibility of social status was ostentatiously marked by decorative patterns, details in architectures at the door of a family house, hence, the “door-to-door” compatibility.

As our society liberalize, power gets distributed and information more prevalent, the custom to insist on social status compatibility may appear elitist and rigid. However, the reality of unequal distribution of power and wealth, especially in Asia, could be both the cause and consequence of the persisting emphasis on “door-to-door” compatibility. Despite modernity, social status compatibility is real in Asia for the privileged fews.

In addition to social status, modern variants of compatibility metrics have evolved to include race, country of origin, culture and education level. The physical mobility of people across the world brought people from different backgrounds closer together. Crazy Rich Asians has shown certain biases, for example, against American-Born-Chinese like Rachel. To some extent, her high education level was perhaps the only redemption in the eyes of the Youngs.

There is no doubt that compatibility of a couple is key to a happy, healthy and sustainable relationship. So it is wise to be choosy of your closest companion. On the other hand, whether family social status, coupled with its modern variants, are sufficient and most appropriate measurement of compatibility, is a question worth bearing in mind when making lifelong commitments.

Coming up next in this series of articles:


 

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