Several years ago, I came across a video that had gone viral. It was about Chinese culture and how the use of the phrase “I love you” was rarely used.
My husband, who is Chinese, engaged in debate with me over the topic. I am of Vietnamese ethnicity but grew up in Australia my whole life. I’ve always been someone who openly expresses how I feel – it’s always been the person that I am.
My husband told me that in Chinese culture, love more often is expressed through actions as opposed to words. He explained to me that it is very uncommon to directly tell someone “I love you”, you showed them.
Although I could understand what he was arguing, I was very stubborn at the time, believing that somehow the way I’d been living, the only way I’d ever known, was the “right” away.
I realise now, how wrong I was.
You see, last year, I met most of my husband’s family for the first time. We travelled all the way to Hong Kong and were greeted by my husband’s Uncle, a lovely man I’d only ever met once prior. He’d travelled all the way to Australia, 10 years ago, to see his nephew marry me.
This time around, this Uncle had taken time off work to collect us from the airport at 7.30 in the morning. He came with his car, filling it up with our bags and bags of luggage, flagging me down to warn me to be careful as I crossed the busy Hong Kong road.
As his Uncle drove us to his apartment, there were many minutes of awkward silence. He didn’t know English, I didn’t know any Cantonese. We replied to each other in our own native languages.
For the next few days, we stayed with this Uncle and his wife, hubby’s Auntie. They gave us their main bedroom, set up the mattresses so we were comfortable, took us out several times a day to enjoy the food and culture of Hong Kong life.
I will never forget how loving, how attentive, how caring they were to me, to my husband, and to our kids.
They never spoke words of love but it was clear through their actions, that we were and are indeed loved.
I now have a beautiful black top and sparkly purple dress sitting in my wardrobe because this Auntie bought those for me… simply because she thought I’d like them.
I now have souvenirs from the bus trip we took to Hong Kong Victoria Peak with another Uncle, who took several days off work to take us on the best sightseeing places.
I have an Iron Man pen from Disneyland because another Uncle spent the afternoon with us after a busy day of work.
I have photos of the times we spent with other Uncles, other Aunties, other cousins, other family friends – who booked in a badminton court just for us, who booked in karaoke, who walked us to our hostel because they wanted to know we’d gotten home safe.
Even when we left to return to Perth, one of hubby’s Aunties came to see us off and she said,
“I never see anyone off at the airport but I wanted to with you all!”
Being with my husband has really opened my eyes to what real love is.
Love isn’t necessarily about buying expensive gifts, despite what I was taught.
It’s not about how often you tell someone that you love them.
It’s about making time for people, no matter how busy you are.
It’s about really listening to them.
My hubby’s Auntie booked in a karaoke room because my mother-in-law told her that I love to sing. The mother-in-law who considers me her daughter and says how proud she is that I am the mother of her grandchildren.
Every family member in Hong Kong took time for us in that busy, jam packed 2.5 week schedule because we are important, we are valued, we are loved.
They took the time to encourage me on my 8 month job hunt, to reassure me that I would find a job that I loved. And I have, thanks to their belief in me.
There is such an important lesson in all of this.
And it is that words are still important. They have their own value.
But more importantly, words need to be followed through with action.
Because when you make time for loved ones, when you are really present, words don’t really need to be said at all.
Love can be felt strongly and deeply by both parties in the unforgettable moments that you share together.
Thuy Le (formerly known as Thuy Yau) is a freelance writer and Youth Work graduate living in Perth, Australia. She loves to share her own personal experiences about overcoming adversity, as she believes that human beings are more capable than they realise. She writes to make a positive difference in the world and to inspire others to learn from themselves and their own experiences. Her writing has been discussed on radio, won writing contests, appeared on The Huffington Post UK and major Australian sites such as news.com.au, SMH, Kidspot and Essential Kids. She is currently writing her first book.