One of the questions I have been asked quite often is, “How do you say, ‘I love you,’ in Chinese?” This question always makes me laugh. I answer, “Wo ai ni,” and sometimes repeat it several times as the person is trying to learn the phrase (usually men who want to say this to their girlfriends).
What I don’t say is, traditionally, Chinese people don’t say this to each other. And this applies to parents, grandparents, children, friendships, etc., as well as romantic relationships.
My mother told me, “In America, the words, I love you, is tossed around like this season’s wardrobe.” (Well, she didn’t say it this way, exactly, but something like it.)
What my mother meant was, when it comes to love, words have little meaning. She also meant that romantic passion can be fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow…
In traditional Chinese culture, these three words aren’t necessary and even tends to minimize the true value of a relationship. You don’t need to say, I love you, because, whatever love may be in a relationship, it is appreciated in the moments you share and in what you do.
Of course, being raised in America, I don’t mind if someone tells me they love me and I say it, too. But I keep my mother’s words in mind, especially when it comes to romance.