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Culture Shock
by Edward Lee

“Give me some Imodium,” his wife, Amy Lai-Ming, said sick in bed. “Are you trying to poison me, you stupid, spoiled westerner,” Amy barked.

Yes, Jeff thought to himself. His thoughts drifted back to the start of his hatred, their first nights together after the honeymoon:

“Why haven’t you cooked me anything yet?” Amy said sitting at the head of the dinner table.

Jeff was puzzled by this question, and said, he didn’t know how to cook anything.

“Weren’t you taught by your father?”

Jeff thought momentarily his new wife might be stranger than what she had led him to believe.

“In Chinese traditional culture the man cleans and cooks.”

“That’s different.”

“There’s nothing “different” about it.”

“I could cook us some spaghetti, then.”


Jeff mostly ate out when he was single, and Jeff and Amy ate out or had food delivered to them when they dated, and during their engagement and honeymoon, but there were some pasta noodles in the cabinet, and tomato sauce in the fridge of Jeff’s house. He whipped himself and his wife a once-bachelor’s version of spaghetti.

“This is awful,” Amy said, while still eating at a fast rate of consumption. After she was finished, she said, “Next time get a recipe off the internet and cook me something decent.”

The next night for dinner, Jeff suggested they eat out.

“No, you must learn the Chinese way of doing things.”

“Let’s just eat out, honey, we always--”

“You westerner. I am a beautiful, precious Chinese woman.”

“Yes, that’s all true, dear, but why does that mean we can’t eat out?”

“Ugh, your mother and father spoiled you terribly. Cook spaghetti. I’m ravenous to eat even a meal such as that.”

Jeff decided to give in. When they were through, Jeff, annoyed by his wife’s complaints about his cooking, “the pasta is too firm, the sauce is stale,” made the remark that Amy do the dishes, as he was feeling some indigestion.

“Jeff, doesn’t it follow that you should do the dishes? You cooked that abominable meal.”

“Hey, I’ve cooked both nights, and I think we can compromise at least on the dishes aspect of housekeeping.”

“No, you must be taught and trained.”

“Why are you speaking of me as if I were a dog?” Jeff said crossing his arms.

“Why do you equate what I’ve said with being spoken of as a dog?” Amy said crossing her arms.

“Well, precious honey, you’re using words like ‘trained’ and ‘taught,’ words ordinarily used to speak about a dog.”

“Ugh, you spoiled westerner. My mother warned me about you.”

Jeff did the dishes that night and wanted to crack each one over his head after he was finished wiping.

Usually when things got heated between them, they made up, often on the same night after their argument, but Amy wasn’t having any of it that night, or to Jeff’s dismay for many long nights afterwards. And the build-up of work, cooking, cleaning, a difficult relationship, all set the wheels turning, as years later, the culture shock still fresh as the first night, Jeff smiled at his wife’s moaning, and indignant, “My mother warned me. You stupid, spoiled--” Before she could finish, Jeff left the room and plotted his next dinner.