Childhood cultural references

C. is, hands down, the best boyfriend I have ever had. He is smart, caring, self-confident, intelligent, fun and hard-working. And I am always number one on his list of priorities. If I wanted to look for someone better I would have a hard time finding him.

There is only one aspect in which he “comes short”, comparing with previous relationships with Spanish guys: we don’t have many shared cultural references from our childhood and teenage years. Growing up in the 80s and 90s in Spain and China were radically different experiences. We didn’t watch the same movies or cartoons and we didn’t listen to the same music. The only shared references from that time would be some Japanese cartoons which were available both in China and Spain, like Doraemon or Dragon Ball.

Doraemon is one of the few cartoons that we both watched as kids.

Doraemon is one of the few cartoons that we both watched as kids.

This might seems as a minor, unimportant thing. And it is! But sometimes I miss making jokes that only a Spanish person of my same age would understand. Besides, of course, C. is trying to learn Spanish, but his level is far from being good enough to understand jokes. We can watch Spanish movies with Chinese subtitles, but he can’t understand the jokes in the (extremely funny) Spanish comedy tv shows. We overcome this by watching together the closest thing to Spanish humour I have seen in China to date: Diors Man (屌丝男士), an extremely funny sketch comedy show that you can totally watch if you want to improve your oral (and somewhat vulgar) Mandarin.

I have lived in China for several years so I’m more immersed in the culture, but C. has never lived abroad. Sometimes it happens that we are watching something and I laugh but C. doesn’t. For example, one day we were watching an episode of Community in which the study group is preparing a Pulp Fiction themed birthday party for Abed. Well, guess what. C. had not seen Pulp Fiction, so he didn’t get it. I paused the video, explained to him and then we kept watching. A few days later he watched the movie.

I am sometimes amazed and I say things like: “How can you NOT know what Pulp Fiction is??”. The current world is so globalized! But then I think twice and realize that our cultural background is too different. Pulp Fiction was released in 1994. Was it possible to watch foreign movies in China at that time? Probably not. Even today, the number of foreign movies that are shown in theaters in China is limited to only 34 per year. This is not a problem now because we have the internet, but it was a hindrance in the 90s.

I don't think C. watched Scream at the cinema.

I don’t think C. watched Scream at the cinema.

Western music was also not very well known in China until the popularization of the internet. C. discovered Nirvana at the end of the 90s! I copied some music into an sd card so he can listen in the car. His favourite band from my old music seems to be Skunk Anansie… one of my favourite bands when I was 18!

Regarding comic books, things were not much better. Comics are still not popular in China, apart from Japanese manga. We are also working on this and we even have Watchmen in Chinese. He started reading it in English but it was taking ages (I think it is quite difficult). I hope he finishes it fast now! The list of to read things is ever growing!

C. reading V for Vendetta in the swimming pool.

C. reading V for Vendetta by the swimming pool.

And what about me? Yes, of course I also have things to learn! I am specially interested in the movies Chinese kids watched in the 80s and 90s so my first priority will be watching 天书奇谭 (Legend of the Sealed Book), an animation film from 1983 made by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio.

The closest thing to Monkey King/ Journey to the West cartoons that I saw as a child was Dragon Ball. I still haven't read Journey to the West, btw. Ooops...

The closest thing to Monkey King/ Journey to the West cartoons that I saw as a child was Dragon Ball. I haven’t read yet Journey to the West, btw. Ooops…