Cultural Clashes, Air Fryers, and How to Celebrate the Beauty of God’s People

Cultural Clashes, Air Fryers, and How to Celebrate the Beauty of God’s People

by | May 2, 2023 | AAPI, Creation, Family, Life and Culture

In the trailer of Crazy Rich Asians, the two leading co-stars, Rachel and Nick, have been dating and are about to travel to Singapore to meet Nick’s family. When they get to the airport, Rachel is surprised by the first-class treatment and is shocked to find out that her boyfriend’s family is wealthy. She says, “So your family is rich?” Nick responds, “ We’re comfortable.” Rachel says, “That is exactly what a super-rich person would say.” The whole movie is about cultural clashes that are happening between two Asian families. Rachel goes through several trials when she meets his family and realizes just how different their family cultures are. In the same way, cultural clashes happen with people from every walk of life no matter where you come from.

I am defining Cultural Clashes as the following: A conflict that arises from an interaction of people with two different cultural values, whether that is ethnic, social economic, or locational (rural/urban).

We have all experienced different cultural clashes in our everyday life. We can improve and press into cultural clash moments rather than avoiding them.

I started dating my wife in the mid-summer of 2019, which included the arduous process of family introductions. One day, I met Shalom’s older sister, Faith. Faith is dynamic, fashion-forward, and full of life. In our first interaction, she thrust a thick green substance into my hand, urging me to try it. I obliged taking a big swig and nodded approvingly. Later, I bring up my love for my brand-new air fryer. She nodded along and asked me a bunch of questions about it. At the end of the ride, I was very thankful for her and we bid farewell.

The next time I met Faith was at a family get-together. The moment I get into the room, I hear Faith call out to me in front of everyone. I wave to her feeling uncomfortable with the spotlight. Faith then bellows from across the room, “Mike, did you remember to bring the air fryer you promised me?!?” I freeze like a deer in headlights. I think to myself, “Wait, no way…I would never promise my beloved air fryer to anyone, not even including my girlfriend’s family.” I continue to smile unsure of how to respond. I lie yelling back, “Oh, I totally forgot; I will have to bring it next time.” Faith smiles and laughs at the interaction. But I feel an increased level of anxiety around Shalom’s family. With the unpredictability and the chance of further discomfort, a deep apprehension sets in.

If the story ended here, it would be tragic. I did not understand what happened and I did not know how to better communicate how I felt. I felt misunderstood and did not know how to improve my relationship with my girlfriend’s family.

Here is a potential framework on how to navigate Cultural Clashes:

1.) Understand your own culture and where you are coming from

2.) Understand and be curious about someone else’s culture

3.) Press into the cultural clash and celebrate the beauty of God’s creation.


Understand Your Own Culture and Where You are Coming From

Thankfully, here is where the story gets fun! Shalom had a mentor who grew up in Indonesia. After hearing our interactions, she turns to Shalom and said, “Oh, Michael must have felt shame in that situation.” I finally understood why there was anxiety around Shalom’s family, and I learned about my own culture in the process. From my perspective, I felt public social shame and a feeling of being inappropriately targeted. I did not realize until months later that I had experienced a Cultural Clash and that God would use that to bring understanding to the different cultures my wife and I had grown up in.

My Chinese American upbringing was largely based on the Shame and Honor culture that pervades much of Asia. Our mission in our family was to bring honor to our family name and to avoid unnecessary shame brought onto our family. In that moment with Faith, I felt shame brought onto me. I felt through my cultural lens that I had been publicly called out for not remembering to bring an air fryer. I felt ashamed in front of Shalom’s entire family.


Try to Understand and be Curious About Someone Else’s Culture

To be curious about someone else’s culture, I had to take a step back from the situation and look through Faith’s eyes. At that moment, Faith was showcasing her family’s values in her interaction with me: Being bold and open in conversations, remembering common details, laughing with new friends, and making people feel at home and noticed in a crowd. Faith had zero intention of causing me shame or embarrassment in the slightest. Faith’s Black/Italian culture is one of a deep desire to be abundantly welcoming by including people in conversations. I am confident, years later, that Faith wanted to make me feel like one of the family and did so in the way she knew how. We now look back at this story with fondness and humor.


Press Into the Cultural Clash and Celebrate the Beauty of God’s Creation

God Created something beautiful when he made people from every nation, tribe, language, and tongue.

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”

—Revelation 7:9 -10:

I truly believe that we get to witness God’s creation when we have cultural clashes. We get the chance to see God’s beautiful creation filled with diverse norms and practices on clear display. In that moment with Faith, I got to experience God’s creation of my wife’s family culture. I got the chance to learn that it is vastly different than my own, and it is something to be curious about. I got to practice resolving conflict and learn how to speak a new language with my in-laws––a language filled with interruptions, humor, and putting others on the spot, a language that I am still learning how to communicate through.

I love telling this story about Faith and me because of how much it showcases that cultural clashes, when reflected on and with a bit of humor, can be amazing ways to learn about God’s people. I did learn that Faith intended for me to feel welcomed and loved. I learned that Faith absolutely adores me and me being included in her family. I learned that her culture is a beautiful one that is drastically different than my own.

Today, Hope Community Church, I urge you to consider having cultural clashes, reflecting, and pressing into those moments instead of avoiding them because they showcase our beautiful creator and his creation of every nation, tribe, and tongue.



  • Mike Mui

    Mike is a mental health therapist and has been a Hopester since 2008. He and his wife Shalom, enjoy board games, theater, and planning a good pot luck.

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