China Elevator Stories

“He’s Not Your Husband Yet”

I chat with a TCM doctor in Shenzhen.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


If you drink Chinese medicine, at the beginning of the treatment your TCM doctor will usually require you to go see him or her every 3-4 days. The formula of the herbs will be adjusted every few days and while the basic ingredients might stay the same, the doctor might delete some of the herbs while at the same time adding a few new ones.

After I start my treatment for a weak spleen, I go to see the doctor a few times.

One time in late April, she tells me once more what I can eat and what I should avoid eating. When she mentions one dish she also mentioned the last time, I tell her that hubby (老公) cooked this dish for me last weekend.

The doctor asks: “Are you already married?”
I reply: “No, we’ll be married in a few weeks’ time.”
“So actually he’s not your husband yet.
“Well, isn’t it normal for Chinese couples to refer to each other as husband or wife (老公/老婆) even when they aren’t married?”
“Uh, young people like to call their boyfriend or girlfriend husband and wife way too early. You know, you really shouldn’t call him hubby at this stage of your relationship.
“Since we are almost married, it really comes down to the same for me.”

The doctor asks me: “How would you call him in your native language?”
“No matter if we’re married or not, we’d call each other ‘treasure’ (Schatz). If we talk about the other person after getting married, we’d call them husband or wife, but this is not a word we’d use to address the person directly.
The doctor states: “This is much more like my generation would do it.”

Have you ever thought that people in China call each other husband or wife way too early into their relationships?

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