When I was a new teacher in China, every day I taught English to my students and they taught me about China. One day the topic turned to saying: "I love you." I was shocked to learn that not one of my students had said this to their mothers, nor had their mothers said it to them
"Does your mom love you?"
"Of course," they chorused, a bit offended that I'd even asked.
"How do you know?" was my logical question. They responded that their moms cooked and always told them what they were doing wrong to show their caring. I was stunned. So mom's cooking and criticizing read out as "I love you".
How do you say "I love you" to her? They agreed that getting good grades, followed by good jobs and then marrying and having that precious grandchild would be how they showed their love.
I come from a culture where most people would find that not expressive enough, so I repeated these queries in classes over time. Gradually, I began to get different responses. Some of them had exchanged those sentiments with their moms.
One of my favorite stories of change came from a young woman. When she came home from university, her mother met her at the door and hugged her. This had never happened before, but her mom said: "Now that you have gone I have more time to myself and I watch TV more. I noticed that in some places mothers and children hug each other and I decided it was a good idea and that I would begin hugging you."