For Mia and LaRon Kampka, blending their Chinese and U.S. cultures has been a labor of love.
The couple met three years ago in Rome, Italy.
“She was actually a friend of my mom’s,” LaRon, a videographer, says. “They had met online and she was interested in our travel itinerary that I had actually put together for our family. I love travel as well as just having an idea of what I’m going to do once I get to wherever I’m going, instead of just kind of flying by the seat of my pants.”
About a year later, LaRon found out Mia was in the United States and single. They started dating, “one thing led to another,” he says, their son was born and they were married a year after that.
Mia, a photographer, is also a travel lover. When she lived in China, she was working for IBM, a job that required nearly 200 days of travel per year, something she didn’t mind.
Sharing a love of travel
Even in her off time, she would use every vacation day she could to go to a new country.
“I have to be honest, my dream was traveling the world before I met him,” Mia, an avid outdoorswoman, says of LaRon. “So my dream was traveling all around the world, climbing all the Seven Summits. I just like to try different things.”
Mia has been in the United States since January 2020, when she came over for surgery to heal a pair of broken legs sustained while either climbing or skiing. IBM had given her a four-month paid medical leave, and while she was in the U.S., the COVID pandemic began. Since she couldn’t go back to China, her company offered her a severance check, which she accepted.
Learning a new culture
Living in the United States full-time (as opposed to just visiting) has brought Mia its own highs and lows. She loves the work-life balance she found when she came to the U.S.
“Here, people enjoy life,” she says. “People can tell you, ‘I’m on my vacation and don’t bother me.’ You literally can say that. In China, it’s a different culture. We always work.”
At the same time, living in the United States after growing up in Chungqing, China pretty much all her life has had Mia essentially taking a hands-on crash course on all things U.S. culture: “I’m still learning the cultural differences because from where I come from, people barely say or show love. People will hide inside.”
Whereas in the United States, “people always want showing love or hug each other or help each other. It’s kinda different,” she says.
The couple recently celebrated their first anniversary, and their son is nearly two years old.
Here, people enjoy life. People can tell you, ‘I’m on my vacation and don’t bother me.’ You literally can say that. In China, it’s a different culture. We always work.Mia Kampka
Learning a new culture
For LaRon, who grew up in the United States, living with someone not from his birth country had been an eye-opener as well.
“I feel like the Chinese culture, there’s a lot more assertiveness toward achieving goals and being very direct and Americans, we can be a little ‘foo foo’ about things before we actually get to what we’re trying to achieve or what we’re trying to address,” he says. “We kind of try to set the table first, and make sure that everything is copacetic.”
Since Mia is so well traveled, LaRon says she isn’t a very rigid person as far as her thought process is concerned.
“She is super open to new concepts and understanding things and has totally taught me a lot of new things, like as far as how to think about things in a way that you wouldn’t normally think about them in order to achieve your goal,” he says.
“And sometimes you don’t have to go through something, you can go over it or under, you know? Through a different direction. So I really appreciate that new perspective,” he adds.
Raising a bilingual Kampka child
The San Diego, Calif.-based couple is raising their 2-year-old son Joseph to be bilingual. They recently enrolled him into the only Chinese bilingual preschool in San Diego.
“Joseph absorbs a lot, way, way more than I do,” LaRon says. “He’s definitely at this age and recites pretty much everything his mom says to him in back in English and in Chinese, which is super impressive in my opinion. I mean, I’m still learning to count to three” in Mandarin.
Whereas Joseph “can count to 10 already,” Mia adds.
“I think that’s why we choose our partners that we choose in life,” LaRon says. “Because they give us like a fresh set of eyes and they can probably show us some things that maybe we didn’t really think about too much beforehand.”
Learning small talk
Since they both work on their photography business, LaRon says Mia is learning a lot just from dealing with their clients.
“The etiquette of doing business in the United States, like she said earlier, is very different than the etiquette of doing business in Asia,” he says. “It’s kinda like you have to warm up to people more in the United States where in Asia, like she said, it’s like you just cut to the point. And sometimes I have to remind Mia to try to at least like warm up in conversation.”
I feel like the Chinese culture, there’s a lot more assertiveness toward achieving goals and being very direct and Americans, we can be a little ‘foo foo’ about things before we actually get to what we’re trying to achieve or what we’re trying to address.LaRon Kampka
It’s gotten to the point now that LaRon says Mia has gotten better than him at the whole small talk thing.
“I listen to her on calls when we’re doing consultations for a lot of our customers and I’m amazed at how great she is at consulting with people and sharing information and getting to really know and personify and just, you know, get close to people,” he says.
As for what the future brings, “I think in the next five years, it’d be nice to just have more people be a part of our organization who have the same mindset, who want to be invested in and have equity as well,” LaRon says. “I came from a company where I gave a lot of sweat equity, but was never given equity and I told myself if I ever had somebody working for me, I would definitely want them to have a portion or part of that if that’s something that they were interested in.”
To learn more about Mia and LaRon Kampka’s photography, go to pkaphoto.com.