Just recently, a reader also shared with me how her friend, a Western woman, was heartbroken by a Chinese man who didn’t disclose his marriage — and pregnant wife.
There’s a saying in Chinese: 林子大，什么鸟都有 (there are all kinds of birds in a big forest). So, it goes for China too: there are all kinds of Chinese men. And some aren’t really looking for THAT kind of love.
Western society is often portrayed as loose, morally bankrupt and hedonistic and much of the blame for this seems to fall on the shoulders of Western women. Often implicit in China is the attitude that men — Chinese or foreign — will be men. They might keep mistresses or gamble or drink too much, but as long as they do their duty to their family their shortcomings can be set aside. Women, however, are held to a different standard, and foreign women often seem to represent everything that good Chinese women aren’t. Foreign women fail at being virtuous and pure, fail at being long-suffering self-sacrificing upholders of family and tradition. Foreign women date around before marriage, have sex with whomever they feel like (and enjoy it), they drink, they smoke, and they don’t obey their husbands or their in-laws. Almost any foreign woman who has been in China for any length of time will have come across the stereotypical attitude from certain people — from the guys at the club who assume you’re theirs for the asking, to the co-worker who asks if foreign women all sleep around after marriage, to the guy who asks you out and wonders out loud if he’ll be able to satisfy your voracious sexual appetite, to your Chinese boyfriend’s parents, who tell him that you can play with foreign girls, but they aren’t marriage material. It is these sorts of attitudes that are the truly infuriating part of being a female expat in China, not the problems with Western men or the lack of datable guys, but how you are looked upon.
In China, Western women are just “not that innocent” by Chinese standards — making us a target for dishonest Chinese men with less-than-innocent intentions. And if we’re used to getting physical fast, because of past relationships or experience, we may not even realize he doesn’t care.
The question is — how can a Western woman protect herself from dishonest Chinese men, who are really married or engaged?
Chances are, we won’t know he’s spoken for. Chinese don’t wear wedding rings, and they come from a culture where burying your deepest feelings — including love — has been honed to an art over thousands of years. I can’t tell you how many times my Chinese male friends, who I thought I knew so well, would suddenly disclose their romantic ties, much to my surprise. Often, couples in China must live apart, because of work or school — so just because your friend is available on date night, doesn’t mean he’s actually “available.”
Your best defense is dating like Chinese women do: very slowly. Chinese women often start with a group date, normally a group of friends that includes the potential romantic interest. If they like the person, they may then go on solo dates, and kiss, perhaps more. But never, never will a “good” Chinese woman sleep with someone, until she is certain they plan to marry. Sometimes that means months of dating — the perfect antidote to any dishonest man looking for sex on the sly.
Group dating — initially, at least — also helps you “vet” a man, because your Chinese friends are a better judge of his intentions. Plus, group dating is a lot safer, as sometimes dishonest men (the world over) don’t believe in “no.” Last summer, a married Chinese driver (chosen to drive me by a friend) tried to sexually assault me in his car after we pulled into the airport parking lot. Nothing happened (thank goodness) but the lesson is clear — don’t be alone in China with a strange man.
But don’t be afraid to get to know Chinese men, either. There are lots of great, honorable men in China. I should know — I married one. 😉 And with patience and time, you’ll find your man, too.
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.