I am a foreigner and have been living in China for over three years now. I have gone through several boyfriends and relationships, all in varying degrees of intensity and situations. But each one shared something in common. Each one was a Westerner. I have always had a dislike for Asian men.
A couple months ago I met a young Chinese man that changed all that. From the first time I met him I was strangely attracted to him. As he was one of my students I met him regularly and got to know all about him through our many classes on an intermediate English level. Since this was a class of all young men, they often liked to talk about relationships, girlfriends, dating, etc. I thought I understood Chinese, but I never saw this side of China before. The more I got to know him the more I felt this “strange attraction” to this young Chinese man. He was strong, manly, assertive in an attractive sort of way, had opinions, was smart, etc. Suddenly I felt myself looking around and thinking, “There are so many handsome men here!” There arose in me feelings towards Chinese men I had never before experienced. I suddenly thought they were handsome, sexy and attractive. I began researching on the internet and found your blog and read about other women’s experiences.
Since that class ended I’ve been getting to know this young man. We spend time together every weekend. He’s always very cordial, offers to take my purse, pays for meals out, drinks, go to a park and spend hours talking together, etc. and I feel so comfortable talking, laughing and spending time with him. Originally our contact began for him to improve his English and I my Chinese, but I don’t know the real reason really. He has a girlfriend, who lives in another city and he often complains about her and about Chinese girls in general and some of their customs, (ie. making their boyfriend shop all day with them, carry their purse, throwing fits, etc.). In these ways, I, as a westerner, am very different from Chinese girls and I feel like he really enjoys my company and he always says we are friends.
My question is this, “Am I wasting my time? Is there any sort of future (as in gf/bf) or might he have feelings for me?” I have read about taking it slow and the oft’ times painfully dragged out process that can be with an Asian man, but I’m wondering if it would do any harm to at least be honest with him about this. Would it hurt for me to ask him if he likes me or if he wants to date a Western girl (me)? I just don’t know if it’s him being shy or that he thinks I would never be attracted to him in that way that makes it stall or if he truly just wants us to be “friends”. In my culture I would just be upfront about this with a guy, but I’m afraid of offending him or having him say something just to “please me” since Chinese have a hard time with being upfront about their personal feelings. I’m very new to this and dating any sort of Asians in general so please help me with your advice. Thank you!
No, R, I don’t think you’re wasting your time — because, in many ways, your story mirrors what happened to me when I met the man who would become my first Chinese boyfriend.
He too had a girlfriend (a girlfriend that I actually met on several occasions, including one afternoon when the three of us spent time together), and he complained about her when the two of us were alone. He also treated me to drinks and dinners, invited me out for walks, and even spent what should have been prime date time (think Friday and Saturday nights) out with me instead. But through it all, he kept me wondering about us — wondering if I was just crazy to feel this way (especially about a guy spoken for), wondering if anything would come of this since we remained in this sort of dating limbo (which I wrote about in my post on Indirect Dating and Chinese Men).
But I couldn’t deny this attraction between us. I never felt so strongly about a man before I met him, and up to that time in fall 1999, I considered him the sexiest guy I’d ever met.
Still, I never wanted to ask him outright, “Do you like me?” It’s a hard thing to ask anyone, and maybe it felt even harder in a culture and country where no one gets direct about their feelings. But he often dropped me hints — such as how he told me he thought foreign women were beautiful, his invitation to travel together with me, the fact that our shoulders often touched when we took evening walks, and even the way he once took a tissue to wipe my eyes for me.
This one day in mid-November, I just had a strong feeling that if I reached for his hand, he wouldn’t let it go. So I did just that — and our hands didn’t part during the whole walk back to where I stayed, a walk that ended with a kiss. Sure, our relationship didn’t last (he left the country and we just couldn’t make it work), but I still cherish the love he and I shared — my first grown-up love — and the fact that our love opened me up to the possibility of something lasting with a Chinese man (which I’m so thrilled I found with John, the love of my life).
So, yes, you really could become this guy’s girlfriend. It’s probably not him being shy or putting you off or just wanting to be friends — it’s just the typical “dating limbo” I experienced with Chinese men.
If you want clarity from him, try something more indirect. For example, as you suggested, you could ask him what he thinks of Western women or if he ever would date them. If he blushes or hints at his interest, then you should know he truly likes you.
You might also consider making a simple move to show how you feel. Some Chinese men get really shy before Western women, and some even believe (wrongly) that we would never consider dating them — barriers you might not be used to in dating. If you feel strongly that this guy could really like you, then consider doing what I did — reaching for his hand. It’s one of the easiest physical ways to show you really like him. (My classic move is grabbing his hand while we’re crossing the street — that way, I could always claim I was “scared of the traffic.” 😉 )
By the way, R, I couldn’t help share your letter because, on a certain level, it’s really inspiring. Here you were, a Western woman who pretty much crossed Chinese men off her dateworthy list for good, and then one guy changed your mind forever. For the women out there, it’s a reminder that you should always keep an open mind and heart when it comes to dating. And for the guys out there, remember — just because she says she doesn’t date Chinese men doesn’t mean she never will.
UPDATE: R shared the latest with me in an e-mail last week:
He came over to my home and we had lunch together and chatted. Somehow, very casually, our hands met, ha. It makes me feel like a school girl all over again. But he asked me out on our first “official date” to see a movie on a day we don’t usually meet. There’s something rather special about it, in a way. Makes me feel like I’m really being courted instead of chased [for sex].
What advice would you have given to R?
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