I’m a 22 years old girl from europe and currently finishing a master’s degree in biology. Everything was clear in my life until last year, when I meet a chinese exchange student in my university. Our friendship evolved into something so deep that we become boyfriend and girlfriend. But he had to went back to China 8 months ago to finish his bachelor there. We simply could not give up of our relationship and we keep in touch, but now we have a dilemma…He wish he could move to my country but he can’t find a job here. I’m finishing my degree and I also can’t see any job prospects for me in China as well…Even if I move there to live with him, my future seems dark. I wouldn’t even consider the possibility to move to China if my love wasn’t so deep…I’d be completely dependent on him in a foreign country with strict immigration laws… I’m not even a native english speaker nor have any teaching degree in languages or teaching experience, can’t speak mandarin fluently… so my scientific degree seems worthless there. Unless I find a stable job and income in China (unrealistic), I think I won’t be welcome there or get a stable residence permit. How many foreign women had married a chinese national under these conditions? My head tells me it’s not wise but my heart……So we will have to break up because he’s chinese and I’m a foreign girl? I still can’t simply accept this and move on…
Location is one of the biggest hurdles for cross-cultural couples in China — especially couples of Chinese men and foreign women, as I wrote in the article Western Wives, Chinese Husbands:
Going to your country might be your first choice, but what about him? Think of it from his point of view. He will become a minority in your country and many Western countries, sadly, have negative stereotypes of Asian men, from the emotionless Kung Fu warrior to the emasculated nerd. He has to negotiate daily life in a foreign language, which adds to his stress. Even with a favorable visa (for example, a permanent resident card), he will face discrimination in hiring for jobs if he doesn’t: 1) know how to “perform” in job interviews; 2) have a degree from your country (remember, news about China has primed them to be suspicious about China, including Chinese credentials), or; 3) speak good English. As Jessica explains, “my husband has no marketable skills—he’s a career musician—and speaks no English. Guess where we’ll be living for the foreseeable future?”
If you’re considering moving to your country, graduate school may be the solution, at least to overcome discrimination in credentials and accelerate his acculturation. But don’t be surprised if your husband would rather stay in China or move back to China after earning a degree.
Staying in China isn’t going to work for you. You value your career, and would not be able to work there. In China, you’d have to rely on him entirely for income — a perilous option, given that most Chinese couples have a hard time buying and affording homes on one income. As you mentioned, without employment, how will you get that residence permit (especially now that China is more strict in visa enforcement)?
Psychologically, you’d face challenges because you sacrificed your career (and, I’m assuming, your dreams). Chances are, love won’t be enough to overcome regrets over leaving behind who you are — a reality Betty Friedan captured perfectly in the Feminine Mystique.
Instead of thinking about life in China, why not consider life together in your country? He may not be employable now, but graduate school could change that. Since he already studied in your country, he’s clearly fluent enough for school.
But is he willing to live abroad?
Location disputes have the potential to break otherwise happy cross-cultural couples apart. No matter how much you love each other, sometimes it’s not enough to overcome geography. But let’s hope you can. Good luck.
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.