Ask the Yangxifu: Showing Chinese Men You’re “Not Interested”

A woman holds her hand up, as if to say "no thanks"
How do you show a Chinese man you're just not that into him? Jocelyn offers some ideas to show, not tell, that you're nothing more than friends.

No Chance asks:

There’s a Chinese guy at my work who I’ve hung out with, but I never considered us more than just friends.  I was about 60% sure that he liked me, but for various reasons I had my doubts.

One night, a seemingly casual dinner ended up being (apparently) a date.  After reading some of this site, I realize that apparently I’ve been pretty ignorant of Chinese culture and how he probably has seen all of this as dating.  (I’m an American woman.)  He did later confess his feelings for me, and told him that I wasn’t interested in anything more than friendship.  I’ve been pretty upfront with him about how I feel, and he claims that he doesn’t feel led on, but I think he thinks that I’m suppressing feelings for him.  Because I still have a lot of respect for him, I want to be sensitive to his confession, but how do I show him that there really is no chance?  I feel like he is not listening to me or doesn’t believe me.


I really like the fact you’re looking for a “show, don’t tell” approach to this situation — which, truly, fits with my experience living in China.

I’m sure my ex-boyfriend Frank wanted to show, not tell, his disinterest in staying connected with me (as a friend, that is) the past few summers I’ve returned to China. Whenever I invited him to meet me for dinner, something always came up. He had to decorate his new apartment. He needed to work overtime. His daughter was born (I didn’t doubt that one, but her birth sure had some inconvenient timing). Sometimes, he didn’t even answer my cell phone calls or text messages. While I still refuse to erase him from my address book, the truth is, I’ve lost any hope of ever meeting up with him again, as a friend.

You, too, can be like Frank — to show your disinterest in being a girlfriend to this Chinese man. Make yourself busy every time he asks you to go out or do something together. Don’t engage in anything beyond friendly chat at work — and if he tries to push it beyond something friendly, say, look nervously at your watch and tell him you have something important to deal with (no need to explain — most Chinese don’t). While ignoring all of his calls and text messages is probably WAY too extreme, you might want to let some calls roll over to voice mail first, and leave text messages to gestate for a while before responding.

Chances are, he’ll get the message.

But, in fact, there’s an even more foolproof way to take yourself out of the dating equation — offer to be a matchmaker to him, as many Chinese often do with their friends. Only a common friend would try to set him up on a date with another girl.

Just one thing, though — if you want to try the matchmaker card, make sure that you’ve got a REAL girl lined up for him, and ready to go. (There’s nothing worse than replacing one uncomfortable situation with another.)

What advice do you have for No Chance?


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8 thoughts on “Ask the Yangxifu: Showing Chinese Men You’re “Not Interested”

  • September 3, 2010 at 7:51 am

    You got to figure out why you are not interested in him and he needs to figure out why he is interested in you..may be for all the right or wrong reasons..but should be honest!

  • September 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Heh… this guy obviously needs to learn some seduction techniques before trying to hit it up with sophisticated western women. “Confessing” has a poor success rate.

    As for the problem at hand, the best thing to do is to say that you have an overseas boyfriend.

  • September 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I don’t understand why women don’t take a leaf out of the adventure riders hand book tbh. Tiffany is expert at this.

    I.e. if you go to a foriegn country bring along a ring, keeping it in your pocket, when such a proposal is said, hand in pocket slip ring on…

    I’m terribly sorry but I’m married.

    TCG does exactly the same thing when 小姐 solicit me sometimes on the streets when I visit China. No sorry I’m married…. though this doesn’t tend to work too often as a lot of them seem to say no problem or I can be your little wife….

  • September 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve once been in a similar situation as you, with a Chinese friend. I am wondering now whether my “method” was all wrong.
    This friend confessed his affection, too. I told him that I wasn’t interested, and he insisted that I could change my mind one day. I’ve been really straight forward, saying there’s no way – I told him a couple of times. He was still hoping to get a chance, so I told him that I don’t feel comfortable having any contact with him any more. That’s it – luckily he was not a colleague. I haven’t meant to be rude, but I didn’t know how to deal with the situation…

    • September 6, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      @George, thanks for the comment. It is very important to be honest with someone when you aren’t interested. I suspect she’s done that, as she writes that she’s been upfront with him — she’s just looking for a way show, not just tell, him she isn’t interested.

      @Richard, thanks for sharing. Mentioning you have an overseas boyfriend is another good idea.

      @The Chinese Guy, thanks for chiming in. Having a ring on hand to slip on would work if she didn’t happen to work with this guy, but just happened to meet him somewhere else.

      @Mali, thanks for joining the conversation. It can be tough to balance being polite and firm when you’re dealing with a very persistent guy, so I don’t fault you at all for being rude in the end. Travel guides, books on culture and the like prepare us all for the basics of living, but, generally, not for those everyday relationship headaches.

  • September 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    How does a girl say this? “a seemingly casual dinner ended up being (apparently) a date.”
    how does this happen unless the guy is a creep?

    I like your idea Jocelyn of becoming a match maker…great idea. Nothing worse than the girl you’re interested in telling you that they can find a great girl for you! UGH!

    • September 24, 2010 at 12:04 am

      Thanks for the comment, Magnus! You know, I think things like this can happen sometimes — at least, they have happened to me before, and I wouldn’t say the guys were creepy in any way. Sometimes there’s just a misunderstanding (which can frequently happen when you’re dealing with two cultures).

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