Ask the Yangxifu: The Word “Love” and Chinese Men

"Love" written in neon orange and pink
If a Chinese man tells you "love" or "love you," does it always mean what you think it does?

Confusedoverlove asks:

I am an American girl living in China and feel extremely confused about this one Chinese guy I started spending time with. I started developing feelings for him, but tried to keep my feelings to myself because it was so hard to read him and tell if he really liked me. He treats me just like a regular friend for the most part, and most of the time if we spend time together, it’s with other people. But recently I noticed he’s been signing e-mails to me with “Love”. His English isn’t perfect but it’s not bad and I just keep wondering if this really means something. What do you think?

For some Chinese, “love” isn’t always the love you imagine.

I know a Chinese man who regularly signs his texts with “love” or “love you.” He sent those texts to — wait for it — my husband. (His English, by the way, is decent.)

Another Chinese man I once flirted with consistently signed off his e-mails with “Love.” He spoke great English. But that love wasn’t really there, either, because he refused me months later.

As long as you’re navigating in a language that’s not his own, you can’t always trust he means what you think. It’s possible that he grasps the connotation of a word like “love” in Western cultures, with all of the seriousness it carries — maybe he really paid attention to his English studies. But it’s just as possible he let the “L” word slip without realizing how you would respond.

Remember, many Chinese grow up in homes where “love” is never spoken aloud. More often, Chinese prefer to imply their love through actions, instead of words. Instead of analyzing his e-mails, notice how he behaves with you. If he seems wont to leave your side or if he’s spending copious amounts of time with you, there might be something there. But his behavior makes you feel like a common friend — well, you probably are.

Give it time, and see if your relationship changes. It just might. But, that said, don’t let the word “love” fool you.

What advice do you have for Confusedoverlove?

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.

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9 thoughts on “Ask the Yangxifu: The Word “Love” and Chinese Men

  • July 31, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I’ve come to realize that it’s quite popular to say among Asian people that speak English as a second language. I think more often than not, however, they don’t quite understand the “seriousness” that goes along with the word. Depends on who taught them and how well they understand Western culture.

  • July 31, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I wish some western girl love me!!

  • August 1, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Urgh! Chinese guys are so frustrating! I feel you frustration because here in China they’ll never ever get around to doing anything. They’re too shy and they make you feel like a fool for even being interested!

    My advice, you’re probably going to have to make a bold move like grabbing his hand or something because it’s impossible to talk about it even if they’re speaking English it’s like they’re speaking another language!

  • August 2, 2010 at 10:49 am

    And the paradox is that when they do LOVE – they suddenly forget this word 🙂

  • October 31, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Im SOOOOOOOO glad I stumbled upon this. Just hours ago I had a female student send me an email wishing me a happy halloween and then signed “i love you.” I asked another teacher what I should do, and she suggested I should explain to her that in the West we reserve that for a bf/gf and close friends and family…. any other suggestions?

    Any help finding a chinese gf???? 🙂 I’m not playing the foreigner card either, I will never be someone’s novelty!

    • October 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Josh! I think that teacher’s advice is spot on. Use it as an opportunity to help her understand the nuances of the English language better. Obviously, do it in a way that’s sensitive, but let her know. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it because, if she is a typical Chinese girl, she wouldn’t say something so serious to her teacher.

      For finding a Chinese girlfriend, check out the advice on this site.

  • May 12, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    [Comment was removed because it contained hate speech]

  • January 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Jocelyn, maybe the above comment requires deletion or strike-through?! Sigh… 🙁

    • January 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Blossom, thanks for the heads up! I went ahead and just censored it because of the hate speech.


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