To Stay or Not asks:
I am an American woman who just married a Chinese man, and am so excited to find your site! We are planning on coming back to the US so he can go to graduate school. I know your husband is currently in school in the US, and you wrote somewhere you both plan to return to China. Could you tell me why you won’t stay in the US? I would like to know, because I sometimes wonder if staying in the US is right for us. Xie xie!
There’s a good reason why we won’t stay in the US. Do you know how hard it is to find a truly authentic Chinese restaurant here? Or, for that matter, a Chinese supermarket where there isn’t expired merchandise on the majority of the shelves (a big complaint from my husband)?
Seriously though…for us, there are two more substantial reasons we won’t stay in the US.
One is because my husband wants to help build up China with his talents. He’ll have a psychology Ph.D and — let’s face it — the US doesn’t need another psychology Ph.D. China, however, desperately does, as the field is still in its infancy over there. My husband also acknowledges China’s brain drain — instead of being another academic casualty, he wants to be one of the few who will return, and will make a difference. (Admittedly, as a writer obsessed with China, living there will be a plus for my career as well. )
The other reason? My husband feels more comfortable living in China. As any Asian living in the US knows, discrimination and prejudice are real problems. Most Asians — even those born here in the US — are wrongly perceived to be “foreigners” in this country. Of course, if you really are a foreigner, like my husband, then you may have an additional hurdle — being judged by your English ability or accent, which seems to be one of the few acceptable forms of discrimination in society. (Additionally, if we have children, we would want them raised in China, so they will know, appreciate and feel proud of Chinese culture and language.)
Still, our decision may not always be right for you.
Returning to China can be challenging for employment — especially if the industry is less developed, or if corresponding job opportunities (similar, including in terms of salary, to what he might find in the US) don’t really exist. Sometimes that means getting creative, such as starting a business. But not everyone has the energy, drive or passion for that. Some Chinese worry because they lack the guanxi usually needed for success in China.
A move back to China also brings up a host of additional issues, which I’ve mentioned in a previous column. As such, some Chinese are willing to live abroad as a minority because the benefits — such as a bigger home, cleaner environment, or green card — outweigh the problems. And, determined families can and do help their children appreciate China and its culture, despite the fact that it is not the mainstream.
Before you make a decision, you need to know what you both value in employment, life, and (should you want children) raising a family.
Also, consider visiting some of the blogs written by other Western women like me. You’ll find some that live in China, and others that live in their own countries. Read their writing to compare the experience of living in China versus living abroad — and know what to expect, whatever you decide.
By the way, since you are spending some time in the US, don’t forget one thing — learn Chinese cooking before you leave. Otherwise, you’re looking at 2-4 years with one grumpy husband, missing authentic food from home.
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.