The Personal Side of Solving Personal Problems in China

My Chinese friend, Caroline
When I asked my Chinese friend, Caroline, about her "personal problem," it wasn't a problem to her, but my way of showing I cared.

Last night, I asked my Chinese friend Caroline about her “personal problem” (个人问题 or, gèrénwèntí).

This wasn’t some euphemism for her latest gynecological issue, or a death in the family, or some neurosis that sent her running to the counseling center.

Caroline bust out in an embarrassed laughter. “No, I haven’t solved my personal problem yet,” she sighed. This “personal problem” was about solving the “problem” of being single.

Sometimes, I feel weird even asking friends like Caroline about their status like that. I don’t want her to think of me like, in the words of Bridget Jones, another “Smug Married,” just reminding her of the “tick-tock-tick-tock” reality of being a leftover woman in her thirties.

“It’s not like that,” John, my Chinese husband, emphasized. “Asking about someone’s ‘personal problem’ doesn’t make them feel burdened. It’s a way of showing your concern for them, and their well-being.”

And in China, being well includes being married, at any cost.

Maybe Caroline is even more grateful that I ask — since I’ve promised to help her find a boyfriend, somewhere. It’s only fair; after all, she was the matchmaking friend who schemed to get John and I together.

But this means her personal problem is now my personal problem.

Now, if I can just find a Mr. Right for my 34-year Chinese friend…

Have your Chinese friends ever discussed their “personal problem” with you? Have you ever helped solve someone’s “personal problem?” (Do you have any leads to help me solve Caroline’s “personal problem”? 😉 )

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13 thoughts on “The Personal Side of Solving Personal Problems in China

  • January 24, 2011 at 4:44 am
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    Taking bets on how soon before your mailbox blows up with requests to meet Caroline! 😉

    Reply
  • January 24, 2011 at 5:12 am
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    Here in Bosnia, people will go out of their way to make you feel awful about not being married by 30. If you’re also single past 30, you might as well be Frankenstein. But, I’m happy to report, more and more young women are fighting this attitude, and thinking more about being happy than simply getting married at any cost. Still, many people from the older generations (and sadly many people among the younger generations) think it’s impossible for a woman to be happy unless she’s married.

    Reply
  • January 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm
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    I started getting nagged by my family about marriage when I turned 30 and I’m an Asian American Male. I can imagine its 10 times worst as Asian female:)

    Reply
  • January 24, 2011 at 3:06 pm
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    How about making euphemism of euphemism?
    Your “situation” instead of “little problem” 🙂

    Reply
  • January 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm
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    Recently many guys have asked me to solve their personal problem, and find a girlfriend, better to be foreigner, for them. And yes, they are all Chinese guys. Unfortunately I haven’t done any successful match making yet, but maybe soon in the future.

    In the other side many Chinese people think that I have a personal problem because I chose the wrong guy! You know, I didn’t chase the most rich guy, but the most lovely/kind/good/nice guy. I guess this is supposed to be Chinese way of caring about me, but too much criticising will also mean that these people will soon have a problem with me as if the situation needs I can be honest back too.

    If I meet anyone that would suit your friend Caroline, I’ll let you know 😉

    Reply
    • January 24, 2011 at 11:28 pm
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      @Jessica, nice to see you around! Boy, I wish! 😉 I’ve been trying to help Caroline for such a long time, and I feel really badly b/c she did set me and John up.

      @Sonja, that’s really cool that women in Bosnia are starting to fight against the 30 as expiration date attitude towards women. I can imagine it’s tough w/ the older generations, but when you think about it, there’s such a generation gap — even John’s mother pretty much built her life around marriage, and nowadays there are so many more options for women. It’s going to take a few generations for these ideas to change.

      @Henry Yeh, really?? 😉

      @Marcus, hey, great to hear the male perspective. Yes, I have heard the same from my male Chinese friends — for the longest time, my good friend Peter lamented about it as well, and had a lot of pressure from the family.

      @Crystal, ha, I’ll have to try that! 😉

      @Sara, thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve felt a lot of negative pressure because of your own choice. It’s really a shame that money is so all-encompassing in Chinese culture — because it means that people miss out on the nice guys out there. Hang in there. After all, look at Jessica — she married a musician (who probably isn’t the richest guy on the block), and they’ve built a wonderful family and life together.

      P.S.: Thanks for keeping your eyes out for my friend, Caroline. 😉

      Reply
  • January 25, 2011 at 8:44 am
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    A couple have, neither seem so worried about it. In fact one is convinced she can’t get married because her father was such a great husband for her mom that if she can’t find someone that meets those standards it isn’t on. Fair enough I say! Both are very successful, happy and fulfilled women and if they find a man, it’s merely icing on the cake 🙂

    Reply
  • January 25, 2011 at 9:22 am
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    I seem to remember that it is quite common now for the new generation of Chinese men/women to remain single until they feel they are “ready”. They seem to modeling after the western society to have career first then marriage, well, when it happens, it happens. Many of my cousins in Taiwan have not yet any prospect due to their own view of freedom. I am not sure if they will be spending so much effort in looking for that special someone?

    Reply
  • January 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm
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    @Jocelyn
    No, not rly.
    I live in Mexico for God’s sake.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm
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    I my best friend is Japanese, she had the same “personal problem” but I introduced her to her current boyfriend. They have been dating for two years now.
    But this 41 year old Caucasian woman has this exact “personal problem” can you help me too?

    Reply
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