“It’s hard to have a yangxifu [洋媳妇, the foreign wife of a Chinese man].” I know it seems strange, but every time my husband says this, we both bust up in laughter.
I don’t know when the phrase turned into our running joke, but I know why it makes us laugh. After all, I’ve never been the sort of woman who demanded a brand-spanking-new condo, car, and lots of cash; we’ve always rented, driven secondhand cars, and felt grateful just to pay our bills at the end of the month. I’ve never dragged John to the Apple store and begged him for an iPhone or any other status-gadget; instead I bought us dumb phones at the grocery store for a few bucks, and later lost mine somewhere in my car. And while I want a wedding ring someday from my husband, I’m content to wait for it until John graduates and lands his dream job. In short, if you looked up “demanding wife” or even “bridezilla” in the dictionary, you sure as hell wouldn’t find my photo there.
So today, I happened to nudge John with this phrase, how hard it is to have a yangxifu, while walking through the park. We laughed, as usual. But then I went off script, and asked him, “Do you think there’s any truth in it?”
In fact, the phrase echoes a stereotype in China about Western women. Everyone constantly talks about the “price” of marriage in China, that Chinese women and their families expect the guy to pony up a new condo, car and plenty of cash before a wedding could even be a possibility. So people think, if Chinese women expect this, wouldn’t a foreign woman expect so much more (since foreigners already demand higher salaries, better housing/schools, etc.)?
So John nearly stopped me in my power-walking tracks with his answer: “Maybe,” that maybe there was truth in it after all.
“But I’m not demanding,” I said. “I never asked for the whole house-car-money thing.”
“True. Maybe in the beginning, Chinese women are harder, they demand a lot before the marriage.” (He even threw in an anecdote, saying that some people in China believe that the woman’s mother is, in a small part, to blame for the out-of-control real estate situation in China. But I digress.)
“Though after marriage, maybe a yangxifu might need some more things. Like, the travel issue, to travel back to her country to visit family, and maybe yangxifu will want to travel more.”
I nodded. “Okay, maybe so. What else?”
“The lifestyle, that yangxifu will want a better standard of living if they live in China.”
“But come on, so many Chinese want a high standard of living already! They all want to live in Western-style apartments and even houses, if possible. Maybe it’s not the standard of living people expect in your rural village, but that’s changing too.”
John laughed with embarrassment, his way of saying “maybe not.”
“Besides,” I said with a raised eyebrow, “I’ll never force you to buy me a Louis Vuitton or Coach purse.”