Shocked in Shanghai asks:
I came to China from Europe over a year ago, to mend my broken heart, I left a long relationship in Europe to become strong in China and become independent and know myself. The man I have fallen in love with is an amazing guy from Shanghai. We have been together for around two months now, have spent pretty much everyday together for the last two months and it has been amazing. Our different cultures have not been too much of a problem, we laugh and always have so much to talk about.
However…. the sad thing is his parents won’t accept me. They can’t understand how he could love me. My family on the other hand have no problems at all with it and if I am happy they are happy. He promises me that we will always be together and I know how much he loves me, it’s just the pressure his family are putting him under. It is difficult for me to understand as in the West we don’t face such pressure, but I am always supportive of him. I guess I don’t want to lose this man but I have no control and I feel alone with it. All I can do is have faith and believe that his family one day will have to accept that we want to be together and love each other, rather than thinking it is just a fatuation. They think I will leave him or take him to Europe. I have told him that I will stay in China for him as Europe isn’t the greatest place for us to be together.
If you have any advice I would love to hear it.
My first thought is there’s hope. Your Chinese boyfriend is clearly committed to you, and your relationship. Think of him as the barometer: a lack of commitment or unwillingness to oppose the parents means the relationship is over. He’s standing by you; he wants you to be together — and that goes a long way in making the impossible possible.
I’m not surprised his parents are against you two getting together. Foreign women in China have a serious image problem among most would-be Chinese inlaws.
A lot of Chinese parents fear foreign women will take their sons away from them, to live permanently abroad. They imagine that you, the foreigner, will never fully adapt to life in China, or will simply be too homesick and decide to move back. Chinese believe that children — especially sons — are there to care for parents in their old age. If your boyfriend is an only child, that makes the fear even more acute, because he is their only “insurance” for elder care.
Some parents worry you’ll demand more than most Chinese women, because you’re a foreigner. Chinese women usually won’t say “I do” unless the man has an apartment, car and good-paying job. Surely, they think, foreigners would want even more out of their son.
They might be concerned your lifestyle conflicts with Chinese expectations — such as having children or having the grandparents help you raise them. They may wonder if you could even communicate with them.
And, of course, many parents simply harbor outlandish stereotypes about foreign women — that we’re some kind of unreliable, fickle “Sex and the City” seductress (i.e. not wife material).
Sometimes, the only way to overcome these stereotypes and suspicions is to meet them — and show them you’re a nice, normal girl who could fit into a Chinese family.
Meeting the future Chinese inlaws was my breakthrough. They discovered I spoke Chinese. They saw I was polite, modest, and helpful, and cared for my family (I brought pictures of my family to share with them. I showed respect by presenting my Chinese boyfriend’s father and mother with some filial gifts (in my case, ginseng).
Speaking Chinese — as I do — can definitely change the family’s perceptions and open them up to having you in their life.
His parents may not wish to see you right away. But if you continue to date their son, and stay committed, chances are, they will eventually want to meet you. Despite the stereotype of authoritarian, disciplinarian Chinese parents, most have a strong permissive side as well (think of how Chinese grandparents tend to spoil the grandchildren). If you are the woman their son really wants, they may realize they have no choice but to accept you — especially if you promise to stay in China and help care for them.
Your boyfriend’s love and loyalty to you means it’s not over. Good luck, and let us know how things turn out.
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.