Ask the Yangxifu: Your Chinese Boyfriend’s Parents Say No?

Chinese mother-in-law
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to a relationship with Chinese men is the family. How can you overcome opposition to having a foreign girlfriend? (pictured - my mother-in-law)

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.

20 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Your Chinese Boyfriend’s Parents Say No?”

  1. If the girl agrees to live in China – it immediately reduces many questions. If the commitment is serious I do not see a problem to overcome the lack of trust. It just takes time and requires a lot of patience.
    And – by the way – there are often many problems with inlaws even for people from the same culture. So – all I can wish is patience and happiness!

    1. Thanks for sharing your advice, Crystal. I would completely agree about needing time and patience to overcome these things. And your point about the inlaws is comforting — at least to know that it isn’t just foreign women in love with Chinese men who seem to encounter problems.

      BTW, you have a very nice blog, and I just added a link to it on my blogroll. It’s great to find Chinese women blogging with advice to foreign men (someone, in fact, asked about them via comments in another post).

  2. That is very good advice. My best friend will be moving to China to teach English on day, and she may need it. She hopes to meet a nice guy in China.

    I speak Chinese (Mandarin) as well. I am actually a little more interested in the language and culture than my husband, who has spent much of his life here in the U.S., and tries very hard to prove just how American he is. So his parents never had any problems accepting this white girl into their family. I do have some MIL issues, but I won’t go into that now. :-p

    1. Thanks for the comment, Juliet. Glad the advice might be useful for your friend.

      That’s fantastic you speak Mandarin and have such an interest in the culture, which must be very helpful for your young children, who might be curious about China. You are also blessed to have a family that never considered having a white daughter-in-law to be a problem. As for the MIL issues, I am sure you have a lot of company in that respect, as I have heard some crazy inlaw stories from readers and friends. 😉

  3. Most of you women (white) are lucky. You had understanding parents. In my case no. I am Chinese-American. Got my PhD in engineering. Most white American folks were accepting when their daughters mentioned my name as Robert Lee. However, the moment they found out that I am related to Bruce Lee of California and not Robert E. Lee of Virginia, they told them not to bring me I think it cuts both ways. My guess is as many white women’s families are not accepting of a Chinese boyfriend as Chinese man’s families are not accepting of a white girlfriend. So it cuts both ways! The proportion not accepting a white man or Asian woman is a lot smaller.

    1. Dear Lee, thank you so much for your comment! I have heard similar stories from other readers, and I would agree that it can definitely cut both ways, as you say.

      It is heartbreaking to see how this still happens in America, a country that on one hand tries to celebrate its multicultural and immigrant background — but on the other, still can be so closeminded to have people who couldn’t accept a Chinese-American son-in-law.

  4. “It is heartbreaking to see how this still happens in America, a country that on one hand tries to celebrate its multicultural and immigrant background — but on the other, still can be so closeminded to have people who couldn’t accept a Chinese-American son-in-law.”

    And they all claim to be Christians going to church…the fact that I am even more conservative and Christian than them does not make up for the skin color!

    1. Dear Lee, thank you once again for your comment. It’s terrible that you had that experience. But sometimes not even religious beliefs can wash away racist ideas. Sad, but it happens.

  5. Hi, I wanted to share my experience. I dated a Chinese guy in my home country for several years. His parents never approved me because I wasn’t Chinese. My boyfriend first kept our relationship secret, then our engagement secret and then didn’t tell me that he found a Chinese girl. So in the end family pressure was too much or he just found something better than me. Now looking for a more open minded guy and family behing him.

    1. Dear EuropeanGirl,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I wish you the best of luck in finding a new person to share your life with, and hope you’ll come back soon!

  6. This is western semi-rural Canada.

    So I stepped inside this girl’s house to meet her dad. He was a stern-looking guy and asked his daughter to bring him that shotgun. She did and I thought “NO WAY”. He cocked it and slowly aimed it at me and then lowered it. I knew the girl well enough, so I decided I’ll just man up, chill out, and stare him right in the eyes. (eh This used to be the wild west after all) He gave a chuckle.

    “So I heard you’re Chris.”
    “That’s right.”
    He chuckled again. “Have a seat Chris. You passed.”
    Girl: “haha it’s okay, he likes to do that.”

    We had a good chat about everything and nothing. Later he showed me his sword collection and he withdrew a few swords out of their sheaths just 2 feet away from me. We had a chat about the swords. later he formally gave approval that I was worthy enough chill with his daughter.

    I wonder how small town America is like.

  7. I spent almost 10 years in China and swore that I wouldn’t do the Asian thing again (I have 2 children to prove it) – too complicated! I just met the wrong men I guess so I don’t want to stereotype; I just want something less complicated and not cross-cultural. Then I did something really weird…I have falled for another Asian – this time a Sri Lankan and oh boy I can tell you this time it is more than complicated! His parents won’t accept me so he isn’t telling them and he has a daughter back in Sri Lanka and a wife he is not divorced from as yet. My life is a mess because of this situation so I regret falling into this complicated trap again…I just want to love in peace and am so tired of complicated. I don’t like it when people say that everything will work out fine if you love each other and work on the problems – this is not always the case and often you are better of quitting while you are ahead! Good luck to everyone!

  8. I currently have a similar problem (from uk). My bf (chinese) mum is completely against us. When threatening to disown him didn’t work, she said she would divorce his dad. Which caused a lot of distrress for my bf and now he has broken up with me. He ran away to china for a few weeks and is back. And he seems very confused. How can a mother put their son through this? He is also concerned for his mum’s health (even though she is fine). He is thinking of moving to china permanently. He is thinkng, in ten years times, what if his mum falls ill. Who knows what will happen in ten years time. We all worry about our parent’s health. But we dont live our life worrying about it. We cross that bridge when it happens. I want to give him strength and get him to fight for me, as i have fought for him with my parents when they rejected him. Its tough, but i want to give him strength. I dont know how to do this as i keep breaking down half the time. Its really hard. I hate this whole racist perception. We are all people! How can skin colour be the cause of so many issues in 2011?!!! Why can’ t people just think “if he is happy, then its ok”.

  9. Don’t worry about the mom or the dad when you talk to your bf/gf families! Doesn’t matter if they accept you or not because you and your gf/wife form another family already. Chinese couples have in law problems all the time.

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