Ask the Yangxifu: The Chinese doorman closed off friendship

"Don't trouble please" sign on door in Chinese hotel
A Chinese doorman suddenly closes the door to friendship (or more) with a foreign woman.

huayue asks:

I am a 24-year-old Canadian woman teaching English in Shanghai and I have a question for your “yangxifu.” I became friends with the young doorman of this hotel where my gym is. He doesn’t speak English but my Chinese is good enough so we can carry on a conversation. Anyhow he asked me out one day. I’m not sure if it was a date or not. But he took me out to eat and then to play games at an arcade. It was so much fun, one of the best evenings I had had in a long time. He was so charming, gentlemanly and we had a lot in common. After that we both decided to get together again. The second time we had dinner, and then he took me for a walk through the park in the evening. It was kind of romantic. That evening I felt a little closer to him, like there was the possibility for something more than friends. We also agreed to see each other another time, to go for a walk in the park. But the day we planned to see each other it rained and he called to ask us to postpone it. I told him it was fine. But now it’s been almost four weeks and he hasn’t tried to reschedule it. I sent him text messages and call but he hasn’t responded or called me. Whenever I see him at the door of the hotel he avoids talking with me. I would like to see him again at least as a friend and I don’t understand him. What do you think is going on with him?


Thanks for the question, huayue.

Here’s what I think: it seems like he’s not interested in having a relationship with you — as a friend, or more.

Short of having access to his every thought (thankfully, still impossible in this world!), I can only speculate why. Here are some guesses:

  • An inferiority complex? Some Chinese men feel intimidated by the presence of a foreign woman — we come from developed countries, we’re usually taller/heavier, and we often earn more. This man is a doorman, probably with only a high school education, and you’re a (I’m assuming) college-educated English teacher. You seem to treat him as an equal, which is great. But he may feel as if he’s far behind you.
  • Parents or friends who won’t agree? For some Chinese men, going against the suggestions or wishes of family/friends isn’t an option. If he’s not sure you’re going to fit into his life, he may wish to abandon the relationship.
  • A girlfriend? Simply put, he started dating someone else, and he doesn’t feel comfortable spending time with you.

Still, my guess is nothing compared to getting the real story from him, something you may or may not feel comfortable doing (especially given he isn’t responding to calls or texts). Obviously, you can’t avoid him at the hotel, since you exercise there. If it would help, you could try asking him what’s going on — but, depending on his personality and reasons for the distance, you may not necessarily get a good answer. Or any answer at all.

Whatever happens, I wish you good luck.

Do you have a question about dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Yangxifu: The Chinese doorman closed off friendship

  • February 7, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Yeah I agree with Jocelyn. It is very possible that someone said something to him about foreign women or made a crack about how ridiculous the idea was or something like that. Chinese people can be pretty sensitive about what others think, they take the opinions of others very seriously, so if he thinks he’s setting himself up to loose face by going out with you, he might cut it off before it gets started.

    • February 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks for weighing in, Jessica! People in China do often care a lot about what others think — and you did a nice job of really explaining this.


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