Ask the Yangxifu: Is Chinese Man Forgetting Me After One Night Together?

An old lonesome teddy bear, wet and forgotten
After finally spending a romantic night together, just before she leaves China for good, a woman wonders, is this Chinese man trying to forget me? (photo by Mattox)

Pepper asks:

I would need some advice about someone I care about… I’m a female student, studying abroad in China, and this past year I met fellow Chinese student slightly older than me and from Beijing. We instantly became friends and I had my eyes on him from the very beginning but I’m a very shy person and since we both come from different countries and met in another one I figured out it would be impossible for us to have a long-term relationship, and I didn’t want to cry for months when the time to part comes.

So we have been friends for the entire school year and sometimes I could catch a glimpse of interest from him, we used to look at each other in the eyes for a very long time or smile to each other for no apparent reason… on our last night at the university, when we were saying goodbye, we ended up kissing and he asked to come back to my room – which quite surprised me because he is a quiet and innocent-looking man. I could not think straight and accepted. It was a wonderful moment, but we decided not to take it further than that one night, as it would probably be too painful for both of us to be far away, and we know each other enough to be quite sure it would be very difficult for us to overcome our differences in order to be together.

However, we did agree on staying friends, writing to each other and he insisted on the fact he would keep me updated about where he would choose to study next year. The problem is: it has already been one week, I wrote one email but he isn’t replying. He’s not ignoring me, but isn’t very talkative either. I’m very confused; do you think he might have changed his mind and decided to forget about me ? I know we don’t have a future together but I really care about that person, it would hurt me if he had decided to forget about what has been happening between us or if he had never cared…


You know you don’t have a future together. He knows it too. And that’s probably the reason he’s changed.

Okay, we could give him the benefit of the doubt and say this: the semester just ended, he’s distracted in this whole transitional period and busy moving out/making his next move. There’s always that slim possibility. But, honestly, the longer time passes where he doesn’t answer your e-mails or treat you as he did before, the less likely this is.

Chances are, he really did have feelings for you. But it sounds like he’s doing what I’ve seen many Chinese men do before — bury an impossible love away in his heart, and move on. Maybe it’s just too painful for him to keep in touch with you,  because every contact reminds him of what he can’t have.

This makes me think of a Chinese man who broke off contact with this German friend of mine after they had a passionate two-week love affair in Beijing (she was there just for a couple of months, studying Chinese with no plans to return). Before she left, he told her to forget about him — and instead just remember the beautiful memories of those two weeks they had.

That’s hard to reconcile in the wake of such an amazing connection. But it doesn’t mean you can’t try to reach out and continue to contact him. Who knows?

I’ll tell you this, though — I’ve never managed to keep in touch with any of my Chinese ex-boyfriends, no matter how hard I tried. And if that experience is any measure of what happens in the wake of a relationship with no future (in my case, one that ended completely), you might have a hard time staying in touch with him.

What do you think?

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

35 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Is Chinese Man Forgetting Me After One Night Together?”

  1. I often see Asian men just bury their love away and move on. My guess is that if as an Asian man they feel that it might be difficult and if there is not a very strong chance for marriage, they learn to suppress the feelings of love and force themselves to move on. In all honesty, I am not sure why they just don’t try and see what happens because love is never easy. I think people forget that relationships take work and compromise, but there is a point were you might know it’s not the right person and moving on is the best thing.

  2. if you believe that he’s worth all the effort then just try to communicate with him. 🙂 i am in a quite complicated relationship with a chinese guy and i’ve had a quite similar experience. in the beginning of our relationship, for like the first 3 months, we communicated everyday! then around the 4th month, suddenly, he stopped communicating with me and even asked someone else to be in contact with me for business matters. i learned he was going through something rather very personal and seem to not want to talk to me anymore. HUH! i like the guy so i tried a number of times to make him talk to me but to no avail… 3 weeks of silence passed then one late afternoon, i got a message from him, asking for forgiveness and telling me that he misses me. 🙂
    all i’m saying is, you just got to give it a try. tell him how you feel, ask him to talk to you, be a friend to him… but if nothing really comes out of it atleast you tried, and will not be left forever wondering… 🙂

  3. I’a chinese man…
    Sorry to say but i think the man just wanna hv sex with u…
    There r so many innocent looking nerd chinese boy but in reality they r master playboy…
    So how tiz guy often misunderstood for being MR. Nice Guy..

  4. You know… I just realised that I’ve not really been able to keep in touch with most of the Chinese boyfriends I have had during my time in China. I think it is safe to say that the majority of Western men I’ve dated I am still in contact with. Yet their Chinese counter parts? Not so much.

    Almost as if you hurt them, this is one way that they can dull their pain.

    I find it very strange indeed! It hurts to hear it but I would say, if you enjoyed what you had with him, still try to keep him in your life through emails and such, even if he does not reply all that often. You enjoyed his friendship and his companionship… no sense to stop that. BUT be realistic. What you feel you may have had might not be the case.

  5. Pepper, you could try again to get in touch. If the guy has any feelings for you he will respond, but at least you won’t live to regret not having done so. Don’t let cultural differences or difficulties or even distance deter you. After you have done all you could if you love him, then whatever happens so be it. Not to trivialise matters, but the Chinese have a saying that if one is yours to have as friend, husband/wife he/she can’t run away. Its called destiny or fate 缘分 (yuan fen) if you like. But of course, the course of 缘分 is partly within our hands to shape. After that, life goes on and you become the wiser and still somebody else will be there for you. Cheer up!

  6. @ordinary malaysian: yeah! they believe so much in “IF FOR YOU THEN FOR YOU.” hahaha i heard that so many times already. 🙂

  7. To say the truth I don’t understand what good can come out of “keeping in touch” if you are anyway not going to be together.
    Not only you will feel painful, but many chances are that your future partner won’t like it.
    I really don’t believe that it is possible to stay “just friends” with ex.

  8. I had an experience very similar to Pepper’s. The guy told me he was attracted to Asian females so a relationship with me was not in the future, even though we had a good relationship and he knew I was attracted to him. Then he moved away meaning the relationship was even more so not in the future. I did visit him once or twice but he seemed so far away, so distant, in his own world, and there I was thinking about what he used to be like and realizing that we DON’T have a future together. The pain is incredible. He’s got a live in gf now and let me know that, so “keeping in touch” is going to be even more painful than ever so I’m not going to “keep in touch”. And besides, the guy I loved is “not there” anymore. I will say this is the only guy I’ve known who could send my hormones soaring to stratospheric levels just by the mere sight of him and and the sound of his speaking in Chinese. A real loss, but a real sign that I have to really move on in the real world.

  9. i mean find your self a at least westernized chinese guy (if you want a “chinese”)…. the domestic ones they are very practical, their mothers will find them wives. there’s no seduction is needed. all these romantic dinners and flirting can be subdued even…
    a relationship for a chinese guy is only about the end…marriage and having kids whatsoever. if you want to enjoy the process in the western way, forget about it

  10. @Jin Li, it is not a belief, it’s a saying. Is anything ultimately true? But in life, fact is often stranger than fiction. Sayings are often a way to cope with the uncertainties of life, a way to explain the sometimes inexplicable. Whether you subscribe to a saying or not doesn’t affect the ultimate outcome. Life goes on, things happen the way they happen, because everything else happens just the way they happen. Maybe you can bang your head against the wall instead of not banging your head against a wall and maybe this does change to a little extent the ultimate outcome of an event. But in matters of the heart, in matters of love, it is a little bit more difficult, a little bit more optimistic to say that you can work for love to happen. You can try. And that is all I was saying.

  11. I spent the last three months in china and unexpectedly had a fling with a young chinese man, whose behaviour made me totally confused as well. Despite all the obvious aspects of this “with no possible common future” relationship (me older than him, language issues, but mostly because I was only here for 3 months), I however fell for him and try to express my feelings to him. His ambivalence reaction made me crazy but I have to admit he was very wise and rational. But also really difficult to bear. The first dates were perfect, he was carring and curious, I realized we had many things in common (that why he seduced me). Then we had sex. And after that he kept his distance and barely replied to my messages, saying he had lot of work to do, no time to contact me. I felt quite chocked and hurt hearing that, so I simply told him, if you don’t want to see me anymore just tell me but don’t leave me like that waiting for you to call if you are free. At first he wanted me to be is girlfriend and now he said it would be better if I’d be his “sister” (jie), why that sudden change of perspective, so confusing ! As I told him so over the phone, he could hear that I was very moved and seemed surprise to hear that I could be sad and hurt. Maybe he thought because I was a western girl I was just here for the fun, which was wrong, I had things to do in China and didn’t plan to have affairs or fall in love ! Then all of a sudden he seemed very concerned about me being sad and proposed to immediatly come to my place (we both lived far from each other in opposite areas). I said yes and when we meet each other I could feel he had really been missing me. Then he explained to me that he just didn’t want to fall in love with me because he didn’t want to hurt me and also didn’t want to hurt him. I tried to take things like that too but unfortunately it was to late-I was “trapped”. I kept on trying to spend time with him, but could feel he was doing many things not to be to much involved. Things like stop answering to my emails. Then I asked a chinese girlfriend why he did behave like that, I asked her if he only accepted to see me for sex. She replied that love commitment for chinese men is like an investment, if they know they don’t get anything at the end, they just stop the relationship and stop giving of their time which is precious to them (because they have to work so hard). She gave me the advice of not trying to contact him anymore and I have to admit it broke my heart. When me and my chinese boyfriend met for the last time, he confessed that hearing from me he did break my heart also broke his heart… he said that he was bad boy and that I was stupid to love him. Well, you know love don’t follow any rational law and may be stupid (!)and as I’d read on another post here 男人不坏女人不爱: “Guy no bad, woman no like”…
    Anyway I don’t regret anything. I just regret I didn’t find this blog earlier ! It could have helped me understanding chinese men or at least figure things out more easily.

  12. @pepper You said that you both agreed on staying friends but are you sure it wasn’t a one-sided agreement? You seem to have different expectations because you freak out if he doesn’t give you a day-to-day update on what’s going on. Whereas it’s evident that he has decided to move on with his life and you are definitely not his top priority, and why would you be anyway? You are not his girlfriend. If he cared at all, surely he won’t forget about you but you can’t expect him to be part of your life in the same way he used to be. Apparently he is not one of those friends who return emails promptly. Honestly, nobody knows what was on his mind, but I can tell you one thing I noticed about Chinese people in general: they tend to be very practical because this trait is highly valued. They don’t want to waste too much time in trifles – and yes, languishing or longing for a lost love can definitely turn into a huge time-suck if you’re not careful. In China, competition is so high and everybody knows what happens when you are left behind. You can take a lesson from him. Friends don’t require constant updates and feedback. Put your energy into finding yourself another man. Personally I don’t see much of a point in trying to keep in touch with an ex, especially when you have lingering feelings but you know for a stone-cold fact that there is no future. It’s going to be painful and it will blind you from seeing new opportunities.

    @zouzou. Your story is indeed very similar to Pepper’s, but with the difference that Pepper was more cautious which turned out to be a smart move. Any sign of ambivalence should be taken as a warning sign. The ambiguity often stems from a non-confrontational attitude. More often than you can imagine, some people can’t just say “no” upfront, they dislike direct confrontation of any kind. If they don’t want to deal with you anymore, they just silently walk away, hoping that you get the message across. This can happen anywhere; this behavior is not a “Chinese trait”. It’s just that, for the most part, no one wants to cause ‘loss of face’ and open disagreement and confrontation are a step away from that, hence direct confrontation is not so wide-spread in China. You fell for him and nobody can blame you for that. We have no control over our feelings but we can control our actions. If you are not very quick at judging people’s character, what you can do is to take things slow and allow yourself some more time to figure out their intentions. In this way you can avoid those people who just want to use you. I hate to say this but you should never chase after a guy if he shows lack of interest after you had sex with him. That is a really bad sign and it’s pretty much self-explanatory. Sure, confront him, set him straight but don’t try to see what isn’t there. His explanations sound very much like BS. At the end, his behavior just shows that he was feeling a bit guilty and concerned but that’s no sign of love and caring. His heart was never at stake; his last words for you summarize it all – he even had to tell you that he was a “bad boy”? When it comes to relationships, only actions matter: in this aspect Chinese men aren’t any different from other men.

  13. well, although I have managed to keep in touch and stay friends with my ex Chinese boyfriend, but at times it is not easy. I think this guy is trying to keep his distance because he knows you guys have no future together, so he doesn’t want to torture both of you.

    I know its hard but sometimes you just have to let things go.

  14. you pick the wrong guy to be interested in.

    This is infatuation. You’ll get over it.

    it would be interesting to hear if he does reply back.

  15. >>you pick the wrong guy to be interested in.
    This is infatuation. You’ll get over it.<<

    I disagree with that comment. For one thing we don't actively "pick" a wrong guy. When we become interested in someone, there are reasons that we do so. And calling this feeling "infatuation" trivializes our real feelings for someone. This is not an appropriate way to label others' feelings and emotions. And getting over a loss may take years if not never.

  16. it’s infatuation when a personal connection sizzles quickly just as it dissipated before our eyes open to see the big picture

  17. Again and again I hear all these sad stories, the real reason that I am sad lies not in this future hopeless relationship, but the fact that these Chinese Men just suddenly disappear or distanced themselves from you right after having sex. Why is it always the case after sex, I am sure there is a reason for that.

    I am not trying to generalize or stereotyping those Chinese guys. I am also sorry if what I am saying is hurting the girls. However, as a man, even if I know there is no hope in the future for a relationship, and we would not disappear right after sex. This doesn’t make sense to me.

    Can THOSE (or even just a minority) Chinese guys STOP doing this xxxx to western girls? They are destroying the good image of all other Chinese all over the World! There are already so much work for we Chinese guy to work on AMWF issues, having these stories spread across the western females will just add fuels to oil!

    I am sorry for all these bad experiences, and I wish that those chinese men who distanced themselves after sex do have a better reason for leaving.

  18. This story applies to ALL MEN . You mean other men don’t do this kind of stuff ? We’re not escapgoat for you guys :).

  19. @ Li Lan: Your post is heartbreaking … that kind of love is so rare to find. BUT, it needs to be reciprocated. You know now that you are capable of this wonderful state. You will meet someone who loves you back one day … 🙂

  20. Bruce, I dont mean other MEN do not do this, of course these men exist anywhere. However, someone ever told me that the mainlanders might think the western girls are opened and easy, which could be the case.

    Anyway, I just want to express that the AMWF examples are, not very common yet, hence few bad examples may be bad enough…

  21. @ HongKongGuy. The reason why a guy suddenly disappears or distances himself from the girl right after having sex, it’s because he didn’t really enjoy to have sex with her. I mean, as for anything else, there could be a thousand other valid reasons but this seems to me the most likely. Otherwise he would have come back to her occasionally, just for the sex itself, if nothing else.
    As I said in my previous post, when this happens it’s a very bad sign and pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a big mistake to try to get him back after something like this occurs.

    However this has nothing to do with the guy being Chinese and the girl being a westerner. This can happen between two random people among the current 6.9 billions – regardless of their ethnicity and cultural background. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t necessarily happen in the case of an interracial relationship: they could have been both Chinese, for instance.

  22. @ HongKongGuy – I understand your concern that the image of Chinese men being ‘playboys’ might ruin their reputation (and their chances of dating caucasian women)- but I don’t think this will happen. The image of Asian men being gentle and considerate, and so very handsome, remains much stronger than the image of sexual disrespect. Until now I have never heard of Asian men being described this way – though of course it happens. Certainly Australian men are like it! (Where I am from.) The AMWF is still in its infancy, to my great sadness. I am hopeful that a few posts here and there about sexual disrespect won’t damage the general view of Asian men.

  23. @Shaunagh and HongKongGuy

    I wish there were more interracial relationships with a good outcome, a happy ending. They are still rare but growing in number, just compare with 10 years ago, there is already a big difference! Unfortunately, it seems that the idea of western women being 开放 is still quite pervasive in mainland China and it doesn’t help. This generalization is part of a widespread distorted view of the outside world. Which sadly gives some men a feeling of entitlement to use western women. That’s why western girls should be a tad bit more careful and less naive in this relatively new dating scene. Especially when they are newcomers. I feel that some girls get played by these not-so-innocent guys because all they have in mind when they come to China is this romantic image of Asian men being gentle, shy and considerate. “Oh, why is he behaving like this?” Could this be a cultural thing?” Is he being afraid of…?” Even when it’s evident that he is just being dishonest and will run away after he gets what he wants. I’m ready to bet (not in all cases of course) that, back to their home country, these girls would be able to see through the same type of BS – but in China, they approach the issue as if they were dealing with some alien specie. Asian men are just men. Positive stereotypes are as misleading as negative stereotypes. Believe in the negative ones and you miss out a lot in life: because Asian men can be absolutely AMAZING. Believe in the positive ones and you can get your feelings hurt so easily: because you can no longer distinguish the good from the bad.

  24. Wow, OppositeCat. The fact is you have totally blown me away!! I definitely need time to digest this … 🙂

  25. Many use and abuse! Others run from western women not because of unfamiliarity but because of too much familiarity…like stories of non-whites not being accepted by families in western societies at least for dating and marriage purposes! Better to be safe than sorry!

  26. I have given this a lot of thought, i.e., the notion that caucasian women are viewed by some as being easier, as well as the (separate) notion that caucasian girls/women view Asian men as being more gentle and considerate, compared to their Westernised counterparts. I say with absolute confidence, that I do still believe Asian men are unique in their personalities, in their respect for themselves and those close to them, and in the way they conduct themselves on a day to day basis. I recognise the variability in human behaviour, and the potential for all persons, regardless of race or reason, to be aggressive and amoral. But, I still maintain that Asian men are a much more decent version of the human male, when compared to his Westernised fellow male friends. To me, there is something qualitatively unique about Asian men. I have a really tough time trying to find those same qualities in any Australian male. Most Australian men have a loveliness about them too, but it is nothing compared to what I see when I talk to many Asian men. Maybe I have yet to get my feelings hurt! I am trying to get them hurt, and it is not happening.

    p.s. OppositeCat. I reckon you need your own blog! 🙂

  27. There will be sterotypes for every race. It’s our responsibility to break them. If this Chinese guy doesn’t call after one night, confront him and talk to him face to face. There will be tension,but it’s healthy for you instead of keeping your feelings inside. Damn I should be a therapist!

  28. OppositeCat:

    What you say is true. But, not many people are knowledgable about other countries or attitudes in those countries. For instance, a Chinese male in Singapore I know will be more comfortable with a white female from Hawaii or California than a white female from Georgia, Texas or Alabama. But, he did not do his research until he started dating western women….after that he became very knowledgable. Now, he will not date this white woman from Texas who is a nurse at an international clinic….just plain afraid of the history of white people in Texas. She and her family have been judged guilty of racism before a trial..but he does not want to risk a trial! That is the way the world is.

  29. Bruce,
    you should get your website column in answering interracial relationships. you’ll be a great hit. lol. You’ll be a support line to men and women looking for advice to improve their relationships….

  30. Cautious,

    With my schedule and my type of profession, I don’t think at this moment that I can manage a website yet. Of course, I like to make comments and help people ;however, my personality is not your ordinary one. When I help someone, I like to go all the way. I will put all my heart into it. I’m just too focused on anything that I do. It’s not fair for someone to wait for my response like days later. I have too many hobbies going on at one time right now. Do you think I can be a support line? 🙂

  31. I agree with Zen. To me it sounds like you were played. You kissed and then he invited you to his room? Unless you guys were heavily making out and … stuff, I don’t understand why he would take an innocent kiss to that level. Obviously he knew you liked him and he had taken an interest in you but unless there are other things missing in the story other than sweet smiles and stares, one kiss to let’s go to my room, it just doesn’t fit.

    In my opinion (obviously), to you, you guys had become friends and he became special, I’m thinking that he knows that or he wouldn’t have just kissed you. If he has a set of brass balls and kissed you and didn’t know you, then I could see why the fact that you kissed back, he would think you were revved and ready to go.

    Maybe he is trying to bury his feelings and isn’t intentionally trying to hurt you but as a friend, he owes you an explanation. If he can’t give it to you, then you shouldn’t have to chase him to make him “see” you. Regardless of culture, no one should have to chase someone who isn’t strong enough to return their feelings. I know that you guys have no intention of being in a relationship but why does it make it ok to treat you like a one night stand? It doesn’t.

    Obviously do what you think is best but if he doesn’t respond to you and make his thought clear to you (even if he feels confused, that’s something), leave him alone. If he comes around, answer him if you want but be cautious. If he can act like this once, he may just think that he can keep doing it because he will learn that he can, because you keep hanging about no matter what.

  32. It’s a brutal story. Well it seems like Chinese guys are really that kind. I met someone too, who at first wanted to be a boyfriend and even marry me. Inspite of all the differences. But I said I want to keep him as a friend for life since his really a good man and I don’t think getting into a romantic relationship is right for us. He ended up ignoring me. Even if I practically made all the efforts to keep the friendship, he just grew really cold and silent.

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