Ask the Yangxifu: How Do I Explain Goth To My Boyfriend?

A girl wearing a black hoodie with white skulls on it.
(photo by Laura Mountford)

Miskatonic asks:

I’m in a fairly new relationship myself with a nice grad student from China. I’m kind of at a loss as to how I should explain what Goth is to someone who doesn’t have many points of reference for Western culture in general. My clothing style is so subtle I can pass for normal most of the time, but the same cannot be said of my house. He’s going to want to come over to my place at some point and I’m going to have to explain why there’s bats and skulls and spiders on everything. He’s going to think I’m nuts. Help!


My thought — which is perhaps not exactly answering your question — is this: clearly, this guy seems to like you. Best case scenario, he really likes you for who you are. So what if he doesn’t know goth? Does he need to? I’ll bet if he saw all the bats, skulls and spiders in your house, he would just consider it “normal” for Westerners (as Chinese tend to think we’re rather bizarre anyhow). I doubt he’d push you for an explanation on any of it.

But if you had to tell him something, just use the “Westerners are bizarre” excuse, though in nicer wording (such as “we like being different, being individuals,” that sort of thing). Chances are, he won’t push you for anything more than that.

And if all goes well, heck, you two might not be doing much talking at all for the rest of the visit — in a good sort of way. 😉

What do you think?

Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Send me yours today.

8 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: How Do I Explain Goth To My Boyfriend?”

  1. Well, at least bats are lucky in Chinese culture!

    Explaining subcultures is pretty hard, I’ve found, even when the person I’m explaining it to is fairly international. I’ve yet to find a good way, so unfortunately all I can say is good luck!

  2. OMG, every time I come across the word “goth”, it reminds me of batman and goth-am city. Haha..Your Chinese bf gonna be kind of taken aback and think you are kind of er..strange if he didn’t quite expect you to be er.. into goth. But like as not, he should be able to get it when you explain to him. Like Naomi said, bat is luckily a good omen to the Chinese people. Bat is 蝙蝠 bianfu in Mandarin and fu 福 is fortune. Maybe, he might even take to goth and things gothic. So, don’t worry.

  3. All I can say is good luck 🙂 hopefully he’ll like you for you. I have unusual tastes in music or TV shows, so if I’ll meet with my Chinese crush, I might have to show him some episodes from Just Shoot Me or Sitting Ducks or Gargoyles or Arthur and hope he won’t make fun of me for liking those shows…

  4. It is not such a foreign concept. It really depends on what kind of guy you are dealing with. Plenty of Chinese are aware of the music genre (哥特 in chinese, pronounced as Ge Te). Even in Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, these sub-cultures are present and have underground following. You will probably end up explaining what “Goth” is again because chances are what he was exposed to won’t be the same thing.

  5. Goth is already a native cultural thing in Japan since very early on.

    Chinese people with any level of exposure to manhua, translated from manga, would no doubt have read plenty of comics based around this subject. One title that springs to mind is “Desu Nōto”, Death Note. God help us if he doesn’t know Death Note. Let me be clear: it is huge in Asian countries.

    If your Chinese friend doesn’t know Goth, he is probably in the minority, one that is too pent up to watch a Japanese dorama series. Hardly surprising, as there is yet an outstanding war debt handed down from the 1940s. Many young mainlanders in age group same as you have put that debt aside in pursuit of anime, manga and cosplay. But time and again a few 50 Cent Party members would sound the battle cry, “dadao riben guizi”, down with the Japanese demons. By and large these people do not appear to represent the voice of the people, something we should be thankful for.

    Anyway the point is, it’s incumbent on you to educate him/her in the subject. You may also use Brandon Lee’s “Crow” (1993) for an introduction.

    Here is Goth according to Baidu

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