About several months ago, i asked about how to say “i love u” to a foreign girl.
Thanks to your advice, she has been my girlfriend now. We really have a lot in common and we both think that our relationship can be better — that is to say, she can be my fiance. But,there is a problem between her and i. When we go shopping, go to cinema, or eat out, there always are many, many people looking at us with a strange expression. In fact, i have foreseen that embarrassing thing will happen on me, but i really don’t know that that will be so embarrassing.You know,because of my major, i have to stay in china and it means that i have to tolerate those things constantly.I always do my best to ignore them,but it is really difficult, because u can see them everywhere, even in my family.
I think ur husband has ever met the same situation, too. So, i am wondering if u and ur husband could give me any advice on how to avoid or adapt to this. Hope to hear from you soon.
Tom, sometimes — as my Chinese husband told me — it’s all about perspective.
You see “strange expressions” and feel embarrassment when people gawk at you and your girlfriend on the streets of China. But my Chinese husband John sees something completely different. “They’re amazed that I could get a foreign wife.”
In fact, most people are looking at you in awe, as I wrote last year in my survey of stereotypes about couples of Chinese men and Western women:
To many Chinese, having a foreign girlfriend or wife is the best bling money can’t buy. Like cruising in a BMW or popping open a bottle of Moet (part of the worship of all things foreign in China, chóngyángmèiwài or 崇洋媚外) , we suggest he’s truly “made it.”
With a foreign woman by his side, that Chinese man casts a powerful aura around the world in China. People crown him as lihai (厉害, awesome), gaping in awe at his good fortune — and his social status soars.
Now, I’m not in any way suggesting you turn your girlfriend into the equivalent of a living, breathing Mercedes Benz to show off to the world. But keep in mind that many of those “strange expressions” hide a quiet envy — that you’re one of the few Chinese men who could pull off this relationship.
Here’s another way to look at it. Chances are, some of these people have never seen or even imagined the possibility of a Chinese man-Western woman couple. In a world where couples of Chinese women and Western men are a mao a dozen, you and your girlfriend are like real-life ambassadors, showing them another, rarer side of the coin.
Now, with family, it’s a slightly different story. You just started dating, so the two of you are still a novelty to everyone. But after almost seven years of marriage, I can tell you the novelty wears off a bit. I still get a look or two from distant relatives, a sudden pride when I walk through their door, or a “wow, she’s beautiful” from someone I’ve never met. But the subject usually changes faster than you can say “have you eaten?” and I have those moments where I’m just family (albeit, family from another country 😉 ). It does get better.
I can’t say the same for being out in public, however. My Chinese husband and I still turn heads whenever we walk the streets in China, even after years of marriage — so I suspect the stares will never go away for you either. And apart from avoiding the streets entirely, or hiding your Western girlfriend’s entire head, there’s nothing to guard against it.
But you always have a choice on something more important: your interpretation. Embarrassment or pride? Strange expressions or awe? None of the above? You decide.
What do you think? What advice do you have for Tom?
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.