Ask the Yangxifu: Western Parents Say No to Chinese Boyfriend?

Angry white man clenching his teeth
What should a Western woman do when her parents disapprove of her Chinese boyfriend? (photo by Alessandro Paiva)

M asks:

Me and my Chinese boyfriend have been dating for six months. His parents are happy that he is dating with me and have nothing against me. This is totally different with my own parents! They cannot understand why I don’t want a western man, but prefer an Asian one. In their opinion (especially my father’s) Chinese men just keep their wives as slaves, hit them, sleep with prostitutes after work and have child-wives. I really don’t know how to make my parents to believe that my boyfriend is certainly not like this! My parents are very prejudiced against any other nationalities except our own. My mother actually dared to ask me if I was sure that my boyfriend is not engaged to some Chinese child in China!

Do you have any advise how I should cope with this situation? My boyfriend and I live in the UK, but my parents and his don’t. However my mum is coming here this summer and I’m hoping to reduce his prejudices when she sees my boyfriend 😉


I’ve written so much in the past on disapproval from Chinese parents, and it’s high time for a little balance. So here goes — parents from Western countries are just as capable of mucking up your relationship with their own prejudices and expectations. (In your case, stereotypes about Chinese men as wife-enslaving, wife-beating jerks who visit whores in the evenings and have a prepubescent girl at home awaiting their marriage. Yikes.)

Your question reminded me of something I wrote for the opposite scenario – when the Chinese parents say no to your relationship. And in fact, a lot of the same advice would work for you.

First of all, I recommended getting support from family members. Why not do the same? Contact your favorite uncles or aunts, or a sympathetic grandparent, or even a sibling – whoever you think would do a great job of convincing your parents they’re completely wrong about this guy. If you happen to have relatives in the UK that could help, now’s the time to get in touch and arrange a meeting with your boyfriend, so they can then update your parents to start slashing away at those ridiculous stereotypes.

Second, I talked about finding common ground. So think about what your Chinese boyfriend might have in common with your own parents – such as hobbies or pastimes, beliefs and values, and even shared popular culture references. Maybe he plays a fierce round of golf like your father, or studied biology just like your mother did. Perhaps he attends the same church they do, loves the same television shows or can’t get enough of the bangers and mash your parents adored when they visited London. Whatever it is, tell your parents about it. When they start imagining him doing or liking the same things they do, it’s that much harder to dehumanize him and write him off.

Third, you mentioned your mother is coming for the summer. This is the perfect opportunity – after doing the legwork suggested in my first and second points –to introduce your Chinese boyfriend to her in person, and further chip away at their crazy ideas. I’m willing to bet part of the reason your parents are prejudiced against other nationalities except yours is this – they’ve never really had the chance to know people of other nationalities. When you introduce him, he’s no longer a faceless, imaginary entity that they can just dress up in stereotypes, but instead a real live person (who – hopefully, in their eyes — comes off as a super-nice guy).

Of course, not every introduction will lead to a happily ever after. I’m reminded of what happened with Bruce and Linda Lee’s marriage. Linda’s racist mother refused to accept their relationship, so the two married without her approval. Yet years later, after Bruce and Linda had Brandon, her mother came around and reconciled with the family. Even the most resistant parents can change their minds, so don’t give up.

But let’s just hope it doesn’t take marriage and children to turn your parents around. 😉

What do you think? What advice do you have for M?


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.

27 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Western Parents Say No to Chinese Boyfriend?”

  1. Generalizations =/= Stereotyping

    Both are going on here, but I think the bigger issue is that it’s not the stereotype we think it is.

    I’ve noticed that expats who live in China for a while think that Chinese men are womanizers. Westerners who live overseas tend to think that Chinese men are effeminate. (Look at the Racialicious or Asian Nation archives if you don’t believe me.) Did her father used to live in China for a while and have Chinese friends? It sounds like he did — and if so, I wouldn’t even bother trying.

  2. So I guess while this is rare, it still can and DOES happen. I certainly hope they’re not as stubborn as some Asian MIL.

  3. This is the issue I have had with my family as well. But over time it has become a joke. It hurt and it stung for the longest time, but it took a hell of a lot of patience to get my point across to my family that I like men in general, not just European men.

    The one man I dated while I was still in Canada, I had him come with me to visit my parents and family for a few weeks, so they had no choice but to get to know each other. A forced truce sort to speak.

    Good luck! And let us know how it goes!!!

  4. The point is about the ethnicity of your boyfriend… Would your parents have accepted a boyfriend who from a different country where men are stereotypically framed as being womanisers, wife beaters, drunkards, playboys as well as inconsiderate?

    It is hard to advise when it is like that because your parents don’t see that guy as the loving boyfriend who would sacrifice himself for you and care for you… All they see is what they see. I can’t say much as to how to change people’s perception other than people do change their minds once their fears, about something they don’t know, are taken away.

    Somehow, I feel compelled to say that although you may love your parents and seek their approval, your happiness comes first and if that guy is able to make you happy, then, why can your parents not see this and be happy that someone is in your life to make you complete? Maybe, if they can see in their hearts the wisdom to at least get to know your boyfriend and see the man he is and his qualities, rather than see just one of those Chinese guys they loathe…

  5. wow well I was very lucky that both of my parents both accepted my boyfriend almost straight away and made an effort to be interested in his culture and food. It was only really my grandfather who had reservations but he came round once he got to know him.

    I suggest that your boyfriend should make an effort to get interested in things that your parents are interested in and this will help him get along better with them and show them that he is really not that different. Basically he should act natural

  6. The prejudice is happen regardless the race. But hey, if the BF can show the parents the true quality and what sort of a man he is, then there’s no problem at all, No one can get interested in the other hobbies, just be himself, but show a real good quality of a man. But If your parents or one of the family member in the past suffer the bad times with asian especially the chinese then the real solution is very hard here.

  7. ” A 10 ft pole can not hit a whole boat of people” means that one spoiled apple in a basket doesn’t mean the rest is bad . Man, I’m becoming a philosopher right now. Beside, the race part, you always have to prove yourself even your gf’s parents are the same race like you. You know there are whore houses, escort services in almost every country! Look at America , Europe , Amsterdam ( legalized marijuana and prostitution . hookers on display windows). If you watch the news, Arnold ( the actor, governor of Calif.) committed adultery etc. I have a lot of bad examples to argue but I won’t say it. Sometimes, in general parents just want to generalize about a race or a person or a group of people when they don’t even know what the hell they are talking about. First of all, if you want to judge a person by her/his ethnicity/culture, you have to judge ourselves first. Am I really this great person myself? That is why we as men or women have to prove ourselves in the work place , in a relationship/marriage or even a future parents in law relationship. Must prove ourself that we are individuals. I look Chinese but does that mean that I think and act like ALLLLL CHINESE. The answer is N.O. , NO :). Cheers. When I write here , do have some depth to everything huh?

  8. Most white parents will not accept an Asian son-in-law. As late as the 1980s many white people will not even accept their sons having an Asian girlfriend. Rex Chapman, the basketball player, claims that he left Kentucky after people he opposed his dating of non-white women including Asian women. However, the latter is more accepted than the former. Heck even in an Indiana Christian School people wont accept Asian Christians and white Christians dating….

  9. M, I’m sorry you are having trouble with your parents who will not accept your Chinese boyfriend (yay for stereotypes)…

    I think Jocelyn has written great advices for you to follow. Patience is also key in this situation; it could take time for them to come around after they have met him. If they see how happy you are with him and how great a guy he is, it could change their perception all together.

    My parents are also hard to please when it comes to the boyfriend department. They would disapprove for several reasons, but especially when the guy did not speak French (my first language). After coming out of a 4 year relationship 2 years ago (with a guy whom they absolutely disliked), I finally met a wonderful Chinese guy and we’ve been together for a year already. He only speaks a few words of French (hi, please, thank you, etc.), but mainly Mandarin and English. Surprisingly, I’ve never seen my parents and family (including grand parents!) approve so widely of my boyfriend. They see how nice he is, how well he treats me, and how happy I am with him which makes all the difference.

    I hope this will be the case for your mum after meeting your boyfriend. Good luck!

  10. This is really stupid, so stupid that Western parents are like this. (I am a western woman myself, despite my name I used is my Chinese name…)
    But, my family, friends and my parents ALL assume I will marry an Asian man. Though, my mother fears for me, saying that all the guys whom liked me recently, and some Chinese guys, are paper chasers. She said they are only liking me because of my US residency. Psh, I wish parents wouldn’t mind what ethnicity their child marries.
    Everything is all about stereotypes, and that’s how we see groups of others. It’s ignorance when people think all Chinese and Asian guys beat their wives, the in fact, I think Chinese men are more of a gentlemen than Western-guys…

  11. The real reason white parents dont want their kids marrying Asians has nothing to do with wife beating or fear of slavery, but the grandchildren are not likely to look white….they may be smarter than your average Asian or white kid…but that does not matter for most people…it all comes down to race…..because that is what is important in the west…especially America—everything other reason given here about stereotypes, wife beating, slavery, green card, etc. is nothing but sheer bunkum!

  12. Sorry, missed one point…these people will not even accept a fourth generation Asian from Hawaii and California.

  13. @Nathalie: perhaps your parents only dislike Anglo-Saxon people? The Anglo culture has come to represent all “foreigners” in the eyes of many (it’s not uncommon for Chinese to walk up to Westerners and speak English, regardless of their nationality) that sometimes we tend to overlook other foreign cultures.

  14. “perhaps your parents only dislike Anglo-Saxon people? ”

    She says she is western. But, it could mean she is Italian-American or Greek American and some of them dislike Anglo-Saxon people. In Ireland, I found that the people tolerate Chinese and Asians but dislike the English. So she could be from Ireland as well. The concept of whiteness is an American concept and to some extent South African. I know Americans who are very surprised when other whites belonging to cultures such as Georgian or Armenian or even Basque would not date or marry them…why? “they ask. We are all white!” Whiteness is the figment of American delusion, and one more group: Asian girls and women who want to do eyelid surgery to make them look white. An eyelid or nose surgery does not a white make! Your kids will look Asian or if you marry white, part-Asian! Kelly Hu looks Asian despite the fact that a significant part of her is English…and Hollywood tried to match her up with an Asian guy in Hawaii five 0’s season finale before she was blown apart by a bomb! They tried to match Grace Park with a white guy and the ratings dropped for that particular show with mostly white women turning off the TV!

  15. I can do whatever I want and no tv or anybody can do anything about it . The question is that are you a leader or a follower ?

  16. Hmmm…..Stereotypes? You have to love them!
    My family SEEMS from outward appearance as the type that would have issue with me dating an Asian guy, but the fact of the matter is – We are not racist! My brother, who is considerably older than me, dated a black girl back in the late 1970’s…My late Mother dated a black guy when I was a child, my late Grandfather dated a Japanese women when he was in Japan in WWII….I never worried about race, and have always dated who I am attracted to. The real issue for M is that she now has the added task of convincing her parents that they are wrong, and that stereotypes are not always right. I fit into a terrible stereotype in that as an overweight, tattooed, single mom I may be perceived as some sort of “Bad Girl”, when the truth of the matter is all I want to do is marry my boyfriend, work abroad teaching English and have some really cute HAPA babies!!! Just because I was a “Wild Child” at age 19 doesn’t make me any less traditional then my Asian boyfriends parents…Just as M’s guy, by being Asian, doesn’t make him a wife beating, whore monger…..M, let us know how the first meeting goes!

  17. I can’t say I relate but you give good advice, Jocelyn! My family LOVES LOVES LOVES LOVES my husband. I never had this problem. My grandmother is even open minded about this sort of deal. My cousin once dated a muslim man and she misses him! Go figure!

  18. @ Henry Yeh & Grace
    I am French from Quebec (and part Native). Despite speaking French, my family does not dislike English and Anglo-Saxons. I think this is an unfortunate stereotype of French people.

    I do apologize however; I should have specified in my previous post they disliked the ex, yes because in a way he could not speak French, but that’s because he would not make an effort to integrate to conversations, had no desire to get to know my family, and also did not treat me right (the main reason my family disliked him).

    The guy wanted my family to switch everything to English so he would not feel left out (which is understandable to a certain point, but I was translating everything for him to begin with, which I don’t mind-comes with the territory). They would speak English for him, but in other conversations, switch to French among each other (which is normal in any household).

    It’s like me spending time with my boyfriend’s Chinese Parents. Of course they’ll talk in Mandarin together; that’s their language and how they communicate together. They’ll speak to their son in Mandarin too, and switch to English every now and then only when I’m around, which I appreciate. However, unlike the ex, I do make the effort to learn a different language. I may only know a bit of it, but I think what matters is the willingness of trying (it also helps that I eat any food and love my mother in law’s Chinese cooking ;)). I also believe it shows respect to others when you try and learn their culture.

    You cannot go to any family and ask everyone to change all of their conversation to a foreign language. I hope this all made sense and explained the whole French/English situation above.

    On another topic, not every North American parent fear their grandchildren will not look white nor does every Asian parent fear their grandchildren will not look Asian. It may be a widespread stereotype, but if you take the time to look through the layers of races and culture, you may be surprised to find a lot of parents only want their children to be happy.

    I hope this will be the case for M when her parents get to meet her Chinese boyfriend.

  19. My situation is quite similar to M’s. My boyfriend ( who is chinese ) and me are together only for 3 months but my parents are against it since we has started dating.
    During the first 1-2 weeks they were asking me day by day if had changed my mind, but my answer was always no. They probably thought that it is just a rebell and it is only about them, to make them angry. ( Hey… i am a quite mature 21 year-old girl who won’t ever in life start a relationship just to make others angry. )
    They were coming up with questions like why i do this, why can’t i find “someone like us” = from the same nationality, how can i deal with the cultural differences and such. I told them that guys from my nationality disgust me and i have had enough of them and now… here is a handsome, clever and lovely guy who i love from the first moment on i saw him and why cannot they accept him?
    They told me that because he is different. He is different in look because they were thinking about those Chinese guys and families who came here only for bussiness and they are not that kind and nice sometimes. They even cried. I was the black sheep of the family for months. Even my grandma told me that her heart is tearing up for me.
    After a few weeks they started to realise that i won’t give up and they stopped asking me to change my mind. Slowly, I started to mention him sometimes like as you said… with common stuff: that he likes the same things and that my friends also like him, he is a good guy. Then after a while when i mentioned his name, my mother started to ask questions about him, started to be interested in him in some ways. Some stereotipical questions came like about skin colour and such, but because my boyfriend is a funny guy… and he is joking around sometimes, he made my mother laugh by me.
    The only problem is, that my boyfriend kind of knows this attitude towards him by my parents and i feel sad about him, because he wants to meet them. So, i started to ask them at home if it is possible for him to visit us during the summer. The first answer was no after a big silence and nowadays i asked it again and they just said that the day i was talking about when he wants to come is still far away. Could it mean a yes??? o.O And what should i do when he finally comes? the big problem is, that he just started learning the language of my country and his understanding is still not good enough to leave him alone with them for more than 5 minutes, so my akward task will be to interpreate for both sides. ^^’
    About the cultural differences. We have a lot, but we cannot stand to do not discuss them and make things clear why do we do things in other ways than the other. We need to do this, because you can never know how the other feels about one thing.
    His parents live back in China, he is only here for 2 years so I only spoke to his parents on the phone with my tiny-tiny Chinese knowledge, but he said that they liked me and asked me when do i want to visit them, they want to meet me. This made me feel warm and feel like crying in the same time, because i knew that from my side… they are not happy and they once even said that they don’t want to meet him. What should I do? What do you think?

  20. lexike,take it easy!may i know your nationality?if you can tell me that i think i can help you!btw you must know the reason why your parents don’t like him?race or culture?

  21. I am Hungarian.
    They said that it is not about that they don’t like him, because they don’t know him at all. It ‘s about that he is different. Different in cultural ways and in how he looks like and they said that even if they get to know him and see that he is a great person, these differences will remain in their mind.
    They also said that if he visits us, they won’t say or act rude even if they won’t like him, because they also hurt me with that, but I am still afraid that their first meet will be a failure. >.<'

  22. Lexike… Your post is really sad! It has been a while now, how did things turn out for you and your boyfriend? I am curious to know how M is going too, of course…

  23. “Chinese men just keep their wives as slaves, hit them, sleep with prostitutes after work and have child-wives”

    I think your dad mistaken Chinese men for Korean men 🙂 , in my experience alot of westerners can’t distinguist between Chinese, Korean and Japanese, in their eyes every “yellow men” with small eyes ARE chinese.

  24. Thanks guys! Everything worked out fine. Now my parents like him. He is most of the time able to talk to them in Hungarian that they love to hear. During the summer we went to China together and he introduced me to his family. ^^

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