I am having my wedding celebration in Beijing in late Spring of this year and my family is coming to celebrate from [Western country]. Now, let me first say that my family has been just HORRIBLE about the entire situation. What I mean by family is my siblings. They feel like ‘I am being a bridezilla’ which in my opinion I am not. One minute they are mad at me because I didn’t ask them to be in the wedding (you only have one bridesmaid/groomsman in a traditional Chinese wedding and its not a great job—I want them to enjoy the wedding, not be following me around) the next minute they are telling me that I am being selfish because I haven’t shared any details of the wedding with them. I have explained the situation to them 1 million times, I am not planning this wedding my father and mother in law are (they are also paying for it) and I basically just have to show up on the day (P.S. I am actually really happy about this as I have planned a wedding before and it’s not easy). Anyways moving on, we have a huge problem right now with the hongbao.
My siblings refuse to give hongbao because they are paying to come to China and their hotel, etc and believe that it’s extremely expensive and are making me feel BAD about MY OWN WEDDING!. My husband says that its a slap in the face for China and all Chinese people if they don’t give the hongbao “mei mianzi’ [no face], I’m sure you are familiar. Me, I’m stuck in the middle. I understand where they are coming from but I am extremely upset with them because they have turned what is supposed to be a joyous occasion into something that I am dreading. I tried to mediate the situation by saying that if they gave hongbao, we would obviously pay for the hotel and their 4 day excursion around Beijing. However they completely disagree with the whole concept. They want to show up at my wedding without hongbao and just pay for everything on their own — the hotel and the excursion.
I don’t know what to do at this point. I think my husband is right, I mean it’s going to look really bad that my family does not give hongbao at my wedding. It’s a traditional Chinese wedding, I’m wearing traditional Chinese clothes and we are doing everything by Chinese custom which my siblings completely don’t understand. Help!
I have a feeling you’ll never convince your siblings to do the right thing. I’ve met people like them. They remind me of “ugly American” tourists who act as anti-ambassadors around the world, making everyone hate America just a little more when they disrespect local cultures. Their way is, of course, the right way and the only way! 😉
It’s bad enough to meet these people in your travels, but worse if you’re actually related to them. You have my deepest sympathies.
So here’s what I’m proposing:
Option #1: Have them present empty hongbao envelopes. Okay, it’s not ideal and it is a little bit of a “bait-and-switch”. But no one would ever have to know. I’m sure somewhere in a Chinese etiquette book out there, there’s an entry about “never opening the hongbao before your guests” just as Chinese never open gifts when presented. I’ve never seen it happen. Your family will have no idea there’s nothing inside…and you can remove them from your hongbao pile before any prying hands/eyes are the wiser. Just give the envelopes to your siblings and ask them to present them at the wedding. Later on, you can then stuff the envelopes with cash yourselves (should the family do any post-wedding bookkeeping and need to record the amounts).
But then again, with such uncooperative siblings, chances are they wouldn’t even agree to this! And if so…
Option #2: Prepare hongbao for each sibling yourselves. Just stuff them with appropriately auspicious sums of cash, write their names on the envelope, and then drop them into your basket/bag when nobody happens to notice. (Alternatively, have the bridesmaid or groomsman deposit them in the basket/bag ahead of time.) Then, when it comes time to add up the hongbao cash after the wedding, your family will see the contribution and assume your siblings did their part.
Of course, if this seems like too much work for a bunch of ungrateful siblings, there’s always…
Option #3: Don’t invite them.
What do you think? What advice would you have?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture or Western culture? Send me yours today.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a certain e-mail finds its way into my Ask the Yangxifu inbox. The story usually goes like this: Chinese boy who was born and raised in China meets Western girl, they fall crazy in love and the future seems ripe with possibilities for the two of them…until reality hits in the form of a few simple questions. What about our careers? Where will we live?
So when I receive these questions — which are invariably confidential — it either happens that 1) the couple can’t decide where to live (often China versus her Western country) because each country somehow handicaps one person career-wise, or 2) the relationship ended because one or both of them gave up.
Whenever people talk about Chinese-Western international marriages, you would think that language or culture pose the greatest barriers. But when it comes to Chinese men and Western women in love, this “love, location, career” dilemma more often threatens an otherwise outstanding relationship. Career options aren’t always the same for both people in his home country (China or another Asian country) versus hers. Sometimes, when a couple can’t reach an agreement, they sadly break up — just as my Chinese ex and I did years ago.
At the time, he had moved from China to a European country for university and hoped I would follow him and, in his words, “be his wife.” It sounded glorious at first when he whispered this to in my arms…but not when I discovered the unappealing possibilities for a US national in this European country (not to mention all of the visa headaches for me). It didn’t help that his phone calls, e-mails and other communications dwindled over time, until an entire month passed without a single e-mail from him. So on top of the whole “where to live/work” issue, I also started doubting our very relationship — the foundation of everything we had together. In the end, I had to say, “Enough!” I couldn’t justify all of the headaches of moving to this country when he couldn’t make the time to even write me a simple e-mail or call me.
My face was glazed with tears the day that I called him and said I couldn’t move there. I knew our relationship would collapse and sure enough, we broke things off officially in the weeks that followed. But looking back, I also realize that — in a sense — he determined our fate the moment he put down a deposit for that European university. He was fluent in English and could easily have chosen to study abroad in the US, my home country…but he didn’t, citing a personal distaste for America.
Hence I learned my first lesson in cross-cultural relationships: love isn’t always enough. When you add into the mix each person’s careers and dreams (often linked with a specific country or place in the world, especially if a person only speaks one language) it complicates things in a way that couples from the same country would hardly understand.
I think about my stepsister, for example, who is happily married to her college sweetheart. They both were born and raised in the Cleveland, Ohio region in the US and, naturally, always wanted to settle and build their careers up there as well. There was never any question about what country might offer the two of them the most opportunities and most benefits, no tug-of-war about living here versus there or somewhere else.
Nothing like what I experienced with my ex-boyfriend in China. It was his lifelong dream to reside in this European country, so naturally he wanted to study abroad there. But his dreams clashed completely with mine. Granted, I was still trying to find my way in the world at the time. But the longer I pondered moving there with him, the more I intuitively realized I just didn’t belong in that country — that following him would be a colossal mistake.
With my husband John, though, the choices were a lot easier and, in the end, much more obvious. John had always envisioned getting educated in the US and then bringing his talents back to China to start a business. We had discussed this years before when we started dating, developing a long-term plan together to help him achieve his dreams. But it’s not as if I was putting his needs before mine. In fact, China made sense for me personally and professionally for a variety of reasons…not to mention that I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese, absolutely love this place, and find endless inspiration here for my writing.
Unfortunately, decisions don’t always come so easy.
For example, I’ve heard from couples where she wants to settle in her home country in the West for career reasons, but he doesn’t for reasons of his own (he can’t speak the language, he has better opportunities in China). I’ve also met couples who decided to live in her country, only to realize even more problems with his career — for example, people don’t value his degree from China. Even gaining an education in her country offers no guarantees of employment, as prospective employers may discriminate against him.
Then there’s the flip side — he says, “Let’s live in China,” and she’s not sure. Maybe she struggles with Mandarin Chinese or can’t even say a word. Or she spent years studying in a certain field — which offers few or no opportunities in China — and doesn’t want to abandon her chosen career.
How should Chinese men and Western women handle a “love, location, career” dilemma? Here are some of my thoughts:
Support, support, support. He’s into pharmacy, she dreams of being a physical therapist. Whatever your partner’s work dreams are, you should say, “More power to you!” In other words, support them.
Think about both of your respective careers first and foremost. Don’t get caught up in finding the ideal for your own career — instead, the question you should be asking is, “What’s good for both of us?”
Don’t fall into the “sacrifice your job for my sake” trap either. I’ve heard of couples, where one person expects the other to quit their careers or jobs for all sorts of reasons — but that should honestly be your last resort, if at all. It breeds resentment (i.e., “How come I have to make the sacrifice and he/she doesn’t?”), and resentment is not a good bedfellow in any relationship.
Compromises sometimes have to be made — but if so, give it an expiration date. For example, my husband washed dishes in a restaurant in the US, but we both agreed he would only do this for half a year. I also know of an American woman considering teaching English in China for a year, which would give her the chance to remain closer to her fiancee while they apply for his US green card from China.
Never choose places over him/her. Preferences and prejudices about where to live and work can sometimes wreck an otherwise awesome international relationship. For example, my Chinese ex could have chosen to go to the US; maybe that wasn’t his dream location, but he would have had no problem finding endless universities with his field of study (a very popular one) and I would have had no problems finding a job. Instead, he prioritized geography over me — and contributed to our eventual breakup.
If you and your partner both agree on where to live (like John and me) you’re fortunate! If not, look for locations that benefit both of you career-wise. It could be your home countries or even a third country or region. For example, one American woman married to a fellow from Northeast China agreed to try living in the US first, with Hong Kong and Singapore as backup options.
Back to school. Sometimes all you or your partner needs is a little education — whether graduate school or business school — and suddenly you end up with a great location for everyone in the relationship. I know several couples of American women and Chinese men who are moving to the US, where both husband and wife will enroll in graduate school. Studying Mandarin Chinese at one of China’s many universities (like Sara Jaaksola) can offer foreign women a wealth of career opportunities in China.
It’s the relationship, stupid. Still butting heads over London versus Shanghai? Sometimes that’s just a symptom and the real issue is your relationship. Look at my Chinese ex — he didn’t e-mail me for an entire month, proving that we had bigger issues going on in our relationship.
If you have a relationship problem and both of you feel motivated to work on it, consider relationship counseling.
What do you think? What advice do you have for couples struggling over where to work and live?
February 14, 2014 is not your usual Valentine’s Day, because it also marks the rare occurrence of the Western holiday of Valentine’s Day and the Chinese holiday of the Lantern Festival (元宵节, yuánxiāojié) on the same day (which happens every 19 years).
Then again, in a sense, weren’t these holidays meant to be together? In China some have dubbed the Lantern Festival the real Chinese Valentine’s Day. In the past, unmarried women were not allowed to freely leave their homes. But during the Lantern Festival, they had the chance to come out with chaperones and enjoy the lanterns in public, a wonderful opportunity to meet potential romantic partners as well.
Still, I see this meeting of the two holidays as a perfect symbol of Chinese-Western cross-cultural relationships — and definitely worth celebrating in a special way! The question remains, how?
Besides the usual chocolates and roses, here in China people have decided to add a little Valentine’s Day flare to one of the Lantern Festival’s favorite treats: tangyuan. Instead of the traditional sesame or red-bean paste fillings, people are opting for rose-flavored tangyuan or chocolate tangyuan (yum!). If you’re in China, head to your local supermarket! If not, scroll down — I’ve translated a couple of recipes from online (warning: I’ve yet to try either, so attempt at your own risk!).
For me, there’s something so irresistibly romantic about light displays in the wintertime (I always loved going out with my family to enjoy the Christmas lights in Cleveland, Ohio). That’s why the perennial lantern displays all around China — and other parts of the world — could be that perfect after-dinner activity with your date or spouse. No lanterns? Consider creating your own simple version (like this) or try a Western take on the holiday by stringing up some Christmas lights (especially if you have strings of red) around the house.
How will you celebrate this unusual concurrence of the Lantern Festival and Valentine’s Day?
Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Lantern Festival! 祝你门情人节和元宵节快乐！
Translated from this original recipe (which includes excellent photos as a guide). Like my mother-in-law’s cooking, this is an intuitive recipe. No exact amounts are provided, so use your judgment and palate to guide you!
Glutinous rice flour (sold in Chinese supermarkets)
Dried edible roses
1. Wash and then dry out the edible roses, and then remove the stems. Place the petals in a bowl.
2. Add white sugar to the bowl according to taste and preference. Mix the sugar and petals together to create a powder.
3. Add honey according to taste and preference.
4. Mix together the honey and powder to create the rose paste for the tangyuan. Set this aside.
5. Wash the strawberries, then soak them in water with a dash of salt for 15 minutes.
6. Remove the strawberries from the salt water soak and place them in a blender. Whisk the strawberries to create a juice.
7. In a saucepan, heat the strawberry juice until warm.
8. Mix the warm strawberry juice with glutinous rice flour, carefully adding just enough flour until you can knead the dough — but not so much that the dough is too dry and falls apart. Knead the dough into a round shape.
9. To prepare the rose filling, mix a little glutinous rice flour into the rose paste.
10. Take a piece of dough, roll it into a round shape and then flatten it. In the middle of the flattened shape, spoon a small amount of rose paste.
11. Slowly close the dough over the paste, then roll it into a round tangyuan shape.
12. Boil the tangyuan until they float. Remove and serve in a bowl.
1. To give the tangyuan a more romantic pink color, I used strawberry juice in the tangyuan. It not only gives the tangyuan a slight pink color but also adds that sweet, fragrant strawberry flavor.
2. By warming the strawberry juice before mixing it with the flour, the dough is more soft and also will be less likely to split open during the process of rolling the tangyuan. No need to boil the strawberry juice, just heat until warm.
3. When adding the honey to the rose paste I added a little more and the mixture was too watery, so I later added glutinous rice flour to the paste to make it easier to fill the tangyuan.
4. Don’t add too much filling, otherwise the tangyuan will easily leak.
5. If it is too difficult for you to create the tangyuan, just directly mix the rose paste and the dough together, roll into balls and then boil them. It’s also delicious!
Romantic Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tangyuan
Translated from this recipe, which includes photos to guide you.
400 grams glutinous rice flour
52 grams of Dove-brand chocolates
180 grams of non-gluten flour (such as rice flour)
1. Prepare the dragonfruit.
2. Remove the peel from the fruit, then slice the peel into thin strips.
3. Place the sliced dragonfruit peel into a blender and blend into a juice.
4. Using a filter to filter out the impurities, pour the juice into a bowl. Set aside.
5. Add the non-gluten flour to a new bowl, then pour in boiled water and quickly stir it together.
6. Add the glutinous rice flour.
7. Pour in the dragonfruit juice to the glutinous rice flour and mix together.
8. Even the mixture into a smooth round of dough.
9. Prepare the chocolate.
10. Pound the chocolate into small pieces.
11. Separate the dough into small pieces. Each piece should be moulded into a nest shape.
12. Add a chocolate piece/pieces in the center of the nest, and then fold the dough over and close it up into a round shape.
13. Repeat the process of nesting chocolate into the pieces of dough until all of the tangyuan are finished.
14. Place cold water in a pot and then boil the tangyuan. When the tangyuan float, they are ready to serve.
“You should check out this website.” That’s what I’ve been telling a number of readers who send me Ask the Yangxifu questions — I refer them to some of the fantastic sites that I follow and admire. So I thought, maybe it’s time to do a brief post and spotlight some of my favorites?
Western Wives, Chinese Husbands. I’ve dubbed this article, which I compiled together with the generous help of three other yangxifu (including Melanie Gao and Jessica Larson-Wang), “everything you wanted to know about dating Chinese men but were afraid to ask.” Whenever I hear from a woman new to the dating scene in China looking for comprehensive advice, I always send this along.
The Love Life of an Asian Guy. Ranier Maningding dishes out some of the funniest advice around, and speaks to both Asian men and the non-Asian women who love them.
My New Chinese Love. Whether you’re a Western woman dating Chinese men or a Western man dating Chinese women, you’ll find friendly advice from Jeff Cappleman and his Chinese wife that covers everything from courtship to weddings.
Candle for Love. This forum was created to help Americans bring their Chinese loved ones over to the US (and navigate the whole visa process). But it’s also a good sounding board for anyone grappling with cultural conundrums in their relationships — especially Western men dating Chinese women.
Asian Man White Woman Magazine. Founded by JT Tran, the Asian Playboy, this magazine bills itself as the lifestyle and dating site for AMWF relationships — and offers advice written by JT and white female bloggers. I also interviewed JT, and I frequently send this interview to Chinese men seeking advice on dating Western women. (Disclosure: I’ve written for his site, and JT is one of my advertisers).
What sites or articles would you recommend? Sound off in the comments!
When I usually share stories about couples of Chinese men and Western women, they usually fall into two camps: the “happily-ever-after” couples and the couples that once were.
And then there’s the story I’m about to share — about a couple fighting for their marriage. Petya reached out to me recently to ask that I publish her tale on my blog, hoping that readers could also weigh in with advice on how to save her marriage and family. So please, don’t be shy in the comments! If you have any ideas, Petya would love to hear them.
Petya, thanks so much for your courage to share this publicly.
I’m Bulgarian. My childhood passed under Communism in the Eastern Block. When I went to study in Western Europe, I got on very well with my Chinese colleagues. There was something deeply similar in the education and behavior that made contact very easy.
Years later I went to study Japanese in Tokyo. The second time I went to Japan, in my class I met a Chinese man who was interested in me. He was working in a big multinational Japanese company and they took him in Japan and payed for his Japanese lessons because they were preparing him to become their Marketing Director for China. I didn’t return his interest, even though we were getting along well. I knew we lived in different worlds — I would go back to Europe and he had brilliant career prospects in Asia.
But one day, we had a debate in class about love and he said in front of everybody that the perfect person to be his girlfriend exists and it was me. Of course it was very flattering for me, but most importantly, I found this very brave and I decided this guy is exactly like me — a fighter — so I gave him a chance.
We started a beautiful relationship. I had to go back to Europe to work. As I have a flexible and well paying job, I was traveling every month to Japan for approximately 10 days to be with him. We got engaged and continued like this. He came two or three times to Europe. We also went to China and he introduced me to his family. His mother passed away a long time ago, and his father is remarried. He has an elder brother who is married with one child.
This situation could have continued for years. He had business trips everywhere in Asia and if I could, I joined him in exotic destinations. Then the big earthquake and the tsunami hit Japan. He was in Tokyo and I was deadly worried. Then Fukushima happened too. It was horrible to be so far away. And suddenly, even though I always said I didn’t want to hurry to have children, I changed. I thought life is so short and we are so vulnerable. I could lose the love of my life and will have nothing left except some beautiful memories. Then I decided I’m ready for a family. We married one month later. A few months later I got pregnant. The big surprise was I was pregnant with twins. We decided it’s better for me to stay and give birth in Europe, because of the radiation in Tokyo. So we did. Meanwhile he moved back to China for the new position. I travelled two times during my pregnancy to China The twins were born in Europe, but he couldn’t be here to see their birth.
My life changed completely. Before I knew I was pregnant with twins, I was still planning to travel. I overestimated myself. With the two newborns and no family to help me, only a full-time nanny, I was crazy tired here. And I had to resume working on the third month after the birth, because we went through all our savings. It was impossible to travel. I thought going to Shanghai to live there, but my husband’s job, even as Marketing Director didn’t pay well enough to allow him to support our big family. I had to take care of the two babies. And I don’t speak Chinese. How could I bring the babies to a doctor without speaking the language if my husband is on business trip? I couldn’t even order a taxi. He said he would send the babies to his family, but I doubted his step-mother would take care of the babies of somebody else’s son. I went to visit him with the babies and the nanny, a long and difficult flight from Brussels to Shanghai. His father didn’t even come to see the boys in Shanghai. Only the wife of his brother came and she helped me a lot.
If we move to Shanghai, we don’t have enough money to live normally, I don’t speak Chinese, and the only solution is we hire an English-Chinese speaking nanny and I still have to travel to Europe to work for at least one or two weeks every month in order to contribute to the family budget and eventually pay my loan for the apartment I’ve bought in Brussels.
If I quit completely my job, I have to sell the flat in Brussels, abandon everything, and become a housewife and somehow live there. I’m not the housewife type. I’m conference interpreter, working for Heads of States and Governments, the European Commission and Parliament. But my main language, Bulgarian, is too small to be interesting for somebody in China.
The third solution was for him to abandon everything, but I didn’t want this. I know how difficult is to make a career from a scratch because I did it too. I could not destroy his career. And as a Bulgarian from the former Soviet Block, I know what discrimination means in Western Europe. I lived as a second category citizen in France during all my studies there, even if I had more diplomas and better notes than most of the French people. I know what humiliation means. I didn’t want him to experience the same as a Chinese.
I was getting more and more tired, depressed, and even crazy. I had also some health problems resulting from complications of giving birth, so I had surgery.
I started asking him to come. We fought, we argued. Then I asked for a divorce. He realized it was serious and quit his job. He came here. Was I happy? No, I was crying over his destroyed career. I was feeling guilty. He came here broken. I think unconsciously he was hating me because I destroyed his career. He hated also to be dependent on me. I tried to find him something to do while we were searching for a job. I registered him to study French and to go to driving school. He refused to finish the classes. He said he will decide when to go to classes and what to do. We argued about how could I help him. He said my job-hunting assistance wasn’t helpful and he doesn’t need my help.
I was nervous, often crying and shouting. He said he hated this kind of woman and if he knew I was like this, he would never marry me. He accused me of using the boys as a tool to make him come here. We fought for half a year. Although I found him a job as a shipment manager, and not a bad one, he wasn’t satisfied and hated it. The atmosphere in the company was bad, he said. Because of the family reunion law, he couldn’t leave the country for 6 months. He felt even worse – like my hostage.
And one day he saw me completely broken, crying and telling him that I made a mistake to ask him come here, that all I did was stupid and I’m ready to quit my job and Europe and go to China. The colleague who replaced him as Marketing director in China had left, so his position was free and he could have gone back. He refused.
So this is our story until now. We stopped arguing and I don’t ask anything from him. I just try to stay calm and he also seemed to calm down recently. But I don’t know what will happen.
What do you think? What advice do you have for Petya?
In this week’s Ask the Yangxifu, I feature not one but three different questions from the mailbag — and invite you to weigh in with your own advice!
“Katie” wrote that she met a Chinese research assistant with a PhD at a nearby university in North America, but is frustrated because he’s so busy and often cancels their plans. “I want to somehow tell him that I feel frustrated that he can’t find a good time to hang out with me, but I was wondering if you might have any ideas or suggestions on how to do it without causing him to disappear.”
My husband’s graduate education in the US has schooled me in the many challenges that Chinese face when they choose to study or do research abroad. We’ve all heard the jokes that PhD stands for “piled higher and deeper” and all the horror stories of graduate student life. Well, on top of the usual obstacles of graduate/research life, Chinese also have to navigate their education in a foreign language and culture and often encounter discrimination. That means they have to work even harder and longer than their North American counterparts — and when you’re challenged like that, something (i.e., social life) sometimes has to give. Look, I lived with my husband during his education and some days I wouldn’t even see him until late at night or during mealtimes; even our weekend movie date nights weren’t always a sure thing if he had a major deadline or project coming up.
You may feel frustrated with him for cancelling on you, but chances are he’s more challenged than you actually know — and might have valid reasons for bailing on you.
Instead, you might consider reaching out to him as a friend and offering a little help that any overworked research assistant could use. For example, even the busiest people in academic settings still have to eat. Why not offer to bring him some dinner or a snack on those late nights or weekends? It would give you an excuse to contact him while showing him you care at the same time, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Also, why not ask him about his plans for the upcoming holidays? Universities quiet down, right down to research projects, meaning he’s less likely to back out at the last minute.
“Christine”, a Western woman in China, is interested in a local Chinese guy, but she’s afraid to spend too much time with him and potentially scare him off and lose him as a friend. “What do you think I should do? Should I just continue having less contact with him because we cannot hang out in a group as often or should I push the boat out and invite him to hang out alone more often? And, if so, what kind of activities do you think would be appropriate for male and female friends to do together in China without it seeming overtly like a date?”
Here’s a thought — have you considered perhaps proposing some group activities with him and his friends? For example, you could say you wanted to meet his friends (male or female) and thought it might be fun to do something together as a group (like sing karaoke or have dinner or play sports such as badminton or table tennis). That way, you could hang out with him but it’s definitely not a date. Chinese often go out together in groups, and it’s not uncommon for people to introduce others in group settings as well (to, of course, avoid the pressure of a date). It would also give you the opportunity to meet more locals your age. Plus, if you make friends with his friends, you’ll learn more about him — and potentially, they might help bring you two together.
“Maya” asks, “What’s the difference between dating an American-born Chinese versus dating a FOB [someone born and raised in China]?”
I’ll leave this answer to Ranier Maningding of The Love Life of an Asian Guy, who essentially sums it up this way:
Unless you can tell that an Asian-American guy is VERY attached to his cultural values and customs, treat him like you would every other American citizen….
If he’s an Asian Immigrant, just ask him a bunch of questions and figure out how “Asian” he really is. Get a better understanding of how he feels about his culture because when you think about it, if he is an immigrant, he chose to immigrate to your country for a reason. Maybe that reason is because he dislikes his culture and is seeking a better opportunity – or maybe he just likes Black girls.
The other day, someone asked me why I started up this blog. I mentioned a number of reasons, including this one — because it’s the kind of blog I wish I had discovered when I first went to China and started dating men over there.
That got me thinking about my first year in China in 1999, when I stumbled into a cross-cultural relationship — and knew little of China’s culture and could barely even speak full sentences in Chinese. I wondered, if I met my 1999 self, what advice would I have given her about dating Chinese men?
Well, here are three things I wish I had known back then:
1. Actions matter more than words
In the weeks leading up to that first relationship, I was caught in the midst of an “is he into me?” guessing game. As I wrote before:
We spent over a month together in this “dating limbo”. We took late evening walks, our shoulders dangerously close, and he would say things like “I love the color of your eyes” or “I think foreign women are beautiful.” He would also inquire about what I was doing at certain times, or, if we were together, what I would be doing next — and then casually suggest we do something. But it wasn’t until we were crossing the street one day (to escape a beggar running after me) that we finally locked hands together — hands that didn’t part after crossing. Then he kissed me at my apartment, and I knew we were together.
I longed for the reassurance of his words in understanding where we were — and where we were headed — because that’s what people generally do in the US. Of course, once he held my hand and kissed me that evening, I had all the reassurance I needed! Yet when I look back on that time, his actions were saying “I love you” even though he never uttered those words to me.
One of my first arguments with a boyfriend in China happened over something that many Americans think nothing about. I happened to tell him about a relationship with an ex-boyfriend during my senior year in university.
But on the flip side, it’s kind of liberating to enter a relationship without some unspoken expectation that you should unpack all of your past relationship baggage before your significant other. Some Americans actually judge you over your past relationships, which can obviously sting. Instead, you can leave that past where it belongs and focus on the present happiness.
3. It takes a lot longer to meet the parents
When I was in high school and I started to date guys in the US, they often met my parents on the first or second or even third date. Maybe it was just a handshake and a few quick words of hello, but you could still call it a “meeting”.
Not so in China. With one exception (I met his mom well before we were even considering dating) it took a long time before my boyfriends in China would actually introduce me to their parents. In one case, I never even got to that point — we broke up. Later on, I learned that Chinese usually don’t introduce their boyfriends or girlfriends to the family unless it’s a serious, heading-towards-marriage kind of relationship.
And maybe that’s a good thing. I remember one guy I dated in college and how I came so close to his mom that she even wrote to me while I was studying abroad in Spain. So when he and I finally broke things off, I had a double heartache — losing both him and her.
What about you? What dating advice do you wish you would have had in your first cross-cultural or interracial relationship?
But maybe the more important question is — how to meet single men in Shanghai? The more single men you meet, the more chances you have of finding that one special guy.
Since I haven’t lived in Shanghai for a decade, I decided to reach out to a friend of mine — a Chinese fellow who met his Western fiancee in Shanghai — for some ideas. Here’s what he had to say:
Meeting guys through friends is a good way. Don’t make the meetings like blind dates. It could be just a group of friends going out for a drink or going to sing at KTV or having a house party. So the guy you meet through a friend is like someone with a reference or recommendation, more reliable than the random guy you bumped into at the bar.
Speaking of bars, for sure they are venues to meet up new people. Many guys would only go for the bars they like, so you would see them over one certain bar at most of the weekends or even weekdays. The point is, choose the bars carefully, since one kind of people would only go to their kind of bar.
Clubs would always be the worst place to look for a relationship.
Cafes, gyms and artsy places (Red Town, Ke Center and Et Cetera) would also be good places to meet up with people.
Avoid places that dominated by foreigners (if you intend to find someone Chinese). Also don’t go to places where you only see Chinese (if you are not prepared/intend to know someone very Chinese).
I know many of you out there live in Shanghai too. What suggestions would you have for meeting single Chinese men in Shanghai? Sound off in the comments!
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture or Western culture? Send me yours today.
Many readers have told me they would love to actually MEET someone through Speaking of China. While I never intended nor envisioned this site to be an “online dating” or “personals” destination, I’ve begun to find this idea intriguing — especially since I feel as if Speaking of China attracts some amazing readers (who might just hit it off in real life).
Now don’t worry, I’m not about to drop-kick the current website and suddenly set up some specialty Match.com! If I was to ever realize this idea, it would most likely reside in a page on the site — think the personal ads section in newspapers or magazines. In other words, it wouldn’t in any way impact the blog.
So I’m asking you. Do you think I should offer some way for people to meet someone on my site?
If you say “yes”, then I’d love to know about what features you would like to see — and even what kind of experience you might want.
If “no” is your answer, I’d also like to know your reasons.
In any event, sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.
I’ll be back on Monday with some fabulous new content. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready for hot date with my husband! 😉
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