How rare are Chinese men/Western women? Enough to be “nonsense”

One villager in John's hometown in China couldn't believe we were married
One villager in John’s hometown in China couldn’t believe we were married

As the wife of a Chinese man, I’m used to attracting attention when I’m out and about in China. The stares, the questions about where I’m from, the way cars slow down to gawk at us — it’s all par for the course.

So during one of our evening walks in the village, I wasn’t surprised when an elderly woman walking in the opposite direction suddenly began asking my husband questions.

“Where are you from?” she inquired in the local dialect.

John mentioned the name of his village, nestled right in the heart of the valley.

“Where is she from?”

“America. She’s my wife.”

The woman grimaced at him in disbelief. “That’s nonsense!” Yes, she refused to believe that someone from John’s little mountain village could have possibly married a woman from America. And she walked away, not to be bamboozled by us.

When John translated the whole conversation for me (I’m still working on my local dialect) I nearly doubled over in laughter. “Are you kidding? She thought you were lying about me?”

Hiking the mountains in John’s hometown

It was the first time anyone in China doubted the authenticity of our relationship. But as strange as it sounded, I could understand why. In John’s hometown, it’s not uncommon to meet people who have spent their entire lives, knowing little else beyond these mountains thick with hardy bamboo and fragrant Chinese red pines, and the rice paddies and terraced gardens sculpted into the hillsides. Who could imagine that one of their hometown sons would meet and marry a foreigner, let alone spend years in her country? As rare as it is to find Chinese men and Western women together in China’s urban playgrounds, out here in the Zhejiang countryside such a coupling sounds impossible and even ridiculous.

The Chinese government advises foreigners to carry their passports with them at all times in China. I have to wonder, should I also carry around my Chinese marriage license so I’m prepared for the next time someone calls my marriage “nonsense”?

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21 Replies to “How rare are Chinese men/Western women? Enough to be “nonsense””

  1. It’s good to be different! To me , it’s not nonsense. Damn I love that picture hiking in the mountain. I love everything outdoor and beyond.

  2. That’s a funny reaction. Many people here will initially think that my husband is Japanese (as if AMXF pairings are so frequent over there) or from HK or somewhere else. Just the fact that I’m not Chinese makes many people believe that he can’t possibly be Chinese either – and that’s our experience in a mega city, so I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like in the countryside.

    1. Ha! That happened to us too! Last Chinese New Year we went to Xiamen and Chinese tourists were saying “anyong haseyo” to my boyfriend, thinking he was Korean! Like if they couldn’t even imagine a Chinese guy with a Western woman, haha.

  3. Because Shanghai is so international, when I was strolling around with my ex-Chinese boyfriend no one even looked at us twice (although even in Shanghai, the AMWF pairing is still super rare). I felt quite normal in Shanghai when walking around hand-in-hand with my ex boyfriend, probably even more than I would have in the USA. It’s one of the perks of China’s most metropolitan city: very international and very open minded. Every taxi driver is still telling me how I should marry a Chinese guy on a daily basis.

    When I met my ex’s old classmates for dinner (me, the lone female, with ten male Chinese engineers encircled around a lazy susan at a Dongbei restaurant), they were in oo and awe of how he found an American girlfriend. I think most of them were mentally telling him, “you’re awesome, man. Props.”

    One of his friends straight up asked him, “how can I get? How can I get a foreign girlfriend, too?” It made me laugh and smile, and I gave him a few pointers about how to woo a foreigner.

    Anyway, in a village as small as John’s you must be the town spectacle! haha. I bet some of the locals might not have ever seen a real foreigner before? Are you the only one in the village?

    Cute and funny post!

  4. In John’s village, I guess people will continue to disbelieve that you could be John’s wife! Even those who may have seen you and John together often, will continue to wonder I do think. I guess you will never have a dull day! Poor woman, she must have thought John was pulling her legs. No wonder she walked off!

  5. Hi J.E. Your story is so funny!!!!! You are also so funny!!!! I cannot believe that a lady would disbelieve that you are married to a local Chinese man. When I visited H.K. in 2012 with my White Western Brazilian wife, no one questioned the authenticity of our marriage. Only a few stares once in a long while and a few store clerks simply commented. But I think the reason why the lady doubted your marriage is due to ignorance. Many in the remote villages do not have the benefit of a Western education and few have ventured beyond their villages. Is is without wonder that the lady did not believe him. But keep on blogging for us as I enjoy reading about your many fun posts. Keep up the greatness J.E.!!!!!

    1. Hi, Jocelyn! Hi, Fred! I mentioned Fred, bcz I am brazilian woman married with a chinese man and sounds good read about it.

      I am not sure if some villager on my husband´s place disbelief in our relationship, bcz I cannot speake the local language and it´s not everything that is translated for me.

      But sometimes I noticed some facial expressions. Certain things is good not hear or understand what it s said. As long the time, the person will getting used with.

  6. I had a similar situation happen to me on the Taipei subway. We were taking the subway when a woman started to speak to me in English. The conversation then lead to the subject of who the man with me was. I informed her that he was my boyfriend (now, husband) and her immediate reaction was ‘How strange? Are you sure?’ I questioned her as to why she thought it was strange and she stated the obvious (that you mostly see Taiwanese woman with foreign guys.) But as she got off the subway, she did say that we make a cute couple so in my mind, she was forgiven for her previous ‘are you sure?’ statement!

  7. Not that I have any experience with this but I have heard few times about it from some friends who are married to Chinese men. Especially when the husband is from a more rural area the neighbours usually don’t believe it at all that the little boy from next door is married to a Western woman.
    I heard all kind of funny stories regarding this topic over the past years 🙂

  8. @Angie. I am happy read that a you are a Brazilian woman married to a Chinese man. This type of pairings is so rare and even more rare than other AM/WW pairings. Do you have any funny stories to tell me?


  9. @ Timo. You wrote that you have heard some funny stories. Can you share a few with me? I will reciprocate and share one with you if you share one with me. Thanks.


    1. @ Fred. One story was that a guy I know from university went back to China first time with his European wife. His family is from a very small village in Shanxi and as they went through one of the small roads leading to his parents farm, some very old lady was watching his wife. She asked something like “what is that?”, he replied “This is my wife” and then the old lady shouted “That is not a wife, this is a white demon”
      According to him the old lady was in her late 90’s and was always a bit on the strange side 🙂

  10. @ Timo. Thanks for the short funny story. Now here is mine. About 2 years ago I went to a clothing store in Chinatown in Los Angeles to buy some exotic underwear for my wife as a surprise for Valentine’s Da7. The lady/owner with her husband beside her asked for the size of the underwear and they asked me if my wife was fat, medium or skinny. I told her that it will depends on whose perspective you are looking at. If you judge my wife from a Western woman’s perspective, then she is not fat compared to other White girls, but if you judge her from an Asian woman’s perspective, then her waist size is larger. She then asked if my wife was a Western woman and I said “yes.” She then said to me somthing like this in Cantonese-Chinese, “Wow! You are so great! How come you are so great to be able to get yourself a Geiwniu?” I said to her, “How is it great to marry a White girl? My marriage is like anyone else marriage?” She then seemed curious as to how I was able to procure myself a Western wife. I then told her that there is no magic formula. I also told her that my older brother married a White girl and my sister married a White guy (we have 3 siblings in my family). The lady then again said, “Wow! Your family is so great!.”

    She then wanted to know if a marriage to White girl means that I had to be more romantic, because she succintly said that Western men and women are known to be more romantic. I humored her by saying, “Yes, as you can see I am buying an exotic underwear for my wife from your store.” She then laughed. She said that “I am sorry but I do not have a box or a ribbon to put the underwear in so that you can make it a surprise for her.” I then replied by saying, “Don’t worry as I do not need a box. I can simply stash it inside my pants and ask my wife to reach her hand inside to get out the surprise.” She and her husband then both laughed. She and her husband seem so curious that all 3 Chinese siblings (me, my older bro and my younger sis) all married outside of our race. I told her that there was much turmoil and infighting between my family members before we won the right to marry Westerners. I said that it was not so easy as we faced parental objections and arguments before we were able to marry them. So, then I paid for the exotic underear and left the store.

    This is the funny story!


  11. I’m also a brazilian woman and my boyfriend is chinese. I went to China this year and everybody asked him where I’m from, they are very curious about this. When he said I’m his girlfriend everybody felt very surprised. We have a very good relation and we are thinking about marriage. The only problem is where we will live? I hope everything will be fine

  12. That’s funny! Oddly enough I get more ‘omg no way!’ reactions in my country than I did in China! We get stared at more here too, lots of people who seemingly can’t believe what they’re seeing. (Really?) I think no matter how people react, it seems to always be some variation of surprise.

  13. You might well need to carry your marriage certificates around so you and your husband can check into the same hotel room in the more conservative parts of the country.

  14. I live in Huizhou with my husband and we get a lot of funny looks (there aren’t many foreigners in our area).
    Many times people (brave enough to speak English to me) have asked if my husband is Korean too! Lol

    But some people can be really rude, as I’m a bigger girl (size 14 – guess I may a swell be a whale in China) some people are like ‘but you’re so fat!’ Or ‘the handsome guy over there? He’s married to YOU?’
    Have even heard one woman screech so loudly when my husband said I was his wife (honestly thought she’d shatter glass) when she said ‘THATS YOUR WIFE?’ Chinese girls also openly flirt with him (in front of me) when they find out I’m his wife! Hubby is completely oblivious mind you, so I guess that’s ok.

    Husband has never been congratulated on having a foreign wife though – look too chinese I guess (I’m mixed). Never mind, as long as he’s happy!

  15. The chinese man with a foreign wife is considered as a circus act everywhere even in his homeland.
    We are in 2014 and things are not as evolved as they should be…

    1. That’s a strange comment to make! My Chinese husband and I (Irish) have been married 40 years – yes 40 and I would be mortified to think that we have been regarded as a circus act for all that time!

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