Why Did I Assume I Would Stay Single in China?

Earlier this month, Rosalie (the blogger behind Rosie in BJ) publicly explored some of her own prejudices in a post titled, “Why Did I Assume I’d Never Find a Man to Date in China?

As I was reading her article, I suddenly realized that I too had a pre-China backstory worth sharing – one of relationships that never came to be, and what ifs that point to my own prejudices. So here goes:


In coming to China, the last thing I expected was to end up dating a local guy, let alone marrying one (as I ended up doing with John, pictured here with me). Why?

“You don’t have to worry about the students falling in love with you.”

Before I embarked on my first trip to China, where I would teach English at a college, I met up with one of the former teachers several times for dinner or drinks. And when the subject of student crushes came up – something he had been forced to navigate very delicately – he negated the possibility of anything similar happening to me.

Of course I didn’t question his words. Hadn’t I already envisioned my year-long assignment much like a vow of chastity? I spoke to friends of my interest in studying Tai Chi over there and visiting some local temples, as if I were about to spend my months as a nun instead of an English teacher. It was an opportunity to travel to a new country, a way to postpone my post-graduate dilemma regarding career decisions, and nothing more than that.

Or so I thought.

Then I moved to Zhengzhou, China – and found myself with a crush on one of the first guys I met there, a former student from the program I would teach for. Over a month later, he introduced me to his friend, a guy who was also a former student – and would become so much more to me in the weeks that followed:

Yao came into my life, in all of his sleek, sexy and sullen James Dean perfection, dressed in a black leather jacket as dark as his mysterious melancholy. When my heart raced after our first dinner together, I thought it was just another adolescent crush. Embarrassed, I wanted to just box my feelings away like all of the Barbie Dolls and little girl hairclips of my past.

Then he took me to that teahouse one Sunday afternoon. Over two Taiwanese bubble teas, the truth bubbled through to the surface of my own heart — I loved him with an uncontrollable depth that plunged far beyond the bottom of my tea cup. And, I began to realize, so did he, because he overflowed with confessionals that he had never before poured over with anyone else.

Not long after, our our passions percolated over into romance — a real boyfriend/girlfriend love that translated into steamy weekends at his apartment, hand-in-hand walks around the gardens of Zhengzhou University, and the occasional afternoon out at the Taiwanese teahouse, his favorite in the city. Bubble tea never tasted so sweet.

In his arms, it was so easy for me to forget that I had once secretly declared this year a lonely one without a single chance for dating. And it was also very easy for me to turn a disdainful eye to my female coworkers at the school, all Americans who had no interest in the local men.

I couldn’t help but wonder, why did I assume that I would be single in China? Why did I think I would never date Chinese men? Was it merely that I grew up in an incredibly white middle-class suburb (I could count on one hand the Asian men I knew from kindergarten to high school graduation)? Was it the overwhelming absence of positive images of Asian men in the whitewashed world of American popular culture?

I think back to my college years, a time when I met many foreign Asian men – including Japanese and Cambodian. I called many of them close friends, yet why did I never let them get any closer to me? Why did I always immediately relegate them to the “friend zone” and nothing more? Why did my white girlfriends and I only giggle over white celebrity heartthrobs in high school, like Tom Cruise?

It’s just not right.

All I know is this — in China, I found the sexiest and most amazing men that I had ever known. I ended up marrying one and I’m still crazy in love with him. (Thank you, John!) It took crossing an entire ocean and time zones to realize that my assumptions about dating in China were a lie.

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31 Replies to “Why Did I Assume I Would Stay Single in China?”

  1. Sounds familiar – I think a lot of us in the AMWF community have a story like that. My husband was also “friend-zoned” for a long time, until one day I suddenly realized I was in love with my best friend.

    I tend to blame the images we see in Hollywood (I wrote specifically about Asian men in Hollywood here: http://fictiondiversity.com/2015/01/31/hollywoods-real-problem-with-the-asian-male/), but I can see how a lack of diversity in one’s community could also contribute.

  2. In China, I think most western men generally get more (romantic) attention than western women, but that doesn’t me we are totally left in the dust! My second semester teaching, I’m pretty sure an entire class of mine had a crush on me. I’ve also been hit on here and there by local men and occasionally foreign men. It’s not completely hopeless.

    1. Yes, R Zhao, we are not totally left in the dust! I also discovered, after the year was over, that quite a few of the men on campus at the college where I was teaching in China had a huge crush on me.

  3. It is a pretty common idea that western/non Asian women assume that they will be single in east Asia.

    I am not a western woman but I am a non east Asian woman, so a lot of it applies in a way.
    Yes, shutting ourselves off to the idea decreases any chances we may have but on the other hand my experience showed me that while white men are really hot property among east Asians, white women are generally not. Many local men are not really interested in dating them.

  4. It looks like many who are in an AMWF relationship never even assumed to date an Asian guy in the beginning.
    When I started to date Mr. Panda I wasn’t even looking for love at all. And to be true, I did not have any special image in mind about how my Mr.Right should be. I only wished for him to be taller than me as I was always the tallest in school. 😀

    1. Thanks for sharing, Betty! Like yourself, I didn’t really have any image of my Mr. Right…though I did want him to be taller. But — Jun is such a wonderful guy in every other way that I decided it just didn’t matter. I’m glad I didn’t let the height issue get in the way of our relationship.

  5. They say there’s someone for everyone……small little mercy.

    For those who like a new twist to a chat-up line ………..you’re not Google but you have everything I’m searching for.

    If nothing goes right, go left.

  6. They use it well ahead of most English speaking countries. Active countries are continental europeans and Chinese.

  7. “Many local men are not really interested in dating them.”

    @Boiling…no, they are afraid of asking…it means loosing face if rejected.

    1. It’s a little more complicated. White women appeal to Chinese men because Chinese people regard white people, both the men and the women, as somehow superior but it doesn’t necessarily mean Chinese men actually find white women physically attractive as something more than a source of novelty.

  8. Why don’t white women /westen women stay single in China? Perhaps it’s because of the pervasive imagery that Hollywood keeps showing with Asian men, or perhaps it’s due to the complete lack of representation of Asian males in westen countries. Whatever it is, It seems media has a large role in who women see as attractive. And for Asian men, the media is simply not on our side.

  9. @D-Maybe

    Are you southern Chinese? In north (manchuria, inner mogolia, hebei), the country people feel superior to white people. Actually white people are not considered attractive in many ways (intelligence, characters, physical features ect).

    We northerners often consider southerners got slave mentality (or inferiority complex)

  10. On the other hand, northern Chinese including han, mongolian, manchurian are the only people who had history of military victories over Europeans. In Chinese history, it is always northerners conquering south. Yes, northerners are proud people with humblbe personality.

    Most Cantonese are bitter and complaining all the time. They suffer severe inferiority complex yet with non-friendly attitude(arrogant) toward others. They are very clanish. Such personality change following a cline from north to south. The worst inferiority complex is in southeast Asia.

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