Double Happiness: A Western Woman Walks Into A Bar

Two beer glasses lined up on a bar
Western women walked into bars, and walked out finding their future Chinese husbands (photo by gianni testore)

“A Western woman walks into a bar…” sounds like the start of a joke. But instead of coming back with a punchline, a number of Western women came back with Chinese men who they would eventually marry.

Sure, bars get a bad rap in the world of dating sometimes — yet these women show that your local watering hole just might turn into the backdrop for your “how we met” story. (In their case, the “how I met my Chinese husband” story.)

Straight Up

White girl and Chinese guy
White girl, with her Chinese-American fiancee (image from http://whitegirlchineseguy dot blogspot dot com)

The white girl behind White Girl in a Chinese-American World met her Chinese-American man in the most ordinary of ways, the kind of “we met in a bar” story most of us have heard before:

So, how did we meet?

Just like any normal people. At a bar.

It was a Tuesday night. I was there for a drink with a few friends and sitting in the back corner when my Chinese Guy walked in. I noticed him immediately.

“Wow, that guy is soooo hot,” I said to my friends.

I stared at him. I literally could not peel my eyes away from him. And he was looking back. After gushing for a good 20 minutes over and over to my friends, a guy in our group casually got up to go to the bathroom. When he came back, I saw him at the table of my Chinese Guy with two shots. And before I knew it, they were on their way over. My Chinese Guy handed me a shot and told me he was lucky enough to have my friend come over and give him an opportunity to talk to the “gorgeous blonde in the corner.”And then we had a great conversation. And a first date. And a first kiss.

The Bait and Switch

Kelly Sandor-Yang and her Chinese husband
Kelly Sandor-Yang and her Chinese husband (image from

But sometimes, who you meet at the bar is not who you date and marry in the end. That’s what Kelly Sandor-Yang — the woman behind Tales from Hebei — learned after her experience walking into a bar in China, which she shared in her guest post for Nomadic Chick:

I went out to a bar with a friend one night, met a guy, and we exchanged numbers. Later the following week, I got a text message, in English, from a number I didn’t know. It turned out that the guy from the bar had given my number to one of his friends, because that guy spoke more English (that guy would be my husband!). After sending messages back and forth for a few weeks, he asked if we could meet one day and go for a walk in a park in our city. I had determined by this point that he didn’t seem like an axe murderer, so I agreed. We met, walked around talking for hours, had lunch, and the rest is history.

While the Boyfriend’s Away

Jo Kelly-Bai — who writes at Life Behind the Wall — went to the bar expecting to meet up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend. Instead, she had her first meetup with her future Chinese husband:

While I was [at a bar] hanging out with one of my girlfriends that happened to be there also, a guy came up to me grabbed my wrist and said let me buy you a beer. Well, I took a look at this guy. He wasn’t very big, wore black rimmed glasses, and only had on a t-shirt and jeans but the fact that he spoke English kind of impressed me and I wasn’t doing anything special anyway so I said sure….

He began to ask me the normal Chinese questions… where are you from? Do you like China? Are you single? .. when I got to the are you single part.. I told him yes.. well.. I wasn’t married, and my on again off again boyfriend was nowhere to be found, after I had been waiting at the bar for about 3 hours.

Jo Kelly-Bai and Michael
Jo Kelly-Bai and her Chinese husband, Michael (photo from

The guy was funny and sweet and said he had seen me there a couple of times but I was always with people so he didn’t get a chance to say hello to me. We spoke for another couple of hours then I told him I needed to go. He asked me for my phone number, and I was like sure. Then he said call me anytime I get bored or want to do something. I said okay I would.I left and took a taxi home arriving at about 1am and still had not heard from my unreliable boyfriend, even after I had been calling him all night . At 1:15am.. I got a call from him stating he was busy and wouldn’t be able to come see me. I figured as much and just hung up on him. (I was really strong when he wasn’t in front of me with that sexy smile)…I am 40 years old .. why am I putting up with crap from a 30-year-old. I was very pissed and wanted to just talk to someone who would make me feel better. However, at 2 am who was I going to call. Then I thought about the guy I met at the club, he was probably still up seeing as the bar didn’t shut down until 3 or 4 am.

I decided to call him, he answered on the first ring. (smile).. I said do you remember me from the club.. he said of course. I said are you sleeping he said No.. then I said.. I just wanted someone to talk to. He told me he was thrilled to be at my service.. we talked for about 2 hours about everything that came to mind. We laughed so hard we were crying. Until finally I had to tell him that I had to work the next day and I had better get off the phone. He agreed and asked me if he could call me tomorrow. I said sure.

The next day and every day following that he called me three times a day seven days a week just to talk or to say good morning or good night. He took me to dinners, tea houses, and even to see different traditional sites in town.

Yes, reader, she married him.

So who knows? Next time you walk into a bar, you might just be getting a nice shot of your future love. 😉

What do you think about meeting your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife in a bar?


How did you meet? Why do you love him/her? We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.

26 Replies to “Double Happiness: A Western Woman Walks Into A Bar”

  1. My dad met my mom in a bar…but that’s not exactly a success story. I am happy to hear about those stories, though. 🙂

    Oh, I met my husband on myspace. So juvie! Da-Wen wrote me a well, respected letter. Who would’ve thought I was writing back to my future husband? Da-Wen went to Maine to meet me and just a week into our meeting, he asked me to move to South Florida with him. It was a gutsy move for me but I am glad it worked out just fine. 🙂

  2. Our first meeting at a bar was also very unlikely to end up in marriage.. I actually escaped 3 times from his company at that night because I was too shy 😀 I had never spoken english to a person outside classroom before. But he kept finding me and finally he pulled me aside to get to know each other better and exchange phone numbers.

  3. The white girl in the Chinese American World seems to have dropped off the face of the earth! Hope they did not break up! The one from Hibei…cute couple!

  4. Wow, didn’t know that the bar could be such a rich picking up place. Obviously I am not qualified to speak since I am no bar crawler (no offence meant) , although I have been to one or two. Though I had been called to another kind of bar, he he. The Jo Kelly-Bai and Michael story is particularly inspiring if for nothing but the rarity of their pairing. They look such a matching and happy couple.

  5. Great article! My Chinese husband had never been in a bar when we met 17 years ago. The only bars in China back then were western ones in western hotels. Plus, neither of us drank. I love these stories, though, and think it’s a perfectly fine place to meet. After all, my marriage with the Chinese husband didn’t work out, so the place really has nothing to do with the happiness of the marriage.

  6. Pity I’m not a bar person 🙁 . In 2006 for a month anyways, I was with a Chinese guy. He and I met on myspace. I joined an Asian Male/ White Female club there, and he claims to have joined it as a joke. We met in person one time on March 8th Women’s Day, (he was a great kisser, although unfortunately he disappeared on me and I never heard from him again. I blame it on my lack of knowledge and sort of asking him a few times if I could kiss him, and then using wrong words to describe the kiss. Ah well.)

  7. Again another great blog…. I see a lot of people saying that they dont go to bars and things like that…. In China.. there are many places you can go… not only bars… coffee houses, tea malls….(smile).. it is just when the chinese man is in a bar.. he is drinking and has the liquid courage to come up to talk to you. It can be very hard for Chinese men to gain the confidence to speak to a western women… so the bar makes it easier for them. It doesnt mean all the men there are good… though. @ordinary Malaysian.. thanks for the reference to my husband and I…we have overcame a lot of difficult barriers… but it has only made our love stronger .. I think… I want to show others that it can be done no matter the natonalities.

  8. I have to comment because I also met my Chinese boyfriend in a bar here in Guangzhou. And it was him who made the first move! Later on lots of Chinese acquittances have criticised this way of meeting a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They say that my boyfriend can’t be a good man, because he was in a bar. Then what they think of me because I was there too?

    It was a big coincidence for the two of us to meet. We don’t go to bars often, but for numerous reasons we happened to be there at the same time that night more than year ago.

    But this is not the story we share with his family and relatives. With them it’s better to stay with the “oh you know I had a friend who knows a friend and so on” kind of story 😉

  9. @Sara… funny you say that… people told me the same thing…but i just told them that …”it is western way” and that usually shuts them up. I mainly got.. that my husband doesnt have a house or car.. so he isnt a good husband…. i always… say… i dont want to marry a house or a car… i want to marry a man. it stops the conversation….

    Sometimes those Chinese ideals… get on my nerves…

  10. @lifebehindthewall Good answers! They ask me the same questions too: “You really don’t mind he doesn’t have a car/house/lots of money or he doesn’t speak English?” Maybe I should answering them that in Finland everyone hates that kind of shallowness 😉

  11. I think part of the reason why Chinese view “meeting in the bar” in such negative way is because bars are usually portrayed as a seedy, “immoral” place in Chinese literature. It is said that (in one of the old books I don’t remember! :)) the merchants who opens a bar his social standing are below a farmer – akin to a criminal. It also implies people who spend time there are alcoholics! 😀 Of course those perceptions will change as China becomes more westernized. Maybe. 😀

  12. @Jack.. it is true… there are a lot of criminals that hang out there.. and Im sure there are alcoholics too.. but arent they everywhere… hehehe… China just still has that 1930s mentality. Good girls are home by 7pm and in bed by 9pm. Even my husband some will say something about a girl we see that is at the 24 hour Mcdonalds after 11pm… I always say.. arent we out late too… he says .. that is different.. I am with you. Ahhh… you got to love Chinese thinking…

  13. @lifebehindthewall,
    Like I had mentioned in your blog, I think China is still largely an agrarian society. It may be modernizing but it is still largely a developing third world country. The mindset is still largely left in the pre-industrial-agrarian era. A man’s worth is largely defined by how much he can provide for his wife and family. So it is not so strange to hear people asking if your husband has a house or car. This happen in almost every third world developing countries (India, majority of south east asia, Africa).

    A reason why arranged marriages and dowry still exist in large part of the world mostly developing countries.
    To “marry for love” is a luxury that most women in the third world countries don’t have.

    So, until China becomes a first world country, this mindset will never go away.

  14. Also a “woman’s worth” is define by how many child she can bear – sounds familiar? I think you mentioned in your blog the enormous pressure your husband’s parents are exerting on you for wanting grand children – again, this is the mindset of agrarian society – where a woman’s worth is judge by how many child she can bear so the children can provide the helping hands for harvesting in the field (and also act as “insurance policy” for retirement). I know this sounds very crude but that’s the best explanation I can think of.

    Again, the necessity to bear children will disappear as China becomes a industrialized first world country. Its a strange and contradictory phenomenon since when food is scarce, you would think family (and society as whole) would actually have less children, while when there are plenty of food and resources, you would think family would have more children. But the reverse usually happen (eg. look at average family size in first world countries vs third world countries).

    So its all understandable – you just have to wait (when China becomes first world country!) and all those ingrained preconception/tradition will fall away (Look at Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore – where average household have less than 1 child nowadays).

  15. @Jack .. this is true… now there is an issue in Japan about low birth rates…. and my student, that have been abroad.. and studied .. come back and state how they dont want children at all. It is all about knowledge… and more and more people are forgetting the traditions…

  16. Exactly, education plays very big part of it. When people are more educated – they PLAN. They count, they calculate. Educated households tend to have far fewer children than less educated households (almost universal – even in western societies – High income/Post doc/college educated vs low income households). Also, in industrialized nations, the standard of living being very high – the wages are also very high – childcare cost are SKY-HIGH (and still GOING UP) in industrialized nation. This tends to be a limiting factor for the educated as you want to provide the best for your children, give them extra curricular activities (costly space camps! oversea trips), sent them to college…etc.

  17. Nice discussions on night life and on the perception of wealth.

    Older people in China tend to view an active night life in general, and the bar scene in particular, with a weary eye; and they include my own parents. To people like them, who had lived a hand-to-mouth existence all through their childhood and early adulthood, “squandering” good money at a watering hole is sheer anathema. And those of my generation, who grew up in the 90’s, tend not to see being a barfly as a recommendation of your moral character, either (if not as a glaring stain on it). After all, does everyone frequent bars in the America and Europe? Does everyone have to subscribe to your own version of modernity to show that they are up to date? If it is not so, to say that they are stuck in the 1930s, just because they don’t appreciate what bars have to offer as you do, would be rather arrogant. Also, bars are seen by many as seedy meat-markets full of debauched reprobates, because, oftentimes, that’s what they are. (Not that I have anything against reprobates….)

    And we have the perception of wealth again. It is great if you do not base your affections for your partner on what he can offer you financially, as some others tend to; and I also would consider it rude for a stranger to “marvel” at my relationship solely on the grounds that they somehow perceived an economic mismatch. That doesn’t mean those Chinese people are insane or really “shallow.” It might help matters if we see what it’s like to be a poor person in the West, and compare it to the situation in China. Living below the poverty line in the West (especially in Western Europe) most likely won’t throw you into a purgatory of starvation and other life-threatening privations; living below the poverty line in China would mean you can’t feed your children, or you can’t make this month’s rent, or you won’t get that surgery you desperately need. Being poor in Finland won’t stop you from developing yourself intellectually; being poor in China means everything you do would be centered on the most basic means of survival. For most (living) people in the West, hunger is a historical fiction that they have no real-life experience with, whereas in China, the travails of a life in utter poverty is etched in the memory of anyone aged 30 and above. With this in mind, is it really so inconceivable that the Chinese people you met should attach such great importance to material comforts?

    Yes, it is unfair, not to mention sexist, to measure a man’s worth as a life partner purely in material terms; but it is a kind of thinking that lots of people, including many women, sadly, are brought up on, and it is in no way uniquely Chinese.

  18. @Kedai…. I understand what your trying to say… but from my experiences living here.. the very poor Chinese people are not the ones that end up marrying rich husbands… the poor stay poor for the most part. So the people that are requiring … cars, houses, and rich husbands.. are not poor themselves… they actually come from better than average families… so in that case your reasoning doesnt have as much merit. In China… the first thing they ask you .. is how much did it cost? Or what brand is it….? that is materialistic… nothing else.

    As for my reference to China being like America in the 1930’s .. it is true in more than just the bar scenes… it is the thought process of most everything. Dating is done in groups, you can only marry who your parents approve, you cant show your shoulders, etc. All are the same as America use to be. As Jack mentioned these things change when more people are educated and understand the differences. You can disagree with how I say it.. but you cant say what I say is not true. I will quote what one of my students an attorney here in China said…. “We Chinese have lost our way, Money has taken over our lives” … and this was from a man that is very educated.

  19. Ahh, I just met my boyfriend in the typical way through college, to be honest not many Chinese men go to bars in Ireland, So if my boyfriend had of approached me in a bar I probably would have been impressed. Thanks for sharing!

  20. I actually met my boyfriend at a bar in China as well. When I first met him we really hit it off but I had no idea how old he was. I’m only 19 so you can imagine the surprise I felt when I found out he was 29. I felt a little skeptical at first about the large age gap but with a lot of time and courtship (on his end), I’ve decided to give him a chance. He is really sweet and is willing to take it slow. He doesn’t speak much English so we mostly communicate in Chinese. I can’t really complain because this has helped my Chinese improve so much.

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