Double Happiness: A Journey Towards China And Love

Red Chinese lanterns at nighttime
(photo by miguel ugalde)

This is the longest story I’ve ever published in my Double Happiness series. But Mayte’s unexpected journey towards China and love really touched me, and I’m really excited to share her story of two different, surprising and beautiful relationships with Chinese men.


I came to China to enjoy my dream trip. But before I arrived, I met and fell in love with a Chinese man who was by far the most amazing person I had ever met.

It began as a language exchange so that I could improve my Chinese enough to get through a backpacking trip I had planned in China. I wasn’t looking for any relationship at the time but as I prepared for the trip, it made sense to start working on learning Mandarin if I was going off on my own for the latter half. I met C.J. when he responded to a post asking for a language exchange. We talked briefly by phone before meeting and the day I met him, I thought he seemed sweet. When we talked, it was like talking to your best friend after not seeing them for years. We laughed a lot and shared lots of stories. He told me about China and I told him about life in the States, among other things. We closed down a cafe and a bar while we talked that night.

When I went home, I remember thinking that this was the kind of guy I could marry. I think that’s when everything changed for me. Prior to that, I didn’t think about marriage much. After meeting him, it was nice to think of it as a possibility.

We spent more and more time together over the course of the year, and it frustrated me that things didn’t seem to move forward at first. I didn’t know how to approach him. I didn’t know what to say, or better yet, what not to say. Here was this man that I was clearly in love with, and I didn’t have anything that said we were more than friends. I knew he was set to return to China and so I didn’t know if I should even bother trying to proceed from there or if I should just enjoy the friendship I had with him and leave it at that.

Then two things happened.

One was a summer concert we attended with a few of my friends. In the middle of the show, I remember feeling a little tired and resting my head on his shoulder. Either the wine or the mood seemed to kick in and I kissed his cheek. He didn’t say anything and it didn’t matter. He made me happy, just being with him made me gleefully happy. I reached up to kiss his cheek again and he took the opportunity to turn it into our first kiss. I feel like I’m approaching romance novelist status with this, but it really was the kind of kiss that wakes you from a stupor. I knew how he felt then. I don’t think we saw the rest of the show and when we pulled away from each other, our friends were long gone. I don’t remember how we made it home, but I remember that kiss as clear as day, even now.

The second thing that happened was something I tried to prevent, actually. We had met every weekend, because that’s when he was free. I called him to tell him that this particular weekend I couldn’t meet because I had a family gathering to attend. I don’t regularly invite friends to events like these because something always, and I mean always, goes wrong at these things and I spend a lot of time trying to clean up messes. This event was no exception and yet, he asked me what it was, I told him (it wasn’t an invitation), and he decided to go. He decided! It’s my inner control freak, I know, but he said he would attend, as plainly as that. Like there was no use arguing with him because he was coming. It galled me at first, but after a day or two (and the fact that I had been told I was going to drive 45 minutes to pick him up and 45 minutes to bring him back to the party), I guess I accepted it. Embraced it, even. God love him, this guy had worked around the wall I built up and set himself smack dab in the middle of a family function!

It turned out to be a great party. Everything went off without a hitch, as far as he was concerned (though one of the kids knocked out a few of his own teeth). C.J. got along with my dad famously, and no one up to that point had ever done that. They hung out for the duration and I was left minding the kids attending the party. But I’m glad that he came and met everyone. I think he must have thought we invited the whole town, but you know how Mexican families can be — I like to say, we’re large and in charge. After that party, I seriously started thinking this could go long term.

Unfortunately, he moved back to China after almost a year, as he was in the US for work. I was heartbroken. He planned to stay there and, because of his job, it didn’t seem realistic to think that things might go further. So, though it was hard, I had to move forward. We stayed friends, but it changed from daily conversations to occasional emails.

When it didn’t work out, I just buried myself in work. I didn’t think about things and certainly didn’t plan to look for someone new. I got ready for my trip to China and set out to be in Hong Kong for my birthday. I didn’t want to be jet lagged before our tour started so I arrived a few days early and got adjusted to the city.
Our group met in Hong Kong and hopped a bus into the mainland, where we ended up meeting more group members. We stopped at a bank so group members could exchange money and that’s when I saw him.

I’m so not the type to believe in love at first sight, but it was definitely the feeling I got here. A.C. was in my group, helping the rest of us get through the line, and he looked up and smiled at me (mostly because I couldn’t turn away and my jaw may have been dragging on the floor 🙂 ). Here was this beautiful man. My Chinese friends keep trying to correct me when I say that, but he was beautiful, like art. More than that, just seeing him help a bunch of strangers was also telling. He was tall, dark, and handsome, and all I wanted to do was run.

I knew that if he was in my group, I’d be locked in with no way to hide my dazed grin and end up saying something terribly stupid. So I tried to act normally and I think it eventually was ok. We left the bank that day and I had decided to steer clear of him. I knew there was no way he’d consider a girl like me. Even if I just made friends with him, I knew I’d start developing feelings and, with the tour being only a month long, set myself up for heartbreak.

So, I set out to enjoy the trip anyway. I made friends and somehow everyone was talking about this guy. Long story short, they invited him to spend time with us for the train ride in. He spoke to everyone in the group and I tried to fly under the radar and listen to stories.

Eventually, people started to get tired and would wander off to find their bunks on the train. It ended up being just the two of us, so he started asking questions and I answered, trying not to stare him in the face. I was sure it was going to be a dead giveaway. After a fair bit, it became comfortable and we started talking about lots of things. It was hard for both of us to stop. We both seemed to enjoy sharing stories.

About eight hours later, we were approaching our destination. I woke up and found that we had fallen asleep sitting in my bunk. Thankfully, I was faster to pull myself together and dashed off to the washroom to clean up before I had to face him. I found him shortly afterward helping others get organized before we got off of the train. I took another good look and remember thinking, “There’s no way I’d have a chance with this guy. Absolutely no way.”

He must have heard my brain working because he turned to me again and smiled, and said he’d sit with me later when we all went for breakfast. Who says no to that? Talk about kryptonite, I didn’t have the strength to say no. I remember nodding and meeting him with the group. And try as I might to avoid him, he kept coming around to talk for the rest of the tour. The more we did so, the more we learned about each other. Despite the fact that I didn’t think he would be remotely interested in me, he always made me feel beautiful, interesting, and important to him.

So we started an amazing trip, friendship and, eventually, love. By the time we finished the tour, I found out he had been planning special side trips to some of places he thought I might like. He had also been communicating with friends and family about me the whole trip, and I even got to meet some of them. He even went as far as meeting me during my off-tour time (an additional month). We started to think long term. He asked me to stay, but I had to start work the next week so I needed to leave. The plan was to come home, find a job that would take me back to China, and see whether we could take things from there.

Fast forward another year, and finally I made it back to China. But during that year we were apart, his family pushed him to not date me as a Westerner and, later, he met someone else. In the end, I don’t hold it against him. It hurts, but family pressure is tough. My own family allows for me to have a strong understanding of what people here go through. Mexican families are similar with the whole filial piety thing.

One of these days, things will work out serendipitously and I’ll have the love that I want. I like to think he’ll be Chinese, but there’s never any guarantee. In my mind, that’s fine too. I sometimes catch hell from family and friends for being in China at all. But when I talk about the men I have fallen in love with — and yes, they’ve been Chinese — I don’t think I have ever thought of them as single faceted, even though that’s what others can sometimes focus on. I see the men I have given my heart to, the ones that have made me feel as if we bring joy to each other and those around us when we’re together, those who have made me feel like they see and love the real me (crazy family included). For that, I will forever have a special place in my heart for them and for the people they come from.

Mayte teaches in Shanghai and has lived in China for several years.


How did you meet? Why do you love him/her (or Chinese men/Western women)? How two different people “complete each other” in unexpected ways? 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.

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30 Replies to “Double Happiness: A Journey Towards China And Love”

  1. Wow, this is so sad. I know how she feels, though, and have confidence that she’ll meet Mr. Right. She’s in a good plaace for that because Shanghai attracts people who are open minded and modern. I’d just focus on doing things she enjoys–like she was doing the times she met the other guys. But it’s important not to rush into a relationship with the next Chinese guy just because he’s Chinese and perhaps a replacement for the other guys. She seems very level-headed so I’m sure she’ll do well! All the best!

  2. Just came back from a long trip! Yes, don’t jump into a relationship so soon. Meeting that right person will depend on your fate sometimes! I really understand what everyone is going through.


  3. What romantic love stories although they didn’t work out in the end. Never mind, you have loved and you have gained. Love is never a loss. Sure you will find someone with whom it will work out. There is this Chinese belief that there is a red thread joining you and your future one. Although this thread may stretch it won’t break. It will lead you to him and him to you.

  4. Let’s think a little deeper here. It’s pretty hard to find a soul mate within our own race already. Just imagine finding a person outside our race. I went to alot of weddings before and I can tell if a couple has love and chemistry or not. Chemistry is very important in a relationship. That’s what turn it on about that person all the time. Some women or some men are very good to look at indeed. Some things just turn you on and it’s hard to explain.


  5. Wow, sorry to hear things didn’t work out. In 2006 through Myspace I met a Chinese guy. He wasn’t handsome but wow he was intelligent. (I was barely out of high school while he was going for his PhD. His intelligence intimidated me…) I remember we met one time on March 8th and I thought we had a fun time. To this day I have no idea what I’ve done or said, but I think I might have put pressure on him to kiss me. (I still had Western mindset and had no idea it was against Chinese culture, but he was also the best kisser I’ve had :)) To make long story short, after the first meeting he disappeared and to this day I have no idea what I’ve done or not done to cause it this way.

  6. Sveta,

    You mean you didn’t have his contact information at all? Do you feel like there are butterflies in your stomach when you think about that kiss?

  7. Sveta,

    I don’t think it was anything you did (or didn’t do, for that matter). It sounds like it was just him. He likely thought of it as a casual meeting and took a chance to kiss you. If he was not used to the idea of exchanging a kiss in the first place, was away from home, and was meeting you for the first time, it gave him an opportunity he might not have otherwise had. So it would make sense for him to try it. If he’s not tuned into the idea to begin with, he may think it’s casual and that there were also no expectations to worry about afterward. Then there’s the whole idea about people thinking all Westerners behave like they do on TV and in movies…. It could just be that too.

    It does sound like you had a nice time with him though and that’s always a plus. It’s always nice to reminisce about things like that, so keep it for one of those days when you need to take a breather.

  8. Wow! Such romantic stories! I hope this doesn’t come out wrong, but I think you have some amazing stories to share with your future children and grandchildren. Although they didn’t “work out,” they’ve still helped shape you and bring you to where you are now.

  9. Mayte
    Wow, what a moving, lovely, romantic and yet sad story!! I am very sorry to hear that the things didn’t work out. Family pressure always plays a big role in one’s marriage in China. Many Chinese parents have traditional way of thinking. There are several factors that would influence their thinking.

    Firstly, language problems, many elder Chinese parents can not speak English, so they will have difficulty in communicating with their western son or daughter-in-law, if he or she doesn’t have good command of the Chinese language.

    Secondly, different food style, many Chinese parents like cooking Chinese dishes, they may hardly cook and have western meals, like pasta, mash potatoes, pizza etc. They may ask, can my western son or daughter-in-law cook good delicious meals in the family? Cos “Eating” is such a big culture in China. ^^

    Thirdly, when Chinese parents are getting old, they don’t want to live in old people’s home, because they may find it lonely and unhappy living there. Rather they want to live with their children, so that their children can and keep a good eye and take good care of them. In the west, parents don’t normally live with their children in the same house when they are older, they are normally being put into the old people’s home by their children. Having visited old folks in the rest home myself in NZ, they told me their heart broken story that some of their children just don’t care them anymore, and they find it hard and very lonely. I am always feel sorry and sad for them. In China, Filial piety “孝” means ..’to take care of one’s parents’..’to have good virtue”.. plays such an important role in the Chinese Society and throughout its’ history.

    So those above factors may influence Chinese parent’s decision whether they want to have a western son or daughter-in-law.

    Having said that, there are also many Chinese parents are very open minded and would be very happy to have a son or daughter-in-law from the west, as long as they love each other deeply and prepare to make the relationship and marriage work. Because Chinese parents care deeply for their children’s well being, they always want best for their children, marriage is no difference too.

    Mayte, you can try to work on the above things that i mention. For example, try to master the Chinese language skills, learn to appreciate Chinese culture, its literature and music. Learn to cook Chinese food well, and being thoughtful and respectful when you are around with your future parents in-law. When they see that you have those good characters and qualities in yourself, they will surely appreciate you and want you to be part of their family.

    Mayte, from reading your long story, I can tell that you are a very lovely and adorable person, you should never give up hope for finding your loved one. There are many sweet and lovely single Chinese men out there wanting to meet their other half like you. He may be one of the reader reading your story right now… You never know… Just be patients… ^^

    I hope things will work out for you eventually and you will have found the love that you want and you live happily ever after with “that special him”.

    Hope you wound find my advice useful and helpful!!
    – Philip ^^

    P.S. To Jocelyn
    My name is Philip from China, this is my first ever comment in your site. I first found out your site at the end of 2009, and loved it instantly. You have done a wonderful job building bridges between Chinese and Western cultures. Keep up the fantastic work!!

  10. Hi Philip,

    I think you, and others, would be surprised at the similarities between Chinese culture and Mexican culture. My best friend (since childhood) is Chinese and so I know a lot about the culture being that we grew up together with both families very involved with us. As far as language, my Chinese is not perfect but it’s manageable so I have that to my advantage. I also happen to like studying the language so fluency isn’t out of reach.

    Second, food is big culture with Mexicans too. I happen to come from a family of amazing cooks and also restaurateurs, so we enjoy experimenting with food and I do happen to cook a few Chinese dishes. My Chinese family (my best friend’s parents) also own a Chinese restaurant, so I have learned a lot from them too.

    And thirdly, the issue of putting a parent in a home in their golden years is unheard of in Mexican culture. It’s changing, which I think is sad, as more people “assimilate” into “Western” culture. But it’s not how we were raised so it wouldn’t happen in our family. I think the concerns are valid for people who don’t know anything about the person their child is dating, but if they take the time to get to know you, they’d quickly learn that we’re not so different.

    C.J., still harps on me from time to time about the amount of attention I give my family. He thinks I worry too much about them (as I happen to help my parents, siblings, and their kids too from time to time). When it’s family, you do what you can to help out. Unfortunately, the situations didn’t work out so they didn’t get a chance to see that.

    I haven’t lost hope though. Not by any means. I know something good will happen for me. I like to think that even though I thought these two guys were the greatest loves of my life, that they were prequels to someone better who is being guided to me. I’m an optimist. I can’t see living any other way. Thank you for your encouragement and kind comments. I do appreciate them and will keep them in mind.

  11. @Mayte Eres chicana o mexicana? Actualmente me radico en la ciudad Queretaro, y se me preciso que la cultura del Bajio es muy diferente con la cultura chicana en California.

  12. Hola Henry,

    Soy chicana, pero tengo familia en Mejico tambien. Voy a responder en Ingles para evitar la duplicacion de esta respuesta por la traduccion.

    Henry asked if I was Mexican American vs. a Mexican national. Actually, I am Mexican American. We have family in Mexico, and probably more than I’m actually aware of.

    Henry says that the culture in Mexico is different from the Mexican American culture in the States. Which is true. I think at the root, they started out the same way though. It’s changed through assimilation and simply a different experience in the States.

    However, at the root, they are the same. In the US, culture is different because dominant culture dictates the social norms and everyone else is expected to conform. In Mexico, Mexican culture IS the norm. Not novelty and not dismissed so easily. Chinese culture in the US is also similar. If they have been there for several generations, the traditions are still there, but sometimes they tend to veer off on their own path. Sometimes things are lost because people aren’t as close to it anymore.

    My mother says, your manners (and in this case, traditions) are always better when you’re close to mama. If you’re away from your Mother country…things seem a bit more relaxed, perhaps under the guise of trying new things, perhaps not.

  13. @Mayte


  14. Actually, Chicanos are FAR more warm-hearted than Mexicans from El Bajio (Chilangos & pseudo-Chilangos). This is because the vast majority of Chicanos can trace their roots to certain warm-blooded areas of Mexico. Roughly half of my Chicano & Mexican friends in San Jose, CA, hail from Michoacan. And I made more friends in 2 months while living in Uruapan & Morelia, than I was able to do so in QRO in one year.
    BTW, here in QRO, the Chinese community still hails from the traditional “4 Counties” (四邑) of rural Gangdong (that shipped out huge number of immigrants during the Gold Rush). These people steadfastly refuse to integrate with the rest of Chinese. As a Taiwanese, I often find it easier to socialize with Westerners than with them.

  15. Hi Henry,

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a poor experience in Mexico. That’s not been my experience when I’ve been there and I have several friends who travel and have lived there also who would also disagree with you. But that said, I do have to credit my Chicano brethren. They are a pretty awesome group to be around. As far as the Chinese groups in Mexico that you mentioned, I had heard that they had trouble integrating with Mexicans but not with Chinese. Maybe it was a typo. But I think after living there for so long, it would be a great case study to see if their reasons fall away from the usual ones. They can’t be staying on for no reason.

    Back to the story at hand though, how about you Henry? I’m gonna pass the torch your way. Have you had any leads toward love while in Mexico? Or in the US? I’d love to hear your stories. =)

  16. @ aiyangxifu,

    I’d rather you didn’t do that. I think it’s sufficient to post it here. I’m not really looking for lots of attention being brought to it. I share here because I’m comfortable sharing within this community. It looks as if you’ve already taken action without asking anyway though. So I doubt it can be remedied now.

  17. @Mayte
    My experience in Mexico has not been bad at all. It’s just the Michoacanos are so exceptionally hospitable, that everybody else seems rather “mamon”. Even the “infamous” Chilangos will treat me with greater affection than the average gringo ever would.

    As for the local Chinese, it was not a typo. The vast majority of Chinese in Mexico trace their roots to 4 rural counties in southern Guangdong. These people seem distrustful of Chinese from other regions of China. They integrate among themselves well, but would shun Chinese from other provinces.
    About Asian images & stereotypes in Mexico: we’re generally well-received, with Japanese & Koreans almost revered. Chinese less so. This is partly because in contrast to the US, Chinese immigrants (mostly peasants in origin, as mentioned above) in Mexico do not enjoy the reputation of academic excellence. Few 1st & 1.5th generation Chinese in Mexico ever go to college.
    Also in contrast to US, here in Mexico Asian men have the reputation of players & womanizers. So much so, you wouldn’t believe the ridiculous “warning” my ex-GF received from her family & friends.

    Anyways, about my personal experience. After living in the States for 15 years, I’ve just about had enough of the American media’s attempt at enforcing the racial hierarchy (conquer their women, vanquish their men) that was impacting me personally. My “compadre” (a Michoacano in NorCal who has since returned to Morelia) suggested me to go to Mexico, where he would set me up with his sister-in-law. Suffice to say things didn’t work out between us (issues from her previous marriage, incld. a derranged, potentially violent ex), but I was so enchanted with Mexican hospitality, that I decided to stay. I accepted a job as technical translator (Chinese industrial machinery op manuals) in Queretaro, which pays surprisingly well by Mexican standard.

    I met my second GF in a night club. Again, she was divorced, with two kids. Again, things didn’t work out when the expenses just started to mount. She viewed my presence as an opportunity to remedy the hardship her children had to endure ever since she divorced, and simply wanted to give them everything they were deprived of all these years. Perhaps I was selfish, but I simply couldn’t afford that relationship. So I walked away, and stopped seeing her, without an official break-up.

    My third GF was a young lady that I met at my friend’s b-day party. The attraction was purely physical (an appeal I never knew I had). It was mutual love (lust?) at first sight, followed by unbridled passion. Yet despite this almost “mindless” beginning, and the difference between us (I’m 14 years her senior; I went to UC Davis, whereas she barely finished junior high), we got along quite well. We even tried to have a baby before we were to get married.
    Then I screwed up royally. One of my major flaws is arrogance. Having grown used to the the Asian-American academic over-achiever stereotype, I often find the local Chinese embarassingly uncouth and ignorant. I would critcize them constantly in front of my GF, totally forgeting about her own limited academic background. Somehow, she felt the insults applied to her as well, that one day, she has just about had enough. She told me to find someone “worthy of my haughty ego”, and stopped answering my calls, or answer the door. Three weeks later, I was told she has moved to Mexico City. Then I realized finality of the loss, that she wasn’t coming back.

  18. @Mayte

    Privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder mark zuckerberg.


  19. @ aiyangxifu,

    I understood your note to be a request for permission so it made sense to have the idea that I had a choice. Finding it posted online without having answered made the request moot. I do thank you for taking my feelings into consideration and requesting the deletion.

    I also have my own quote. Especially considering I don’t agree with Zuckerberg’s. He’s not old enough to realize what he’s saying yet and he’s got to find a way to CYA. The people at Google (and the political activists and journalists who were hacked) will be the first ones to laugh at such a sad little statement. Consider this one instead…

    Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. –Ayn Rand

    Or this…

    Law-abiding citizens value privacy. Terrorists require invisibility. The two are not the same, and they should not be confused. –Richard Perle

  20. @ Henry

    My goodness! It sounds like you’ve had your share of experiences. I’m sad that they weren’t better for you. I think that it’s good that you got out and lived your life there. It can be harder for a woman to do that here. I think men have it easier that way. But you have lived and loved and learned from the experiences and hopefully, when you find your next love, things will be better for you. I will keep that in mind the next time I go to church.

    How long have you been in Mexico? And what happened that drew you away from Davis? I have family there and it seems nice enough. Were your relationships in California much different than those in Mexico? I’m filled with a million questions now. If it’s too much though, you don’t need to worry about answering. I’m very curious but I don’t mean to pry. Feel free to answer or if not, that’s fine also. Whatever the case may be, I think you should keep looking. There is a perfect match being guided to you too.

  21. Sorry about that Henry. I realize I dawdled at the end of that and restated things. I couldn’t seem to get the editing to work though.

    Keep looking and find your girl. I am looking forward to hearing that you’ve found your happy ending with someone who is a brilliant match for you.

  22. @Mayte
    Thanks for your kind words. I’ve been living in Mexico for 1 1/2 year already. I want to make it abundantly clear that I’m NOT a player, as it was never my intention to end the relations before they started.
    Back in the states, I was the typical “asexual” Asian male. The American media has successfully enforced a strict racial hierarchy in that all non-Westerners are to be “conquered”, never to be the “conquerors”. I did have an Ecuadorian GF in UC Davis, until she returned to Ecuador to further her study. I also dated a bi-sexual, bi-racial girl in San Jose CA, but in the end she was too eccentric for me.

  23. @ Henry

    I admire you going out and living in a country that many others consider unworthy of respect. I think it’s a great place. It’s got potential should they ever get serious about tapping into it. If I don’t stay in China, I think D.F. would be my next spot.

    As far as being a “typical” asexual Asian male, I think that stereotype is slowly being broken. I think it’s sad that it ever started to be honest, but then we are talking about a culture that built its empire with a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” mentality. It extended to all facets of life and is hard to get rid of when you’re the culture in “power.” For the record, you don’t strike me as a typical anything, based on what I’ve read of your comments.

    I’m hopeful that you keep following your path and find someone worth devoting your time and attention to. If she’s worth it, she’ll take good care of you too. You don’t need to conquer. You just need someone to share your time with. Good luck and many blessings to you.

  24. @Mayte,

    I agree with you. A woman who loves you never believes in sterotypes. She won’t believe in the asexual sterotype or any type . Asexual asian? Asians are producing like rabbits and we’re still asexual? come on wake up media! All my friends and me included want sex all the time with our wives. Of course, white media can make you believe that we’re asexual but we are not. surprise surprise!!

    @Henry, bisexual women are something else. I used to know one like that. Well, if you believe in commitment, bisexual is not right for you. If there is no commitment, that’s fine . A few of my friends dated spanish women or latinas before and it worked out for them fine. Very beautiful couples. very beautiful women.

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