Fenshou: “I Hope He Can Forgive Me”

(photo by Ognid via Flickr.com)

“Jane” (not her real name) wrote that she hopes this one Chinese man will forgive her for her mistakes and missteps. And while I feel she’s very hard on herself, her story might give you a different insight into why some cross-cultural relationships in China don’t work out.


I first met Tony at a party. It was a language exchange party with native Chinese and native Finnish speakers. I was neither, being an English girl. Tony was from Jilin.

Before I continue I feel it necessary to explain that I suffer from social anxiety, so it is very possible that my interpretations of his behaviour were wrong. That said, long story short, he was fun, funny and flirtatious, which was surprising to me because I was a victim of brain-washing (much to my shame I must admit flirtatiousness was not something I associated with Chinese men). A few weeks later, after much angst, I received a long- awaited, eagerly-received invite to have coffee.

It was evident to me that this brilliant man of 25 was suddenly nervous — a shadow of the outgoing, cheeky man I met at the party. I did not mind however. We talked and he said he’d never had a girlfriend before, but had had sexual encounters. I had had a boyfriend, but no sex. It was after this that things went downhill. I panicked and tried to overcompensate. He retreated further into his shell. I complimented him, but he just looked away. I began to feel that he too was suffering from anxiety. The worst thing was my careless comment, “But you’re so sophisticated”, in response to his telling me that he came from a poor village with no running water. It was a prejudice I was not even aware I had. And though I apologised profusely as soon as I’d said it and meant it, feeling utterly ashamed of my ignorance, I think the damage had been done.

We left the coffee shop. At the bus station he said, “See you next time,” and hugged me. My Western-dating-culture-filled head was confused.
“What?” He said.
“Nothing, I was just expecting something else,” I replied, such as a kiss.
“I’m Chinese,” he said. He hugged me again and then quite literally ran away, although he might have just wanted to catch the bus.

Needless to say he didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. I never heard from him again. I was mortified by my behaviour so it wasn’t a surprise that this charming, highly intelligent, lovely man was put off. I wish I could have done things differently, as he seemed such a lovely person. Sadly my anxieties, worries and unknown prejudices blocked my own path to finding a relationship with this extraordinary individual. I hope he can forgive me and find someone worthy of his love.


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25 Replies to “Fenshou: “I Hope He Can Forgive Me””

  1. Sounds to me this Chinese guy is not into her. He might be flirtatious. That is it. He waited several weeks to invite- first clue. Telling he had sex without relationship- another clue. From poor background- trying not impress her or even trying to say that he is not good choice for women- another clue.

    Dating is like job interview. Eager applicants always want to impress with good qualities.

  2. He was looking for a one nite stand. If he was really into her, he would try to find time to spend it with her consistently by getting to know more about her.

  3. Disagree. Ons stand would cause him to be more aggressive in closing. Those men kiss and fondle instead of awkwardly hug.

  4. Side note. Western women are hilarious. End a date with a handshake, hug, or kiss on the hand and they become sooo confused. What does that mean? They wonder…

  5. needless to say just how things from hopeful to darkness, I bet the writer has a serious personality, and meanwhile the Chinese guy is not serious, he is running away for muti-reasons. but here is my opinions, please don’t feel sorry for yourself, and guys like me are serious, I am pretty socially awkard person. I have angery management issues, and I am easily turning to be volient, thats why I never went any parties, I hit Gym training for fights, and alot of phycial well build, serious guys went to Gym, thats where u need go, find similar type of men . insead of party type. wrecky and weak. and tough guys never run away, but confornting all things that block their way.

  6. I also think that she’s being too hard on herself. I don’t think that the little details we know from this short story are enough to jugde these two people and tell the reasons why Tony decided not to contact her anymore.

  7. Seems like role reversal from the stereotypes here. He is the liberal free sex type Chinese and she a conservative English female who has never had any sex..and such people do exist, believe it or not!

  8. I think the guy is not looking for something serious. Subject of sex is a good indication. If he is alarmed he was actually with a English girl with no sex experience, he was not into her so much. This girl is too hard on herself. I also know guys like him will only look for a Chinese virgin. Talking about double standards.

  9. I don’t think you should be so hard on yourself. It sounds like your nerves got the better of both of you. You should try to look at it simply as a learning experience and go forward and meet new guys and try to relax a bit more. There’s no real pressure to be anyone but yourself. Meeting guys through friends will make this easier than introducing yourself to strangers, so I think for starters, you’re on the right path. Rally your friends around and start some get-togethers and see where things take you from there. It’s never simple, but meeting good people is always worth the effort.

  10. @Tough guy: do you really need to bring up how tough you really are in this god damn blog? Sounds like you need to get laid once in a while…. but oh wait, you can’t, because women find you too creepy and socially awkward.

  11. I just think it was a bad date, period. These happen between people from all cultures and even from the same culture. Everybody has their story to tell about these!
    And too much analysis went into this, in my opinion, way too much.
    Social anxiety is not a concept I’m familiar with, but it does sound complex and must be frustrating for people who have it (and their family/friends.)

  12. Something similar kind of happened to me. Sorry that you went through this. Wish I could offer some sort of consolation, but at the moment I can’ t when I’m not feeling well myself…

  13. Well, just get over it – that coffee meeting wasn’t a big deal, and one awkward meeting don’t kill a grown-up person… We all have blond and/or embarrassing moments.

  14. I also think the writer is being much too hard on herself, which is a problem in and of itself. Probably a symptom of the social anxiety disorder?
    Things don’t always work out, people say stupid ( perhaps insensitive stuff) all the time. . . this is a part of life and it is also a part of dating, no matter who you are dating. Personally, telling someone from a rural town that he “seems so sophisticated” can be interpreted as a compliment to some, and insult to others, or maybe even entirely unnoteworthy! Don’t stress about what you perceive as social faux pas, we all make them! Learn what you can from the situation and move on.

  15. I also think the writer is being too hard on herself, which is a problem in and of itself. Probably a symptom of the social anxiety disorder?
    Things don’t always work out, people say stupid (perhaps insensitive stuff) all the time. . . this is a part of life and it is also a part of dating, no matter who you are dating. Personally, telling someone from a rural town that he “seems so sophisticated” can be interpreted as a compliment to some, an insult to others, or maybe even entirely unnoteworthy! Don’t stress about what you perceive as social faux pas, we all make them! Learn what you can from the situation and move on.

  16. Geez your really hard on yourself…I don’t know that you actually suffer from social anxiety from what I read! You did engage in conversation with this guy! People with social anxiety tend to avoid group settings all together let alone conversation with strangers. It seem that there were some language misunderstanding going on. Anyways, I think its that Chinese guy who was really scare to talk to you!

  17. I agree with everyone else who said you are hard on yourself. It just sounds like that guy was not really into getting serious with anyone. Perhaps he thought he would have a one night stand but once he saw that you have a tendency to have relationships instead of one night stands, he backed right off. He just sounded like not the best match for you. Keep looking! You will find someone who is more your type than that awkward guy.

  18. This is a really sweet and honest post. I don’t know what caused her crush to run away–no one does but him, I suppose–but reading this recalls all the fears and confusions and insecurities of dating, and I wish the writer all the best! I remember how tough it was (at least, for me, until I found the love of my life in Japan). Anyway, thanks, Jane, for sharing your story, and Jocelyn for posting it.

  19. I get the sense that the author thought he was interesting or a little different at the time of the date, but has then come to the conclusion that he was just completely ‘awesome’ with the passing of time after the date. It is so frustrating when this happens, but at least she will be a little bit less reserved (maybe) next time she meets someone that she likes a little bit. They both sound shy, and the three week gap didn’t help the situation one bit!

  20. Dear The Finnish girl from the article,
    As the others mentioned above you are hard with yourself. Believe or not, maybe he just called or met for a coffee because he wanted to chat, because he wanted to practice a language, teach you Chinese, or he was bored at home…Neither of them your fault. Maybe it was not a date?…
    Anyway, even after a date, no need to expect any movement, that will make you anxious, after all you new him very little. And from the date you had I don’t have the feeling that you were comfortable either…
    People come and go, he decided to go…not your fault. He didn’t contact you back to explain why he left like that, or to say that you can be friends…well..no need to apologize!
    Maybe that word you said came very deep into your mind, and maybe he didn’t even hear it..It happens more often than you imagine.
    Forget about it, move forward and you will see how much you can improve socially.

  21. How do we analyze this?? Stereotyping Chinese men as liberal instead of 99% being homely coversative boys?? Give me a break. If anyone wants to solve this case, volunteer to be her councilor and get in touch with this girl. Until then, case closed.

  22. I think that either

    1. He didn’t intend it as a date and fled when he realized you did
    2. Just wanted something more casual and fled when he realized you might be a virgin and thats more responsibility than he wanted to take (which should explain why things went downhill once you mentioned your past).

    I dont think there is any cultural misunderstanding here. Sure the stuff about sophistication etc sounds like it might piss him off, but I dont see why that would make someone leave a date. Also most people would actually feel flattered by such comments, even if thats not right. So I think you are being hard on yourself and overthinking this.

  23. This is almost a decade late, but I haven’t seen my perspective or similar mentioned yet. The comments are extremely western biased (coming from a 2nd generation Asian-American)

    Chinese culture still has a class system and this outgoing guy probably only acted that away around people he perceived to be on his level. His sexual encounters were likely with prostitutes (acceptable and available in Asia) and he likely never had a woman interested in him romantically because he’s just a poor village boy.

    A foreign woman is suddenly interested in him and assumes incorrectly that he’s exactly what he’s self conscious about NOT being… and the situation is what it is.

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