Guest Post: How Asian Will My Future Husband Be?

Over a year ago, I wrote a post titled What’s the big deal about Asian men and bags? Even though it’s not a custom in the America where I grew up, after coming to China I came to love how men (including my husband) would gladly hold my bags for me when we’re out and about.

Lena, a Danish woman currently studying in Beijing, feels exactly the same way. She has dated the men here — and in the process, she has come to love some of those cultural differences in dating (including carrying bags for women). But the thing is, her foreign friends don’t always understand.

Do you have a story about how coming to China has changed your views about dating? Or another guest post that fits the scope of this blog? Check out the submit a post page to learn how to have your writing featured here!
(Photo by lenaelsxx at

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

This is an old saying that makes perfect sense. When going to another country, it’s important to associate with the culture and the people. I don’t mean it’s necessary to change the way you are personally. But when you’re placed in another culture, there are some differences. And some of them, I do think, are important to recognize and follow so you won’t make trouble every time you walk out the door.

I’m in China right now and the dating rules here are a bit different from my home country of Denmark. Because of this, my friends and I love to discuss how “Chinese” or “Western” a boy can be. Races are also a big topic. It has nothing to do with racism towards anyone, but just about what is more attractive to us — in this case, my friends from South Africa and Italy, and me. And yes, most of my friends have different preferences.
(Photo by lenaelsxx at

So intercultural dating is a hot topic these days. Many people traveling abroad meet a handsome boy or beautiful girl who they fall in love with. But when reality hits them, they realize that dating between different cultures isn’t always that easy. Love is one thing but culture is another, and our own culture and behavior are very difficult to change. Furthermore, I don’t think we should try to change, but we also need to accept the other person as well and realized that they don’t necessarily need to change, even if their habits annoy us sometimes.

So last night at dinner when discussing the Chinese dating culture with my friends, we ended up talking about the classic “carrying-the-bag” issue. What is that about? Let me explain. Chinese guys are supposed to carry their girlfriend’s bag. This is the rule no matter how small, purple or bling-bling it is. My friends in this discussion are all foreigners (both boys and girls) and none of them like this. I wasn’t sure I agreed because I realized that I actually do expect the boy to carry my bag. I carry my own small fake Gucci purse but if I carry something just a bit bigger without bling, I would expect my male friend to ask if he should carry it for me. Maybe I’ll give it to him, maybe I won’t. It depends.

My friends were laughing at me when I told them the story of me and a male friend out shopping. I was carrying my bag and he had bought something. Because he didn’t have a bag, he asked if he could put his stuff in mine. I took his things and suddenly my bag was quite full. He didn’t notice. I tried to tell him, and still no reaction. I even told him that he wasn’t a real gentleman, way too Western (my other way of saying he wasn’t a gentleman) and not caring at all. He laughed at me as well and I realized that I was actually annoyed by this English guy who obviously didn’t know anything about Chinese culture. (How could he? He had just arrived and my face is pale and Scandinavian. How would he know that I expect this from every man I meet these days? It came as a surprise to me as well).
(Photo by lenaelsxx via

Another day, my stomach wasn’t quite well, and my Chinese male friend automatically took my little fake Gucci out of my hand immediately and carried it for me the rest of the day. I tried to take it back a few times but he was afraid of me being in too much pain. I don’t think the little purse would have made any difference but I liked his way of thinking.

After listening to these two stories, my Western friends told me that I was way too Chinese. I thought about this afterwards and I know that I am, but is it that bad then? I’ve been in the middle for a while because I know that there are some Chinese cultural behaviors that I’ll never associate with. But there are also others that I haven’t even realized I’ve already taken on my shoulders a long time ago. One reason is the fact that I actually hang out with Chinese people for fun, while many of my foreign friends don’t. It’s interesting to see this difference in our discussions. Things I never would’ve done before suddenly come so naturally now.

I’m not sure how Asian my future husband will be. But I know that if he won’t ask for my bag, I’ll probably teach him to. Not because he has to carry it around, but because it makes me feel like he’s thinking about my well-being.
(Photo by lenaelsxx via

Lena is a 20-something Danish girl currently studying for a semester at Renmin University in Beijing while writing about China, travel and love at

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19 Replies to “Guest Post: How Asian Will My Future Husband Be?”

  1. I like it when a man offers to carry a woman’s bag, especially if the bag is heavy. It shows consideration.

    I just got back from the supermarket. I wish the guy who bagged my groceries had been more considerate. He stuffed my all heavy purchases into two bags. He was a big, muscular guy who obviously didn’t notice that I was half his weight and only a fraction of his strength. Consideration of others is a good quality in man or woman.

    Are there some other cultural behaviors you see in Chinese men that you like.

  2. Great piece! Nice to meet you Lena 🙂

    Living abroad we always end up absorbing certain aspects of that culture, whether we are dating a local or not. That is why well-traveled people who lived abroad for a long time tend to be more open-minded and flexible compared to those who never left home. Since it is up to us to decide which foreign cultural behaviors we want to adopt, it is our responsability to filter and pick the “best” out of what the country we are living in can offer to us.

  3. Argh, I feel like I’ve been away forever – hope to make it back properly soon and catch up on your lovely blog, Jocelyn!

    Great guest post Lena, and I can relate so well!
    A lot of men do the same thing here in Japan. My husband always offers to carry my bag, even if he’s carrying his own. I have to admit I love it. It’s such a small thing, but it really makes me happy. I also love how he doesn’t care if it’s a particularly girly one, either. (A friend back in Sweden recently bemoaned she couldn’t leave her purse with her boyfriend when going to the bathroom at a cinema because he kicked up such a fuss! He was worried about how it looked to others… ^^;)

  4. Yuan, I actually did buy it outside秀水街. When I was eating a burger with friends at McD, a nice woman came by and I fell in love haha. Bad habit, though usually I by it on Taobao because I think the salesman in the markets have turned very snobbish these last few years and I look too much like a tourist to get a good price 🙂

    Nicki, I’m so happy to hear that I’m not the only one with this feeling. I just started getting used to it and now I really like it. I really hope you survived that trip to the supermarket too. It does say a lot about the person when things like this happen :). Well, this was one of them. I do like that they just care more. My stomach is always an issue so my Chinese flirt will take me to good places to eat good food, he will go out and buy the food I need to get through it and he is just really patient with me, even when I am being unfair or dramatic. But I am also not sure if that is just his personality. I have found my in between which means that he is listening to foreign music as well as Chinese, the same with movies, tv series and food, but we can still speak in Chinese and be more Chinese together as well. Danish/foreign guys who haven’t been to China would not really understand this difference. I’m usually different when I speak Chinese. I don’t know if you’ve tried this with languages but for me there is a difference and I love that my boy can be the same.

    Marghini, nice to meet you too 🙂 . I think you are right. I sometimes feel like people I know at home don’t always understand why I have to be with different nationalities, why I have to go abroad, why I am searching what I’m searching, if you know what I mean? I love your last comment, and when I read it, the first thing I was thinking about was the time when I actually did make noises when I was eating in China haha. It is really only your own responsibility to filter 😀
    Ri, thank you 🙂 I’m happy to hear that. Yes, and it’s lovely right? Such a small thing but still so important when you get used to it. I also don’t think I could force any boys at home to do it like a natural gesture, especially if the bag is small. Different cultures, different habits 🙂

  5. Dear Lena

    Thank you so much for writing such an interesting guest post, which I can completely relate too for several reasons.

    1. I’m a Danish girl.

    2. I study in Taiwan.

    3. My main language of communication is Chinese and sometimes English.

    4. My friends are 90 % Taiwanese or Chinese.

    5. My boyfriend is Taiwanese

    6. When I’m in Denmark, people “jokingly” ask if I’m even Danish.

    and finally I love when my boyfriend or male friends carry my back! Lena, you are not ALONE.

    In the start I felt uncomfortable letting boys carry my back, because I thought I’m more than able to do it myself. However this little gesture is just one of the ways that Asian men treats a woman and it makes me feel so appreciated.

    I think the fact that he notices little things and does something for me necessary or not, the result is that I see Asian men as gentlemen.

    My friends in Denmark told me that it’s weird when a man carries his girlfriend’s bag and ask me why I don’t carry it myself.
    I asked my male friends and boyfriend (after we met) why they do it, they just said that it feels nice to do something like this and that it’s a way of showing that they care about us.

    I’m not sure if it’s different in China, but my friends in Taiwan said that they don’t like when a girl “throws” their bag at them expecting them to carry it, that makes them feel like a dog receiving commands.

    I also love that he pays attention to me in other ways, particularly when he asks me to walk on his inside when we are on the street. He says he’s scared I will get hit by a car or a scooter and gently maneuver me to the inside.

    When I’m sick he buys medicine and food for me, but since he moved to another city to complete his master studies it’s been impossible for him to do that. Instead my male friends/class mates have offered to take me to the doctor or drive to the city (20 min on scooter) to get medicine for me.

    In Denmark we grow learning that independence and to be self-sufficient is important and cool, but sometimes I think that it makes us unable to lean on others when we need it. In Taiwan I have learned that it’s okay to have other’s help you with seemingly personal things.

    I went to KTV yesterday with friends and some new people, I fell asleep for 20 min (lack of sleep) and when I woke up somebody had covered me with their sweater in case I felt cold.

    I also remember to my horror the first time a male friend expressed concern over my period cramps, I was so shocked that he even asked me about something like that. I Denmark your boyfriend might take an interest and care, but most likely your male friends would keep away. I was sitting in class (looking like a ghost) desperately just trying to get through the last hour, my friend asked me if I as sick and not wanting to answer that I had my period, I just said my stomach hurt really bad. He took one look at me and asked straightforwardly “Did your period come yet?” :O , despite the shock I just nodded and he immediately told the teacher that he would take me to the nurses office. On the way there he told me that I should take a hot shower when I go home, not eat iced-things (makes the pain worse) and take a nap on my stomach, he even asked me if I needed sanitary napkins!! I mean where do these guys learn to treat girls like this? I asked around and other female friends have said that they have experienced the same exact behavior.

    How can you not love them ? I have gotten used to this culture, it would be hard for me to not live here and move back to Denmark though I love my vacations back home.

    1. Hey Christina, I can imagine your initial shock regarding your male friend’s reaction to your period troubles. The thing is, to Chinese men women’s health issues are not “women’s health issues”; they’re just health issues. That’s why Chinese men are able to deal with such matters without any apparent discomfort or embarrassment.

      Anyway, you seem to have really taken to your life in Taiwan and that’s good to know. Who knows, if you stick around long enough you might even end up as one of the 外國媳婦 on WTO 姐妹會 (if you’re familiar with the show). 🙂

  6. That is some pretty good assimilation! Well done.

    Okay, so in the U.S., the women usually get stuck carrying the bag. There’s even an expression about “stuck holding the bag.” Especially moms — my mom had a giant ugly purse and I swear, she could fit diapers, jackets, souvenirs, and bags of food in that thing. It must have weighed a ton.

    Never once did any husband or her oldest, biggest child (a son) offer to cry that bag, never mind if my mom was holding a baby as well. So I think its very considerate that Asian men aren’t so terrified that their masculinity might be called into question if they carry a little faux Gucci clutch. I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to carry my bag, but an offer shows a nice awareness of others that your British buddy did not have.

    Probably your Brit bud had a mom who carried all his stuff around in a giant purse, too, and he never learned any differently!

  7. I must be too westernized….after all, I lived most of my life in US. Of course I am familiar with normal Chinese customs, but this one escaped me.

    Maybe this is more of a Shanghainese or regional thing ?

  8. My parents being from HK, I’ve seen my dad do that. Even though I grew up in Canada and thus westernized , I would definitely do this for a girlfriend, but as for a female friend… I’m too westernized for that …

  9. Hello everybody! I am very new to this blog and AMWF world (dating since January my lovely man from Hohhot, in a LDR since late March, as he is still in Tokyo, where we met, while I am back to Europe), so nice to meet you all!
    I am an Italian girl who traveled a little, graduated in Japanese, currently living in South France (sigh) and I don’t feel like I fit in the stereotype of the Italian woman (is that bad, good? I don’t know and I do not bother about it either, to be honest). All I know is that, almost every time I introduce myself to some non-Italian people, they stare at me wide-eyed and go “Wow, you’re Italian!” (maybe anticipating some wonderful cooking ability, who knows); after a while, however, they also add “You know what, you do not seem Italian AT ALL.”
    I have been told this also by many Japanese people when I was there this year, both friends and clients/work partners (who actually were the most delighted). Some went even further and added, half-way between a compliment and a surprised comment, my behavior and mind are actually very Japanese. The fact is, I am unconscious of that. It is true, indeed, that one is somehow different when speaking a foreign language, and maybe those speaking Japanese know what I mean (it is a language that stresses a lot the differences in age, sex and social position of both speaker and hearer), but personally I believe that is the end of it. The rest is 100% me 🙂
    When I read the post, which I liked by the way, I suddenly asked my boyfriend if Chinese men do carry their partner’s bags, like Japanese and some Korean men do (I have never been to South-East Asia nor India or the Middle East, so I can’t say anything about people from there).
    I mean, I had to ask because he never offered to! His answer is: some do, but I don’t. (Good, because, in the end, I don’t like it)
    However, this does not make him less Chinese than he is. Or less considerate.
    I believe one’s cultural identity shows up in other behaviors than this, let’s say the way one approaches a given problem or happening in life (example: I feel something close to moral obligation towards my employers, despite my job is sometimes hard, demanding, with lots of extra hours and not that well paid, while my boyfriend has a hard time understanding this attitude of mine).
    Also, I think all the bag carrying story is a recent practice, maybe acquired from the media, so that not all Asian men feel compelled to do it or consider it as a chivalry gesture to impress their partners. Can anyone tell us more on this? I am sincerely curious!
    I do find, indeed, that my boyfriend is more caring than other guys I have been with: he is an excellent cook, way better than me, and is more effective at housework (I am better at doing laundry, though!) and he was never afraid to cook or clean in my stead when I could not.
    I really hope we would stay together a lifetime, but these would be qualities I would teach to another man (or look for in another man) if our relationship ended, but because they are good ones on their own, and not just good Asian qualities.

  10. I think it is just normal to offer to carry a bag or purse (except those tiny purses size of a hand or less…) for a woman. It was nothing special to see for me when visiting China for the first time that all the males carried the bags and purses of their partner as I have done the same before and learned it from my parents who are very very European.
    In my opinion it is also pretty unpolite not to help carrying something heavy such as mentioned in your example where he put stuff into your bag… oh well, perhaps I just grew up in a weird way because I think it is nothign Asian or Chinese at all to carry those bags/ purses–

  11. Hi

    I work with 6 Chinese guys and every week I am assigned to travel with one of them on a business trip (it may be a 1 day trip or an overnight trip). If overnight my male colleagues will always offer to carry my bag for me but it’s not just them even the suppliers we see will also offer to carry my bag. More than often I decline because a) I am taller, bigger than most of them b) they are also carrying their own bags.

    I agree it’s a kind and gentlemanly gesture however there are times when I feel this action is more about the stereo types that we’ve been brought up with e.g. Strong masculine man looking after the woman vs., feminine mild woman being cared by a man. I am all for equality so a) I carry my own bag and b) If the men are prepared to carry my bag then I should ask to carry their bags for them. ( However I think they would be shocked at the offer and would never allow the girl to carry their bags).

    Also I’m not big on women expecting the man to carry their bag ( if it’s offered great but if it’s demanded…… ), I have seen women who are dressed smartly but carrying no bag and looking out of place because “something is missing” while her partner looks quite “odd” because he is carrying her pastel handbag with gold chain straps

  12. Christina, how lovely to meet another Dane abroad. Most of the Danes I meet in China stay together without any knowledge about the Chinese culture apart from the little you learn when taking a taxi or eating in the foreign area. Anyway, carrying a bag is a sign of the boy taking care of me. I would not give him my little glitter hand-bag but I like the help when it’s bigger.
    Your story sounds very Chinese. I did hear that Taiwan is different from China but I also think they have many things in common. Many Chinese men do carry glitter bags. I’m very against this but if he asks and my bag is bigger, I appreciate it. Oh yes, I forgot the sidewalk thing. My friend does the same as well which I also like very much and with the medicine as well. I don’t think my Danish male friends would run to the pharmacy but it depends on how close we are anyway. I just learned to help people more here because they are so helpful, though I had the same feeling when I traveled in America. I don’t know where I will settle because I am already in between as yourself. We will let the time tell.

    Autumn, I don’t know that much about the Americans and bag-carrying but I liked that people were holding the door for each other. Another thing, Scandinavians could learn from. I never saw my father take my mother’s bag either and I had to personally tell him to help me with my suitcase when I came back from China last time because he just assumes that I can do it myself even if I carry two other bags. Again, cultural differences.

    Tim, I live in Beijing and have been placed in other places like Kunming, Dongguan and Shenyang (All around China). This is not a regional thing but a very national one. Sometimes, I think the Chinese girls demand too much from their boyfriends but carrying a heavy bag is a nice gesture.

    Xeonfuzion, different cultures. My British friend read my post and he explained to me that it had something to do with being equals and not being bullied by friends, but he also said that he would gladly do it if I it meant something to me. I can’t see my Danish male friends do it but when I’m in China I do enjoy it. Maybe, I’ll change my opinion again if I stay too long back in Europe. Who knows?

    Roberta, great that you found your one! Fun how we change personality aspects without knowing it just because we are living in a different culture. I don’t know if it is a new thing to carry bags in China because I have only been around since 2011 but they do do it now. I don’t think it has something to do with impressing the partner but just to show how the man takes care of his girl. Chinese girls tend to play very dependent and innocent, so I think the opposite part to this is the strong boyfriend saving the girl’s day etc.

    Timo, I don’t know. It obviously depends on where you grew up and around what kind of people. During my life in Scandinavia, I never saw this gesture unless it was a really really heavy bag impossible for the girl to carry. Opening the door was also not anything, I’ve seen but maybe I just didn’t notice it.
    Shawn, I will agree that Asian girls seem very spoiled by boyfriends. Reading the news about boys sacrificing everything for a girl in China does sometimes make me speechless as well.

    MM, I know what you mean. Sometimes it’s a struggle to actually keep the bag because some men really go for it when being out. Haha great comment, bigger and stronger. I used this a lot in South China as well. When that is reality, then why not say it. It really depends on your view on relationships. Before coming to China I was all about being independent and strong but when I’m with boys now, I just automatically turn more helpless. Not like I can’t stand up for myself but I do like that they take care of me. Different people, different opinions 🙂

    Cheers everyone and so cool you want to discuss this with me. It’s really interesting to hear opinions from different people from different countries as well 🙂


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