Guest Post: “And by Interest in Chinese Culture, You Mean Chinese Girls?”

When you see an Asian woman and a white man together, what runs through your mind? Do you see just another happy interracial couple? Or do you wonder, is he another white guy with yellow fever? (Or worse, do you think he’s another Julien Blanc or Chinabounder, a man who comes to Asia with the sole intent of preying upon the women for sexual or personal gain?) 

That’s the idea behind Gerald Zhang-Schmidt’s guest post. He’s a guy who happened to come to China because he loved the culture. But since he has a Chinese wife, some people wonder if “Chinese culture” is really just a coded way of saying “Chinese women.” 

Gerald is no stranger to Speaking of China. He has written about The privilege of stereotypes about cross-cultural couples in China in a guest post last year, and the two of us collaborated on posts about the stereotypes of Chinese-Western couples in China a while back. Gerald is also the only man I’ve ever met who changed his name after marriage (he actually submitted a question about changing your name in China which for a time was one of the 10 most popular posts on this site).

By the way, please visit Gerald’s blog today, where you’ll find a guest post there from me about “How I learned to feel at home at my in-laws’ place in rural China.

Want to follow in Gerald’s footsteps and have your voice heard on Speaking of China? Check out my submit a post page for details.


(Photo by daniel sandoval via
(Photo by daniel sandoval via

I have written before about how privilege can be a double-edged sword. When you are part of the majority that usually goes unquestioned, you have it much easier than those who always have to somehow justify themselves. At the same time, you will be put on the spot much less because everyone assumes they know what you’re about.

Usually, you read about Asian Male – Western Female relationships here on Jocelyn’s “Speaking of China,” and it is a topic of interest by the same token. It is the unusual coupling/pairing that draws attention while the opposite WMAF relationship is a dime a dozen.

Ah, yes, another white guy in China. Who cares?

Speak Chinese in public, even just a few words, and you will be praised. And then you will find yourself compared to Dashan. (Or right now, internationally, perhaps to Mark Zuckerberg.)

Get into a relationship with a Chinese woman, get ready for everyone knowing just perfectly well why and how that would have happened. Oftentimes, it seems everyone will think they know better than you, without ever having so much as done anything more than caught a glance of you.

At risk of sounding like bad Chinese “news” pieces, “everyone knows” of some “rotten apples,” and it’s been killing the atmosphere. I wrote about my relationship to my wife, who is Chinese, and the thoughts it raised before on my blog. One comment that immediately popped up accused me of “yellow fever.” Fittingly, right next to the link to a more recent post talking about how “yellow fever” is a demeaning concept.

So, I spoke to a fellow passenger on a train in China. She asked me what had led me to China and I replied that I’d had an interest in Chinese culture for as long as I could remember. She then asked me if by interest in Chinese culture, I actually meant the girls.

My then-girlfriend and I went down the road, heads turned and stared. Not just in her small-town hometown, where the police hadn’t had any idea about how to handle my residence registration until they checked in with their higher-ups. But even more so in the somewhat bigger cities where people obviously, in disapproving looks and mumbled comments, expressed their dubious opinion of our relationship.

I can’t blame the Chinese, though.

Pretty much every culture around the world tends to “lose” the daughters to husbands, and pretty much everywhere, seeing foreigners “take away” women is seen as an indication of one’s own weakness vis-á-vis the “others.”

Add an awareness, even if just at the level of urban legends and social media hearsay, of (supposedly) rich foreign guys basically buying themselves brides (of course, such stories would turn into morality tales with bad endings), foreigners actually bragging about the ease and number of their Asian conquests, and stories of destroyed virginities (and thus, marriage prospects, as per traditional Chinese notions) and broken hearts. It’s no wonder there is suspicion.

It is just natural.

I find it less natural for foreigners to bring along their cavalier attitudes about dating and sex to China. Okay, one could argue that it’s not a big deal here, given the traditional attitudes towards the wife versus mistresses. But no matter what over-entitled and under-culturally aware people claim, a stranger in a strange land should act with more concern for his host country.

Nowadays, of course, the effects on foreigners aren’t just isolated to places like China. Everywhere, one lives in the shadow of aspersion cast by those who act… well, in this case, under the influence of their penises rather than their brains, it seems.

Argue that you are different, and in a case of “methinks [he] doth protest too much”, you appear defensive, and by association, guilty. But shutting up only gives more room for the worst voices out there. So, at least sometimes – thank you for the invite and the reminder to do so again, Jocelyn – I go on writing about this issue. Most importantly, however, I keep on living it differently, remaining true to the woman I fell in love with and continue to love, whose name I added to my own, and who I want to make happy.

I’d love to add that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, but we humans are social animals to whom other’s opinions do matter a lot. However, it would help a lot, for a start, if you could at least not think the worst of us without knowing anything but our genders and ethnicities.

Gerald Zhang-Schmidt is an ecologist and cultural anthropologist who spent three years living in China, and now resides with his wife in his native Austria where he writes about the ecology of happinesschili peppers and being at home in the world.


Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts and love stories! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

21 Replies to “Guest Post: “And by Interest in Chinese Culture, You Mean Chinese Girls?””

  1. So what is the take away from this?

    That we shouldn’t judge a western man/asian woman relationship too harshly? That western guys should come to China and try to be somewhat respectful of local customs and ideas about sex? Or they should be who they are and not take any $hit from people? I’m not exactly clear on the message, but perhaps it’s somewhat up for interpretation?

    Frankly, I don’t give much thought to such relationships anymore. I’ve met enough older western guys with young Asian women and they seem happy, despite the fact that these are the types of relationships that are often judged the harshest and seen as strictly superficial.

    Grown-ups get to make their own choices and whatever their reasons for being in a relationship are none of my business. I think sometimes these relationships start with not the purest of intentions but over time can develop into something deeper, even love. Even if it’s just two opportunists/thrill seekers looking for hot sex and expensive dinners out, that’s cool if they both know what they are in for. I guess it does get tricky when one person is truly getting taken advantage of, but that can happen in any relationship no matter what the nationality.

    1. Thanks for the comment R Zhao! I totally understand where you’re coming from. I think the author is just trying to share some of his experiences, and the message is definitely up for interpretation.

    2. Ah, every story needs a clear take-away. I love the courses which teach this, as if a story’s message were not shaped at least half by what its various recipients make of it.

      If you want a take-away: Listen first, stop and listen even more closely if you find yourself jumping to conclusions. Because, yes, people are different.

      I would still, and think I have often enough, argue for respect and an understanding of different (cultural, social) backgrounds – but even those can mislead if we don’t actually listen… I tried to explain that sort of thing, e.g. here:

  2. Thanks for this! I think it’s really cool that you took your wife’s name.

    Do you find Chinese people tend to jump to stereotyping about your relationship more often than westerners, or is it about the same?

    1. Difficult to say. Chinese can certainly be rather more forthcoming with their opinions (yeah, so much for honesty/free speech/etc.-issues), but also have rather less exposure.
      Where I come from, I was expecting more talk, but there’s been very little. Funny thing there, though, that I was somewhat excluded from the community when I grew up (since my parents hadn’t already been born in that village), but now we have people from something like 63 different nationalities…
      Honestly, I think it’s all more of an issue in the US, but what I know of that is, by now, only based on what’s visible online, which isn’t the best way to judge anything 😉

  3. Funny story I think, my mom hopes when I go to China that I come back with an American guy… I laughed a little too loudly! It’s to no offense of white guys going to China or Asia and coming home with a girl. It’s no different if a white woman does the same thing because it happens.

    But the stereotype of Western men going to China and dating Chinese girls will be the common stereotype for a long time… just as Chinese see western women as promiscuous…

    I wonder if there is ever gonna be the day when we all just embrace loving and just see love between humans. We all look different, come from different places and different races…

    Love is color blind.

    Color is there and it’s beautiful!

    I guess it’s gonna be a long time until people embrace this concept.

  4. The problem occurs because of WHO goes to China.

    A great many individuals who go to China are ESL ‘teachers’. While there are some good teachers who go to China the vast majority are losers back home. Go look around ESL websites for China. As long as you’re white you are OVER qualified. I’ve seen Russians/Ukrainians/Italians/Spanish as English teachers in China.

    Go look at websites motorbike websites, car websites, computer websites, music websites. There is almost universally somebody who can’t make it in the UK and decides to go to China to teach ESL.

    These losers back home would generally be ignored and shunned back home.

    But now in China they get paid a LOT more than the local people and their status is raised into upper middle class. It becomes easy with their new found status and massages their egos.

    Real teachers seeing the low pay (when changed into western money) and low standards mostly ignore China.

    So China lets in a lot of trash. Expect trash like behaviors.

    1. This is a problem indeed and the root cause is Chinese people’s expectations. China ends up with LBH ESL teachers because of the mainstream mindset within Chinese society regarding education and business ethics.
      Let’s start with the students or their parents in the case of children. In most if not every cases, they do want a White teacher because “English is from UK and UK is/was a White country”, wrong mindset, languages are not based on one’s ethnicity. This mentality of language and race association permeates Chinese society in every aspects. Most Chinese automatically assume that non-Chinese people can’t ever speak Mandarin at a native level, many can nowadays and the most famous example is probably Dashan who if you only listen to his voice without seeing his face can be mistaken with your average Beijingren.
      Now the employers/schools/training centers, want to generate quick and large profits. One way to do this is to hire a cheap backpacker type White face who they will tell the students/parents is a Cambridge graduate professional teacher (Chinese business ethics here). Because no school or international center will hire a real authentic professional teacher with standards for 50kRMB per month who will teach no more than 20 lessons a week when they can hire an unqualified backpacker for 10kRMB per month who will be glad to teach 30 lessons per week so long he or she gets enough money to get wasted in bars.
      See, the root of the problem is not the Foreigners themselves but the dominant mentality and business ethics within Chinese society.

  5. First off, my friend, who is a western male, also changed his name to his wife’s name so their child could have her Chinese name. Maybe the law has changed in Taiwan since then, but when she was born, you had to take the same last name as the father.

    Now, getting to the article. I, unfortunately, think that some of the commenters hit the nail on the head. I have met some western guys who treat Taiwanese girls as a conquest and one guy I knew was known for his saying ‘Taiwanese xiaojie hen hao chi.’ (I think I wrote about this before in a comment on your site). However, there are some western guys who come to Taiwan to learn Chinese and learn about the culture who also find love here.

    1. What you are writing about is almost exactly how Jocelyn and I got talking about doing such a guest post. Because it’s those “some men” who tend to get all the attention and (to riff on the first comment) have a very clear take-away when/if they tell their stories.
      So, reality seems to be that it’s all losers who go to China (Asia, abroad – take your pick) and end up with local women who don’t know what they’re really getting (and getting themselves into).

      That’s pretty much the same as getting all one’s China insight from newspaper stories. It’s a biased sample.

      The reality of relationships is in how they really are, individually. (Not that culture and society don’t have an influence, but how those intersect and interact with the personalities of the people involved, that’s another long story…)

      1. Well consider what jobs exactly people can do in China if they can’t speak Mandarin or the local dialect.

        They can be an ESL teacher, or a white guy for hire face job. Maybe if they are sent by their companies they can be a quality control person.

        What else can they do the 3K jobs are all taken by the local Chinese. The government jobs by the Chinese. Service sector jobs all local jobs. While mid 20 year olds fresh out of college aren’t going to have piles of capital for investment either.

        As said go look at ESL forums, there is a huge 10,000 member reddit forum
        where Chinese women are called rainys and they are considered to be disposable
        sex toys.

  6. I would agree that many local Chinese I have encountered think that only ‘losers’ go to work in China, and to them expressing an interest in Chinese culture equates to ‘Chinese girl’.
    However 98% of the FT’s I met are stand-up guys who are more than a little insulted at this implication: they are mainly adventurous, educated, intelligent guys who try 100% to be a good teacher, who are decent and respectful blokes. (I could say the same for the girls).

    I’m not saying that there are not guys whose sole goal in China is to score as often as they can and they do the rest no favours.

    It is a stereotype that we all work hard to dispel.

    I could say the same in the cavalier attitude many Chinese guys have towards foreign women – examples of which have been shared on this forum, and their abiding belief in TV as the source of all ‘facts’ about foreigners and how ‘open’ we all are, whereas in reality we are probably looking for the same as they are, a meaningful long-term relationship, and are probably more conscious of the dangers of casual dating in a country not know for its understanding of basic biology and disease transmission.

    While accusing foreign guys of ‘buying’ Chinese women, the Chinese should look to themselves and how women are being ‘bought’ and trafficked in to China from the surrounding countries. This country is in a highly unnatural situation with a very high deficiency of women though the gender selection practiced over the last 35 years.
    Any woman will find a man more attractive if he sees her more than a baby-making housewife. (LOL)

    Anyway, getting back to the blog, there is not much that can be done to change entrenched attitudes that are implicitly supported by the hegemony, as they are well aware of the major serious social implications of such a short-fall of marriageable women in the country, but as foreigners in China we can through example and behaviour show how wrong these attitudes are.

    a parting question: if ‘loser males’ go to China, how could the foreign women be classed? Also ‘losers’?

    1. I’m glad you acknowledged that China suffers from women deficiency issue. And foreign guys take Chinese women away only aggravate the issue. A society with too many frustrated male is very dangerous, it will become increasingly violent/unstable, and may eventually lead to war.

      There is a name for those who destabilize peace – “terrorists”

      1. Foreign men are hardly to blame for the current deficiency in marriageable Chinese women. The numbers who marry are incredibly small when compared to the overall surplus of Chinese men which is estimated to be between 30-40 million.

        The origin of this problem goes back to the Chinese governments “One Child” policy in the 1980’s combined with the Chinese cultural preference for boys. The abortion of female foetuses has been well documented as has the infanticide of girls in some rural provinces. I remember well the stories of Chinese colleague would tell, prior to my arrival in China, of her seeing dead baby girls on the sides of roads and thinking nothing of it. Even now pregnant women in China will have illegal scans to determine the gender of their baby.

        Also could it be the fact that foreign guys don’t treat their wife as a baby making machine, but as a partner?

        Blaming foreigners as the cause of the problem of female deficiency is an easy option, whereas close self-reflection and examination of the male attitude to women in general might actually be more revealing.
        Women (or men) don’t ‘belong’ to one country or another. Telling someone they can’t marry someone from a different country is medieval: not something that belongs to the 21st century.

        I have a realistic attitude to marriage: not all ‘romance’ and ‘happy endings’ that movies would have you believe, but the hard day-to-day practicalities and realities of being a partner with someone and sharing an equal part of all aspects of life: of knowing that your partner is the one who shares many of your values and goals.

        These ‘terrorists’ you talk about are home grown in China and the cause of this is of Chinese origin

        1. (1) I said “aggravate the issue” not “the casue of the issue”,don’t tamper with my original sentence.

          (2) simple question: does the practice of foreign guys aggravate this issue, yes or no ? If the answer is “yes”, then nothing could justify such practice.

          (3) The West in general has surplus of women while China has a deficiency in women. Such practice is akin to obese people taken food away form starving people.

          (4) Women are being treated even worse in South Asia and Middle east, I don’t see women in those places draw to foreign guys ? I know very well the underlying cause of this AF/WM phenomenon, I wouldn’t discuss it here since it’s a big topic. What’s I like to stress here is that: the ability to attract women of a guy isn’t relevant to his attitude towards women, it has more to do with his social status. And foreign guys don’t treat Chinese women better than local guys (most of charisma man just treat them like sex toy).

          (5) No one “belongs” to any country or orgnaization —- in fairy tale world. But since we live in ugly real world , we need to deal with real world issue. Why should there be compulsory military service ? If no men or women belong to one country, then no one has obligation to defend the nation.
          If a country has a balanced gender ratio but restrict women of marrying foreign guys merely out of some chauvinistic sentiment, it’s medieval; but if a country doing so to prevent the nation from collapse, then it’s self preservation, same rationale as compulsory military service.

          (6) Two wrong doesn’t make one right. Just because moronic CCP screwed up China’s enviroment doesn’t means it’s okay or justifiable for Western countries dump more electronic wastes to China; same for gender ratio imbalance issue. Those who take advantage of situation aren’t less evil than original perpetrator.

  7. Nice post Gerald. I must admit, in all honesty, that even though I didn’t have any preconceptions about WMAF relationships before I moved to the US, what I saw in the US (and heard from the mouths of some of the people involved in such pairings); I did acquire a fairly negative impression of this coupling. Not just a negative view of the white men (who presumably have yellow fever) but also the asian women (who think themselves superior for having landed a white guy). Probably because I met innumerable such couples or saw asian women who would prostrate themselves for a white guy (no matter how average, not smart, not attractive) and white men who would hit on asian girls without bothering to differentiate.

    So.. when I do see a WMAF couple… my first instinct is that I recoil a bit, and don’t have a very positive impression of both parties involved. Ditto for people who have dated in that permutation in past. Over the years though, I started educating myself about this stereyotype I had so unconsciously acquired. I don’t condone dating for racial preference (I frankly find it slightly disturbing); however who are we to judge love. And just because there ARE WMAF couplings which might fit and actually propagated the stereyotypes I acquired; doesn’t mean ALL the WMAF pairings fit that description.

    Instinctive reactions are strong, but now after I have them, I take a moment and consciously tell myself to keep an open mind as I don’t want to loose out on knowing someone who may be in a stereotypical pairing, but are probably just 2 normal people in love. And I would never want to diss/disregard/judge 2 people brave enough to face the odds of IR and still be together.

  8. Most WMAF couples I know are happily married, working professionals, who are managers, engineers, etc. As a result I don’t really have any negative stereotypes, maybe except when the age difference appears really big, but then again that’d also draw stares in the West. My picture of other couples is shaped by my own experience, and I’m happy I haven’t met a lot of those low quality foreigners people complain about – for me that’s a different world. Although I know it exists.

    On the other hand, I keep laughing at the “rich foreigner” stereotype. Here in Shanghai (and in my Chinese family) I’m poor, even with a salary that’s quite good by European standards. But where’s my apartment? my second apartment? my car? Maybe that stereotype is true in some rural villages, but China is a vast country with many different faces. And just as different are the relationships and their circumstances.

  9. I find it interesting to read lately those white men debunking the common stereotypes for WMAF couples. There are legitimate WMAF couples out there. But when it comes to “legitimate”, they represent the teeny tiny portion of WMAF population. They exist, but they’re rare. Ask any WMAF couples on the street, they sure will say they are “legitimate”. So almost WMAF believe they’re legitimate couple, but almost every non-WMAF people believe that there is something going on between WM and AF. Sometimes it’s hard to point a finger at whose intention is at play.

    For all I can say is a sizable proportion of WMAF is LBH and a poor damsel in distress. The same as Black guy and White women. When it comes to BMWF, the said couples are way larger than AMWF couples, but when you look at the individual quality, you’d see a majority of the BMWF couples being 250lb+ with white heffers waddling down the Wal mart aisles.

    If we are looking at the individuals, well, I’d say that’s the only dreams. When it comes to interracial pairing, all people first started off with the “common stereotypes” of the person they’re dating. Once they’re sure that the person they’re dating don’t have the stereotypes they don’t like, they’re coming to “individualism” trait.

    Ask any girls (Asian, Black, White, Latino) if they ever wanted to marry an old guy (be it Black or White or Asian). This is NOT a typical childhood dream all women on this earth will ever have. Their dreams is to live off with a person they love, and happily. But not a single moment where the thought of marrying an old guy will pop up in their mind. So when we see those couples, there’s no 100% wrong in people judgement that a younger girl is a gold digger. Even if that LBH ESL teacher is making hundreds of dollars per month, as long as he can fulfill her dream of possessing an iPhone among this ever increasing materialistic world, she will definitely jump on the bandwagon, and show off her hubby as “Whitey”. The problem kicks in when this LBH ESL teachers go back to their home country and start making money. We’d see if her dreams of marrying an older guy will pay off finally.

    Well for at least right now, those LBH are for sure not going back to their home country any time soon. The benefit is too good to be true in China.

    Guess what? And those LBH also bashes AMWF couples for no apparent reason.

    So Gerald, I can empathize with your situation you’re in, but as long as there are LBH out there, you’d somehow get to share the common stereotypes. Like we some Asian guys with strong, sturdy, athletic guys have to bear the brunt of “common Asian stereotypes”, slim, emaciated, nerdy.

  10. I think there is some degree of truth to the notion that interest in the Chinese culture necessarily involves an interest in dating Chinese girls. I have seen some Caucasian men who know something about the Chinese culture and they mostly have Chinese girlfriends or wives (or some Asian girlfriends). I just spoke to a Chinese female colleague several days ago who is now divorced. But she said that she was once married to a white American man who had interest only in dating Asian girls. When she was married to him, she discovered that he was having an affair with another Asian girl. The affair led to their divorce. But then after their divorce, he was dating a Japanese girl. Then while still dating the Japanese girlfriend, he was having yet another affair with a Vietnamese girl. Then when the Japanese girlfriend discovered this fact, she left him. Now he is married to an Asian women for the 2nd time. According to my Chinese female colleague her ex-husband had an interest in Asian and Chinese cultures during his undergrad in college. Ergo, he had an interest in Asian culture including Chinese and then wanted to date Asian girls exclusively.

  11. As an Asian woman who has lived in both the U.S. and Asia, I can tell you that the worship of Western culture and Caucasian facial features is very real in Asia, especially among Asian women. In Asia, “White/European” is equated with “attractive” and Western equated with “developed/wealthy”. The dating preference of many Asian females reflects this attitude. I’ve had conversations with local Asian female colleagues about dating White Western men and they often bring up how they would like to have beautiful babies with Caucasian features…as if full Asian babies were somehow less beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.