Guest Post: Kiss and Tell from China and the UK

What’s the difference between dating in China and the UK? Here’s one personal take on that question from Miriam, including the story of how she met her Chinese husband.

Do you have your own “kiss and tell” story you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about what we’re looking for.

The author with her husband and his family.
The author with her husband and his family.

I came to China at the age of 26 and already knew about more divorces than I could count on both hands and feet (including my parents), as well as many more single women my age than married (or happily partnered) ones. I’d also had enough experience with men to know I wasn’t impressed with the dating and marriage culture in the UK.

One evening in the UK I was out having a drink with two female colleagues after work. While I was at the bar, an attractive guy in his late 20s/early 30s came up to me.

“I just got promoted today and I’d love to buy you a drink to celebrate.”

I was flattered by this and looked back at my colleagues to make sure they didn’t mind me being waylaid. The two girls looked back and me with smiles on their faces and motioned for me to keep talking to him.

“Thanks, a gin and tonic would be great.”

We got talking and I found myself thinking: why would this guy not have a girlfriend already? To find out whether he was single or not I casually asked: “So where’s your girlfriend tonight?”

“Oh, she’s at home having a night in with the girls.”

What!?!? And this wasn’t the only time.

For several months a man used to come into my work in the UK just to talk to me. They didn’t seem like especially romantically driven exchanges – he would just ask me how I was and talk about other neutral topics. However, finding myself bored of being single, I took the plunge and asked him out. If he had a girlfriend he would decline and we would go back to regular, friendly chit-chat. I was pleased when he accepted my invitation for coffee, but still had a little doubt in my mind. I decided to act on these doubts and ask directly whether he was seeing anyone else.

“So, do you have a girlfriend?”

“Yes, I have two actually. One’s 25 and the other’s 32.”

I repeat: what?!?!?

He proceeded to talk to me about how much difficulty he had deciding on which girl he should be with, but felt no rush to make a decision about it right away. I was tired of this attitude towards dating, which seemed to be getting more and more common.

The author's husband proposing to her
The author’s husband proposing to her

Before coming to China, I was open to the idea that it might be for the long-term, as my job prospects would be better in China. On researching Chinese culture before I came to China, I was pleased to read about the emphasis on marriage and also pleased about the less liberal attitude towards sex. In saying this, I’m not suggesting that I thought it would be “easy” to get married in China, or that there would be any fewer relationship difficulties than I might have had in the UK. However, just knowing that marriage was valued and that both men and women were strongly encouraged to seek marriage at my age gave me a sense of security and confidence that I hadn’t had before.

I met my husband on a dating website. His profile told me he was 34 and “looking for marriage”. He messaged me first saying something about his surprise seeing a British woman on an Asian dating website and we exchanged a few emails after that. From his emails he was clearly talkative, charming and open-minded (willing to talk about anything from Astrology to books on popular science). And yes, he had excellent English (a very understandable barrier to AM/WF relationships as mentioned on Jocelyn’s blog in different posts). Just over a year after we met he proposed to me on a beach in Qingdao and the following year we got registered as married.

My family in the UK are all delighted for me and I’ve been told numerous times about what an excellent choice of husband I’ve made! My in-laws in China were also incredibly supportive of our relationship from the start and my mother-in-law especially treats me like I’m her flesh and blood daughter. Although we’ve gone through our rough patches, my husband’s complete commitment to the values of marriage and family have made it so much easier to resolve any conflicts or misunderstandings as soon as they occur. We’re both committed to making our future a happy and fulfilling one, even though we both know that a happy marriage takes work. I’m also delighted that my husband is now planning our approaching wedding party in China with as much zeal and enthusiasm as his bride!

partyP.S.: This comparison is just from my experience of living and dating in the UK and China. I do know many happily married British couples from my generation…just not as many as you might expect. Please don’t be offended if you’re a British woman who isn’t the least bit interested in getting married, or a British man who would like nothing more than to walk down the aisle, or a Chinese man who has ‘two girlfriends’ and isn’t looking for a wife!

P.P.S.: If you’ve had similar experiences dating in the West then you may be interested in the book Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game by Jon Birger. Although the book is written about dating in America, many of the points apply to the UK as well.

Miriam is a British woman married to a wonderful Chinese man. Her interests are reading, thinking and writing and she works as a teacher in an international school in China.

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

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25 Replies to “Guest Post: Kiss and Tell from China and the UK”

  1. Great story, with a happy ending! Although, I am very jealous of Miriam’s supportive in-laws now.

    I had to laugh at the attitudes of the first few guys Miriam mentioned in the UK — I had a more monogamous mindset myself, and I had one American boyfriend hit on a coworker at the company Christmas party. WHO DOES THAT?!

    It’s mind blowing when one’s expectations aren’t shared by the rest of the dating pool. I mean, how is it okay to hit on other women when one has a girlfriend?

    Or did open relationships become the norm when I wasn’t looking?

  2. Hi Autumn,

    Thanks for the comment 🙂 Interesting to see that you’ve experienced something similar – that kind of thing really annoys me!

    This post is just from my experience though…from reading some of Jocelyn’s other posts about different historical AMWF stories like Faina Chiang I was really disappointed in the end to hear her husband cheated on her…especially after she had 4 wonderful children with him!

    Happens all over the world clearly…just hopefully not as much in China as things do seem more conservative.

    Would be great to read a guest post from you – I’m an avid Speaking of China follower 😀

    1. Thanks, Miriam — I did my guest post last year. (I’m ancient in internet terms.) You can hunt for “A Little Something Red” in Jocelyn’s archives if you are up for something just a smidge naughty AND historical.

      Or, if your in-laws ever do start to annoy you, you can visit my website and check out my in-laws. Yours will look saintly by comparison.

      1. Aww your post is awesome! ‘A little something in red’ actually rang bells but I have to say I hadn’t read it yet (I definitely would have remembered!).

        I do pinch myself sometimes when I think about the in-laws as they are all so good to me, however I kind of think it was time for a lucky break. The divorce rate in my family is about 80% (not sure why!). Although the up-side is that it made moving to China easier as I didn’t have a close-knit family keeping me in the UK!

        I will definitely be checking out the blogs about your in-laws – hopefully mine aren’t going to change too much but it’s always interesting to read other people’s stories 🙂 I just hope you don’t have a MiL who’s really possessive of her kids – that must be the worst…!

        1. Ha, no, I have a FIL determined to get a grandson ASAP. Like a dog with a bone.

          I hear you on the divorce rate. I think my various parental units are on marriages/ relationships #3,#4, and #5.

          So far, though, my blood-related siblings and I are at 0% divorce rate. Because we learned from our parents how not to get married. (My step/ ex-step siblings are at 50%.)

  3. I can’t believe those first two guys that you described Miriam! How could people do something like that? I would feel so bad asking someone out if I had a significant other!

    I am so happy that you found your true love in China. When I met my Chinese husband, I found that he was definitely more honest and straightforward than some Canadian guys that I’ve met. You two look so wonderful together!

    1. Thank you Maria – I read your lovely post before from the Canadian perspective and you and your husband are gorgeous together.

      I’ve actually had a couple of dreams since getting married about either me or my other half being unfaithful (I googled this and apparently it means your relationship is going so well that you start to worry it won’t last or something!!). It was so terrible and I always woke up and thought ‘Thank god it was a dream!!’.

      I agree I just couldn’t ask someone out if I was already in a relationship – it just doesn’t make any sense. When I met the second guy (mentioned in this post) I remember finding it almost funny! The fact he could justify having two girlfriends and being willing to go out with another seemed comical (probably not for the women he was with though!).

      I’m very grateful to be out of that dating scene…

  4. Not far away from the center of traditional center of Confucianism geographically as it is, Qingdao is a place which is open to western cultures thanks to its earlier days under the rules of the UK, Germany and Japan. It is natural people there are easy to accept new things like a wife from the UK. The high priced shrimps sold to tourists from other parts of the country during one National Day holiday highlights such initiative and openness of local people.

    1. Hi Lao Zhang – you’re right that Qingdao is an open-minded place. I was very surprised by how open-minded my husband’s family are: his mum is a semi-practicing Christian and they always kept pet dogs growing up (even though they aren’t a wealthy family). I know the little toy dogs are quite common now for middle-class Chinese but I think keeping pet dogs 30 years ago must have been quite progressive at that time!

      The seafood there is also really great….:-)

  5. Hi Miriam! I’m very glad that you found such a nice husband and are very happy together. I am also in a relationship with a Chinese man and he is definitely the best man I have ever met, Western or Asian. Our wedding(s) will be next year!

    However, I sometimes feel we women in AMWF relationships often see just the good sides about Chinese men (maybe because we were lucky and found a good one). If I think about it, about the people I know here and the things I read on the news, cheating seems to actually be very widespread in China. Yes, marriage is considered very important and young people are encouraged to marry soon, but in my experience what that often does is “pushing” people to marry the first person they date. Then after they get married and have a baby, it’s like their “duty” is done and can do whatever they want. I personally know several people who cheated on their partners (and didn’t even try to hide it), and I had a friend told me that he was not going to divorce his wife (even though they have not lived together for years) because he has a responsibility to the family. I’m not sure this is better than what we have in the West!

    1. Thanks Marta. You are right that there is another side to dating/marriage in China, and cheating is normal/accepted for some. I know plenty of AMWF couples whose marriages did not work out — of course, Susan Blumberg-Kason is a prominent one, since she wrote an entire memoir about her failed marriage. It’s just as important to share these stories too and acknowledge them.

  6. Hi Marta,

    What lovely news that you’ve met such a great man 😀 Enjoy your wedding – I enjoyed our wedding party much more than anticipated!

    Also, I totally agree with you! I have to say I wrote this post from my own experience and I did think that it was a bit simplistic. Obviously Chinese men cheat and can be playboys as much as any other nationality. Also you’re right that people do seem to marry very early on – I’ve always thought that people need to ‘grow’ as individuals and establish themselves a bit before they get married? In my early 20s I definitely wasn’t ready to marry!

    I think one of the things which I don’t like so much about the West (and one of the reasons I wrote the post) is the liberal attitude to sex. In the book ‘Date-onomics’ by Jon Birger that I mentioned at the end of my post, the author cited the percentage of men and women going to university in the USA (percentages that are nearly the same in the UK – about 57% of uni graduates are women) and said that it’s created a shortage of university educated men and left lots of well-educated women without the equivalent husband. He said this led to dating market which is nirvana for well-educated men and lead to men postponing marriage and being overly picky while women need to settle for cohabiting or casual relationships because that’s all they could get. Apparently this shortage of men only applies to university educated women though! Anyway – you’d need to read the book to make up your own mind but the author said that when there’s a surplus of eligible women with a shortage of eligible men then the woman have to adopt a man’s attitude to relationships to stand a chance (with a more ‘hook-up’, casual approach). If you reverse it (less eligible women) then men become more marriage-orientated to be more appealing to women.

    I think that wherever my husband lived he would still be marriage orientated because he’s a real family man! I thought it was interesting though the amount of men opting out of university in the West is creating a shortage of husbands for educated women (and then the men that are well-educated have so many options it works in their favour to keep deferring marriage). I’ve actually read other similar articles from British authors.

    Sorry for the long response – it’s so complex!

    Thanks for your response though and I think you’re right – the majority of western women on this site have struck lucky with their men!

    1. That study sounds very interesting! I only have one problem with it, if I understood it correctly: Does it assume that women always want to marry? Because that’s not really true haha! (Although it is true that traditionally, women are more interested in marriage than most men). In my case, my boyfriend was the one pushing to get married, haha. I was fine just living together! (However I can see the benefits of being married, especially when both partners are not from the same country).

      Your article led to a very interesting discussion! Thanks Miriam!

    1. No, British food deserves it’s bad rep! He was actually mortified the first time he tried to classic British dish of fish, chips and mushy peas. He said he’d never eaten something so tasteless and greasy before. God only know why British food is so awful – Chinese food is so much better!

      Hehe, he’d actually love to try to open a Chinese restaurant in the UK at some point…goodness knows we Brits need some advice about what actually tastes good!

      1. The food we had in England was quite good, except for lamb/fennel burgers. (What’s up with those?!) We had some excellent Indian and Italian, and, of course, lots of English breakfasts and afternoon teas.

        Plus cider. Lots and lots of lovely ciders.

        1. Ohh, please don’t mention cider! I love it so much but I’m off alcohol atm (and it’s not so easy to get in China). Yes, we do cider better than most!

          Also I agree with English breakfast and cream teas! However, I do still think that the British haven’t contributed that much to international cuisine!! We bake and ‘assemble’ food okay, but as for harmonising flavours, textures and colours in a way that a real artisan does, I can’t think of many British examples.

          I don’t mean the available food in Britain though – I’ve had some amazing Italian/Indian food too! However, you couldn’t really call it ‘British food’ I think…

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