Guest Post: Why Did I Assume I’d Never Find a Man to Date in China?

Why did I assume I’d never find a man to date in China? It’s a question that haunted white American Rosalie Zhao (who blogs at Rosie in BJ), surprised to find the love of her life in the Middle Kingdom (she shared her unforgettable love story here in the post “Enter Zhao Ming…China’s Answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger”). She writes, “With rising tensions and deepening talks surrounding issues of race in the US, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my own prejudices.”

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(Photo by Steve Webel via
(Photo by Steve Webel via

It’s been a couple years since my first guest post on Speaking of China. I wrote of how, against my initial expectations, I found love with a local man in China. Since that post, there’s been a rise of AMWF relationships in the media as well as a growing number of Asian men (and the western women who love them) speaking up and speaking out. With rising tensions and deepening talks surrounding issues of race in the US, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my own prejudices. I’ve also given some thought as to why I assumed I’d never find a man to date in China, an assumption that many western women living in Asia seem to make. Then, the reason finally came to me—a man that was such a small part of my past but who I’ve come to realize had a seemingly profound impact on how I viewed Asian men and perhaps even how I saw myself.

It was freshman year of college and I was in a dating slump. The good news was that I got along fabulously with the other girls I lived with in my dormitory suite. There were five of us in total; I was the only one without a boyfriend. The two girls in the room next door, Laura and Erin, each were dating guys who attended a university on the other side of our state, which meant they were away most weekends visiting their beaus. I don’t know whose idea it was, theirs or mine, but somehow we came up with the idea of me having a blind date with one of their boyfriends’ friends. They quickly ran through their mental rolladexes (this was, of course, pre-Facebook). Who among these friends would be a good match? Laura looked up suddenly. “We should set you up with Johnny!” she exclaimed. “Yeah, he’s really cute!” Erin assured me. They shuffled through all the junk in their dorm room, eventually scrounging up a photo. Laura showed me his picture.

For a second, I was taken aback. I assumed he would be white, but he was in fact East Asian. I quickly admonished myself—what did it matter? He looked fairly cute from the photo and they eagerly sang his other praises: he was kind, smart, and 21 (old enough to buy us beer!). I decided to throw caution to the wind and join them on their next road trip across state, in hopes Johnny might be the man of my dreams. Or maybe someone fun to make-out with for the weekend. Whatever. When you’re 19 and in college, it hardly matters.

As fate would have it, Johnny was neither my future husband or make-out partner. The second I laid eyes on him I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I’m short. This guy? He was barely taller than me. He also weighed about 30 pounds less than me. The chemistry wasn’t there. I wanted a man who eclipsed me in size and strength, a man who would wrap me up into his arms and protect me from all danger. If Johnny was a little bigger and I a little smaller, maybe something could be there, I thought. Johnny, however, didn’t share my sentiments. He seemed very much into the idea of us becoming an item. He was smart enough to read my signals and not push me too hard, but he subtly pursued me that weekend and later, online.

I felt bad initially and even worse as time wore on. Johnny and I became closer friends while talking on MSN messenger and it became clear to me that he was suffering from a far worse dating slump than I was. He had been rejected over and over, to the point where he felt his efforts were futile. He was never going to find a girlfriend. I wanted to assure him that the right girl was out there, but I didn’t know how to do that without returning to an awkward conversation in which he asked why I didn’t like him. Eventually, our chats online became less frequent and I guiltily sighed with relief.

After that, I fell for my own perception bias. I viewed all Asian men as being smaller than me and therefore undatable. I assumed I could never again be attracted to them because I’d feel like an ogre in their presence. But then I came to China and discovered that Asian men come in all sizes and shapes. I also realized something else—a man’s true strength isn’t determined by his height in inches or weight in pounds; in the years since coming to China, I have found men attractive who had physiques similar to that of Johnny’s. And I have also realized that my own self-worth cannot be calculated by how small my jean size is. I don’t have to be thin for a man to find me beautiful.

I see now that I never gave Johnny a fair chance. Perhaps a romance could have blossomed and chemistry forged if I had had an open mind. Was I racist? Sizist? Self-loathing? I don’t know. But I don’t want to judge my 19-year-old self too harshly. I’m just glad that in time I was able to open myself up to the possibilities of dating cross-culturally and the idea of dating in China. I’m not sure where in the world I’d be today if I hadn’t.

Rosalie Zhao resides with her family in Hebei, China, where she writes a blog called Rosie in BJ.

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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44 Replies to “Guest Post: Why Did I Assume I’d Never Find a Man to Date in China?”

  1. I’m curious, why did you decide to go to China? You mentioned elsewhere that you didn’t have a particular interest in the country or the culture, so were you just looking for an adventure, a (temporary) expat experience, and anywhere in the world would’ve sufficed as long as it was practicable?

  2. @D-Maybe. Good question. After visiting a friend of mine who was studying in Europe, I really wanted to study abroad. I decided to work abroad after graduating instead, so I could actually get paid. I found a program I liked that helped recent grads get trained and find a teaching job in either Thailand or China. I knew next to nothing about either country, but felt like China was a better choice due to its rising economy, culture, and language. I had only planned to stay one semester.

  3. Aw, man, my heart is broken for poor Johnny! I wonder what happened to him. Can you find out? Or make up a really good story where he is married to a microbiologist/super model?

    I am forever grateful that my nineteen-year-old self existed before social media took off. Her mistakes can at least be forgotten by everyone besides me! You are right, we should not judge our foolish selves too harshly. But I do it anyway. Usually at 2 AM. 😉

  4. @Autumn, I don’t know what happened to Johnny. I could perhaps track him down, but maybe some things are best kept in the past. Hopefully he found a great woman. I’d like to think so. 🙂

  5. @ Rosie, please do not be so harsh on yourself. You were, after all, only 19 years old when you were not mature enough to realize the profound nature of things. You were looking for superficial traits. When I read your story, you hit me in the heart as I reflected how superficial I was when I was in my youth. I recall that when I was younger, I dreamed only of having a petite, slim and pretty Asian girl with bright, shiny, smooth, yellow hairless legs and with a small waist size. I did not consider going with a Western woman because they were viewed as too predisposed to becoming fat, unlike the slim Asian girls. I tried and tried to find my ideal Asian beauty queen but to no avail to the point that I started to get old. When I became older, maturity struck me. So, then I decided to give the white girls a chance. Well, guess what? The more I tried them, the more I loved them. So, now I found my white girl and married her even though she is bigger and heavier than I am. Now I am to the point that I love those bigger and wider white girls and have chosen to forsake the ideal Asian beauty queen.

    I must compliment you on such a fine story. When I read it, it paralleled my situation and I readily identified with it. I cannot believe that you were writing about my life.

    Keep up the greatness.

    1. @Fred, thanks for your comment and encouragement. It’s interesting that you went through a similar change in perception when it came to dating cross-race. I think many of us do, though it isn’t always related to race or ethnicity. When we are young, we have a certain idea of what the perfect partner should look and be like, but as we get older we realize things aren’t so simple. What once seemed important changes or no longer matters.

    2. Your post kinda make me laugh.

      I’m not a troll, but European and Russian girls are slim, tall and beautiful, just like the north-east Chinese girls!

  6. I’m a little conflicted on this. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that people should be prejudiced in their choices for dating/marriage but at one point does this change in perception or progression toward enlightenment, if you will, become settling? If at 19 years old your ideal woman, for example, was someone with a slim figure and smooth flawless skin, does the fact that you now accept women who are a little overweight mean that you have become less superficial or simply that you’ve realised your ideal woman is not attainable?

  7. @D Maybe, quite frankly, I think that “ideal” anything is a myth. If you go into a relationship expecting someone to be perfect for you in whatever ways, you will eventually have to face a harsh reality. People aren’t always what they seem and not only that, they change. That slim beauty you met when you were 20 may be entirely something else after giving birth to your children or hitting middle age.

    I can’t speak for Fred, but I certainly didn’t settle. If you read my older post, you’ll find that my husband is not at all thin and was actually a body builder when we met. Seriously, he the body of a god (things have since changed a little, case in point). I think both getting older and living in China altered my perception of what I find attractive in a man.

    1. That’s just it… People lower their standards once the reality of life hits them but do they actually become less superficial? In your case, a genuine change in tastes/preferences may have taken place. However, for many people I’m inclined to think that it really is a matter of settling for what is attainable because when possible they’ll chase after the ideal, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the rich old men sporting slim young beauties on their arms. These men don’t just stay with the women they’ve grown old with; they change them for younger women in keeping with their ideals — because they can.

      1. @D-Maybe, I disagree. Some people are superficial and will always be, but I believe most people are not. There are those who will always value beauty or money over all else. Pair these together and you may find that fat, old, rich man with the slim, young beauty.

        I think many of us are this way when we are young, but then we start to realize that many other factors are important: Will this person work hard? Be a good parent? A kind partner? Do we share similar interests? Are they good with finances? I don’t think that’s settling; it’s maturing.

        1. Well, I can certainly agree that not everyone is superficial. I just want to note, however, that a superficial person could be someone who wants a woman who is young and beautiful in addition to being hard working, kind, etc. because being young and beautiful does not exclude a woman from having those other qualities too.

          1. @D-Maybe Of course someone attractive can have many other fine characteristics, but you referenced how some men trade in older wives for younger, hotter women. This suggests to me that the man values beauty and youth above other traits.

  8. I can totally relate to Rosalie. I was all about the Hollywood ideal of beauty when I was 19, so I cut myself off from guys who would have been good for me. But we all grow up and figure things out.

  9. Rosie, I believe there is a lesson called “rejection” that every boy needs to learn in order to become a man. If anything, it only makes him stronger. If he cannot handle it, his genes would have been eliminated from our gene pool already. I would imagine before the advancement of internet and globalization, men would get rejected way more often, even by the women who fancied them, just to have their character tested. Yet this is less and less the case in our modern society.

    For example, if an American man is rejected by an American woman, he can instantly turn his head against her, assign a name like “bad feminist” or “racist” to her and turn to those foreign women from a less rich country or even mail order brides. Unavoidably this will bring down the quality of men, the quality of marriage and eventually the quality of children (imagine being raised by parents that got together for the wrong reason) in our society. However, as for men like me from less developed countries and less advantaged minority groups, I believe this will actually enhance our quality, because the lesson we have to learn is even harder. Yet when we find our true love, it’s gonna be that much more rewarding.

    The only good reason for you to enter a relationship with a man should be attraction and compatibility. And for the sake of ourselves and this society, we should uphold our standard and shouldn’t find most of the men or women that come into our lives attractive. In a word, don’t SETTLE!

    You were not a “racist” in rejecting an Asian man (the word “Asian” shouldn’t come into this sentence actually) because of a clear lack of either attraction or compatibility in that case. And don’t be harsh at yourself at all. By still rejecting men for the right reason and refuse to enter into a marriage without chemistry, you are actually doing us a huge favor!

  10. Also the self-questioning in your last paragraph sounds too familiar for me not to mention this: the visual sensationalism of modern American media has caused so much confusion for women, especially in their youth! (Compared to Asian men who are mostly unrepresented by the media, I believe American women are the true victims of the media who are grossly misrepresented or even have their subconscious mind manipulated.)

    Women reject men because of a lack of attraction. It’s well established by science and psychology that the lack of attraction on women’s side is predominantly determined by men’s:

    1. Lack of confidence
    2. Lack of strong character
    3. Lack of intelligence
    4. Lack of humor
    5. Lack of social status (leadership skills for example.)

    Yet the media constantly tell women they should be after certain types of looks, money, behavioral traits (rock stars, gangsters…) and even a certain race!

    Now even women began questioning themselves, am I superficial? Am I a racist? Am that into looks? No! You rejected a man because of a lack of attraction, which is 99% likely caused by the lack of all the above!

    I’ve also known enough number of Asian men who are incredibly small yet insanely attractive. For some commonly visible ones, go to youtube (if you have access) and see Bobby Lee or Timothy De La Ghetto? I don’t know Johnny. But do an assessment for yourself: if he more resembles them, would the story be different?

  11. Nice story, and poor Johnny! But don’t feel bad about him! Even tough you didn’t fell for him at first sight, you did not do so later on too. It just shouldn’t be.
    I started my first relationship when I was already 21. Before many guys wanted to date me but it just didn’t feel right. I always questioned myself if my expectations were to high? They were not – they were just not the right guys for me.

  12. @MYZ, I think attraction is a complicated thing. I think some of it is simply what we tell ourselves about what beauty is or should be. We are influenced by our friends, the media, and even by our own self-worth. This is particularly true when we are young.

    I am troubled by this use of the word “settling.” If I married an unattractive man, who was not my “ideal” but loved him passionately, is that settling? I don’t think so. If I refused to even consider anyone who was outside of my ideal, don’t you think it’s a bit closed minded?

    This post was in part influenced by a discussion I read on a blog post about being attracted to certain races. One woman argued that it’s natural for women to not be attracted to Asian men because they are often short and thin and women prefer men who are tall and strong. I don’t buy it. There are many different qualities that can be attractive in a male. Not only at, there are plenty of tall, strong Asian men out there if that’s what a woman is looking for. Discounting an entire race as undatable is ridiculous, in my mind.

  13. @Rosie, I agree! It is complicated! And every person has his/her own unique attraction profile. Otherwise, the world would have been only one type of looks and one type of minds already. The reason I brought up science is because it is doing almost the exact opposite of what media is trying to do. Science only “describes” (what’s most likely to matter to most women) while the media is trying to “prescribe” (one uniformized race-based standard of beauty.)

    Mark Twain once wrote :”The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” Guess how much more true the modern media has made that statement. So the point of self-development is really to simplify things for ourselves. In our case, it is to refine that “ideal”, to figure out the few things that truly matters to ourselves and stick to it even when your friends or the entire society is trying to sway you the other way. That’s what I mean by not “settling”.

    The argument you mentioned from that women could very well be a valid statement for her yet an invalid statement for you, the bottom of the reason being: you are not her and she’s not you. By the way it’s actually a constructive criticism. I do agree a lot of Asian guys need to work on their “thinness”. As for “height”, if that’s honestly on top of her list, then good for her, she’s very self-aware!

    An interesting side-note: If you ever read Iris Chang’s book “Chinese in America”. You’d know the very first batch of Chinese men who arrived in America around 1850, had an average height of 4’11. Yet some of them, with broken English, still had no problems dating American white or black women. Chinese men in Australia has similar stories. So AMWF has truly always been on the forefront of interracial relationships. Another fact that history (a social science) is trying to tell you yet media is trying to deny!

  14. When I was young(er) I used to think I could never date anyone who was not from my same country. What can I say? I had a boyfriend back then and we had a lot of fun talking about the hobbies and cultural background we share (mainly music and comic books). I thought I couldn’t date anyone whose mother tongue wasn’t Spanish. And hey, here I am, with a guy whose native tongue is my second foreign language, haha. Yes, when we are young we really don’t know better.

    BTW, regarding women wanting strong and tall men, I have to confess that I’ve fell head over heels for men shorter than me, several times 🙂 And now my boyfriend is taller, but he weights around 8 kg less than me… hahaha!

  15. Do not feel bad. You gave the guy a chance. I knew of a couple of white American women in Singapore who were set up on a blind date with millionaire Chinese guys back in 2010…one of them belonging to a prominent family. When they discovered that their blind dates were not white, they held their noses and ran for their dear lives…literally…and this was with Chinese millionaires.

    1. Yet we don’t know how to feel about you, David. As you are trying to use some remotely credible, out-of-context, completely unverifiable cases to defame the entire group of “white American women”.

  16. Ally K…Let us face the fact…it is not an issue of defamation. With the exception of folks who appear in blogs such as these very few white women date Asian men…it is not an issue of right or wrong, accusation or defamation, it is the way it is…so dont kill the messenger.

    1. David, I was perhaps, in many ways, once one of those women. People can change. You are often around to remind us how racist Americans are, and I won’t argue with you on that point. But the reality is, if we are going to open up a dialogue and try to change people’s prejudices, it helps to be a little less pessimistic. People MIT be more receptive.

  17. R. Zhao…not exactly…as far as racism is concerned I have always said that white people generally are open minded in California, New Mexico and Hawaii. I have noted that over the several decades I have lived in the US, the only thing that make whites change is when they become a minority….in that regard with demographic change I am very optimistic that things will change, perhaps not in my short life time left, but soon after that, Donald Trump and others not withstanding.

    1. David, your experience is exactly that–yours. You make very sweeping statements about racism in the US, and I don’t find it very productive to the conversation.

  18. R. Zhao..I have always said that people are open minded in California, Hawaii and New Mexico…over my several decades in the US I have noted that the only thing that make white people change is when they become a minority. In that regard, with demographic change acceptance will come all over the country, but perhaps not in my lifetime.

  19. To this “David” individual, are you truly an Asian male relating your honest personal experience or are you some troll who tumbled upon this blog and decided to insinuate some dark ideas into the minds of the readers of this blog and divide them? Because if the former is true, all I can say is :”Dude, you must be extremely immature and socially disconnected!”

    Let me relate some of my personal experience: I am an Asian male who grew up in an East Asian country. I was bullied, ridiculed and rejected a lot when I was a child by kids who are MEAN and IMMATURE instead of “RACIST” which was clearly not an issue since everyone was Asian. The reasons, which I later realized, were: I was extremely introverted and took interests in things quite different from my peers.

    As I grew older and later moved to the US, I begun consciously working on myself to live less in my mind and better connected to the world. And thus I began to appreciate way more the richness in people’s daily interactions and multi-dimensionality and multi-facetedness of EVERY single individual’s personality. I also begun picking up a lot of subtle messages that people send me through their body and face that I previously blatantly dismiss.

    So now, for every negative social interactions I encountered, instead of lumping them all into one general category like “racism”. I’m able to understand where they come from way better. Among white Americans, it’s just as easily to pick up signs of shyness, timidity, self-consciousness, social anxiety etc. Some of them would over-compensate into being overly extraverted, loud, obnoxious and socially disconnected. But when you interact with them long, they’ll still give off their inner insecurity. Yet, for an Asian person, who tend to be so “racially aware”, it’s simply so easy to think of these negativities, instead of being universal human weakness, was actually directed towards themselves. But the point is 99% of human beings do have a very soft and tender core. They might need some help to discover that, yet they do not deserve to be called “racists”.

    Also, in my daily interactions with women, as I am establishing a stronger presence for myself everywhere, it’s just that much more often for me to pick up subconscious signals from girls that tell me how they actually think of me. For example when I exchange gaze with a girl she would quite often instantly look down, give off a slight grin and unconsciously bites on her lip which is such a clear subconscious submission and attraction signal that a lot of guys would simply miss out. When situation permits, I would just go ahead and seize the opportunity 🙂 A lot of times I jokingly us:”Where’s this stereotype of Asian girls being submissive coming from?” Because it’s just that more common for me to pick up this fun yet submissive vibe from white american girls who are supposedly “strong and independent” right? As for Asian girls, ON AVERAGE, they are much less likely to exchange eye contacts with a total stranger anywhere and this thing called “Asian poker face” that I advise so strongly against, they can suffer as much as my Asian male friends.

    I know this is long, but David, if you were truly an Asian guy, PLEASE get out of your head for a while, develop some people skills and show your fellow human beings some respect instead of reducing them to one-dimensional objects which can by label by a single tag “racists”. (Which is actually an essential trait of a “fetish” that we are so much against, isn’t it?)

    1. MYZ, that was a really thoughtful response. I think David is sincere, but in any case, he posts these sorts of comments here fairly often. I am white, so sometimes I feel like I don’t get a voice in this discussion, but maybe that’s part of the problem. I can tell you this, when generalizations are made about how “___ people in _____ place,” I just shut down. I feel like I’m backed in a corner and the entire conversation is over. After all, who am I (the white girl) to argue?

      I think our experiences are due to many factors. How I’m treated in China is dependent not just on the color of my skin. I have found it depends on my nationality, who I am with, where I am, how I carry myself, my ability to speak the language, my gender, etc. When I have been treated poorly, it hasn’t always been because of my race or even foreignness, though that is the assumption that is easiest to make.

      1. Thanks Rosie! One of my life philosophies that I often try to promote is “Accept simple yet hard solutions to life’s problems” instead of designing and blaming bizarre and esoteric theories, that for example, shut a lot of people, like you, out of the conversation.

        Since you mentioned your “ability to speak the language”. That to me actually should be a major major factor in the conversation, yet often ignored. For example, “How do I get accepted into a Chinese community?” “If you speak Chinese as well as a Chinese person. You will EASILY.” Yet is practicing Chinese easy? No, so a lot of people don’t like this answer.

        “Why don’t Chinese boys date American girls as much as American boys date Chinese girls?” “If most Chinese boys speak English as well as American boys, they will EASILY.” OR “If Chinese is the universal language, the trend will be reversed” Similarly, a lot of people don’t like this answer, because practicing a language is hard. YET, if you look at American born Asian boys and girls, with all the blame on Hollywood “feminization”, cultural traditions, “racism” etc. etc. The difference is only a few percentage points in their out marriage rates (search the 1998 data for example), not even taking into account the large surplus of Asian girls adopted by white families “thanks” to China’s one child policy.

        I’m not saying these issues are not important or shouldn’t be addressed. But I believe they are all bizarre and esoteric to an extent that don’t appeal to basic universal human nature, thus not even close to the simple yet hard core of the problem!

  20. @ David.

    I am in agreement with Rose Zhao and MYZ that you have appeared quite often to remind us all of your negative experiences with Caucasian Americans citing racism as the basis. You cited to two specific examples time and again: 1) the white lady who yelled that her son is dead when the son chose to marry a Japanese girl; and 2) the incident about a blind date between the white Anglo lady and her Chinese blind date and how she screamed in fear and ran away. Although I do not doubt the authenticity of these examples, they are only your experiences and a daily common occurrence prevalent in every aspect of U.S. society. I, too, have experienced racial bigotry and rejection by white American girls, but I was not bitter or angry to no end.

    My question to you is: have you ever dated a white American girl or even a white girl of any other nationality? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not give it a try. After all, you may like them. Case in point is my experience. When I was young, I only wanted to date the pretty, young and slim Asian girls as I viewed white girls —American or otherwise —- negatively. Then I changed after giving them a try. Now I am married to a white Brazilian/American girl and am loving every moment of our marriage. If you offered me a younger, slimmer and prettier Asian girl in lieu of my white girl, I would say “hell no, bro.”


  21. @ David. I live in Torrance, California. What about you? Do you have an email address so that I can contact you for a more private converstaion?

    1. Fred! You are right down the road from me! Who knows, perhaps you are one of the AMWF couples at the Corner Bakery in Redondo Beach.

      David! Andy and I have been all over Virginia, from Northern to Southwestern to Virginia Beach. We have never had a single racist comment or look.

      We did — or Andy did — get one comment from an old white guy in a Torrance supermarket.

      I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, I’m just saying I don’t think you can write off an entire state or region. Though I do think the more educated an area is, the less racist crap occurs.

      1. Well said! I haven’t spent enough time in the US with my husband yet so it’s hard to form an opinion, but I think it’d be hard to say definitely how people in one region are vs another. Sometimes we can have one bad experience and it will sour our entire perception of a place.

  22. @Fred…I now know where you are coming from. I have been to Torrance..was there in mid June. Very tolerant place…people leave you alone. I live in Virginia, a world away from Torrance, CA and its tolerant attitudes.

  23. @R Zhao

    I really think girls aboard don’t know much about men in China! And many think Chinese men are all in one size and body shape! Because they never been to China! LOL

    I am not surprise some women and men who come to China are staying in their own group! They never get in contact with the locals! Foreigners in China are divided into two groups, one is actively involved with locals and the other never get into contact with the local community! But then it happens in other countries as well!

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