Ilaria said she conveyed her plan to marry Dzulfikar to her parents in Italy and that they gave her consent to do so. “For two years, I saved money I got from working in a restaurant in Italy just to come to Indonesia,” said Ilaria.
Girl sees boy performing at a concert, longs to meet him, and somehow destiny helps kickstart a lifelong duet. That’s the heart of this story from a US woman living in Guangzhou.
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September 3, 2017: The Day We Met
What a summer it had been. I had just decided to become a full-time Chinese language student at South China University of Technology, so I was finishing up the last few days at my full-time job, had just moved to an apartment near campus, and was feeling both stressed and clueless about how to get a student visa.
Besides those recent life changes, that summer had also had its ups and downs in regards to dating. I had gone on a few dates with different Chinese guys, but nothing was working out at all. While visiting my family in America, I re-centered my focus and realized my identity was not based on my relationship status. Although I was only 23 years old, I knew I had grown up since moving to Guangzhou the year before. Little did I know what would happen during my second year in the Middle Kingdom.
The morning of Sunday, September 3, started out a little more hectic than usual because after just moving in, my room was a mess with clothes and belongings scattered everywhere.
Guangzhou was hot and sticky that time of year, and lately I had only been wearing T-shirts and shorts, as digging through boxes to find cuter clothes felt like too much work. Fortunately, that morning I put in the effort of wearing a skirt and minimal makeup. It was my first time going to church from my new location, so I rushed through the unfamiliar metro route and luckily made it on time. To my surprise, my best friend Jasmine was waiting for me at the bus station. “Today is the concert! I’m so excited!” she said. Unknown to her, I had totally forgotten the promise I had made weeks ago to attend the symphony concert with her that afternoon.
Flash forward to a few hours later, and I’m with three friends, talking about my lack of success in the dating department. “Don’t worry! You can find another shuai ge (cute boy),” they assured me.
As it was time for the concert to begin, we found seats together in the left-hand section. We continued to giggle and chat as the band entered the stage. “Look! There’s a shuai ge!” my friend said.
I looked up, and low and behold, was an extremely handsome Chinese man, carrying a giant cello called a double bass. He was tall, well-built, and had a perfectly styled Cantonese haircut that I liked so much.
Later, there was an introduction for each member of the band, and as I heard more about him, I knew I had to meet him. But how?
At least I had the whole concert to think of a plan! I took photos and videos during the concert, focusing on him only. Towards the end of the performance, I rushed to the bathroom to apply lipstick and touch up my hair, thankful that I chose to wear a skirt that morning! Now that the concert had ended, I knew I had to act quickly. My friends gathered around me and pitched their ideas. We knew one other boy in the band; maybe we could ask him to introduce us?
Suddenly, Jasmine started running up to the stage! What on earth was she doing? In my anxiety I part of me wanted to tackle her and part of me wanted to run out the back door! We couldn’t just run up and talk to guys as cute as him! These things had to be planned! When I saw her talking to the shuai ge, my heart pounded and face burned.
However, in that moment, I knew I had a choice. The concert was over and this shuai ge would soon leave, and if I ran away without meeting him, I might not ever see him again.
I weighed the risk of staying and asking for his WeChat. Worst case scenario, he would not be interested and I would be a little embarrassed. Best case scenario, he would be interested, one thing could lead to another, and one day he could even end up becoming my husband. I knew that risk of losing my face was a small price to pay for taking a shot at the best case scenario. Chances are that nothing would come of it, but I would never know if I didn’t try.
Jasmine then came back to our group and told me that she had asked the shuai ge if I could take a picture withhim, and he had said, “yes.” My heart still pounding, my friends took me to the stage and I walked shyly towards him. I smiled brightly, while also trying to contain my excitement to avoid scaring him off.
“Hello! Can you speak English?” I asked him in Chinese.
“No, I can’t.”
“No problem, what’s your name?”
“I’m Timothy,” he said with no expression on his face. I knew that girls must approach him
all the time, as it seemed he didn’t care in the least.
“It’s so nice to meet you. Where are you from?”
“Shantou. Stand to the right.” He pointed for me to stand behind the double bass for the
photo that our friend, Jianwei, was taking with his professional camera. I smiled happily and nervously.
“Can you send me the picture?” Timothy asked Jianwei.
“You two should add each other on Wechat, and I’ll send the picture soon,” Jianwei replied smoothly.
Wow! Jianwei was a genius! Thanks to him, we added each other’s WeChats so naturally. Timothy then said he needed to put away his instrument and get going.
My friends and I exited the stage and the girls immediately grabbed my phone to start searching Timothy’s WeChat Moments. We saw there was a girl in many of his photos. My heart started to sink, and my friends scrolled even more frantically.
Finally, we found a caption saying the girl was his younger sister! “Mei Mei! Mei Mei!” My friends cheered as they jumped up and down! Since he appeared to be single, maybe, just maybe, I had a chance.
The rest of the day was extremely busy, but at some point that evening, Timothy messaged me. I waited a little while to reply, because I wanted to make sure I could really commit to the conversation. He said sorry for rushing off so quickly that afternoon, and thought Jasmine had told him that I wanted to learn music from him.
“Oh no,” I thought to my nonmusical self. “If I pretend to be interested in taking double-bass lessons, I don’t think this relationship will get very far.” I don’t remember how I responded, but probably something about how I was not looking for a teacher, but did really enjoy his performance.
We kept messaging back and forth until my mom called me. My mom and I talked on and on for a long time, covering everything there was to say about my recent life changes. Finally she asked me, “Well, is there anything else to tell me?” I thought for a moment, and then said, “Oh! Today I met a shuai ge!” I told her a little bit, but then said, “He probably won’t like me because my Chinese is not very good and he doesn’t speak English.” My mom was still excited to hear my “latest news” and told me to keep her updated.
Timothy and I kept messaging into the night; I had so many questions to ask and could not wait to know more about him! I had to translate his every message and think for a long time about how to reply back in Chinese. While I was typing one message, character by character, Timothy kept sending more and more messages. I worried that he would think I was uninterested since I was replying so slowly. It was almost midnight, and normally I would cut off conversations to go to bed, but this time I decided to stay up longer and keep messaging.
Finally, Timothy said it was time to say goodnight, but that he really enjoyed chatting with me. I knew that after this conversation ended, he may not message me again. However, if he did, it would definitely be a good sign that he is interested. Reluctantly, I said good night and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, there on my phone, was already a message from — you guessed it — the shuai ge!
Well, now it’s July of 2019, and a lot has happened since September 3, 2017. It turns out that despite my imperfect Mandarin, the shuai ge really did like me. We have been married for a little over a month now. Our wedding was held at our church in Guangzhou, the same place where we first met. We recreated that first photo, which brought us together. Thank you to my friends who made it happen!
People often say that to understand the present, you have to look at the past. That’s why I started my AMWF History series, to examine interracial relationships between Asian men and non-Asian women in earlier times.
So today, I’m revisiting some rather telling quotes from posts I’ve featured for AMWF History, in an effort to raise awareness about how people have talked about Asian men in interracial relationships years ago.
As I compiled this post, I found it disconcerting (but not surprising) that a number of the opinions described below still endure, including in dark corners of the internet. A lot of people still believe interracial love is wrong.
This list of quotes is by no means comprehensive. So please, sound off in the comments with your examples too — let’s continue the conversation together.
The average American cannot understand how any human being, however inured by custom, can live in an average Chinatown. That white women should live there by deliberate choice seems to him monstrous, horrible.
She is but twenty-two years of age, remarkably beautiful and possessed of a voice that…would be a fortune. Yet three years ago, she met and loved a Chinaman.
It is also well known that not one Chinaman in a hundred comes to these shores without leaving behind a wife in China; so by the laws of China, the white wife is not a wife…
They have had six children, of whom five are living – bright, intelligent half breeds. And Mrs. Watson (her husband took that name when baptized) is still handsome and pleasant spoken.
Quong asked Margaret’s father, George Scarlett, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Even though he was a friend of Quong’s, George refused. Quong Tart and Margaret waited until the day after her twenty-first birthday, on 30 August 1886, and married anyway. Quong was then thirty-six. The appearance of grandchildren eventually reconciled Margaret’s parents to their daughter’s marriage.
Letticie wrote her brothers of her marriage, and received a terse letter back, in which her family disowned her. How could she marry a Chinese? It was disgusting, they wrote, and she was no longer their sister. She knew she would never see or hear from any of them ever again.
Aunt Sanora told me that on one particular occasion when they were going out to dine at a Chinese restaurant, a woman had taken the time to follow them to the entrance of the establishment. As she harassed the two of them for being together, Aunt Sanora took the woman’s hat and tossed it in the gutter. Aunt Sanora remembers this woman chasing the hat down the sewer drain exclaiming, “My $100 hat!” When the miscegenation laws were repealed, it took them three days to find a judge who would marry them. When they finally did, the judge remarked, “She looks old enough. If she wants to marry a chink, that’s her business.”
Lotte fell in love with Anton Maramis, a Manadonese petty officer, and married him with her family’s support, although she battled much antagonism from the broader Australian public she encountered. Many other young Australian women faced strong opposition from families and friends to the decisions they made to marry their Indonesian fiancés and return with them to their homes once Independence had been declared.
Married or not, they earned a reputation in ultra-conservative post-war England as being “loose women” and, in another archive, Charles Foley found that government officials dismissed those married to or cohabiting with a Chinese partner as “the prostitute class”.
What quotes have you come across about how people in the past thought of interracial relationships with Asian men?
Have you ever imagined romance on the wide, open seas? Meet Mary, a Ukrainian woman who worked on a cruise ship and fell for her colleague from South China. I’m honored to share the tale, along with a lovely collection of photos that document their precious love.
He asked if he could accompany me on this trip … and he became my companion for life.
I was working on a luxury cruise ship and my day off looked pretty fun. I planned to sail up to Manaus, the capital of northwestern Brazil, for shopping, lunch, a crocodile safari tour in the Amazon river just for crew members, dinner in a traditional Mexican restaurant and clubbing all night.
When my girlfriends and I entered the l boat for the safari tour, which was supposed to take us to see dangerous crocodiles, he was already onboard, taking pictures of the Amazonian waters.
He was the handsome IT engineer on the cruise ship.
I had talked to him on our ship before. He was always very polite and friendly, and this moment was no exception. He asked if he could sit next to me and accompany me on this trip.
I said “Yes,” never realizing it was the beginning of our romance.
The next day we had a date in Manaus city. Then we got together Curacao island, Aruba, St. Martin and Puerto Rico, and along the way our love grew.
Both of us had worked on cruise ships for a few years, traveling all over the world. We shared a lot in common, including the fact that we were both dreamers who were accustomed to taking action to achieve our goals. With him everything always felt easy and enjoyable.
When our working contracts had ended, I flew back to the Ukraine, while he went home to South China. Yet the bond between the two of us remained strong.
Three months after we parted, he arrived in my city of Lviv and we traveled together to all the best places in Ukraine.
Later, I was invited to visit him and his family in Guangzhou, where he proposed to me. I went back home and announced to my parents that I would move to China.
We did not find any obstacles in our way. My parents really liked him, and his parents liked me.
Before the wedding, we lived together for one year. We established our own home and found jobs (as we had resigned from the cruise company). We also traveled together to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau, and had a paradise honeymoon in Hawaii. Our wedding supposed to be small, but we ended up with 120 people in attendance. My parents, a few relatives and friends came from Ukraine. It was mix of traditions, with sea-inspired decorations, Chinese cuisine, Ukrainian embroidered towels, a first dance and a hip party for younger guests on the 65th floor of the Hyatt rooftop bar.
Eleven months after the wedding, we were blessed with our gorgeous daughter Alicia, becoming the happiest parents ever. Now seven months old, she is a very interesting and cute little baby.
When we are together, nothing seems impossible. There are no distances, no obstacles and barriers for us. We are citizens of the world. And we will continue to open up this world together and show all of its beauty to our girl.
“One evening, I drank heavily and the next morning I awoke to find a girl lying by my side. At the time I was incredibly embarrassed, and she was very shocked, because the night before she had also drank a lot. We couldn’t even remember who checked us into the room.”
This is the final installment of my English translation of a Chinese-language article on Vice.cn featuring interviews with four Chinese men who dated foreign women. Today’s interview is with a journalist and writer in Beijing who had many foreign girlfriends when he lived in southern Europe, including one he met the morning after a night of revelry under surprising circumstances.
28 years old, journalist/writer, living in Beijing
VICE: I heard you’ve had many foreign girlfriends.
I’ve had some. That’s because in my former media work, I would often get sent out of the country. So I would contact with many people, mainly in southern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece — I’ve lived for at least half a year or longer in all of them, and got to know many women.
Could you share some impressive stories?
Ha ha, there are quite many. The countries I went to are relatively laid-back. The economies are not that developed, but the flavor of life is very strong and the people are very warm. I remember the first time I went out with a foreigner was with a Portuguese girl. At that time I was really young, just 24 and it was my first time to live independently overseas. One evening, I drank heavily and the next morning I awoke to find a girl lying by my side. At the time I was incredibly embarrassed, and she was very shocked, because the night before she had also drank a lot. We couldn’t even remember who checked us into the room. Later we went downstairs to the reception desk to find someone to ask about this, and then went to a bar looking for friends to inquire about what happened the previous night. The whole process was really quite ridiculous, but also very romantic. That evening we were once again having dinner together, and then continued to reserve a hotel room. Everything just happened naturally.
Have you had a long-term relationship with any of them?
Yes, she was French. But I don’t really want to share this story, it’s a little painful and I haven’t yet gotten over it.
With so many foreign girlfriends, do you feel like you’ve brought honor to your country?
No. Because my work was often overseas, my circle of friends included people of all different nationalities. To me, the individual means more than the nation.
As a Chinese guy, it’s rare to date so many foreign girls, right?
Before, I had never really thought about it, because this kind of situation is really uncommon. But after the first time I did, I realized that even thinking about this was a way of underestimating myself. Even though Chinese men in the eyes of foreigners are mostly thought of as martial arts experts or bespectacled geeks, Westerners have a really narrow understanding of us. But when it comes to actual relationships, Western women are willing to get to know me well.
So Western stereotypes about Chinese men haven’t affected your relations with foreign women?
After I got to know that first Portuguese girl, they affected me less and less. The individual differences between women are really not that big. Every person’s needs are very similar, especially emotional ones. Everyone needs to be loved, cared for, acknowledged. But because of culture, these might manifest themselves in different ways. Individual differences are much greater than differences because of country, culture or race. Once I no longer paid attention to the sense of inferiority brought by these stereotypes, I was more confident and smooth in my encounters with foreign girls. It’s like a guy from Henan chasing a girl from Jiangsu – what stereotypes would he consider?
Are there a lot of Chinese men around you together with foreign women?
Very many, and it has always been their Chinese character that attracts the girls. One friend went to university in Argentina and he said, “Actually, foreigners have a much stronger curiosity about Easterners because we’re more mysterious, and who wouldn’t want to try something new?”So the point is that, for this person, at the appropriate time their particular traits are a plus.
Did these women gain any new impressions of Chinese men because of you?
Of course. When I was dating them, I would share some Chinese culture with them and prepare some Chinese dishes for them. Although some things are cultural differences brought about by history, having a new interpretation is always better than unilaterally listening to Western media.
But does it seem easier for Chinese girls to be together with foreigners?
Because in the eyes of foreigners, Asian men have a lower status than Asian women. The typical stereotype of Chinese, or say Asian men, among other countries is: high achievers at school, introverted. These are the qualities that we carry with us. Capitalist culture distorts this notion in books, movies and the media. So who would be willing go on a date with some guy who is not even a little cool?
But for women, although some were rather quietly intelligent when they were young, when they leave the country they can easily fit right in. On one hand it’s related to how women have a strong tolerance. On the other, it’s that Western culture is more accepting of Chinese women. And when you look closely at foreign men with Asian women, for the most part they are very close to each other’s cultural traits, and it’s hard to see Western men following the living habits of Eastern women. That’s because Western men, in today’s mainstream cognition, have an advantaged position in terms of skin color and gender, the symbolic meaning of the more “advanced” human existence. So naturally it will be easier for them to find people no matter where they are.
Do you have any advice for Chinese men who want to pursue foreign women?
You only need to remember this: you and her are both people.
“Of course, the most tantalizing topic between men and women is sex. So she once asked me, ‘Do you want to try it with a foreign girl?’ Then somehow we went back to my dorm. It was her first time to sleep with a Chinese man.”
This is the third installment of my English translation of a Chinese-language article on Vice.cn featuring interviews with four Chinese men who dated foreign women. Today’s interview is with an ad professional in Shanghai who gets personal about his relationship with his white American girlfriend, including a few blushworthy details.
26 years old, advertising professional, living in Shanghai
VICE: How many foreign women have you dated?
Only one, who is my current girlfriend. She’s an American.
How did you two meet?
To talk about this makes me blush a little. We were at the same university in the US – she was studying ancient Chinese, and I was studying old English. We got together and became language partners. At first we would always study together. Once we became more familiar with one another we would talk about almost anything. Of course, the most tantalizing topic between men and women is sex. So she once asked me, “Do you want to try it with a foreign girl?” Then somehow we went back to my dorm. It was her first time to sleep with a Chinese man.
And afterwards you both decided to have a relationship?
Well, not exactly. Because of cultural differences, we were not accustomed to each other’s ways of living at first, and we went back and forth for a period of time before we settled things.
How does she understand your Chinese style of dating?
My girlfriend thinks that in Chinese or Asian culture, relations between men and women are either guided by patriarchy or strict management by wives, different from the gender equality and mutual respect that her culture values.
She often says that I am a typical Chinese guy. The more she says this, the more I want to shatter her stereotypes about Chinese men. Even though we have a good relationship and I’ve already changed some of her attitudes toward Chinese men, she will still inadvertently reveal that she doesn’t like Chinese men very much.
Does this make you feel that there’s additional pressure in your relationship?
Yes, especially in relationships, as you will run into many more practical problems. If I was with a Chinese girl, if there were some living habits that I couldn’t accept I would just directly say so. For example, I really don’t like it when girlfriends are too close to their ex-boyfriends. But now I haven’t said it, because I have this pressure, which makes me consider whether or not to speak out. But in order to not let her think that Chinese men are petty, for now I won’t tell her.
Another burden brought about by ethnic pride?
Yeah, perhaps a little. There are times when I wonder, do I care too much about my Chinese identity and do I want to prove anything? And as a result I will not want to express my feelings. Perhaps it’s not really that necessary to abandon your feelings because of an ethnic burden.
Where do you think your sense of having an ethnic burden comes from?
I think this has something to do with the environment. The other Chinese men around me who have dated white women all seem to have a very similar situation. Perhaps from a young age we’ve all accepted this concept of the Chinese ethnicity, and how we have to bring honor to the country. We were always shouting slogans about how we shouldn’t make Chinese people lose face. Men in particular are especially this way, and in the end it becomes a habitual way of thinking.
Do you have a lot of friends around you who have dated foreigners?
Very few men have sought out foreign girls. But when I was at university in the US, there were quite a few Chinese women dating foreign men. Overseas, there are very few Asian men who pursue white women, and even Asian-Americans basically hang out with other Asians. Plus, Asian men are not as popular as white men in the eyes of foreigners. But women are different – there are always some women who can adapt well into Western life.
What is the biggest difference between dating foreign girls and dating Chinese girls?
The respect for personal space. Foreign girls are very independent and have this awareness of personal space. Even though she really loves you, that doesn’t mean she will do anything for you. This is something Chinese men are not aware of. Additionally, it’s a matter of destiny. Romantic relationships can’t be too deliberate.
“Her name was Olivia, and she was extremely passionate. … I still remember when I handed the drink to her, the way I felt when she raised her head to look at me. The moment our eyes met, I froze, because her laughter was too enchanting.”
This is the second installment of my English translation of a Chinese-language article on Vice.cn featuring interviews with four Chinese men who dated foreign women. Today’s interview is with a Chinese man who is an architect living in England, and he has dated women from many different countries there.
VICE: From what countries are the women you’ve dated?
Actually quite a few. America, England, Brazil, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, Switzerland. I came in contact with all of these women after arriving in England to study abroad.
Which girl left the deepest impression with you?
Currently it’s this girl from Brazil. Her name was Olivia, and she was extremely passionate. I was particularly impressed by her when we first met. I worked at a pub at the time, and she came by herself to have a drink. I still remember when I handed the drink to her, the way I felt when she raised her head to look at me. The moment our eyes met, I froze, because her laughter was too enchanting. I think I must have stood there for a while, and now that I think about it, I imagine I must have looked especially ridiculous. I also remember when she noticed I didn’t say anything, she asked one thing: “What do you find in my eyes?” She was laughing as she asked me. I will never forget this.
Having dated so many foreign girls, do you have any vanity or sense of pride?
Yes, in China. Many people will look at me, so there times when I feel a little vanity. And overseas as well. Even though people won’t say so, but I’ve felt that they think it’s strange to see white women and Asian men together, so I can feel I am relatively special.
Why do you think Westerners feel it’s strange? Is it because of stereotypes about Asian men?
Exactly. Most people believe Asian men, particularly Chinese men, are very nerdy. Dating Asian men, it’s just like what we call “science and engineering dudes,” and these men are not the most popular no matter where you are. Western women prefer athletic, humorous and sociable guys, as they were taught by their culture. It’s the complete opposite of our educational environment. Of course, there are times when I feel that this stereotype has some basis.
Does this influence your relationships with foreign girls?
Yes. Honestly speaking, especially in England, the locals are very traditional. My former English girlfriend didn’t have a high estimation of Eastern culture, and thought that the Eastern way of being more restrained was not a good characteristic. Her only goal to date me was to learn about Eastern culture, so she could add some content to her report…she always said, “All of my friends don’t like Chinese men because they think you’re too awkward.” But I felt her xenophobia was also rather awkward.
Are there many Chinese men around you who have dated foreign girls?
Very few. I only know of one friend who has.
Is it easier for Chinese women to find foreign boyfriends?
Yes. There’s a big difference in how foreigners treat Chinese men and Chinese women. For example, when there’s a party, the best place for people to hook up, they will invite the Chinese women who are studying with us to go, but won’t invite Chinese men. It clearly shows that, overseas, Chinese men are not as welcome as a group.
As a Chinese man, how do you break through this kind of “dating barrier”?
To connect with foreign women, you need a lot of confidence. This is the core problem, which affects your language, communication and personal charisma. So, if you want to date foreign women, perhaps you need to have confidence in yourself first. I know many guys who were these huge ladies’ men in China that, after coming to England, never mind that they had no luck with the women, they found it was strenuous to get accustomed to life overseas.
When I first went there I was like that, I had no confidence to speak up among foreigners. But in China, a foreign man who can’t even speak Chinese clearly can get a Chinese girlfriend. It’s not just that they are more “coddled” because Chinese women like foreign men. It’s also that foreign men will confidently express themselves no matter what, and let others get to know them.
An article on the Chinese version of Vice caught my attention, with very personal interviews with Chinese men on their experiences and perspectives on dating foreign women. Intimate and illuminating, the stories provide a much-needed Chinese perspective on relationships between Chinese men and Western women and also touch upon stereotypes and prejudice. I’ve translated the piece in full from Chinese to English — and because it’s a long piece, I am sharing it in four installments.
Today’s first installment includes the introduction to the article as well as an interview with an IT specialist in Harbin, China, that might just make you blush a little. Stay tuned for the second, third and final installments!
“Tell me, why do your Chinese women all like our foreign men?”
“All of my foreign friends in China, even those who are considered the most unpopular men, all of them can find girlfriends here, and the girls are all quite pretty. Sometimes I think it is your cultural problem.”
“Don’t say anymore, OK? I already told you, this topic is meaningless.”
“But I really think it’s a problem of your culture.”
“Yes, our culture has problems, so let’s break up.”
For the last time, this was the last time I talked about this topic with my presumptuous white boyfriend. Of course, it was hard to say whether he really was my boyfriend. We only just used to hang out often, and we never clarified our relationship. When we were together for that half year, we had countless discussions on these issues – first these were discussions, then they evolved into disputes and arguments. Until the day before yesterday, I was finally tired and chose to break up.
I’m not a blind regionalist who can’t stop defending China’s exceptional culture with 5,000 years of history. But every time I hear this kind of talk, I can’t help thinking that the man who made that point is very low. On the contrary, what I’m more interested in, is that for many outstanding Chinese men around me while living abroad, their living environment has still not escaped the Chinese community, and that emotionally speaking, they have almost never landed in the Western world.
I don’t know if this counts as another manifestation of some gender inequality, or if it is the existing reality of cultural colonization. Why it is that so few Asian men are together with white women? What is it that created this cultural stereotype? White men in China are in high demand, while Asian men abroad are not. So what are Asian men like in the eyes of Western women? Why is it that when Chinese girls are with white men, they are often accused of “attaching to foreigners” and “worshipping foreigners,” while when Chinese guys have a Western girlfriend, they are “bringing glory to the country”?
So I talked to four Chinese guys who have been in love with Western women to see how they felt about this topic. [Jocelyn’s note: today I’m sharing the first interview in the article — and I will publish the other three subsequent interviews as separate posts]
31 years old, IT specialist, currently living in Harbin, China
VICE: What kind of experience have you had dating Western women?
I had a brief relationship with a German girl; also a longer one with a Russian girl.
Did you meet the Russian girl in Harbin?
No, I met her when I went out for travel to Mohe, Heilongjiang, China. Just across the border is her country.
How did the relationship feel to you?
That was it. My English wasn’t very good, and she could only manage the most basic conversation, but English was the only language we could use for communication. When we couldn’t express ourselves clearly, we had to use body language and consult the dictionary. People say, there are three things that don’t require language: soccer, music and sex. We tried all of them. In soccer, I couldn’t play as well as her. She used to be captain of the Voronezh amateur soccer team. Russians are too fierce. Her shots for goals were even more powerful than the strongest player in the dorm next to mine in college. In music, we didn’t really have a common language either. She liked local Russian folk music, which included some rather shrill instruments, while I only listened to Jay Chou. …
What about the sex?
Overall, it was actually not bad. But she had some peculiar idiosyncrasies – she liked having threesomes. At first it was really hard to accept. But later we tried it. Sometimes when we found another girl it was OK, but she specifically liked watching me and another girl do it. Sometimes she hoped to find another man, and that I really could not accept. Additionally, she was so strong, it was like she emptied out my manhood.
In terms of sex, do you think “made in China” has a disadvantage?
There are no disadvantages. I think this is guided by culture, where it’s purely Westerners creating a malicious portrayal of Easterners. I looked up information on the internet, and in terms of size Asian men don’t have an advantage. But research has found that women aren’t as demanding about size as the rumors suggest – it’s only men who aren’t confident about themselves that care.
So sex was never a problem in your relationship?
No. When we first got together, I was not confident, and I even thought, how could Asian men possibly match up with white girls. I was especially embarrassed. But in the end, she gave me a lot of confidence in this respect.
Apart from sex, what was her impression of Chinese men?
She really liked Chinese men. A lot of her friends had also dated Asian men. Some people say that in Northeast China there’s more male chauvinism, but I never heard her complain about it. She actually thought Chinese men were more responsible than foreign men, and the way they treated her made her feel more comfortable.
Have your friends ever dated Western women?
Around here, there aren’t that many foreigners to begin with, so it’s even rarer to see a Chinese man with a Western woman together. There aren’t any friends around me who have. Whenever she and I would go out, we would turn a lot of heads.
Did you feel a little proud?
No. Some people believe that going out with Western women gives you more face, but I didn’t feel that way. At first it felt like a fresh experience, but later on I got used to it and felt annoyed. Whether people praise you or not, who wouldn’t feel a little uncomfortable to always have people pointing at you.
What do you think of the prejudice Westerners have against Asian men?
I haven’t felt much prejudice myself, but I feel that most of the prejudiced people have never really had much contact with Asians – they just have a very superficial understanding. For example this topic of sex you’ve mentioned, you can see this kind of idea in the movies or advertisements, that men need to be solid, have these six-pack abs, Asian men are perceived as not having this kind of physique, so then they cannot be become a popular standard of attractiveness. Besides, many movies and TV shows deliberately make fun of Asian men, giving people this feeling that Asian men are very nerdy or stupid, which is completely different from the reality.
So how would you get rid of this stereotype?
Improve your language ability and express yourself. My English is no good, so there are times when I don’t dare to express myself. I’m afraid that this is an impression that foreign girls often have of Asian men, that we shrink away from daring to start a conversation. I think this is mainly because of language. But foreigners like these active and enthusiastic people. If you’re not willing to talk, how can someone be with you? Smooth communication can promote a relationship between two people.
What do you think of this interview?
P.S.: Stay tuned for the second, third and final installments of this article.
A broke, “untouchable” art student from India and a woman descended from Swedish nobility fell for each other during a chance meeting in Delhi in 1975. And their seemingly improbable love affair eventually paved the way for him to travel 3,600 kilometers from India to Sweden in 1977, with only $80 in his pocket, a bicycle and a promise of marriage to her upon arrival.
If this doesn’t count as one of the most romantic gestures ever witnessed across the world, I don’t know what does.
When she returned, a realization dawned on Mahanandia. Could Von Schedvin be the western woman in his horoscope?
For the first time, that night Mahanandia says he prayed to the elephant god Ganesh. He wanted Von Schedvin to come back so he could ask if she was a Taurus.
“When I saw her at the traffic lights, I got nervous in the stomach. I put on my easel, ‘artist is sick’,” he said.
Then came the questions.
She was a Taurus.
She played the piano.
She owned forests — indeed, Von Schedvin’s ancestors had been given a portion of Swedish woodland after helping the King in the 1700s.
“I became shaky,” said Mahanandia. “I said: ‘It’s decided in the heavens, we are destined to meet each other.’ She was shocked!” …
Trusting her instinct, Von Schedvin followed Mahanandia to meet his father in Odisha, where the couple received tribal blessings.
“I didn’t think, I just followed my heart 100%. There was no logic,” she said.
“When I was with her, I felt taller than the sky,” said Mahanandia. “I was no longer an outcast. It changed my attitude to myself inside.”
After spending a month together in India, the two remained in touch through written letters – and eventually Mahanandia proposed his epic bicycle journey to reunite in Sweden and get married.
His trip would take him from Delhi, India, through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia into Europe. At the time, it was a safe and well-established route known and the “Hippie Trail” and travelers didn’t require visas to pass through, facilitating Mahanandia’s extraordinary feat to bicycle so far for love:
Setting off on two wheels, Mahanandia left Delhi with just $80. But he arrived in Sweden with more than $800 — painting portraits for food and money along the way.
Though some days he cycled up to 70km, the artist admits he got lifts wherever possible — even being gifted a train ticket from Istanbul to Vienna.
“Sometimes you’d get two or three hitchhiking offers and you’d have to choose!” said Mahanandia. “I bicycled for love, but I never loved biking.”
He arrived in Boras on 28 May 1977, over four months after his departure.
The couple have been married for over 40 years, with two children, and continue to pass on the power of love to others, such as through offering cultural scholarships to others of the “untouchable” caste in India.
Yes, Asian men and White women can love on the big screen and make for enlightening cinema. If you frequent art house theaters and film festivals, or simply want a more sophisticated pick for a change, here are 11 critically acclaimed AMWF (Asian Male, White Female) movies you don’t want to miss, in alphabetical order.
The Big Sick (2017)
Technically, “The Big Sick” is a rom-com, complete with an AMWF couple at the center of the story (Kumail Nanjiani, played by himself, and Emily Gardner, played by Zoe Kazan), which is set in Chicago. But the true heart and soul of this film surfaces when the Pakistani American man finds himself in close quarters with her white American parents, with some unexpected and even heartwarming results. Given that “The Big Sick” received an Oscar nod for original screenplay and many singled out Holly Hunter’s performance as worthy of a nomination from the Academy, any savvy filmgoer should have this movie on their watch list.
The romantic indie drama “Columbus,” with the unusual pairing of an Asian man (John Cho) and a white woman (Haley Lu Richardson) in this architectural mecca of Indiana, has delighted audiences and critics alike, leading many to decry its absence at the Academy awards. As I wrote earlier this year about “Columbus”:
Here’s the best part about “Columbus” – it’s a beautiful movie to behold.
Granted, it might not be an obvious choice for those moviegoers who tend to pass on anything that feels a little too “art house.”
But for those people who delight in great cinematography (the shots really are gorgeous), nuanced stories filled with great depth and feeling, and real-to-life characters, this is a joy to watch.
How could you not love a 1959 film with such a daring movie poster for its time, not to mention being way ahead of the curve on race? Starring the legendary James Shigeta, one of the first Asian American actors to show his sex appeal in the movies as a romantic lead, “The Crimson Kimono” offers plenty of gripping action and a love triangle with an AMWF twist, at a time when interracial love was still taboo and illegal in many places around the world (including America). Since this film is preserved by the Academy Film Archive — yes, the same Academy behind the Oscars — it should be on the list of every serious film buff, whether you’re into AMWF movies or not.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
This American coming-of-age teen flick drew loads of critical acclaim for Hailee Steinfeld’s turn as the protagonist Nadine, turning it into a must-see among AMWF movies. But you should also watch “The Edge of Seventeen” for Hayden Szeto, in his breakout role of Erwin Kim. As I wrote last year for WWAM BAM!
The film features one of the most refreshingly unstereotypical portrayals of an Asian man in a teen movie – the breakout role of Erwin Kim, played by Hayden Szeto.
And surprisingly, The Edge of Seventeen even shares some common ground with, of all movies, Sixteen Candles (Vanity Fair noted “Steinfeld’s character is derivative of Molly Ringwald circa Sixteen Candles”). Who’d have thought?
If you’re hungry for a good teen movie, one with a positive portrayal of an Asian guy, you must see The Edge of Seventeen, featuring Hayden Szeto.
Ae Fond Kiss (2004)
In “Ae Fond Kiss,” cultures collide in the world of AMWF movies when a Pakistani Muslim man and white Irish Catholic woman come together in Glasgow, not long before his arranged marriage to a cousin. The pushback and prejudice from his family and her colleagues will feel like familiar territory to many interracial and intercultural couples. But what makes this story different is that the film shows sympathy to both sides. Plus, there’s strong chemistry between the leads (Atta Yaqub and Eva Birthistle) — and plenty of passion behind closed doors. The film took in numerous awards across Europe, including two at the Berlin International Film Festival and one at the Cesar Awards, and will surely delight anyone looking for a more thoughtful portrayal of the challenges of interracial and intercultural romance.
A Great Wall (1986)
This movie — which tells the story of a Chinese American family visiting relatives in Beijing — enjoyed critical acclaim and was the first American film to be shot in the People’s Republic of China. It also happens to have a rather memorable moment in the history of AMWF movies. As I wrote a few years back:
When Kelvin laid with a white girl on the couch and kissed her in this 1986 movie, some dubbed it the “makeout scene heard ‘round the world” because it was one of the first movies to ever feature an Asian guy and non-Asian girl doing just that. Kelvin brings some serious sex appeal to the scene — his sultry eyes, and even the sensual way in which he pulls at her blouse — despite the fact that they never actually “do it” in the movie. Plus, I love that Kelvin is so alpha, which shatters that despicable “all Asian guys are so emasculated” stereotype.
Whether you’re watching for the groundbreaking cinematography, the exploration of cultural divides or just Kelvin Han Yee, “A Great Wall” is worth it.
Japanese Story (2003)
This quiet romantic drama that sets an AMWF pair — actors Toni Colette and Gotaro Tsunashima — against the backdrop of Australia’s mining country does tug at the emotions (and ilicited a few tears from yours truly). But despite the fact that their love affair is unexpected, it’s also a powerful one that will stay with you long after the credits are over. Given all the Australian awards this film garnered in 2003 — including winning for best film, director, actress and cinematography — any art house movie fan will want to watch “Japanese Story.”
The Lover (1992)
In “The Lover,” a French teenager in Indochina falls into an illicit love affair with an older Chinese man, making it one of the steamiest pairings on this list of AMWF movies. As I wrote a few years back:
My pulse quickens just thinking about Tony Leung in this movie, based on the book by Marguerite Duras. He may not be the hottest looking guy on this list, but he pulls off some of the most orgasmic sex scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie, let alone a movie featuring an Asian man and white woman together. Let’s put it this way — you’ll probably have to pause the movie every time they visit his “bachelor pad” to reach for one of the following: your partner, a cold shower, or a vibrator.
But besides all the sex appeal, the film also received an Oscar nomination for best cinematography and was the seventh-highest grossing film for 1992 in France, where it also earned several Cesar Award nods and won for best music written for a film.
Chi Cao … had me before I even saw the film. Blame it on that photo … where he’s cradling the leg and torso of Amanda Schull (who plays Liz), while studying her with eyes that seem to yearn for more than just perfect point technique. Who wouldn’t want a “private lesson” with him? Chi Cao shows incredible sex appeal, even playing a newcomer to the US who stumbles through his first steps into the world of dating and sex, and shines in some stunning dance sequences that will also have your heart racing.
Plus, “Mao’s Last Dancer” attracted a slew of Australian movie award nominations, including for best film, and won for its original music score. And any serious art house filmgoers will delight in the ballet sequences — they’re just as moving as the story itself, which happens to feature two AMWF romances.
Never Forever (2007)
What happens when a prim white American housewife in New York makes a daring proposal to a Korean immigrant working at the dry cleaners, and unexpectedly falls in love with him? “Never Forever” is quite a sexy affair, with bedroom scenes (and a surprising fantasy) that just might leave you sweating too. But it’s the strong performances by Vera Farmiga, Ha Jung-woo and David McInnis that elevate this emotional romantic drama into something worthy of art house accolades among AMWF movies. It debuted at Sundance and won at the Deauville American Film Festival.
Pushing Hands (1991)
This first feature film from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee probes the cultural spaces that unite and divide an elder Tai Chi teacher and grandfather from Beijing and his son’s family in America, including the white daughter-in-law who doesn’t see eye to eye with him. Any East-West intercultural couple or family will find the cultural clashes in “Pushing Hands” relatable. And under the expert direction of Lee, the film becomes a timeless classic, including among all AMWF movies.
What other critically acclaimed AMWF movies would you recommend for savvy filmgoers?
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