Guest Post: How a Chinese Student Found Love in Finland

It’s always exciting to hear love stories from the guy’s perspective. I’m thrilled to share this tale of how Zhao, a Chinese student in Finland, fell in love with a Finnish girl and eventually married her.

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The first time I met Saara was on June 5, 2015 when I went to meet a Chinese girl named Xiaofeng in the city center square. Saara was together with Xiaofeng. That’s how we met.

On that day, we went to Xiaofeng’s apartment to cook and chat. It was far from my living place, and I was not familiar with the way to get back. Saara drew me a map in an interesting way. I was impressed by that. Plus, she was cute and good at drawing.

One month later, I posted a status on Facebook saying I am bored. So she contacted me to show some care, and we met the second time in her apartment. It was the first time I ever went to a Finn’s home. I was impressed by three bookshelves, the style of the room, and her talent with languages talents (she speaks many languages). Yet, I didn’t even consider the possibility of a relationship with her.

We met for the third time two days later. There, in her apartment, she proposed to be my girlfriend. I was quite surprised since I had never imagined it can happen. It was also our third time to meet, which seemed too soon for me. But I told myself, “Why not have a try?” So I agreed to be her boyfriend.

I was very excited and anxious in the following few days after we began dating. Before meeting Saara, I had struggled with interacting with Finns. I told myself it would never be possible to have girlfriend in Finland. Also, this relationship happened so fast. I was not sure if I was right to date her. I thought, “Wow, is this a dream?”

It was summer holiday, and she started inviting me to hang out. Soon she took me to meet her Finnish friends, while I was still not sure if I should take her to meet my friends. Her friends gave me a good impression, and I noticed some similarities between her and her friends. They were more reserved, preferred casual clothing, and, struck me as sincere, honest, and kind. They were such genuine people.

Meeting Her Parents, Taking Her to My Home

She became my girlfriend from mid July 2015. At the end of the month, Finnair began offering discounted airfares back to China. I had already planned to go back home to China during Chinese New Year, so I asked her if she wanted to go with me. I didn’t think it was so serious at the moment. I was just thinking to take a foreign friend back to China. She agreed immediately, and her courage also surprised me. So when she asked her mom for money for the trip, her parents got to know that their daughter who had never had a boyfriend before then had a boyfriend, and he is a foreigner, an Asian guy! So, her parents wanted to meet us in Helsinki.

Her parents, especially her mom, gave me a very good impression. It was interesting that I was not nervous, while her mom very anxious and shy. After over an hour, her parents agreed to let their daughter to go with me, and I could see they liked me a lot. Her cousin has a Japanese wife, and her uncle works with Chinese, so her family are familiar with Asians. However, I could feel her mom still had some worries after that meeting. None of them had ever visited China before, and China was another far away world to them. She also wanted to see if I am reliable or not. So she didn’t give Saara the money immediately, but I paid for the ticket for her, which gave her mom a good impression.

During that summer holiday in Finland, her parents took us to visit her relatives and grandma at the places where they grew up. Her relatives also gave me very good impression and all welcomed me. From her parents and relatives, I could see this is a very good family. They are very knowledgeable and open-minded.

Weekly Meetings to Keep in Touch

She lived at the Western end of the city, while I lived in the Southeastern end of the city. Her university is in the city center, right in between where we lived. I proposed that I go to visit her every weekend, and we go to class together every Wednesday evening, because I was taking a course in her university in that semester. We kept in touch like that, twice per week. Now I know every stop of Bus 13 from my place to her place. It’s a romantic memory to me now.

Worries, Struggles, Puzzles, and Breaking-up

Very soon after that, I felt more and more pressure. I was not sure if I really loved her, since I couldn’t feel love at all. There were lots of misunderstandings between us because of our different cultures. I had never had a girlfriend before meeting her, so I also didn’t know what was normal for a relationship. But she was sure of me. She felt so strongly about me, which confused me. Since I didn’t expect a relationship could come so soon and a girl could behave like that, I worried it wasn’t normal.

I felt like I was playing with fire. I also played two roles to talk to myself. On the one hand, I told myself I should continue the relationship. On the other hand, I warned myself I shouldn’t force myself to go in the wrong direction. Lots of things were unclear in my mind. She noticed my struggle and worried about our relationship. In addition, I was planning to continue my studies and research in Germany after graduating from the university in Finland, I didn’t plan to stay in Finland for a long time. I was so confused, with so many ideas in my mind.

One day in late October, I finally decided to end things. We broke up. I had actually expected her to say something, to hold me, or to confess her real feelings, but she didn’t. She accepted the breakup without words. What I didn’t realize was she didn’t feel courageous enough in that moment to reach out and hold me. What I didn’t know was that her bad childhood experiences had made her believe nobody would want to be her boyfriend.

Relationship Recovery After 4 Days

I felt anxious about her very soon after breaking-up. I was worried, because deep down I sensed that the breakup had been harder on her than she let on. What if she couldn’t continue her studies? What if she did something stupid?

Before breaking up, I told myself that I didn’t feel love for her. But then I came to realize that after breaking-up, on the contrary, I cared for her even more. Then I understood that I loved her, otherwise I would not have had those feelings.

I was taking a course of Finnish culture and society at her university at that period. The class was on Wednesday evenings. Before breaking-up, she was waiting at the bus stop every time and we went to the class together. But that Wednesday, I felt so lost and empty when I arrived. I looked around, and hoped to spot her, yet no.

That lecture rescued our relationship! The lecture was about typical Finnish behavior and the general character of the people there. When the teacher said being silent in communication is very common and regarded as politeness in Finland, I was stunned. At that moment, I understood why she was not talkative when we were together! I understood that my tendency to talk a lot could be regarded as not being polite to a Finn! I understood she was not hiding anything from me when she was not talkative. It was just normal to Finns. I realized how much I misunderstood her, and that she had probably misunderstood some of my behavior.

Then I felt our breaking-up was caused by lots of misunderstandings and a lack of mutual understanding. Breaking-up enabled me to see I loved her.

Even though I was nervous and struggling, I told myself I need to visit her. When arrived at her apartment, I was shocked by her crying. I didn’t expect this Finnish girl would want me so much and show such a strong emotions. She touched me. Plus, I understood her better now.

So, after four days of being apart, I decided to restart the relationship. But I was honest with her. I said, “We can recover and start again. But I have to say that this doesn’t guarantee a future. If it doesn’t go well, breaking up is also possible.” She agreed.

Relationship Grew, Still Some Worries

It was great to be in a stable relationship again. I cared about her and her feelings for me were serious too. At the end of October 2015, we booked our tickets back to China to return during the Spring Festival.

But then I started to worry about my family. What if my family didn’t like her or wouldn’t accept a foreigner? Before going abroad, my grandparents warned me not to find girlfriend from abroad. What would they think? Still, the tickets had already been paid for. So I decided take her back and have a try.

Visiting My Family During Spring Festival

In February 2016, she came to my home with me and we stayed one week. The result was better than I expected. All my family and relatives liked her, and she was used to the people and life in China. This made me feel so at ease.

After returning to Finland, our relationship developed quickly. She and I both felt more secure in our relationship.

Cohabitation – A New Period

We also made plans about the future. We agreed to move back to China in the future. She studies education and will be a teacher. Somehow, she has Chinese friends more than I do and she likes Chinese people a lot. She wants to do education development work in a developing country like China. I am also very sure of going back China. Therefore, we could foresee a future life together in China.

She proposed we live together, which is very common in Finland but not common in China. I thought it would be challenging but good to try. It would also be good for us to better understand each other better. So we applied for a family apartment and moved in May 2016. Her parents were also in favor of this, and they came to help move our stuff for two days.

However, when started living together, we had lots of conflicts in terms of our habits and opinions. We quarreled four to five times in the first month, twice during the second month, and then much less. Later on, I came to realize that we often argued about politics. Her opinions about China are limited by the Western media and their negative portrayal of China. We are similar because we both feel strongly about our own opinions. But a major reason for our quarreling was due to cultural differences in how we talk. Now we have no more problems. I came to realize she was the right person, since we were able to solve our previous difficulties one by one. We both were willing to change ourselves for the sake of the relationship. If we had been too stubborn, the relationship would not have gone on.

Now when look back, I realize I learned a lot about handling relationships. She helped me understand what is true love. True love is not perfect without any conflicts, but true love can enable both people to learn a lot and to grow to be better people.

Marriage

In September 2016, Saara suggested we marry.

While it seemed fast at first, I thought it over and realized a number of things. I loved her very much. I also loved Finland and wanted to further my own studies of the Finnish language. Plus, it would be wonderful to be connected to this country, to have family there.

So I agreed to marry her. I said yes.

We were engaged on November 8, and had an engagement celebration party after Christmas, where her relatives wished us great joy. We hope to register our marriage in March and have a wedding ceremony in May or June in Finland. Now I feel so certain, so confident in our upcoming marriage. It is truly just like a dream.

A 26-year-old from Xiaogan, Hubei Province, China, Zhao is finishing his master’s degree in material sciences in Tampere, Finland, where he met his Finnish fiancée. You can follow his adventures at http://chinameetswest.wordpress.com.
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A Little American Mythology

A Chinese student who shares his ideas about Americans makes me realize that, maybe, I've been telling myself myths about this country. ( photo by Jorc Navarro)

Last Saturday, my husband John and I welcomed a couple of Chinese students into our home after dinner. Originally, we just talked turkey — or rather, the fact that we invited them over to our place for Thanksgiving. But when the topic came up, John and I had other turkeys in mind, such as the discrimination we faced barely a day before.

“You two should be careful around here,” I warned the two young Chinese men lounging on our sofa. “Americans aren’t always what they seem to be.” Okay, to be sure, I said these words when the incident — which kicked my husband and I virtually in the stomach — still simmered freshly in my mind. I know a lot of good Americans live in this world. But I suspected these students still carried a far too wholesome “Family Album USA” perspective of this country.

One of the Chinese guys looked genuinely puzzled. “I consider Americans to be very straightforward.”

“Not really,” my husband chimed in. Continue reading “A Little American Mythology”

Ask the Yangxifu: The Back-to-School Edition

A hand drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil
Are you gearing up for the first day of school or a new semester? Enjoy these Ask the Yangxifu columns with questions from college students. (photo by Michael Lorenzo)

Because I’m heading back to the US and moving back into my place (what was I thinking, doing all this in one week?), I’m running some classic content today. Don’t worry — I’ll be back next week, promise!

For my Chinese husband, it’s that time of the year all over again — textbooks, registration, getting his lost student ID replaced. Are you gearing up for the first day of school or a new semester? Enjoy these Ask the Yangxifu columns with questions from college students.

Indirect Dating and Chinese Men. This classic column — which explores how to tell when he’s interested — came from a graduate student in an international program.

Chinese Student Wants to Approach American Brunette. Readers cheered when a Chinese student got the courage to talk with a girl who worked in his university department’s office.

Getting a Chinese Foreign Student to Notice You. Chinese men, take heart — who says study abroad means four lonely years? Especially when you have readers like this, wondering how to capture the heart of a Chinese foreign student.

Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.