Guest Post on Texan in Tokyo: 6 Things I Cherish about my Cross-Cultural Marriage to a Chinese Man

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Grace of Texan in Tokyo just published a guest post I did for her site titled 6 Things I Cherish about my Cross-Cultural Marriage to a Chinese Man. Here’s a snippet:

My name is Jocelyn Eikenburg and I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. This summer, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of marriage with my husband John, who is a Chinese national.

Sure, we’ve weathered our share of misunderstandings over the years and had to learn to adapt to each other, both culturally and personally. But I still love him just as much as the day when I said “Wo yuanyi!” (I do) to him in the Shanghai Marriage Registry Office.

And over the years, I’ve discovered a lot to cherish about our relationship.

To learn about those six things I cherish so much, head on over to Texan in Tokyo and read the full guest post. And if you love it, share it!

The “love, location, career” dilemma for Chinese men/Western women in love

John and I knew exactly where we wanted to live and work in the future: China. But these decisions don't always come easy for other couples -- and sometimes lead to breakups.
John and I knew exactly where we wanted to live and work in the future: China. But these decisions don’t always come easy for other couples — and sometimes lead to breakups.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a certain e-mail finds its way into my Ask the Yangxifu inbox. The story usually goes like this: Chinese boy who was born and raised in China meets Western girl, they fall crazy in love and the future seems ripe with possibilities for the two of them…until reality hits in the form of a few simple questions. What about our careers? Where will we live?

So when I receive these questions — which are invariably confidential — it either happens that 1) the couple can’t decide where to live (often China versus her Western country) because each country somehow handicaps one person career-wise, or 2) the relationship ended because one or both of them gave up.

Whenever people talk about Chinese-Western international marriages, you would think that language or culture pose the greatest barriers. But when it comes to Chinese men and Western women in love, this “love, location, career” dilemma more often threatens an otherwise outstanding relationship. Career options aren’t always the same for both people in his home country (China or another Asian country) versus hers. Sometimes, when a couple can’t reach an agreement, they sadly break up — just as my Chinese ex and I did years ago.

At the time, he had moved from China to a European country for university and hoped I would follow him and, in his words, “be his wife.” It sounded glorious at first when he whispered this to in my arms…but not when I discovered the unappealing possibilities for a US national in this European country (not to mention all of the visa headaches for me). It didn’t help that his phone calls, e-mails and other communications dwindled over time, until an entire month passed without a single e-mail from him. So on top of the whole “where to live/work” issue, I also started doubting our very relationship — the foundation of everything we had together. In the end, I had to say, “Enough!” I couldn’t justify all of the headaches of moving to this country when he couldn’t make the time to even write me a simple e-mail or call me.

My face was glazed with tears the day that I called him and said I couldn’t move there. I knew our relationship would collapse and sure enough, we broke things off officially in the weeks that followed. But looking back, I also realize that — in a sense — he determined our fate the moment he put down a deposit for that European university. He was fluent in English and could easily have chosen to study abroad in the US, my home country…but he didn’t, citing a personal distaste for America.

Hence I learned my first lesson in cross-cultural relationships: love isn’t always enough. When you add into the mix each person’s careers and dreams (often linked with a specific country or place in the world, especially if a person only speaks one language) it complicates things in a way that couples from the same country would hardly understand.

I think about my stepsister, for example, who is happily married to her college sweetheart. They both were born and raised in the Cleveland, Ohio region in the US and, naturally, always wanted to settle and build their careers up there as well. There was never any question about what country might offer the two of them the most opportunities and most benefits, no tug-of-war about living here versus there or somewhere else.

Nothing like what I experienced with my ex-boyfriend in China. It was his lifelong dream to reside in this European country, so naturally he wanted to study abroad there. But his dreams clashed completely with mine. Granted, I was still trying to find my way in the world at the time. But the longer I pondered moving there with him, the more I intuitively realized I just didn’t belong in that country — that following him would be a colossal mistake.

With my husband John, though, the choices were a lot easier and, in the end, much more obvious. John had always envisioned getting educated in the US and then bringing his talents back to China to start a business. We had discussed this years before when we started dating, developing a long-term plan together to help him achieve his dreams. But it’s not as if I was putting his needs before mine. In fact, China made sense for me personally and professionally for a variety of reasons…not to mention that I’m fluent in Mandarin Chinese, absolutely love this place, and find endless inspiration here for my writing.

Unfortunately, decisions don’t always come so easy.

For example, I’ve heard from couples where she wants to settle in her home country in the West for career reasons, but he doesn’t for reasons of his own (he can’t speak the language, he has better opportunities in China). I’ve also met couples who decided to live in her country, only to realize even more problems with his career — for example, people don’t value his degree from China. Even gaining an education in her country offers no guarantees of employment, as prospective employers may discriminate against him.

Then there’s the flip side — he says, “Let’s live in China,” and she’s not sure. Maybe she struggles with Mandarin Chinese or can’t even say a word. Or she spent years studying in a certain field — which offers few or no opportunities in China — and doesn’t want to abandon her chosen career.

How should Chinese men and Western women handle a “love, location, career” dilemma? Here are some of my thoughts:

Support, support, support. He’s into pharmacy, she dreams of being a physical therapist. Whatever your partner’s work dreams are, you should say, “More power to you!” In other words, support them.

Think about both of your respective careers first and foremost. Don’t get caught up in finding the ideal for your own career — instead, the question you should be asking is, “What’s good for both of us?”

Don’t fall into the “sacrifice your job for my sake” trap either. I’ve heard of couples, where one person expects the other to quit their careers or jobs for all sorts of reasons — but that should honestly be your last resort, if at all. It breeds resentment (i.e., “How come I have to make the sacrifice and he/she doesn’t?”), and resentment is not a good bedfellow in any relationship.

Compromises sometimes have to be made — but if so, give it an expiration date. For example, my husband washed dishes in a restaurant in the US, but we both agreed he would only do this for half a year. I also know of an American woman considering teaching English in China for a year, which would give her the chance to remain closer to her fiancee while they apply for his US green card from China.

Never choose places over him/her. Preferences and prejudices about where to live and work can sometimes wreck an otherwise awesome international relationship. For example, my Chinese ex could have chosen to go to the US; maybe that wasn’t his dream location, but he would have had no problem finding endless universities with his field of study (a very popular one) and I would have had no problems finding a job. Instead, he prioritized geography over me — and contributed to our eventual breakup.

If you and your partner both agree on where to live (like John and me) you’re fortunate! If not, look for locations that benefit both of you career-wise. It could be your home countries or even a third country or region. For example, one American woman married to a fellow from Northeast China agreed to try living in the US first, with Hong Kong and Singapore as backup options.

Back to school. Sometimes all you or your partner needs is a little education — whether graduate school or business school — and suddenly you end up with a great location for everyone in the relationship. I know several couples of American women and Chinese men who are moving to the US, where both husband and wife will enroll in graduate school. Studying Mandarin Chinese at one of China’s many universities (like Sara Jaaksola) can offer foreign women a wealth of career opportunities in China.

It’s the relationship, stupid. Still butting heads over London versus Shanghai? Sometimes that’s just a symptom and the real issue is your relationship. Look at my Chinese ex — he didn’t e-mail me for an entire month, proving that we had bigger issues going on in our relationship.

If you have a relationship problem and both of you feel motivated to work on it, consider relationship counseling.

What do you think? What advice do you have for couples struggling over where to work and live?

Double Happiness: Tunisian woman & Shanghai man live happily ever after

Sabine and her Shanghainese husband.
Sabine and her husband, who live happily ever after in Dubai.

It’s always a thrill to hear from yangxifu around the world, especially countries outside the usual Anglosphere (Australia, North America, the UK). So when Sabine, a woman from Tunisia, sent me a lovely photo of her with her Shanghainese husband, I leapt at the opportunity to share the story of how they met in Tunisia, married, and moved to Dubai.

Wishing this beautiful couple success in the year of the horse!

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I am a Tunisian woman. Seven months ago, I married a man from Shanghai.

The first time we met was in 2012. He came to Tunisia for a business meeting. At that time I was a student and the company that happened to host him was also training me.

While he was visiting the company, we had some conversations. He said he wanted to know more about Tunisia and visit our tourist attractions. We exchanged e-mails. Then we met up a couple of times, where we had coffee together and enjoyed a nice Tunisian lunch. Before he left Tunisia he gave me his phone number in Dubai and his Facebook ID so we could keep in touch.

Within three months, our relationship evolved from normal friends to “shy lovers”. I became so attached to him and found myself falling in love with him. He is always nice, tender, understanding and wise. These qualities are very hard to find nowadays in Tunisian men.

Eventually we decided to get engaged after my graduation. Initially, my family was very surprised with my choice. After they met him, they liked his personality and realized that his values were the same as ours.

We married in Spring 2013. His family couldn’t attend the wedding because of distance and the cost of airplane tickets, but they offered us their blessings. His best friend, however, was able to partake in the celebrations. One month after our wedding, I followed him to Dubai, where we now live together. Next year we hope to visit his family in China.

I would like to encourage single women out there to give Chinese men a chance. While I’ve only dated a few men, I never met a man as honest, committed and affectionate as my husband.

Sabine and her husband are enjoying their happily ever after together in Dubai.

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We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.

Interview with Kevin Bathman on the Chindian Diaries

Bathman Mahalingam (Chinese/Tamil) and Shirley Choong (Chinese), Kevin Bathman's parents.
Bathman Mahalingam (Chinese/Tamil) and Shirley Choong (Chinese), Kevin Bathman’s parents.

Chindians are people who identify as both Chinese and Indian. But, as Sydney-based social entrepreneur Kevin Bathman puts it, “the Chindian culture is often a forgotten and unrepresented subculture.” He hopes to change that through the Chindian Diaries, his storytelling project that captures and documents the lost stories of Chindian marriages and families.

The Chindian Diaries began in 2012 when Kevin started delving into his own Chindian heritage (his father is Chinese and Tamil, his mother Chinese) and felt compelled to write up and share his family stories. Then he invited others in the Chindian community to join in through the website and Facebook page, and soon more stories and photos documenting Chindian interracial marriages and families started coming in. The Chindian Diaries’ Facebook page (over 3,000 likes and counting) and coverage in the media ( The Diplomat, The Star, New Straits Times, Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service and more) attest to the project’s growing popularity and success. 

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kevin Bathman and the Chindian Diaries through this interview, which covers Kevin’s family, his favorite couple on the Chindian Diaries, why he believes there are fewer couples of Chinese men/Indian women, what it was like to spend Chinese New Year in his Chindian family and more.

If you love this interview, be sure to bookmark the Chindian Diaries website and follow the Chindian Diaries on Facebook.

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In the course of the Chindian Diaries project, you’ve shared your own family stories. Could you tells us any fascinating or surprising things that you have learned about your own family?

Kevin Bathman (photo by William Yang)

When I first started this project, we were told to delve deeper into our family ancestry – something that I hadn’t done but had been meaning to do for a while. Some of the surprising facts I found about my paternal side of family include how my Chinese grandmother was disowned by her own family for marrying my Indian grandfather. This led to my Dad not having known the Chinese and was only exposed to the Indian side of the family.

I also learned more about my aunt, who had a staunch Catholic upbringing and all her siblings married three different races in Malaysia — a Chinese, Indian and Malay partner. It’s more common now but in those days, it did raise a few eyebrows in the family!

You’ve noted that the majority of Chindian marriages are those where Chinese women marry Indian men, leaving Indian women marrying Chinese men in the minority. Do you have any thoughts on why this happens?

There are no concrete data or evidence that has ever been collected on this subculture. So, while its hard to gauge the number of Indian men marrying Chinese women, and vice versa, there are some theories.

In those days, a male child (sons) played a more dominant role in the family, and many went against their family wishes and married their Chinese partners. They chose love over family obligations. A daughter, on the other hand, was thought to be more subservient and followed the wishes of the family. But, not in all cases obviously.

Could you mention one of your favorite couples on the Chindian Diaries?

 

Mollynah Goh’s Chinese Peranakan father and Indian mother

This is my favourite couple story:

MARRY WITHIN THE RACE

Born to an Indian Mum and Chinese Peranakan Dad has made me appreciate the three cultures that run in my ancestry: Baba Nyonya, Chinese and Indian.

Although my Mum, Pandari Devi speaks Tamil, English and Malay and my Dad, Roland Goh speaks Hokkien, English and Malay, we only speak English at home.

My parents met in 1975 when they worked at the same medical company in Negeri Sembilan. Back then, Dad was a supervisor and Mum, a lab assistant.

According to Mum and Dad, when they first met – it was love at first sight for both of them!

Nervously, Dad had approached Mum while sending some chemical samples to the lab and had asked her out on a date. Mum recalls feeling smitten after being asked by a good looking Chinese man.

They had to date in secret as they knew their parents would not approve of their union, particularly both my grandfathers. My maternal grandfather, Varatharajoo wanted Mum to marry an Indian man and my paternal grandfather, Goh Heng Chuan wanted Dad to marry a Nyonya woman.

Although my grandfather Varatharajoo was Indian, he could speak Hokkien fluently due to the fact that most of his friends were Chinese. But to him, it wasn’t enough for him to allow his eldest daughter to marry a Chinese man.

Eventually my grandfathers found out about their relationship and restricted them from meeting each other. On one occasion, Mum tried to sneak out from the house to meet Dad but was caught by my grandfather. She was grounded and had a curfew placed on her.

Despite the odds, they were in love with each other and tried their best to see each other. This continued for 2 years.

Bit by bit, they managed to convince both my grandfathers about their relationship. And when my grandfathers finally saw how serious they were in getting married, they finally relented.

After both the families met, my grandfathers agreed that true love and their children’s happiness were more important than keeping with tradition.

Story of Mollyna Goh for The Chindian Diaries

Since the year of the horse is upon us and everyone’s getting ready to “guonian” here in China, I have to ask — what was it like celebrating Chinese New Year in your home? Did your family give the holiday a little Chindian flare?

Our Chinese New Year fare was a big feast when my Chinese grandmother was still around. She would cook a whole tableful of traditional Chinese dishes, but also would include many Indian dishes which she mastered as well. After my Chinese grandmother passed away, we did less of the traditional dinner, and chose instead to do our meal in restaurants.

From conversations with other Chindians, there was always evidence of both cultures in their celebrations. You normally get the Indian relatives visiting a Chindian household during Chinese New Year, and the Chinese relatives visiting them during Deepavali, the festival of lights for Hindus.

The Indian and Chinese cultures are very similar in many ways:

1. Cultural norms like the colour red. To the Chinese and Indian, red is an auspicious colour especially for weddings, whereas white is deemed inauspicious. Widowers of both cultures wear this colour.

2. Family values, respect and looking after the elderly have high significance in both cultures.

3. General living etiquette (e.g. remove shoes before entering the house).

4. Roles of women and men in the marriage

Many of my readers have cross-cultural families with mixed-race children. Since you grew up in a cross-cultural family as a mixed-race individual, do you have any advice for these families? Specifically, how can they help their children celebrate their heritage on both sides of the family?

Looking over the interviews with Chindians, most of them do feel a sense of belonging to both. Whichever culture they resonate more, depends on their upbringing. With Chindian weddings, for example, most of them have the traditional Chinese tea ceremony and the Indian temple wedding to honour both sides of their heritage.

I have yet to meet a Chindian that has disregarded one side of his or her culture. Some of them have grown up without any cultural barriers or issues, but yet some of them felt ostracised by one of the races, or worst, both.

As their grow up, they eventually find the beauty of coming from a mixed background and most of them are proud of their Chinese and Indian background.

While it can be a trying time growing up as a mixed child, the thing to remember is they have the best of both worlds, and that they can use it to their advantage.

My advice to mixed-race families is to honour all the cultures, and to expose their child to as many of the cultural practices and traditions, so that it is not forgotten.

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Thanks again to Kevin Bathman for doing this interview! Visit the project’s website and Facebook page to learn more about the Chindian Diaries and how you can get involved.

Double Happiness: How Alex married Fei, and became a wedding planner in Qingdao, China

Canadian Alex calls it destiny. She went to China in June 2010 as an exchange student, never realizing she would leave her heart in Qingdao — and end up becoming a wedding planner together with her husband, Fei.

Today, they run H-Flower together in Qingdao, and their story is as beautiful as the designs they create for weddings and more. Even better, Alex shares her how-we-met-and-married tale in two languages — and has graciously provided a video starring the two of them (with subtitles in English and Chinese). In addition to their company website, you can also follow Alex and Fei’s company on Weibo.

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Our hometowns share an ocean, but are on different continents. We both celebrate a new year, but at a different time. We both have parents, but only one of us has siblings.

I can tell the story of how Fei and I met in two languages. This type of meeting is called 缘分 (yuanfen) which depicts that by fate or destiny two people come together.

Like most foreigners here I began my journey as an exchange student in June 2010. At the same time Fei agreed to help his friend by teaching a class on Business in China. Fei studied and lived in Dublin, Ireland for nine years. When we met it was not in Canada, it was not in Ireland, nor was it in Fei’s hometown Qingdao (青岛). We met in a small suburb outside the city, in an old classroom on the 6th floor.

In class we exchanged cards and arranged to meet later on. We went with several friends for a dinner of roast duck, which led to night market shopping, and further an intimate pot of blue mountain coffee shared between the two of us. After coffee I followed like a puppy to watch a football match in a pub even though I had never been a fan.

Fei

The next day I left to Xi’an. It was painful leaving but the Terracotta warriors, Yangzte River, and Wuhan Dam all distracted me for a little while. As I traveled throughout China we kept in contact every day via text message. Through these short but meaningful first messages we subtly developed our relationship.

We met in a classroom, bonded over coffee, and spent only one week together in Qingdao, China before I had to fly home to Canada. Over the distance our relationship grew closer and commitment solidified.

Today we work side-by-side creating weddings and events here in Qingdao. Everyday we share a cup of coffee together, we make jokes and laugh in both languages, and when I am not at home working we are often crazily texting each other about some little wedding detail or color combination.

Alex, doing a floral arrangement for a wedding.

It feels surreal to think that my small exchange student opportunity has opened up this entire new world. I am fluent in Chinese, married to a wonderful husband, and we are both building our careers and future together everyday.

It’s quite complicated how we came to be in the wedding industry. After we were engaged we of course began to think about how to arrange and coordinate an international wedding party. We also went to check out a few of the local wedding planners (婚庆公司). At first I saw their weddings and just didn’t really understand how there was such a huge T-shaped stage, many different colored lights, and aisle decorations that were nearly touching the ceiling? I thought to myself this isn’t the wedding that I imagined and just doesn’t feel right.

So after some trials and tribulations and meeting the right people, in May 2011 we had our first wedding client (a friend of a friend of course). Our first wedding was an amazing (and frustrating) learning experience about the different between Western and Chinese style weddings. I learned very quickly that creating hand-made seating arrangements for 300+ people just do not work!

One year later I had the chance to design and create our own wedding. I wanted to give my Chinese family and friends the experience of what a western style wedding is like. We were married by the sea, in the yard of a 100 year old building, we ate delicious steak and drank wine, we danced, we ate cake, and we drank some more. It was the best day of my life and Fei agrees it was his too.

Our company is growing, we are learning so much everyday and being challenged in every way possible. I feel honored that I can help other brides and grooms create the same wonderful memories that we had after our wedding day.

我来自加拿大的西海岸, 我未婚夫来自中国的东海岸。 我经常会被问到我们相遇的故事,通常我都会用中文和英文一起来描绘这一段。

2010年春天,我当时的大学组织到到青岛的一所合作大学交流学习。我从没有想到过会来到中国,但是还是欣然接收了这为期6周的越洋学习的机会。我未婚夫的朋友当时请他帮忙来这所大学教一节“在中国做生意”的课,用英文。第一次我看见他,第一次听见他的声音,我知道我喜欢他整个人 。

(photo by TANG VISION from Shanghai www.tangvision.com)

他在跟我们讲经济的时候我当时在凝视他的眼睛… … 之后有一次机会,我们和我的朋友,我们一起去吃饭,然后逛街,一直到只剩我们两个人的一壶醉人的蓝山咖啡。那天晚上,我就高兴的跟着他去看足球比赛(世界杯),在那之前我从来不看足球比赛,但是突然间我发觉紧张的被这项运动吸引了。

那天晚上,Fei送我回到我朋友的楼下,第二天我就要去西安旅行了,一去就是十天。刚刚遇到他就要离开让我很舍不得。 当我游览中国的名胜古迹(也是最热的城市)的时候我们每天都不断的互发短信。 当时我还不确定他对我的感觉,直到当我收到一条消息,说,“我想你”。那个时候我就想马上回到青岛!

我们在教室里遇到,一壶咖啡让我们靠近,在我回加拿大之前我们在一起短短的一周时间。当时的我不知道我们之间会发生什么但是我有强烈的愿望要回来。我们各自恢复了正常的生活,我回到了学校,Fei开始了一家公司(每天我们都用Skype和QQ在网上见面。随着时间过去我们的感情也成长了,秋天的时候,我们彼此知道心里只有对方。现在的我坐在这里看着我手指上美丽的订婚戒指,其他的都仿佛是历史了。

Alex lives with her husband Fei in Qingdao, China, where she is the executive designer, florist and stylist for H-Flower.

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We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.

A Tumultuous European-Chinese Marriage + Advice Needed

(photo by Leolein via Flickr.com)

When I usually share stories about couples of Chinese men and Western women, they usually fall into two camps: the “happily-ever-after” couples and the couples that once were. 

And then there’s the story I’m about to share — about a couple fighting for their marriage. Petya reached out to me recently to ask that I publish her tale on my blog, hoping that readers could also weigh in with advice on how to save her marriage and family. So please, don’t be shy in the comments! If you have any ideas, Petya would love to hear them. 

Petya, thanks so much for your courage to share this publicly.

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I’m Bulgarian. My childhood passed under Communism in the Eastern Block. When I went to study in Western Europe, I got on very well with my Chinese colleagues. There was something deeply similar in the education and behavior that made contact very easy.

Years later I went to study Japanese in Tokyo. The second time I went to Japan, in my class I met a Chinese man who was interested in me. He was working in a big multinational Japanese company and they took him in Japan and payed for his Japanese lessons because they were preparing him to become their Marketing Director for China. I didn’t return his interest, even though we were getting along well. I knew we lived in different worlds — I would go back to Europe and he had brilliant career prospects in Asia.

But one day, we had a debate in class about love and he said in front of everybody that the perfect person to be his girlfriend exists and it was me. Of course it was very flattering for me, but most importantly, I found this very brave and I decided this guy is exactly like me — a fighter — so I gave him a chance.

We started a beautiful relationship. I had to go back to Europe to work. As I have a flexible and well paying job, I was traveling every month to Japan for approximately 10 days to be with him. We got engaged and continued like this. He came two or three times to Europe. We also went to China and he introduced me to his family. His mother passed away a long time ago, and his father is remarried. He has an elder brother who is married with one child.

This situation could have continued for years. He had business trips everywhere in Asia and if I could, I joined him in exotic destinations. Then the big earthquake and the tsunami hit Japan. He was in Tokyo and I was deadly worried. Then Fukushima happened too. It was horrible to be so far away. And suddenly, even though I always said I didn’t want to hurry to have children, I changed. I thought life is so short and we are so vulnerable. I could lose the love of my life and will have nothing left except some beautiful memories. Then I decided I’m ready for a family. We married one month later. A few months later I got pregnant. The big surprise was I was pregnant with twins. We decided it’s better for me to stay and give birth in Europe, because of the radiation in Tokyo. So we did. Meanwhile he moved back to China for the new position. I travelled two times during my pregnancy to China The twins were born in Europe, but he couldn’t be here to see their birth.

My life changed completely. Before I knew I was pregnant with twins, I was still planning to travel. I overestimated myself. With the two newborns and no family to help me, only a full-time nanny, I was crazy tired here. And I had to resume working on the third month after the birth, because we went through all our savings. It was impossible to travel. I thought going to Shanghai to live there, but my husband’s job, even as Marketing Director didn’t pay well enough to allow him to support our big family. I had to take care of the two babies. And I don’t speak Chinese. How could I bring the babies to a doctor without speaking the language if my husband is on business trip? I couldn’t even order a taxi. He said he would send the babies to his family, but I doubted his step-mother would take care of the babies of somebody else’s son. I went to visit him with the babies and the nanny, a long and difficult flight from Brussels to Shanghai. His father didn’t even come to see the boys in Shanghai. Only the wife of his brother came and she helped me a lot.

If we move to Shanghai, we don’t have enough money to live normally, I don’t speak Chinese, and the only solution is we hire an English-Chinese speaking nanny and I still have to travel to Europe to work for at least one or two weeks every month in order to contribute to the family budget and eventually pay my loan for the apartment I’ve bought in Brussels.

If I quit completely my job, I have to sell the flat in Brussels, abandon everything, and become a housewife and somehow live there. I’m not the housewife type. I’m conference interpreter, working for Heads of States and Governments, the European Commission and Parliament. But my main language, Bulgarian, is too small to be interesting for somebody in China.

The third solution was for him to abandon everything, but I didn’t want this. I know how difficult is to make a career from a scratch because I did it too. I could not destroy his career. And as a Bulgarian from the former Soviet Block, I know what discrimination means in Western Europe. I lived as a second category citizen in France during all my studies there, even if I had more diplomas and better notes than most of the French people. I know what humiliation means. I didn’t want him to experience the same as a Chinese.

I was getting more and more tired, depressed, and even crazy. I had also some health problems resulting from complications of giving birth, so I had surgery.

I started asking him to come. We fought, we argued. Then I asked for a divorce. He realized it was serious and quit his job. He came here. Was I happy? No, I was crying over his destroyed career. I was feeling guilty. He came here broken. I think unconsciously he was hating me because I destroyed his career. He hated also to be dependent on me. I tried to find him something to do while we were searching for a job. I registered him to study French and to go to driving school. He refused to finish the classes. He said he will decide when to go to classes and what to do. We argued about how could I help him. He said my job-hunting assistance wasn’t helpful and he doesn’t need my help.

I was nervous, often crying and shouting. He said he hated this kind of woman and if he knew I was like this, he would never marry me. He accused me of using the boys as a tool to make him come here. We fought for half a year. Although I found him a job as a shipment manager, and not a bad one, he wasn’t satisfied and hated it. The atmosphere in the company was bad, he said. Because of the family reunion law, he couldn’t leave the country for 6 months. He felt even worse – like my hostage.

And one day he saw me completely broken, crying and telling him that I made a mistake to ask him come here, that all I did was stupid and I’m ready to quit my job and Europe and go to China. The colleague who replaced him as Marketing director in China had left, so his position was free and he could have gone back. He refused.

So this is our story until now. We stopped arguing and I don’t ask anything from him. I just try to stay calm and he also seemed to calm down recently. But I don’t know what will happen.

What do you think? What advice do you have for Petya?

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We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.

On Cross-Cultural Relationships & Pop Culture References

(photo by Todd Mecklem via Flickr.com)

It was a frigid March evening when John and I went to a local bar downtown to meet up with his professor. The professor invited all of the students taking his course that semester — and their spouses, companions or friends — for a few brews that night. Normally, the freezing temperatures would have easily deterred John and me from venturing out — but it was a sort of “class outing” and the professor, who we had run into on occasion, seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Or so I thought.

But that changed after we walked in and sat down. It wasn’t just that the space reminded me of a bad 1970s basement playroom — from the kelly green walls and tired pool tables to the beat up chairs and couches that looked like someone salvaged them from a garbage bin. It was the conversation that, in its own way, told John and me we weren’t really invited to this party. Continue reading “On Cross-Cultural Relationships & Pop Culture References”

Justifying Cross-Cultural Love By Hating On Others?

(photo by Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr.com)

The other day, I was reading an article on chinaSMACK about Men in China taking Vietnamese wives, and noticed one of the translated comments:

My wife is German, blonde hair blue eyed, but I think I’m very ordinary and it was just fate. Actually, I think Western women apart from being a bit more independent-minded, they’re [also] much more virtuous/chaste than Chinese women, are kind-hearted, aren’t vain, are frugal, emphasize love and family on a spiritual level, and these alone totally blow modern Chinese young women away. I’m currently constantly introducing German girlfriends to my brothers [fellow male friends], exhorting them to not seek Chinese women. Oh yeah, Western women don’t demand that you have a house.

While this comment was written by a Chinese man, it echoed the sentiments of certain white Western men I encountered online — men who also justified their decision to date/marry Chinese women (or other Asian women) in a somewhat similar way:

Chinese women on the other hand are beautiful, intelligent, happy, and just plain pleasant to be with. They don’t have the associated  emotional fluctuations Western women have and they are not demanding. They are serious about love and marriage and use common sense…. Single western women cannot compete with Chinese women and you can see it in their faces when you walk happily by with your Chinese girlfriend while they grimace and pretend to not notice.

(NOTE — that’s just one commenter in a thread that overwhelmingly criticizes Western women while commending the virtues of Chinese women. Read at your own risk.)

Honestly, I don’t get it. Continue reading “Justifying Cross-Cultural Love By Hating On Others?”

Highlights from study into mixed relationships/marriages with a Chinese partner

Small porcelain dolls showing a Chinese husband and wife in traditional red clothing
(photo from rickz Flickr)

Many of you might remember about a year ago, when I posted an ad: UK Chinese Studies Student Seeks Chinese/Non-Chinese Couples for Dissertation Survey. Some of you participated in her survey, including myself. Ultimately, she surveyed 33 couples in her research, 18 with a Chinese female partner and 15 with a Chinese male partner.

Laura Banks just successfully defended her dissertation a few weeks ago and sent me a copy. I’m excerpting the abstract and quoting some of her findings, which you can scroll down to read.

In addition, some of you who participated asked Laura for a copy of the dissertation. I’ll be glad to send a copy to anyone who e-mails me (jocelyn (at) speakingofchina.com), with the understanding that the dissertation is meant for your personal use only and not to be posted publicly online.

And now, onto the highlights… Continue reading “Highlights from study into mixed relationships/marriages with a Chinese partner”

On Disagreeing on US-China News, And Finding A Way Back to Love

(photo by hugovk via Flickr.com)

The other night, my husband and I got into an argument after I brought up some news about China.

“It’s biased, you know? The Western media always wants to make China look bad.”

I didn’t disagree, really. So much of the news about China does slant towards the negative. And it’s no secret that certain outlets have an agenda when it comes to the kind of China they want to present to their Western audiences. And while I said I only wanted his view on it, a part of me somehow wanted his view to be consistent with mine. (Note to self — not exactly the best way to approach things.)

So it escalated — fast. He decried it as yet another anti-China story in the news, while I started hitting back with a sort of “why can’t you just admit it” argument that didn’t make me sound all that great. We yelled, we got red in the face, we cut each other off and we nearly lost our tempers — all over little more than a blip in recent news.

In our world, no couple is immune to the dangers of disagreement. Even when you’re citizens of the same country, you still have plenty of divisive, hot topics — things that Miss Manners would recommend you never bring up at dinner parties. In my own family, discussions about religion and political parties (as in, Democrat or Republican or Independent) could easily make tempers flare.

But when John and I disagree about topics that relate back to our countries of origin and citizenship, it somehow feels different — and frightening. Continue reading “On Disagreeing on US-China News, And Finding A Way Back to Love”