When East Marries West: When One Wedding Won’t Do

Many years ago, fellow blogger Tianjin Shannon, an American woman, penned a post titled The Most Married, where she wrote about her third wedding ceremony with her husband Haike, from Hunan, China. Yes, you read that right — third. (And in fact, she would go on to later hold a fourth ceremony!)

While Shannon might indeed claim the title of “Most Married,” in fact, many other intercultural and/or international couples straddling the East-West divide have also held more than one wedding ceremony.

Tying the knot across cultures and borders makes it that much harder to have all your family and friends together at one single ceremony. Travel costs and even securing visas can already get in the way of well-intended supporters who would love to watch a couple say “I do”. Plus, every country and culture has its own distinctive wedding customs and foods, often difficult to replicate outside those borders. And what about those of us who, say, grow up with a dream of getting married at home?

For all of these reasons — and more — many East-West couples prefer to organize at least two wedding ceremonies (and yes, sometimes even three or four)!

Whether you’re looking for wedding inspiration, a way to remember your big day, or a delightful diversion, here are two different examples of how East-West couples have chosen to walk down the aisle more than once.

Traditional ceremonies in the East (Japan) and West (Italy) – My Japan Slice

The blogger at My Japan Slice represents the most traditional choice for those who decide to have two wedding ceremonies. Their reasoning would surely resonate with most East-West couples:

Since the beginning we planned a double ceremony. We are both interested in each other’s culture and we like to learn and experience about it so having our wedding ceremony only in one of our countries would have meant missing something.  Besides, we both have aging grandparents who could not travel. A double ceremony, one in Japan and one in Italy, was the perfect solution.

They set their dates in winter with Dec 23, 2016 for the Japanese ceremony in Kyoto:

My husband’s family lives in Kyoto so it was natural for us to get married there. We choose Kamigamo Shrine because the Kamo river had played an important role in our story being the place where we strolled hand in hand for the first time on our first date. Again we were lucky because the shrine was already almost fully booked and we got the 12.45 slot.

For the Italian ceremony, they chose Jan 5, 2017, at a church in a small mountain village in the northern Alps:

I choose this village because it is the place where the priest who celebrated my parent’s wedding lives. He moved there some years ago and we kept in contact. He was overjoyed when I asked him to celebrate our wedding on January 5th 2017. He also helped us a lot because, since my husband is not Catholic, we needed to obtain a special permission from the Catholic Church in order to get married with a Catholic ceremony. My priest is so dear!

The couple also decided to sandwich their honeymoon between the two ceremonies (they went to Norway — Northern Lights and dog sledding!).

This blogger went on to chronicle every moment of each wedding ceremony, with lots of Instagram-worthy photos. In Kyoto, the couple organized the day a little differently to reflect their cultures and also accomodate guests from outside Japan. Here’s my favorite quote about their ceremony:

The ceremony lasts twenty minutes and ends with further blessings and prayers. We leave the wedding hall and walk to the inner shrine where we pay our respect to the god. In the meantime it has stopped raining. My father in law says it is the hare hito hare onna power. Hare hito hare onnameans sunny guy, sunny girl, my father in law likes to say that when me and my husband are together the sun always shines. The funny thing is that it is actually true almost all the time, we have always been lucky with the weather.

And here’s a highlight from their wedding in Italy:

We didn’t exchange rings during the Japanese ceremony because we choose to do it during the Italian ceremony since the rings exchange originally is a western tradition. Our wedding rings are a gift from my parents and our Best Men. Usually inside the wedding rings there is the wedding date engraved but we got married twice and we didn’t want to choose one date over the other so we decided instead to write 二人三脚 (nininsankyaku) that means “two people, three legs”. It is a Japanese proverb and it describes two people cooperating and sharing responsibility to achieve a common goal. To us it is the perfect synthesis of what being a married couple means.

You can read both posts for a vicarious look into the ceremonies in Japan and Italy (and to ooh and ahh over the photos)!

East-West ceremonies in each country (China, USA) – Adventures in Asia

If you’re an East-West couple, then shouldn’t each ceremony truly reflect your cross-cultural relationship? That’s the kind of reasoning that Katie at Adventures in Asia shared about her decision to have a Chinese-style wedding in the US and an American-style wedding in China:

My dream was to have an American-style wedding in China and a Chinese-style wedding in America. I thought this sounded fun and interesting! Until our wedding, none of my family had visited China before, so giving my relatives and friends a taste of my relationship and my life in China at our wedding in the U.S. was very important to me. I felt that doing cross-cultural weddings would express our cross-cultural identity as a couple. Doing our weddings this way would mean sacrificing certain customs – that is, I couldn’t have a truly and completely American wedding in China on a reasonable budget, and we couldn’t do all of the Chinese family traditions in America. That’s reality.

So how did they pull it off?

Here’s a quote about what Katie and her husband did for their Chinese-style wedding in the US:

The Chinese wedding dinner usually includes a Western-style ceremony inserted halfway, complete with the bride dramatically entering in a white dress and the exchanging of rings and simple vows. This is sandwiched between the Chinese traditions of the bride and groom welcoming all the guests at the door (and receiving all the red envelopes of cash money), and the couple toasting each table of guests (after the bride has changed into a red dress or qipao). There is also usually entirely too much food stacked onto the tables, the parents give speeches, someone sings a song or performs a dance, and an emcee entertains with games and prizes. We tried to replicate this dinner at our States-side wedding and got decently close!

She also shared some of the pros and cons of doing an American-style wedding in China, including the following:

+We had our ceremony at the church where we attend, and as such we did not pay anything for the building, the officiant, the pianist, or the sound guy. In China, it’s all about who you know!

-Finding an officiant to marry us was surprisingly difficult. Most of the people we asked weren’t too keen on the attention of a Chinese-foreigner wedding. (For Chinese, the emcee usually narrates the vows, if they do them.) I wrote the entire script for the wedding myself (mostly inspired by traditional Western ceremony I found online), and my husband translated it.

+We were able to hire a company to handle the reception decorations (as mentioned previously). Our dining tables were outdoors with candles and dangling lights in the trees and dancing under the stars! This definitely would have been outside our budget in the U.S.

-Finding everything from candles to the flower girl basket in white, not red, was a constant struggle, but possible!

I recommend reading Katie’s entire blog post, which details everything from some of the initial challenges to their East-West engagements and both of the ceremonies.

For East-West couples who are considering two wedding ceremonies, what do you think is the best solution?

Chinese Student in Germany Gives Dating Advice to Fellow Countrymen

I recently found this answer on Zhihu from a Chinese student in Germany, who offers dating advice to his fellow countrymen who are studying or living abroad, and translated it into English.
—–

It’s my first time to answer a question, so please be gentle with me.

I studied abroad in Germany — it was a small place and Europeans made up most of the population there. Also the international students came from different European countries. My roommate M was one of these super-beautiful Nordic girls. Recently she went out on a date with a Vietnamese guy (this fellow was not as tall as she was), and she and I had a deep conversation about this issue.

Your average ABC (American Born Chinese) studs don’t have this kind of trouble. So my answer is regarding those foreign students who left China after they became adults, and my examples are based on personal experiences among European students.

My response is, sorry, it’s really hard to date European or American girls.

Let’s first start by talking about the requirements for man to date these women:

  • To begin with, you have to pay attention to personal appearance and posture. First you need to be in good shape. That doesn’t mean you have to be tall — you have to have the features (women think) you should have, such as biceps, and you should not have the features (women think) you shouldn’t have, such as a beer belly. These are things that can be acquired through hard exercise. People still look at muscles. It’s not a problem if you’re not tall, but being healthy and strong are characteristics a guy must have. Europeans/Americans really do have many short (shorter than 165 cm) but beautiful, buxom girls. Their boyfriends are not all tall. Looks are even less of a problem. People don’t know much about Asian features. Again, I say personal appearance, this is something I really need to mention. What is up with the few Asian guys on campus, with their hair so greasy it reflected light and the shiny collars and cuffs on their jackets? I think these guys, from when they were young in China, just didn’t have this habit of washing their own clothes or tidying themselves up. After I came here, I went to a friend’s house for fun, the way German guys were so neat and orderly threw me several blocks behind even the standards of neatness of Chinese girls. Clean yourself up, and then buy a bottle of fresh-scented men’s cologne. Don’t feel emasculated by it, this is about showing respect to others and it also reflects the quality of your life.
  • Your language must be good, at a minimum you should be able to have small talk with Europeans/Americans without any pressure. It’s not a problem if you have an accent. But you must be able to freely joke around, make fun of yourself, and flirt with girls. Being humorous and funny is a very important standard. Who doesn’t like to make friends with someone who is interesting? Most of the Asian foreign students I know are not good at talking. Never mind European/American girls — even the Asian girls all think they’re dull. If you’re free just take a look at all the clever postings on Zhihu [a Q&A site in China] and learn from them. Humor requires intelligence, and it is something that reflects wisdom. It would be a plus if you have character, opinions, independent values, confidence, and can intelligently communicate with girls. This is easy. With China’s 5,000 years of history, you can just choose a few amusing anecdotes from history to talk about. And if you can tell a girl about some European/American history or anecdote even she doesn’t know about, great – you will immediately look even more impressive.

Meeting those requirements would enable you at least to ask a girl out. At least the girls in my dormitory would go out with you (Can you take me with you?). This is enough. If people aren’t interested, why would  they go walk the streets with you, right? Whether it develops into some kind of relationship, that’s a matter of destiny, right?

To conclude, in general the reason guys cannot get a date isn’t a matter of their Asian looks (there are some who think we look exotic), and it’s not about biology. It’s that Asian men who typically leave the country to go to school are studious. They don’t have these basic features mentioned above that attract foreign girls, and they don’t know how to improve themselves. Most of them only carry a backpack and immerse themselves in the library. To put it cruelly, these Asian men would have a hard time attracting Asian girls, let alone European/American girls. But, for some Asian men who meet the above requirements, what kind of girls  couldn’t they find in Asia? They can find light-skinned, gorgeous, buxom, long-legged, well-educated girls who share the same cultural background. These men are not going to look for a foreign girl who is more independent, can’t make Chinese food and probably cannot communicate with your parents. (Of course, dating [foreign girls] is still very cool!) So the buyer’s market and the seller’s market are seriously not matched, and this has always been a difficult thing!

At last, please search for Lorde’s boyfriend [James Lowe]. Ah, this is probably the best answer.

What do you think?

Romanced on a Shanghai Bicycle (Almost) for Two: Cherished Memories of When My Husband ‘Picked Me up’ on His Bike

Recently, I discovered bicyclists in Beijing could no longer have an extra passenger in the back.

While I understood the safety rationale behind the move, I couldn’t help feeling it was the end of an era. After all, some of my fondest memories with Jun happened while I was riding on the back of his bicycle in Shanghai.

We dubbed the bike our “official car”, and Jun would use it to pick me up when I would arrive late in the evening from business trips outside the city. I would message him when I was about 10 or 15 minutes from the subway stop near our apartment, and then he would pedal over and wait for me. No matter how exhausted I might have been, the thought of Jun and our humble little bicycle made me bound up those subway stairs with a bounce in my step.

He would always immediately take my bags for me and place them in the basket, and then I would settle myself on the platform behind his seat, and hug him with my arms. Riding with him was like an extended embrace in a sense, and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It was romantic, but with a purpose. After all, you had to hold on to the person pedaling the bicycle for safety.

I think I liked these trips even better because, honestly, Jun didn’t need to pick me up like that. Our apartment was only about four blocks from the subway and could easily be reached in a 10 or 15 minute walk. But Jun insisted on meeting me with that bicycle, regardless. He never made any grand declarations in the process, but he didn’t have to — the whole thing was an act of love.

I understand why things have changed in Beijing. And those changes come at a critical time when motorized vehicles, including scooters, rule the roads, not bicycles.

But this reality makes those memories of riding on the back of Jun’s bicycle all the more precious to me.

Have you ever ridden on the back of someone’s bicycle? Was it ever a romantic experience to you?

Photo credit: By 齐健 from Peking, People’s Republic of China – Down the Hutong, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18200257

Riding the ‘Love Boat’: Ukrainian Woman Falls for Chinese Cruise Ship Colleague

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.

Do you have a love story or other post you’d like to see featured here? Visit the submit a post page to learn more and then contact me today with your ideas.
—–

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.
—–

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

“I Awoke to Find a Girl Lying by My Side”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn

“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.

If you missed the other three installments, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn, “The Moment Our Eyes Met, I Froze”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn and “It Was Her First Time to Sleep With a Chinese Man”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn.


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.

A view of Lisbon, Portugal, at sunset.

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.


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. If you missed the other three installments, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn, “The Moment Our Eyes Met, I Froze”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn and “It Was Her First Time to Sleep With a Chinese Man”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn.

“It Was Her First Time to Sleep With a Chinese Man”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn

“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.

If you missed the first two installments, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn and “The Moment Our Eyes Met, I Froze”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn. And stay tuned for the final post!


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.

A view of the Pudong skyline in Shanghai, China.

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.


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. If you missed the first two installments, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn and “The Moment Our Eyes Met, I Froze”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn. And stay tuned for the final post!

“The Moment Our Eyes Met, I Froze”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn

“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.

If you missed the first installment, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn. And stay tuned for the third and final posts!


24 years old, architect, living in England.

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.


What do you think of the interview?

P.S.: 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. If you missed the first installment, have a look at “She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn. And stay tuned for the third and final posts!

“She Liked Having Threesomes”: Chinese Men Open up About Dating Foreign Women on Vice.cn

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]

The city of Harbin, China, at sunset.

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.

Chinese Men Can’t Date White European or American Women? Chinese Overseas Students Weigh In

My husband shared with me an article published on the Beimei Liuxuesheng Ribao (The North American Overseas Student Daily) here in China — and it happened to be about a topic dear to my heart. Why do so few Chinese men end up with white women? But this time, from a Chinese perspective. They widen their exploration to consider the rarity of Asian men and white women together, and while their conclusions are mostly what you might expect, there are some surprises along the way.

Below is my translation of the original piece in Chinese. In a few areas, I’ve added my own comments as well as relevant links to cited materials and topics. The piece also includes some links to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.

Also please note the following credit for the featured photo up top, first seen in the post 9 Powerful ‘AMWF Superman’ Photos to ‘Save’ Your Day: (Photo by Ana Hudson (WhiteChocolatePlayer), featuring Justin Zhang (IG: NoobStrength) and Angelina (IG: musicloveandlies))
—–

Whenever walking through Beijing’s most international Sanlitun area, from time to time you will see “yellow and white pairs” – foreign men and Chinese women together as couples. But there’s another kind of “yellow and white pair” – couples of white women and Chinese men, which are extremely rare to see.

(Photo by Ana Hudson (WhiteChocolatePlayer), featuring Justin Zhang (IG: NoobStrength) and Angelina (IG: musicloveandlies))

Those who are good at analyzing the inherent ethnic flaws of Chinese people will more or less have seen or heard something like this. There are people who believe Chinese women have a “white” allegiance and throw themselves at these foreign men, characterizing them as the very “easy girls” foreigners say they are.

There are also those who believe the problem is with Chinese men. Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Professor Zhang Jiehai published the results of his own Survey of Chinese Men and directly gave Chinese men a “death penalty”: suffering from a collective mental impotence. Foreign women don’t look for Chinese men because the men lack confidence, and this however was “the result of China’s backwardness over the past century, because of ceding territory and losing money.” The analysis of Chinese-foreign differences had a master key. Anything, as long as it was backward, was because of inherent ethnic flaws; and these inherent ethnic flaws could all be traced back to the late Qing Dynasty.

The truth is what people see – that there are many more pairs of white foreign men and Chinese women, and very rarely do Chinese men get together with white European or American women. But you cannot merely blame this on Chinese men. In all of Asia, especially East Asia, it’s rare to see the men paired with white European or American women.

Asian men – at the bottom of the food chain

Overall, the ratio of Asian women and white men together is much higher than Asian men and white women.

According to the 2012 Pew survey on interracial marriage, in 2010 in the US, some 36 percent of newly married Asian women had spouses of another race, compared to 17 percent of Asian men.

But this was the opposite for African American men – 24 percent of the men were married to spouses of another race, compared to only 9 percent of the women. For white and Hispanic people, the situation was not that different.

In the dating market, for Asian men it’s even crueler. The online dating site OKCupid found that Asian women were the only group that all men (Asian, white, black, Hispanic) considered attractive at a rate that was higher than average – not even white women reached that level of popularity. Meanwhile, Asian men were rated far lower than the average by all other races, except for Asian women.

The OKCupid data also gave this kind of result – that men who weren’t black didn’t like black women. The racial preferences of black men weren’t obvious, and all women liked men of their own race. Relatively speaking, women were less attracted to Asian men and black men. Black men and Asian men were at the bottom of the marriage food chain.

Data from another dating app called Are You Interested found similar results. Except for black women, nearly all women flocked to white men. While when it came to women, Asian women were most popular.

So, when it comes to interracial marriage, white men and Asian women are the most common pairing. Both stand at the top of the marriage and love food chain. In the interracial dating marriage market, Asian men are most thoroughly a case where “women are superior to men”.

This phenomenon of the women marrying other races more than the men is almost peculiar to Asians. Even men from Korea and Japan, developed countries with living standards and educated populations, cannot overcome whites. What is it that caused such a great divide between Asian men and women?

Is it that from the perspective of other races, Asian men are not attractive enough? Research by Cardiff University in the UK found that, among whites, blacks and Asians, Asian men were considered the least attractive, with a rating of 3.781 (a perfect score was 10). But the study also found that Asian women were considered the best looking group, with a rating of 5.511, higher than the 5.065 for white women and the 4.720 for black women.

The sex appeal of Asian women has been called “yellow fever” (a term that originally referred to a disease). The Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” proposed this for the first time. And Asian women also flock to Western men. William Somerset Maugham wrote in “The Moon and Sixpence” that “You know what these girls are; they’re always pleased to go with a white man.” This phenomenon has been named the “Pinkerton Syndrome”, and is also called Madame Butterfly Syndrome, borrowing its name from the opera “Madame Butterfly”. [Jocelyn’s note: it’s important to recognize that the Asian fetish has a negative effect on Asian women in particular, and that Asian women can face harsh and unfair judgment in interracial dating.] 

While both are Asian, why is it that Asian men are at the bottom of the dating food chain, while Asian women are at the top? Perhaps through the typical images of Asian men in Western movies and TV, we can see some underlying reasons.

What’s the use of studying well?

Before the 1960s, evil like Fu Manchu and emasculated like Charlie Chan were the typical images of Asian men that thrived on screens big and small. But since the 1960s, against the backdrop of counterculture and civil rights movements in Europe and America, the images of Asian men became more diverse. On one side of the equation you had evil, crafty, emasculated and low-status Asian men; on the other were smart, studious, high-achieving and increasingly “model minority” examples.

But this high-achieving attribute did not make Asian men more attractive. At best, they’re high achievers; at worst, nerds without social skills who have strange behavior and never talk. Even in countries that value education like China, it’s hard for nerds to find a partner, let alone in the United States of America.

Today, the images of Asian men in mainstream Western culture have become more abundant, but they tend to stick to only a few types. They can do kungfu (like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li), they’re pedantic (like Charlie Chan), they’re high achievers (as seen on almost any American university), their role is the punchline of the series (like the Korean boss in “Two Broke Girls”). These roles might on some level inspire admiration, but they are entirely without sex appeal.

In fact, the dominant images of Asian men in American media are not sexual roles. Research has found that Asian American men on the screen are only 25 percent as likely to have a romantic or family relationship as other races, overall portraying Asian American men as “asexual”. Even the most masculine martial arts stars are usually only responsible for those hand-to-hand fights among men, and sex scenes are rare for them.

For example, in the American movie “Romeo Must Die,” the film originally had the American female lead Aaliyah kiss the male lead played by Jet Li. But during a screen test, audiences were really not used to it. So the film company changed the ending, having Aaliyah and Jet Li hug. In discussing “The Slanted Screen,” the documentary about the portrayals of Asian Americans on the screen, its director said, “Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light.”

This may have something to do with the perceived lack of masculinity among Asian American men. The earliest Asians in America, particularly Chinese immigrants, were more engaged in washing clothes, caring for children and cooking, business pursuits considered more feminine. Add to that short stature and wearing a long braid, which was very unpopular in mainstream society. This perceived effeminate character has continued to the present without much change. Even Asian actors with outstanding capabilities such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are only permitted to be “hired fighters”, where there’s no opportunity for romance.

At the moment, Asian men are mainly portrayed in mainstream America as idiotic nerds or as someone with eccentric behavior meant for comic relief. Although this is a significant improvement over the 1st half of the 20th century with its “evil Fu Manchu”, it’s nevertheless still not that likeable. For example, Asian men play characters that are meant to be laughed at. Consider Han Lee, the short boss who owns the diner in “Two Broke Girls”, the gay Asian boss in “The Dictator” who screwed Edward Norton, Leslie Chow in “The Hangover”, or the Asian man in the US version of “The Office”.

Asian men like that could hardly meet the European or American women’s standard for guys – a fully masculine “Marlboro Man”. Think of how odd it would be for an Asian man to dress up as a Western cowboy, while a black man or a latino could surely pass. [Jocelyn’s note: Actually, an Asian man, Lee Byung-hun, did star as a Western cowboy in the movie “The Magnificent Seven“.]

Demand determines supply, and there’s such a small number of Asian American actors playing a narrow range of characters because audiences don’t accept them. Popular entertainers in Europe and America are also popular in Asia, while Asian entertainers rarely make it big in Europe or America. If you were asked within five seconds to name an Asian male star in the American and European entertainment industry, most people would be tongue-tied.

There are some TV shows and movies that include love affairs between Asian men and white women. Chinese people are most familiar with Tony Leung Ka-fai and Jane March in “The Lover,” and Chow Yun Fat and Jody Foster in “Anna and the King”. But when Annaud, the director of “The Lover”, was selecting the male lead, he experienced some difficulties. As there was no one who could meet the requirements among Hollywood’s Asian actors, who mainly played bit parts and had difficulty conveying the emotional drama of the character, after much struggle the actor settled on Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Ka-fai.

Lucy Liu. By Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14301219

Asian women are the most likeable

Research has found that the image of Asian Americans is overall perceived as more feminine. This has impacted Asian men, where “at best they’re an effeminate queen of the deep, like Charlie Chan; at worst, they’re a homosexual threat like Fu Manchu.” But at the same time this has benefited Asian women. As America’s “model minority”, this perceived subservience, kindness and loyalty are considered good qualities for women. [Jocelyn’s note: However, these stereotypes have negatively impacted Asian women, so this isn’t really a benefit.]

In addition, Asian women are thought to be mysterious and exotic. The famous opera “Madame Butterfly” fully satisfied the fantasies of white people about Asian women. Butterfly is a Japanese geisha who meets the American military officer named Pinkerton stationed in Japan and falls in love with him. Even after Pinkerton returns to his country, Butterfly still deeply loves him and believes that he will return. Finally Pinkerton returns to Japan but brings with him his American wife. Upon learning the truth Butterfly committed suicide — thus Asian women are subservient, kind, loyal and full of Eastern character. “Madame Butterfly” was later adapted to “Miss Saigon” — the story and background was moved from Japan to Vietnam, but the essence of the story remained the same.

In addition to being perceived as submissive, Asian women have a fortitude and sex appeal that is considered rare among Asian men. For example, there’s Lucy Liu’s role in the 1997 to 2002 American TV series “Ally McBeal”, Maggie Q’s lead role in the 2010 to 2013 TV series “Nikita”, or even Lucy Liu’s main role as a female Watson in the TV series “Elementary”. These characters have not only the excellent qualities attributed to Asian people, but also a sex appeal that Westerners prefer.

Of course, Asian men at the bottom of the marriage food chain need not worry too much. When it comes to choosing a mate, Asian women first consider their own men. [Jocelyn’s note: as the 2008 study Racial Preferences in Dating: Evidence from a Speed Dating Experiment noted, “women of all races exhibit strong same-race preferences”. See also the NYTimes article, highlighting that more Asian-Americans are dating within their race.]

Then again, if you really want to win the hearts of foreign women, take a look at movies like “The Lover” and “Anna and the King” with Asian men paired with white women, and you will realize a truth: as long as you have money, the color of your skin isn’t a problem anymore.

What do you think of this piece?

“Are You Mother and Son?” No, I’m a White Woman Who Looks Older Than Her Asian Husband

When you’re in an interracial relationship with an Asian man, you get used to a number of things – including the occasional embarrassing question or assumption from other people. Take, for example, many years ago in the US when someone working the cash register at a supermarket saw my husband Jun with me and then asked if he was my exchange student.

But I have to say, nothing could have prepared me for the remark I heard the other day, when Jun and I were assisting a man in the community.

We offered to help carry his bags, and in the process also introduced himselves. After I told him our names and shook hands with him, he said:

“So, are you mother and son?”

Yes, this man actually believed my loving husband was my “love child”. Granted I am older than Jun by over a year — but whenever people joked about me “robbing the cradle”, I don’t think they meant it in the “your husband could be your son” sense.

I glimpsed a look of guilt in his eyes over the remark, but of course it was too late. This man thought I was easily 10 or 15 years older than the man I’d married. Or worse, he thought I appeared “old” for my age.

In a world where women are told not to “look their age”, this is the sort of thing that should have triggered a flurry of insecure thoughts about appearances. I know those thoughts all too well. I’ve written before about coming to grips with being a curvier woman, unlike the images of ultrathin models that we’re bombarded with in the media. And while I’d love to tell you that I’m some “wonder woman” who has conquered every single insecurity about her body or appearance, that’s just not true. I still have those moments when I struggle with aspects of how I look.

So you can imagine my surprise to find that I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed by what he had said about me. Was it wisdom from deep within, or just plain shock?

Whatever it was, for once in my life, my internal reaction was — f*** it. And boy, did it feel empowering.

I’m reminded of what I wrote a few years back, about a time when I was also perceived as looking much older than my husband:

…the older I get, the more I realize the importance of accepting myself, warts and all. After all, aging is a reality for everyone. Maybe some of us are lucky enough to look younger (ahem, John), while others are not so lucky (ahem, me!). But in the end, we’re all headed in the same direction.

And honestly, who hasn’t seen the person with the dyed hair that’s obviously there to hide the gray and isn’t fooling anyone? Or someone like the late Joan Rivers, with so much plastic surgery and botox she doesn’t even look real anymore?

I cringe over the extremes we turn to just to hide our real age, when the treatment we really need is simple — accepting ourselves exactly as we are.

I also recognize that looking younger isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, as Mabel Kwong points out in her post “Asians’ Youthful Looks: A Blessing or A Curse In Disguise?”

Chances are, this won’t be the last time I’ll run into someone who thinks my husband is just a child under my care (whether someone else’s or my own). But if my reaction this time is any measure, I feel like I’ve taken a great step forward in acceptance of myself and how my relationship looks to the world. And for now, that’s enough.

Has anyone ever mistaken you or your partner for being older or younger than you actually are?