Yin-Yang: “A Headstrong Australian Girl…Humbled By China”

An Australian girl and her Chinese boyfriend, standing on a historical street in China
Huaiqian and Christi (photo courtesy of Christi)

When I first read Christi’s story — which shares some of the ways she and her fiancee, Huaiqian, balance their relationship — I smiled at the way she described herself as “a headstrong Australian girl…humbled by China.” Her words echoed much of my own experience with John — the moments when we realized just how differently we viewed exactly the same thing, the times when we learned to negotiate the differences. She brings so much heart and honesty to the subject, and I’m excited to share her story with you.  Continue reading “Yin-Yang: “A Headstrong Australian Girl…Humbled By China””

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend Doesn’t Express His Feeings

Put your feelings on hold
(Photo by Andrew Enright)

Aili asks:

I am currently dating a student from China and while its almost been 6 months of dating, I’m curious about one thing and was hoping to get some advice from a married women. I’m pretty well versed in the chinese concept of hanxu (subtlety) and while my boyfriend tells me he loves me, he really doesn’t say much else in the way of expressing his feelings, I mean knowing he loves me is great but it really doesn’t go beyond that generic phrase. Have you or are you encountering that in your relationship now? And if so how do you deal with it, is it something that can be worked on? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend Doesn’t Express His Feeings”

Are Yangxifu (The Western Wives of Chinese Men) More Difficult Wives?

A Godzilla figurine dressed in a white wedding gown
(photo by theresa21)

“It’s hard to have a yangxifu [洋媳妇, the foreign wife of a Chinese man].” I know it seems strange, but every time my husband says this, we both bust up in laughter.

I don’t know when the phrase turned into our running joke, but I know why it makes us laugh. After all, I’ve never been the sort of woman who demanded a brand-spanking-new condo, car, and lots of cash; we’ve always rented, driven secondhand cars, and felt grateful just to pay our bills at the end of the month. I’ve never dragged John to the Apple store and begged him for an iPhone or any other status-gadget; instead I bought us dumb phones at the grocery store for a few bucks, and later lost mine somewhere in my car. And while I want a wedding ring someday from my husband, I’m content to wait for it until John graduates and lands his dream job. In short, if you looked up “demanding wife” or even “bridezilla” in the dictionary, you sure as hell wouldn’t find my photo there.

So today, I happened to nudge John with this phrase, how hard it is to have a yangxifu, while walking through the park. We laughed, as usual. But then I went off script, and asked him, “Do you think there’s any truth in it?” Continue reading “Are Yangxifu (The Western Wives of Chinese Men) More Difficult Wives?”

One Introvert, Finding Refuge (And Love) in China

A woman covering her eyes, looking shy
(photo from Marie Sanchez @Flickr)

The Hangzhou cabbie smiled into the rearview mirror. “You’re so quiet and gentle,” he said (wénjìng, 文静), the same way someone might say, “You’ve got lovely hair,” or even, “That’s a nice outfit.”

“Who me?”

He laughed. “Really, you’re quiet and gentle, almost like a Chinese girl.”

I blushed and looked away from the mirror, but not his words. That’s because it wasn’t the first time someone in China complimented me for my quieter side. I heard it from John and my two previous Chinese boyfriends, my boss at the time, and countless friends. And no matter how many times someone praised me, a part of me still remained deeply surprised.

Only years before, when I was in college, the words “quiet and gentle” didn’t follow smiles, but scowls and “She’s so…” Continue reading “One Introvert, Finding Refuge (And Love) in China”

“Rougan”: How My Husband Helped Me Love My Curves

A shot of a woman in a short plaid skirt showing off her strong thighs
(photo from Flickr, by Emily Johnson)

Last night, when my husband rolled into bed, he rolled straight over my thighs and couldn’t help caressing them as he went by. Once he tucked into the covers and spooned me, he once again ran his hands up my thighs to my waist and pulled me in closer.

“I love your ròugǎn,” he whispered to me, using the Chinese word (肉感) that means sexy and voluptuous.

Even though I always understood his Chinese perfectly, the idea of ròugǎn as a compliment once sounded absolutely foreign to me. The first character in the word, ròu (肉), is the same word used for meat and flesh. And that reminded me of how people in English might say, “She’s got a lot of meat on her bones,” but never in same sexy and sultry way as my husband. Continue reading ““Rougan”: How My Husband Helped Me Love My Curves”

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Family Speaks Local Dialect at Dinner, Not Mandarin

A family dinner at home in an Asian household
(photo by avlxyz)

Lixifur asks:

I am sitting in Beijing after spending 20 days in Southern China visiting my in-laws. I just found your blog and find it most timely. I am writing because I find myself so lost when it comes to the endless, dreaded family gatherings. My Mandarin is intermediate level and I’ve only travelled to China many times. Each time I come, I hope I can improve my skills but I am always disappointed by the fact that I almost never hear Mandarin, except on TV. Even more challenging is that while my mother-in-law is from the city, my father-in-law is from a bit further north in the province and he speaks a mixture of Mandarin, the city’s dialect and his local dialect. Naturally, we have so many family dinners and I am so frustrated by the use of one or more dialects at the table depending on the crowd and almost never Mandarin, except to me with strong accents. Please give me some advice on how to cope with the scenario. I am working on improving my Mandarin, so that will generally help, but I could sure use some advice based on your experience when your in-laws get together and just speak dialect. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Family Speaks Local Dialect at Dinner, Not Mandarin”

How My Husband Embraced My Wedding Ring Tradition

Photo of a bride with a bouquet and her wedding ring
(photo by Crystal Jensen)

Ah, wedding rings. Whenever I see an ad for them on TV, I immediately shout out “Hūnjiè,” (婚戒), the Chinese word for this most intimate of all jewelry, and then shoot my husband a grin. He usually laughs and nods at what’s become our husband-wife running joke — that I still have no wedding ring, and John still “owes” me.

This isn’t some post-wedding inner Bridezilla of mine coming out, as if I enjoyed putting my husband on a guilt trip for all the ways our wedding never lived up to expectations. No, as weddings go, I’m pretty happy over how we tied the knot and wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve never even pressured him about buying things; if anything, I’m the one usually clamping down on our family budget, and he’s the one encouraging me to “reward myself” with something I really wanted. Still, behind this running joke of ours remains a real promise — that, someday, he hopes to buy me the perfect wedding ring. Continue reading “How My Husband Embraced My Wedding Ring Tradition”

Ask the Yangxifu: What Western Women Think of Shorter Men

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise (photo by candykirby)

Anonymous Chinese Guy asks:

I have, in the past, been interested in getting to know and dating some western women, but I understand that quite a few may view my height as a glaring weakness. Can you give any insight on how important western women (or even foreign women in general) view height? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: What Western Women Think of Shorter Men”

Ask the Yangxifu: On Placing Ads To Find Western Women

Australia Post ad
(Image from iVinay's Flickr)

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from Chinese men in China that go like this:

I want to find Western women to date, but I’m too busy and don’t really have the time/resources to go out and meet them like you suggested. I was thinking about placing an advertisement online to find myself a yangxifu. What do you think?

I’m all for anyone taking a step towards love, even if it means placing an ad online in an expat magazine like the Beijinger. But should you rely on ads alone to find the yangxifu of your dreams? Not unless you’re dreaming. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: On Placing Ads To Find Western Women”

Ask the Yangxifu: He Won’t Speak Chinese With Me?

An open mouth
(photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert)

Lana asks:

I’ve been dating this Chinese guy in Beijing recently. We have this great chemistry and he’s wonderful to me in every possible way except one thing….he doesn’t really want to speak Chinese with me. Whenever I would try to talk w/ him in Chinese, he would answer back in English, so we would just usually end up speaking only English. He knows I studied Chinese before, and I asked him if we could speak a little more often….he always says he will, but we never do. I know my Chinese isn’t perfect but it’s not that bad. What gives? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: He Won’t Speak Chinese With Me?”