Sharing the Sweetness and the Sorrows

A couple of two bears, comforting each other in time of pain
In Chinese, they call it tónggāngòngkǔ (同甘共苦), sharing the sweetness and the sorrows, something my Chinese husband and I know well after his recent misfortune. (photo by Aleksandra P.)

“I just, you know, can’t take this any more,” I said, trailing off into tears in that office, as the advisor passed me a box of kleenex.

“This situation has been very hard on my wife too,” my husband said, referring to what happened over two weeks ago. Technically, it happened to him — but not according to my tears.

These past couple of weeks, we’ve knocked on doors together, even if John did the talking. We’ve discussed next steps, even though John will have to take them alone. We’ve held each other in the dark, and taken turns crying in offices. Continue reading “Sharing the Sweetness and the Sorrows”

Double Happiness: The Date In China That Changed Her Future

A hand holding a pair of chopsticks
When Jemma arrived in China in 2008, she expected to stay two years and then move on to another place. But that was before she met her Chinese boyfriend. (photo by Penny Mathews)

As Jemma’s story reminded me, I’m not the only one that never expected to find love — and more — in China. I’m also not the only one who had a few friends intervene on my behalf to find a better man. 😉 
When I arrived in China in 2008, I figured I would stay two years and then move on to another place. But that was before I met my Chinese boyfriend.

I dated a few men, all Chinese, and had some horror stories and some that just didn’t work out. One night, I happened to share my latest bad date with friends. The date was a nice guy, but seemed only interested in me because I was a foreigner. After hearing this, one of the friends decided to give my e-mail address to a man he met at the gym, a guy who had jokingly asked him to set him up with a foreign woman.

At first, this man and I only spoke on the Internet, until he finally got the courage to ask me out for dinner. When we met that night, I liked him straight away — maybe not tall, but definitely handsome. He was a perfect gentleman in the corny, traditional sort of way. He opened doors for me, pulled my chair out, always checked to see if I wanted more food or drink, and refused to let me pay even though he was still a student. After dinner, we went for a walk in the local park and talked for hours, until he finally walked me home and said good night.

But the next week, I heard nothing from him. I was devastated. I thought, maybe my loud Western ways scared him away. Continue reading “Double Happiness: The Date In China That Changed Her Future”

Jewish Women & Chinese Men in Love: Article Pub’d in Asian Jewish Life

Star of David in a stain-glass window
Asian Jewish Life published my article "Chosen Women and Chinese men: a Tradition of Love?" (photo by Simon Cataudo)

I thought I’d share with you an article that was published a few weeks ago in Asian Jewish Life called Chosen Women Choosing Chinese Men: A tradition of love?

Back in February of this year, I wondered if Jewish women really were more likely to marry Chinese men. That got the attention of Asian Jewish Life, who agreed to let me explore the connection in depth through a longer article (thank you, Erica!). The piece also includes the voices of several prominent Jewish women who have loved Chinese men — Anna Sophie Loewenberg of Sexy Beijing, Rachel DeWoskin, and Susan Blumberg-Kason.

I delayed sharing this article to first request a few minor corrections in the online version, but became so busy this month that posting it here on the blog just slipped my mind. Actually, it’s probably a lucky omission since I am currently knee-deep in helping with last-minute checks on my husband’s psychology internship applications and had NO idea what I was going to put on the blog today. (Whew!)

Here’s the crux of the piece: Continue reading “Jewish Women & Chinese Men in Love: Article Pub’d in Asian Jewish Life”

Double Happiness: Dreaming of Ariel in Australia

A black-and-white photo of a young Caucasian girl
In this Friday's Double Happiness, L. Han writes about why he loves Western women -- a fascination that started with Disney's the Little Mermaid, and continued through to his first crush on a white woman in Australia. (photo by Fran Priestley)

When I opened up the series “Double Happiness,” I originally called for stories from couples about why they love each other, or how they met.

But then I met L. Han, who had a story for me about why he loves Western women — even though he didn’t have a girlfriend or wife. After reading it, I decided to run it. It speaks to the people in our community who haven’t found their Double Happiness yet, but still have something to say about it.

So, thanks to L. Han, I’m adjusting “Double Happiness” to welcome your own stories on why you love Chinese men or Western women — even if you’re NOT in a couple (submit yours right here). 

Here’s his story: Continue reading “Double Happiness: Dreaming of Ariel in Australia”

To My Chinese Husband, I’m A Hero?

A plastic hero figurine painted in red
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Save the planet? No, I'm just a foreign woman who had the courage to go to China -- and my Chinese husband called me a "hero." (photo by Deon Staffelbach)

Hero. My Chinese husband John used that word to describe, of all people, me. That’s what he thought of me after we first had lunch together back in 2002.

“I thought you were kind of like a great hero, because you came all the way to China by yourself,” he confessed with a quiet grin.

I usually associated the term “hero” with people who saved lives, or scaled the walls of Gotham City in tights looking for the bad guys — not a single woman from the US who made a serendipitous choice to come to China on her own. But he reserved the term for, among other people, his future wife.

I cocked my head at John. “A hero?”

“Sure,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if my “knight-in-shining-armor” quality was so obvious to everyone but me. Continue reading “To My Chinese Husband, I’m A Hero?”

Double Happiness: A Western Woman Walks Into A Bar

Two beer glasses lined up on a bar
Western women walked into bars, and walked out finding their future Chinese husbands (photo by gianni testore)

“A Western woman walks into a bar…” sounds like the start of a joke. But instead of coming back with a punchline, a number of Western women came back with Chinese men who they would eventually marry.

Sure, bars get a bad rap in the world of dating sometimes — yet these women show that your local watering hole just might turn into the backdrop for your “how we met” story. (In their case, the “how I met my Chinese husband” story.)

Continue reading “Double Happiness: A Western Woman Walks Into A Bar”

What if My Chinese Husband Was The Only Child?

What would it be like if my Chinese husband were an only child? (photo by Joseph Hoban)

“How is it your husband has two brothers? What about the One-Child Policy?”

The question came out this afternoon while sharing stories from my summer in China at a party — and, more specifically, photos showing my husband actually has two older brothers. One of the women at the party suddenly blurted the question out, because the idea of siblings just didn’t mesh with the narrative she’d heard all along about China.

I told them he was born in 1978, the first year the One-Child Policy began, and he happened to be the youngest in the family. “But most of the men younger than him don’t have brothers or sisters.”

I thought about this later on, long after I left the party — what would it be like if my Chinese husband were an only child? Continue reading “What if My Chinese Husband Was The Only Child?”

Ask the Yangxifu: Language Barriers in Love

An English Dictionary
Sara Jaaksola offers insight from her own relationship with a Chinese man on what to do when language barriers get in the way of your love.

Over a month ago, Jin Feng asked me if I could share some advice on a special kind of relationship between Chinese men and Western women — where language poses a problem. 

I said “sure, I’ll do it.” But then faced a problem of my own. How could I write about this? After all, the closest I came to this happened in my relationship with Frank — but even then, I spoke decent enough Chinese that communication didn’t really get in the way.

So I decided to turn to Sara Jaaksola at Living a Dream in China, who you might call an “expert” in this — she and her Chinese boyfriend literally have trouble speaking the same language. Many thanks to Sara for stepping in to help out! Read on for her advice. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Language Barriers in Love”

Ask the Yangxifu: Six Western Women of the Past who Married Chinese Men

Louise Van Arnam Huie, with husband Huie Kin
Louise Van Arnam Huie, with husband Huie Kin (photo from

mali asks:

I just came across this book Grace an American in China with a foreign woman marrying a Chinese man in the 1930s and going to China. I thought it was pretty cool that they had their relationship then…wow that must have been so hard!! So I wondered if you knew about other actual women like her that married Chinese in the past?

I sure do. You might call them our “yangxifu grandmothers,” the Western women who paved the way for the rest of us to love and marry Chinese men (and often at great cost to their own lives). Here’s a list of six prominent women I know of — including Grace: Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Six Western Women of the Past who Married Chinese Men”

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend is Too Critical

A close up of a network monitoring program with a critical alarm displayed.
When her Chinese boyfriend gets very critical with her, a Western woman wonders, is this normal, and what should I do? (photo by Rob Rosenhamer)

Anna asks:

I came to China about six months ago with the intention of staying for four years to study at University. Three months ago, I met my current boyfriend — Chinese, 24, owns his own hair salon — although we’ve only been “officially together” for roughly two weeks.

He’s from Henan, and his parents are very poor farmers, so he was never able to get a good education and some of our outlooks on life are very different (although we value that about each other). He’s very bright and intelligent, though, and he’s always been the sweetest person to me. He’ll even accompany my classmates and I to the bars and clubs on weekends, and doesn’t mind hanging around the international dorms even though he can’t speak any English. Point is, he’s a great guy.

I’m a digital artist, and a few days ago I showed him some of my artwork. He said he really liked it, and asked if I could do a digital portrait of him. Of course I said okay, and went straight to work that night. I worked really hard, and it turned out really well. I was so excited to show it to him! But… when I did… all he could say was, “You made me look too old. I look 53. I don’t really like it… did you make any others?”

My Chinese is just intermediate, so for a minute I thought he was just joking around and trying to be humorous. But then I realized he was dead serious. Now… I don’t really mind so much that he didn’t like the picture… everyone has their own tastes… and although, to me, he doesn’t look 53 but in fact looks younger, I understand that he might have a different perspective.

What I DON’T understand is why he was so critical about it right off the bat! He often offers me those scolding-words-of-encouragement that I’ve come to appreciate… but he’s never been so directly negative before, especially about a gift. He really hurt my feelings. Is it normal/cultural for Chinese boys to be so harsh about these sort of things? Did we cross into the super-critical-is-okay boundary when we declared ourselves official? He really hurt my feelings… but I don’t want to make a big fuss if it’s jut something normal. The last thing I want is to seem petty to him. What should I think? What should I do? Has anyone else had a similar experience? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend is Too Critical”