An reader, who has asked to remain anonymous, sent me a recent story about a stalker in her workplace in Shanghai.
I didn’t really think about sexual assault for the longest time in China, even though as a woman, it was something we always talked about back home in my Western country. Things often seemed different, even safer, over here. But now I realize I was a little naive, especially after what my coworker told me.
We work at a large company in Shanghai. Most of us are women, the majority Chinese, with a few foreigners like me. And some of us have to work evenings. I do too at times but the night never worried me.
But last week, my Chinese coworker came over to me and said, “Did you hear about the stalker at work?”
I was so shocked she used the words “stalker” and “work” in the same sentence. I mean, this is our office. It had felt so comfortable and friendly most days. And people had to swipe a card to get inside. So how could this be?
She said that the guy is from Shanghai and actually used to work for our company. He got a swipecard from a former employee and then hung out around the building during evenings, when bosses are gone but the evening workers (usually women) are still around. He had swiped his way into our department to harass some of the women. She said he had come to harass women more than once.
My coworker didn’t elaborate on what “harass” exactly meant in, but I could tell from the look on her face that it wasn’t anything good.
But it got worse the other night. The guy followed my coworker all the way to her apartment building. I don’t know if he saw her exact apartment or what, but it was chilling enough to know the creep trailed her.
The news has rattled me a bit. I’ve often bicycled home late at night after getting off at work, and would always say how safe it is because there are so many people out on the streets. Now I’m not so sure.
My coworker said she doesn’t want to work in the evening anymore. And I’m asking myself, should I do the same too?
People have called China endlessly fascinating. But you could say the same about the expat scene here. In the seven-plus years that I’ve lived in this country, I’ve come across some real characters here – people I could have sworn were straight out of a novel.
I’m reminded of many of them after reading Ray Hecht’s new book South China Morning Blues, which features a motley cast of young expats and Chinese locals living across Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong….
Through 12 distinct viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the dark underside of the expat scene in China, culminating in a dramatic life-and-death situation that brings everyone together. It’s a fresh take on life in 21st century China and definitely worth a read.
Intrigued? Ray Hecht will be in Shanghai tomorrow, Friday March 24, to do a special reading of South China Morning Blues at 7pm at Garden Books, 325 Changle Lu (静安区长乐路325号), which is conveniently located near the South Shaanxi Road Metro Station. For more information you can contact Garden Books at 021-5404-8728.
To celebrate Ray’s special appearance tomorrow in Shanghai, I’m giving away one copy of South China Morning Blues on WeChat to someone with a mailing address in mainland China! Why not you?
(For those of you not based in mainland China, but with friends or family over in China who could receive it for you, you can enter too!)
Here’s how to enter:
1. To be eligible to win, you must use WeChat on your mobile phone and have a mailing address in mainland China. (Note – if you haven’t installed WeChat, it’s easy to download. You can find it in most major app stores by searching for WeChat or微信, or get it directly from their website here).
3. Finally, just send a message to my official WeChat account with the word “scmb” and you’re entered.
It’s THAT simple.
Remember, entries must be received by 11:59pm tonight (March 23) Beijing time. Only one entry per person. Tomorrow, on March 24, I will randomly choose a winner from all the entries and notify them via my WeChat official account.
I’ve been happily married for over a decade to someone from another country and culture. And like many folks in my shoes, sometimes I forget how far I’ve come from the early days in my relationship…from those arguments, misunderstandings, and stumbles to where John and I are now.
I took the chance to read once more your post on cultural differences in intercultural relationships, especially today since I am back to South France after a week spent in Tokyo; I was there for work, commuting everyday from my boyfriend’s place (he is from Inner Mongolia, now living and working in Japan).
It was a hard week, under many aspects. I will quit my present job and move to Japan in August this year, and we already made plans for the future, everything is almost set, but last week we often discussed over each other’s “domestic” habits.
I wanted to ask if you, or your husband, ever felt that the other, sometimes, does not think/understand that there is always “another side of the coin” speaking of how things should be done or viewed. I feel this way, now, but also believe some time together, only the two of us, and at a normal rhythm, is what we need.
Like the weather, relationships have their own rapid fluctuations — as I have discovered in this month. In only a few minutes, your congenial conversation might end with the thundering echo of a slamming door, just as ours did a few weeks ago, when John and I were sitting on the bed after eating dinner. I bolted down the street to my yoga class, hoping the asanas would help to cloud over the events of the evening. But in the end my eyes let out a deluge of tears. And, to my surprise, when I came out of the gym, there was John sitting on the steps, ready to clear the skies with an apologetic embrace.
This wasn’t the only inclement moment this month. Frankly, not a week has gone by without some petty quarrel — and it has brought me into a strange fog of anxiety and depression.
I should have seen it coming. We’ve both been burdened with a potentially explosive combination of ingredients: John with his thesis and test preparation; me with applying for John’s green card and my work. Throw into that your standard communication gaps between men and women plus cultural misunderstandings, and you’ve got a volatile combination that even the sturdiest chemistry lab hood couldn’t protect you from.
Ironically, I least expected cultural differences to get in the way of my relationship with John. When you’re in love with someone from another culture, when you treat them as your equal, it’s easy to forget that you learned different ways to respond to problems, and different ways to communicate.
Whenever people start living together full time, I think there’s always going to be an adjustment period for everyone. You’re seeing more of that person, right down to those everyday home behaviors you didn’t really see before (like how they deal with chores at home). But when you add cultural differences into the mix, you’re dealing with a whole lot more.
As I wrote above, sometimes I didn’t even think about the cultural differences — when I probably should have acknowledged them more. John and I had different expectations for a lot of things we had initially overlooked, such as how to tackle and resolve conflicts. Tempers flared and sometimes we said things we shouldn’t have. (Ouch.)
Honestly, I think it took us a few years to work out those “kinks” in our relationship and really get to a place where we understood each other. Where we were willing to listen and adjust how we responded to each other. Where we could, as the commenter referenced above, acknowledge that there was more than one way to do things. (For example, John learned how I liked to be talked to during an argument, while I learned to tone down my anger and control my temper.)
Getting to that point takes time, patience and a willingness to make things better. And sometimes it doesn’t happen through conversations alone. Early on in our relationship, I remember how watching American movies and TV with John actually deepened his understanding of my own habits. (Like how I love to spontaneously dance around the house whenever I hear a great song. 😉 ).
To all of the cross-cultural and international couples just starting out, I wish you lots of understanding in your journey to marital bliss. John and I weathered those hardships starting out in our marriage…I know you can too. 🙂
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!
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.
But maybe the more important question is — how to meet single men in Shanghai? The more single men you meet, the more chances you have of finding that one special guy.
Since I haven’t lived in Shanghai for a decade, I decided to reach out to a friend of mine — a Chinese fellow who met his Western fiancee in Shanghai — for some ideas. Here’s what he had to say:
Meeting guys through friends is a good way. Don’t make the meetings like blind dates. It could be just a group of friends going out for a drink or going to sing at KTV or having a house party. So the guy you meet through a friend is like someone with a reference or recommendation, more reliable than the random guy you bumped into at the bar.
Speaking of bars, for sure they are venues to meet up new people. Many guys would only go for the bars they like, so you would see them over one certain bar at most of the weekends or even weekdays. The point is, choose the bars carefully, since one kind of people would only go to their kind of bar.
Clubs would always be the worst place to look for a relationship.
Cafes, gyms and artsy places (Red Town, Ke Center and Et Cetera) would also be good places to meet up with people.
Avoid places that dominated by foreigners (if you intend to find someone Chinese). Also don’t go to places where you only see Chinese (if you are not prepared/intend to know someone very Chinese).
I know many of you out there live in Shanghai too. What suggestions would you have for meeting single Chinese men in Shanghai? Sound off in the comments!
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture or Western culture? Send me yours today.
Guapa means good-looking or handsome in Spanish. It’s also a lovely word to start off a story about an equally lovely couple — Laura, from Spain, and Tony, from China.
Thanks to Laura for sharing this story, and the photographs.
Tony calls me cariño (dear), sometimes guapa (good-looking), and other times Lauritina. It is really wonderful to have someone who calls you guapa when you get home.
We met in a Suzhou Starbucks, while I was having a coffee with a friend and he was chilling out after a meeting in Suzhou.
He came over the table and he introduced himself. He wanted to practice his English and our table was the most suitable one for that purpose. We talked for some minutes and when we told him we actually speak Spanish, he took out a book from his bag, I couldn’t believe it, he bought a book to learn Spanish the same day we met. Well, that must mean something, I thought. Continue reading “Double Happiness: “He Calls Me ‘Guapa’” — A Chinese-Spanish Love Story”
I’m 27 and I was born and raised in Europe but my fiancee is Shanghainese so we’re gonna have one of those Chinese super expensive weddings in a 5 stars hotel in Shanghai and I really dont know what to do. I really do not like the Chinese wedding style made up of performances, games and speech. Besides relatives, I invited around 20-30 friends to the wedding here and I’m gettin more and more nervous about what is going to happen during the feast. We have an MC that will entertain the guests and lead the night but both with him and the wedding planner I had a really hard time to plan everything and trying to make as nice and simple as possible but unfortunately there are some things such as exchange of vows and rings on the stage in front of everybody and organize some games for the guests, apparently Chinese people really appreciate and enjoy them. You went through this already so can you or anyone else who went through this and can give me some advises?Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Big Fat Chinese Weddings Revisited”
When my Chinese husband awoke on Friday to news of the tsunami in Japan, he did something that, even a year ago, I could never have imagined. He wrote to one of his friends…in Japan. “I heard about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I hope you and your family are well.”
Hours later, he felt relieved to read her response: “Thanks for your contact. Now, I’m standing by in my hospital. But I’m fine. And my family are well when I called.”
“She is okay,” he reassured me, after reading her e-mail.
But years ago, when I first mentioned Japan to him, “reassured” is not even close to how I would have described him.
“One of these days, we’ll have to visit Japan,” I mused, just having returned from a trip home to the US, where I passed through the Tokyo Narita Airport.
I had only met Arnold a few times, but I felt he was as familiar as the soy cafe au lait I held in my hands. He and I bonded over China one evening at the gym, and pretty soon we went from lifting weights to lifting coffee cups over at the Starbucks just down the street from me. I liked Arnold because he was this huge espresso shot of an African-American, the kind of guy who wasn’t afraid to say — or ask — anything.
“Are you Jewish?” he asked me, after I sat down.
“No, I’m not, actually. I was raised Catholic. Why do you ask?”
“Because you have a Chinese husband. You usually see Jewish women married to Chinese men.”
“Really? How would you know?”
I was so stunned, I still I can’t remember what he said. Maybe it was because he had lived in this city (which I like to think of as Jewish as Woody Allen) his whole life. Or maybe he heard it growing up.
But later, when I left Starbucks, I wondered if I really was out of the mainstream, as a shiksa with a Chinese husband, Was it true? Were Jewish women more likely to marry Chinese men?
I just had another piece published in Matador, for their “Love in the Time of Matador” series. Stuck Between Taiwan and Jun (yes, “Jun” is my husband’s real Chinese name — long story why I use “John” instead. Ask me later. 😉 ) chronicles some of the hardships we experienced as an international couple:
It was a rainy Tuesday in a Taiwanese cafe in Shanghai, and Jun and I were having fried rice with a generous side of tears. To the patrons around us, the whole scene had “breakup” written all over it. But it wasn’t that kind of breakup. Leaving melodrama aside, this was the US government breaking up our trip back to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
To me, Jun was the guy who first kissed me to the tune of cicadas, next to Hangzhou’s West Lake. The man who loved to pick me up from the metro station late at night, and ferry me home on the back of his bicycle. But to the visa officer at the US Consulate in Shanghai, Jun was just another immigration risk from China with no apartment or car, let alone a wife or children. “You’re too young,” the officer declared in Mandarin, stamping a denial in permanent red ink into the passport.
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