When China makes people feel better about their first-world countries

(photo by Steve Webel via Flickr.com)
(photo by Steve Webel via Flickr.com)

I’ve spent a total of six years in China and married a man from Zhejiang Province. So of course, whenever I return to the US, invariably the subject of China surfaces in conversations with people.

For the most part, I love this.

I love it when approach me with curiosity about the country, whether they’re just fascinated by the sky-high wonders of Shanghai, interested in the history behind the Great Wall, or simply want to know if China has Pepsi. And there’s nothing like watching my husband hop into the conversation — it’s as if the very mention of “China” flicks a switch on and he’s suddenly as animated as a talk show host.

But on occasion, the conversation strays into a sort of forbidden city I’d rather not visit. Ever. And it goes something like this:

“Wow, you live in China? I once visited China. But boy, all that [negative thing about China] made me so grateful I live here in the US.”

Or this:

“I’ve read about that [negative thing about China]. So glad I’m an American.”

In other words, “China makes me feel so much better about myself and my great first-world country.”

Usually, I’m gobsmacked when I hear something like this. It’s not every day you encounter someone so smug over where they live after traveling to or reading something about China. But more than that, this sort of thing hits me personally — because China is where I live, it’s where my husband grew up, it’s the country we both love deeply despite its flaws and imperfections. It’s like just telling someone all about your great new house, only to have them crap all over it.

Sometimes I wonder, whatever happened to world travel or even international news as a means for enlightening people and opening them up to new cultures? And is it something about Americans, that somehow certain people there need an ego boost and get their fix through slamming the developing world?

What I want to tell these people is that their perfect little piece of American isn’t all that perfect. That there’s more to a great life than their squeaky-clean homes in the suburbs and the shop-till-you-drop malls and outlets they visit on the weekends. That my family’s home in the Zhejiang countryside might look rough on the outside, but in fact is a family that has a wealth of resources, money and even the most important thing of all — love.

Most of all, I’d like to tell them they make me feel grateful too…that I’m not their neighbor, and I never will be.

What do you think?

What’s the big deal about Asian men and bags?

(photo by James Creegan via Flickr.com)
(photo by James Creegan via Flickr.com)

There’s one topic in the foreign blogosphere in China and Asia that I just don’t understand. Why do people make such a big deal about Asian men carrying certain bags?

For those of you who missed the hoopla, the complaints fall into two different camps:

#1. Why do Asian men carry their girlfriends’ or wives’ purses? It makes them look effeminate, unmanly and/or “whipped”.
#2. Why do Asian men carry “manbags” or “man-purses”? It makes them look effeminate, unmanly and/or “whipped”.

Note that while the two complaints are slightly different, the conclusion is essentially the same. In other words, if a guy does one or the other (or, god forbid, both!), he is forever exiled out of the kingdom of masculinity.

I’ve lived a total of almost six years in China and have seen my share of Chinese men carrying their girlfriends’ or wives’ purses — or sporting what some might label as a “manbag” of their own. But I’ve also experienced them on a personal level through my marriage to a Chinese man.

Whenever my husband and I go out shopping, he always offers to carry my shopping bags…and, at times, he might even hold my own bag or purse for me. I never thought of him as “less than a man” just because he did that. To me, it just seemed like gentlemanly behavior — like opening a door or pulling out your seat for you, a simple way to show he cares for you. And besides, whenever we shop, I’m the one who’s usually rifling through the clearance racks and dashing in and out of the fitting rooms more than him, and I’m the one with the list of stores to hit and things to buy. Honestly, it’s nice to have someone to take care of the bags so my hands are free to sift through the shelves and racks without worrying about forgetting or losing the bags. (I am, after all, incredibly absent minded!)

As for so-called “manbags”, my husband’s oldest brother just bought him a brown leather bag as a gift. It was square and had a sturdy shoulder strap. My husband ultimately wasn’t interested in it (he’s prefers backpacks or computer bags) but neither of us judged his brother for the gift.

What I’ve learned from my experiences is this — there is no such thing as a universal definition of what it means to be a man. Different countries and cultures have different ideas of what men should and should not do. So we shouldn’t automatically assume that our country’s definition of “how to be a man” applies everywhere around the world.

We shouldn’t assume that when an Asian man carries a woman’s bag or purse for her, or carries what some label as a “manbag”, he’s somehow not a man. Maybe it’s not something you or the men in your life would do, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. So why should anyone make a big deal about it?

Personally, I love the fact that, here in China, men can carry all kinds of bags without thinking, “Will this compromise my masculinity?” Sadly, that’s not true in the US, my home country. For all of the talk about freedom and being yourself in the US, our definition of masculinity is frighteningly restrictive.

Ultimately, the measure of a man is not in what bag he has under his arm or on his shoulder. It’s about who he is as a person. And you’ll never know that from a casual glance on the street.

For everyone who still insists that carrying a woman’s bag/bags for her or toting a so-called “manbag” undermines your manhood, let me ask you this. Who told you so? Where is it written that “Thou shalt not carry thy woman’s bag/bags or carry a so-called ‘manbag’”? And why is it okay for men to carry certain bags, like laptop bags or backpacks, but not others?

No good answers to those questions? Exactly. 😉

P.S.: For further reading on a similar topic, read this post by Grace of Texan in Tokyo titled Things I Love About Japan: Men can wear Pink Running Shoes without being Labeled “Gay”.

7 Weird Search Terms on Love & Dating in China (and More) that Will Never Become Featured Questions

(photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Some people ask the darndest things.

While checking my site analytics the other day, I noticed some incredibly weird questions that brought visitors to my site. Let me tell you, some of these search strings read like a bizarre Ask the Yangxifu question from an alternate universe. And that gave me an idea…

So, in the spirit of having a little fun with this column, I thought I’d share seven of these weird questions. Of course, they’ll never end up in a real Ask the Yangxifu column. But hey, they might just make you go “Hmmmm”, “Whoa!” or just give you a laugh before your weekend comes. 😉

P.S.: As always, if you have a real Ask the Yangxifu question, you’re welcome to send it on to me! I can even answer you off the blog and keep things confidential. See my Ask the Yangxifu page for details.


why do china gal divorce their husband and go overseas to married than divorce and return to their family in china

There’s a potentially tragic personal story behind this search string, but given how the asker referred to her as “china gal” (which sounds a lot like a female version of that offensive term “chinaman”), I think I’d rather not know.


how do i find out if my chinese wife divorced me in china 

Whoa. If you’re not sure about your marital status in China, you should not be asking a yangxifu about this. Try asking a divorce lawyer in China some questions. Like, now.


why do chinese people keep having babies

Hmmm, I guess you missed that health class in middle school where they talked about, you know, sex.


what's an asian guys favorite sex position

So, because a guy is Asian, he must have a certain favorite sex position, like all Asian men? Would you be asking about “what’s a white guy’s favorite sex position”? No? Exactly.


which chinese race of women are most likely to tolerate infidelity

Uh, I think you’re a little confused about ethnicity and race. And, for that matter, women, relationships and, you know, basic human morals.


what is it like to have sex with an asian guy

Because, of course, it must be so wildly different from all the other non-Asian guys you slept with. [insert sarcastic look]


how western men unknowingly insult women in china

File this one under “search terms with a crazy story behind them I’m dying to know”.

Have you ever encountered weird search questions about love, dating or relationships in China or Asia? Share them in the comments!

Rec’d Read: “The Asian Complex – Or Why We Fear Iran More Than North Korea”

I’ve written a lot here about negative stereotypes about Asian men and how they may affect why fewer Western women seem interested in dating Asians. That’s why I was thrilled when, months ago, Kaitlin Solimine (a gifted writer whose work is also included in Unsavory Elements — many have considered her essay one of the standouts of the anthology) told me she was working on a topic about US-Asia military politics and how it might relate to the “Asian Mystique” as described in Sheridan Prasso’s book of the same name (a book I quoted from a number of times, including in my most popular post to date on the rarity of couples of Western women and Chinese men).

Just last week, she unveiled her post on HIPPOReads, a smart blog with a literary bent — and it’s definitely worth a read.

Continue reading “Rec’d Read: “The Asian Complex – Or Why We Fear Iran More Than North Korea””

AMWF Books vs. AFWM Books: The “Good Reads” Question

(photo by Christine Tan)

A few months ago, Christine Tan — who writes the fabulous Shanghai Shiok — Facebooked me with this photo and a message:

Hey Jocelyn, quick look at my…bookshelf shows I have more explicitly WF/AM [White Female/Asian Male — also referred to as AMWF] books (yes, I include Anna and the King!) than the opposite, AF/WM [Asian Female/White Male]  (and yes, I include Amy Chua in that one). Wonder why I enjoy the former more even though I’m part of the latter. Maybe I just haven’t come across really good/insightful/not based on creepy stereotypes AF/WM writing. I mean, are there any AF/WM books you like and could recommend?

I chimed in with some suggestions of good AF/WM books, as did others, but her post lingered with me. Of course, there’s no “law” saying we MUST enjoy more those books that best reflect our own relationships and realities. Still, it was fascinating to me that Christine — who is in a AFWM marriage — still enjoyed more AMWF books over AFWM books.

And the thing is, I feel the same way. Continue reading “AMWF Books vs. AFWM Books: The “Good Reads” Question”

Does Peer Pressure Ever Discourage Dating Differently?

(“Peer Pressure” by Hannah Nino via Flickr.com)

Just last week, a review of the anthology Unsavory Elements appeared in the Global Times, and had this to say about my contribution:

Jocelyn Eikenburg gives insight into the seldom spoken of (or seen) relationships between foreign women and Chinese men in “Red Couplets.” She writes, “From the first time I started to love a Chinese man, hiding became part of my life.” As she watches droves of Western men couple up with Chinese women, she feels alienated by her expat girlfriends, too, who openly express their romantic disdain for all Chinese men.

She’s referring to this portion of my essay: Continue reading “Does Peer Pressure Ever Discourage Dating Differently?”

On My Negative Dating Experiences With Chinese Men, and Why I Still Kept Smiling About China’s “Dating Scene”

Jocelyn Eikenburg, smiling in a windswept
The winds (of China’s dating scene) didn’t always blow my way, but I still remained smiling, despite all my own negative experiences w/ Chinese men.

A few years ago, I remember stumbling across a post that linked back to me on the now defunct Shlaowai blog (which billed itself as “Shanghai Uncensored”). The post, written by one of their white female writers, was titled, “So, What’s the Dating Scene Like?” I can’t share any quotes from the post — unfortunately, the blog’s creators blocked archiving of their material, which means you can’t even dig up their original content through the Wayback Machine. Still, given that the post featured the infamous photo of a shorter Long Duk Dong with his head buried in the bosom of a taller white girl, you can guess what the author had to say about “the dating scene” in China.

I can’t recall her exact wording when she referenced my site, but I remember how I felt. That I somehow couldn’t be trusted to understand her experience. After all, I crossed the line she somehow drew there in Shanghai by dating and marrying a Chinese (and then daring to write something positive about it).

You might wonder, why do I even care about an obscure post from years back on a now-defunct blog? It’s because I’ve increasingly encountered a similar perspective in e-mails from some readers — e-mails that ask, in a suspect tone, why I’m not writing enough negative things about dating Chinese men? Continue reading “On My Negative Dating Experiences With Chinese Men, and Why I Still Kept Smiling About China’s “Dating Scene””

Ask the Yangxifu: Negativity From Friends (And More) About Dating Asian Men

A B&W photo of a girl looking sad
(photo by Taston via Flickr)


Here, in Eastern Europe, seeing white girls with an Asian guy — and what’s even more shocking — a guy shorter than her, it just blows people’s minds! People in the street are staring at you in a sarcastic way or sometimes even making comments like “what is she doing with him? Are they really dating each other?!” Even my friends find it hard to understand. So I wanted to ask you, if situations like this happened to you, how did you feel that time, was it bothering you? Did you feel hurt? How did you overcome this prejudice? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Negativity From Friends (And More) About Dating Asian Men”

“Spoils of a Chinese Marriage?” More Like, Spoiled a Chinese Marriage.

Screenshot of Global Times Op-Ed on "Enjoying the Spoils of a Chinese Marriage"
File this one under “things that make you go, ‘WTF?!?'”(screenshot from globaltimes.cn)

Enjoying the spoils of a Chinese marriage? With this Op-Ed in the Global Times, I think it should read as “Spoiled a Chinese marriage” instead.

The illustration said it all. There’s a white foreign man lounging emperor-like in a gigantic bowl of noodles, with a morning-after “I’m high on carbs” smirk on his face. Beside him is a Chinese woman who looks like every guy’s teenage wet dream, dressed in a qipao that leaves nothing to the imagination. She leans on the bowl and stares at him as if to say, “What else can I get you, honey? More noodles? Me?” Continue reading ““Spoils of a Chinese Marriage?” More Like, Spoiled a Chinese Marriage.”

Ask the Yangxifu: On Married Men in China Seeking Extramarital Affairs With Western Women

A couple cheating in the background, with the words "Lies" written on the front
(photo by Akbar Simonse)


Now, I see a lot of positive things on Asian men here on this blog and I do appreciate that, but what about the not-so-positive ones? There is one thing in particular i’ve been thinking about for a while lately: the cheating and the tradition of having xiaosan [mistresses] here in China. I can’t even remember how many times I have been approached by married men or guys who have been with their gfs for 8 or 9 years! Not to mention the fact that dating someone is actually quite complicated because a good part of the guys in their late 20s are already married!!

I know a lot of foreign girls who do get in troubles eventually for starting relationships with men who are already taken and it just becomes a mess…

What do you think about this? Why is it that so many seem to prefer cheating than leave their ‘safety net’ (aka gf)? Why does it seem that foreign girls are their preferred choice when they look for xiaosan? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: On Married Men in China Seeking Extramarital Affairs With Western Women”