A couple weeks ago, I happened to share a Global Times article titled, “When a Chinese Man Loves a White Woman”, which mentioned me and this blog. Naturally, it generated some conversation on social media. One of the comments came from a guy, asking why the author hadn’t mentioned the preponderance of male foreigners as a reason for the rarity of couples of Western women and Chinese men in China.
It would be tempting to point to this gender imbalance as the primary explanation for why couples of Western women and Asian men are such a minority. But if you did, you’d be missing the big picture.
After all, this gender imbalance fails to explain why there are so few AMWF couples around the world, and why even Chinese American men don’t feel the love from their fellow Americans (see the essay “Are Asian Men Undateable?”). If Asian men who were born and raised in the West have it tough in the dating world, we could hardly expect better for Asian foreign men who come to the West for work or education.
I would argue, then, that even if the foreign population in China was equally split among gender – 50 percent female and 50 percent male – you would still see an imbalance in the interracial dating world in China. You would still see far more couples of Western men and Asian women, and far fewer couples of Western women and Asian men.
American Jocelyn Eikenburg, founder of the popular Speaking of China blog has played a key role in the integration of the global WWAM community.
“Why don’t Western women date Asian men?” one of Eikenburg’s articles featured in the Huffington Post, wisely invited women to look at the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of Chinese men instead of writing them all off per se as a single, homogenized race.
A huge thanks to Katrin Büchenbacher for inviting me to be a part of the article, which begins like this:
The brunette with sparkling blue eyes beneath long eyelashes could pass for any American exchange student. Dressed in a simple khaki shirt, blue jeans and a spiky bronze necklace, she is stuck in the Shanghai traffic, running late for her video shoot with the Global Times Metro Shanghai. What sets this young lady, Vicky, apart from other expats in this city, however, is the person sitting next to her – a tall, handsome man in a crisp white shirt, speaking with a deep, confident voice. It’s her long-term boyfriend, a Chinese national.
Chinese men dating or married to foreign women are still a rather rare form of interracial love. When they walk down the streets holding hands, they can literally feel people staring at them and whispering to each other, or even pointing fingers.
It’s always exciting to hear love stories from the guy’s perspective. I’m thrilled to share this tale of how Zhao, a Chinese student in Finland, fell in love with a Finnish girl and eventually married her.
Do you have a love story or other guest post you’d like to see featured on this blog? Visit the submit a post page today to learn how to have your words published here.
The first time I met Saara was on June 5, 2015 when I went to meet a Chinese girl named Xiaofeng in the city center square. Saara was together with Xiaofeng. That’s how we met.
On that day, we went to Xiaofeng’s apartment to cook and chat. It was far from my living place, and I was not familiar with the way to get back. Saara drew me a map in an interesting way. I was impressed by that. Plus, she was cute and good at drawing.
One month later, I posted a status on Facebook saying I am bored. So she contacted me to show some care, and we met the second time in her apartment. It was the first time I ever went to a Finn’s home. I was impressed by three bookshelves, the style of the room, and her talent with languages talents (she speaks many languages). Yet, I didn’t even consider the possibility of a relationship with her.
We met for the third time two days later. There, in her apartment, she proposed to be my girlfriend. I was quite surprised since I had never imagined it can happen. It was also our third time to meet, which seemed too soon for me. But I told myself, “Why not have a try?” So I agreed to be her boyfriend.
I was very excited and anxious in the following few days after we began dating. Before meeting Saara, I had struggled with interacting with Finns. I told myself it would never be possible to have girlfriend in Finland. Also, this relationship happened so fast. I was not sure if I was right to date her. I thought, “Wow, is this a dream?”
It was summer holiday, and she started inviting me to hang out. Soon she took me to meet her Finnish friends, while I was still not sure if I should take her to meet my friends. Her friends gave me a good impression, and I noticed some similarities between her and her friends. They were more reserved, preferred casual clothing, and, struck me as sincere, honest, and kind. They were such genuine people.
Meeting Her Parents, Taking Her to My Home
She became my girlfriend from mid July 2015. At the end of the month, Finnair began offering discounted airfares back to China. I had already planned to go back home to China during Chinese New Year, so I asked her if she wanted to go with me. I didn’t think it was so serious at the moment. I was just thinking to take a foreign friend back to China. She agreed immediately, and her courage also surprised me. So when she asked her mom for money for the trip, her parents got to know that their daughter who had never had a boyfriend before then had a boyfriend, and he is a foreigner, an Asian guy! So, her parents wanted to meet us in Helsinki.
Her parents, especially her mom, gave me a very good impression. It was interesting that I was not nervous, while her mom very anxious and shy. After over an hour, her parents agreed to let their daughter to go with me, and I could see they liked me a lot. Her cousin has a Japanese wife, and her uncle works with Chinese, so her family are familiar with Asians. However, I could feel her mom still had some worries after that meeting. None of them had ever visited China before, and China was another far away world to them. She also wanted to see if I am reliable or not. So she didn’t give Saara the money immediately, but I paid for the ticket for her, which gave her mom a good impression.
During that summer holiday in Finland, her parents took us to visit her relatives and grandma at the places where they grew up. Her relatives also gave me very good impression and all welcomed me. From her parents and relatives, I could see this is a very good family. They are very knowledgeable and open-minded.
Weekly Meetings to Keep in Touch
She lived at the Western end of the city, while I lived in the Southeastern end of the city. Her university is in the city center, right in between where we lived. I proposed that I go to visit her every weekend, and we go to class together every Wednesday evening, because I was taking a course in her university in that semester. We kept in touch like that, twice per week. Now I know every stop of Bus 13 from my place to her place. It’s a romantic memory to me now.
Worries, Struggles, Puzzles, and Breaking-up
Very soon after that, I felt more and more pressure. I was not sure if I really loved her, since I couldn’t feel love at all. There were lots of misunderstandings between us because of our different cultures. I had never had a girlfriend before meeting her, so I also didn’t know what was normal for a relationship. But she was sure of me. She felt so strongly about me, which confused me. Since I didn’t expect a relationship could come so soon and a girl could behave like that, I worried it wasn’t normal.
I felt like I was playing with fire. I also played two roles to talk to myself. On the one hand, I told myself I should continue the relationship. On the other hand, I warned myself I shouldn’t force myself to go in the wrong direction. Lots of things were unclear in my mind. She noticed my struggle and worried about our relationship. In addition, I was planning to continue my studies and research in Germany after graduating from the university in Finland, I didn’t plan to stay in Finland for a long time. I was so confused, with so many ideas in my mind.
One day in late October, I finally decided to end things. We broke up. I had actually expected her to say something, to hold me, or to confess her real feelings, but she didn’t. She accepted the breakup without words. What I didn’t realize was she didn’t feel courageous enough in that moment to reach out and hold me. What I didn’t know was that her bad childhood experiences had made her believe nobody would want to be her boyfriend.
Relationship Recovery After 4 Days
I felt anxious about her very soon after breaking-up. I was worried, because deep down I sensed that the breakup had been harder on her than she let on. What if she couldn’t continue her studies? What if she did something stupid?
Before breaking up, I told myself that I didn’t feel love for her. But then I came to realize that after breaking-up, on the contrary, I cared for her even more. Then I understood that I loved her, otherwise I would not have had those feelings.
I was taking a course of Finnish culture and society at her university at that period. The class was on Wednesday evenings. Before breaking-up, she was waiting at the bus stop every time and we went to the class together. But that Wednesday, I felt so lost and empty when I arrived. I looked around, and hoped to spot her, yet no.
That lecture rescued our relationship! The lecture was about typical Finnish behavior and the general character of the people there. When the teacher said being silent in communication is very common and regarded as politeness in Finland, I was stunned. At that moment, I understood why she was not talkative when we were together! I understood that my tendency to talk a lot could be regarded as not being polite to a Finn! I understood she was not hiding anything from me when she was not talkative. It was just normal to Finns. I realized how much I misunderstood her, and that she had probably misunderstood some of my behavior.
Then I felt our breaking-up was caused by lots of misunderstandings and a lack of mutual understanding. Breaking-up enabled me to see I loved her.
Even though I was nervous and struggling, I told myself I need to visit her. When arrived at her apartment, I was shocked by her crying. I didn’t expect this Finnish girl would want me so much and show such a strong emotions. She touched me. Plus, I understood her better now.
So, after four days of being apart, I decided to restart the relationship. But I was honest with her. I said, “We can recover and start again. But I have to say that this doesn’t guarantee a future. If it doesn’t go well, breaking up is also possible.” She agreed.
Relationship Grew, Still Some Worries
It was great to be in a stable relationship again. I cared about her and her feelings for me were serious too. At the end of October 2015, we booked our tickets back to China to return during the Spring Festival.
But then I started to worry about my family. What if my family didn’t like her or wouldn’t accept a foreigner? Before going abroad, my grandparents warned me not to find girlfriend from abroad. What would they think? Still, the tickets had already been paid for. So I decided take her back and have a try.
Visiting My Family During Spring Festival
In February 2016, she came to my home with me and we stayed one week. The result was better than I expected. All my family and relatives liked her, and she was used to the people and life in China. This made me feel so at ease.
After returning to Finland, our relationship developed quickly. She and I both felt more secure in our relationship.
Cohabitation – A New Period
We also made plans about the future. We agreed to move back to China in the future. She studies education and will be a teacher. Somehow, she has Chinese friends more than I do and she likes Chinese people a lot. She wants to do education development work in a developing country like China. I am also very sure of going back China. Therefore, we could foresee a future life together in China.
She proposed we live together, which is very common in Finland but not common in China. I thought it would be challenging but good to try. It would also be good for us to better understand each other better. So we applied for a family apartment and moved in May 2016. Her parents were also in favor of this, and they came to help move our stuff for two days.
However, when started living together, we had lots of conflicts in terms of our habits and opinions. We quarreled four to five times in the first month, twice during the second month, and then much less. Later on, I came to realize that we often argued about politics. Her opinions about China are limited by the Western media and their negative portrayal of China. We are similar because we both feel strongly about our own opinions. But a major reason for our quarreling was due to cultural differences in how we talk. Now we have no more problems. I came to realize she was the right person, since we were able to solve our previous difficulties one by one. We both were willing to change ourselves for the sake of the relationship. If we had been too stubborn, the relationship would not have gone on.
Now when look back, I realize I learned a lot about handling relationships. She helped me understand what is true love. True love is not perfect without any conflicts, but true love can enable both people to learn a lot and to grow to be better people.
In September 2016, Saara suggested we marry.
While it seemed fast at first, I thought it over and realized a number of things. I loved her very much. I also loved Finland and wanted to further my own studies of the Finnish language. Plus, it would be wonderful to be connected to this country, to have family there.
So I agreed to marry her. I said yes.
We were engaged on November 8, and had an engagement celebration party after Christmas, where her relatives wished us great joy. We hope to register our marriage in March and have a wedding ceremony in May or June in Finland. Now I feel so certain, so confident in our upcoming marriage. It is truly just like a dream.
A 26-year-old from Xiaogan, Hubei Province, China, Zhao is finishing his master’s degree in material sciences in Tampere, Finland, where he met his Finnish fiancée. You can follow his adventures at http://chinameetswest.wordpress.com.
Monkeys and Mooncakes. American Steph (who has a husband from Anhui, China) is a thirty-something mom to three lovely kids and she devotes her blog to helping children love Chinese language and culture at home. Parents will love her posts such as kids books about Chinese food.
Wo Ai Ni. Rhiannon, an American woman who met and married her Chinese husband in the US, creates a whimsical collage of an intercultural family on her site. It’s a snapshot of daily family life — including two blonde-haired children from a previous marriage, and four young half-Chinese kids.
Chocolate Chick in China. This African-American blogger is an English teacher based in Wuxi, and you’ve got to love a woman who writes this in her About page: “I have always been fascinated by the 5000 year old culture and also all the handsome single Chinese men that may never find love due to the fact that they overpopulate the women. so off I go to China to find a different way of life and maybe a husband too.” Wishing her the best in Fuzhou!
Jess Meider. American Jess Meider is a Beijing-based singer-songwriter who has been named one of China’s best jazz vocalists. She’s also married to composer and bassist Gao Fang. Jess and I were on CCTV; she also did an interview for my blog. You can check out her blog, where she posts about her upcoming gigs, press coverage, and her interest in traditional Chinese medicine.
*NEW*Joke Tummers. She’s a Dutch woman living in Guangzhou with her husband and family, and her China adventure is filled with music. A former member of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, she now teaches musical instruments to young children at her own school and others in the region. She posts about her teaching and family on her blog; you can also learn more about her through this interview posted on my blog last year.
*NEW*The Joyful Dumplings. Britany, an Aussie gal from Brisbane, writes, “If someone had told me four years ago that I would be married and living in China I wouldn’t have believed you.” She now resides in Xi’an, where “an extremely handsome and happy-go-lucky Chinese man called Peter swept me off my feet, using orphans and pandas as his wing-man but that’s a story for another time.” You can read more about her here. Look forward to more from Britany!
Sincerely, Shalom (Formerly Jew Knew).Eileen’s blog is so lovely and touching, like her pictures of smiling, long-haired women in dazzling rainbow colors. She is married to a man from Taiwan and after living with him in Shanghai and Taiwan, they’re back in the US. Her posts are often quirky and fun, such as this A to Z list of things she loves (A is for “amazing tofu”!).
We are a group of women from a Western background who are dating or married to men from an Asian culture. AMWF (Asian Male Western Female) couples, or WWAMs (Western Women Asian Men) as we prefer to call them, have in the past been few and far between but in this increasingly globalized world are becoming more common every day. Still, there are cultural differences that such couples will face and our site is here to help you navigate them. At the same time, we make it our mission to weed through the racism and stereotypes about Asian men and culture out there. We all know the truth is never just black and white (or yellow for that matter).
Aside from gripping personal experiences of relationships with Asian men and their families, and of raising AMWF children, this site takes a look at the portrayal of Asian men in Western media and reviews AMWF related productions. We furthermore will spotlight the amazing women out there who have made Asia their family; past and present.
If you are interested in contributing or have any questions, send an email to [email protected]
We’re on the lookout for Western women who love Asian men and writing. You could be a regular contributor or even just a one-time guest poster. If you’d like to be a part of our new group blog, email us at [email protected]
And to my fans here at Speaking of China, yes, I’ll continue to blog here at Speaking of China twice every week.
In her latest guest post for this blog, Anne offers five reasons why it might be harder for Western women to meet that Mr. Right in Asia.
Do you have a compelling post or story you’d love to see featured on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about how to have your words published here.
While I have happily met and married my Asian Mr. Right, I have found my case to be rather rare. Excluding some typical cultural factors you might think of as a hindrance to finding your love across the world, I’ve listed my top 5 reasons why a western woman living abroad might not ever end up meeting her Mr. Right in Asia:
#1: Unflattering stereotypes about Western women, thanks to Hollywood
Western media has done us ladies no favors – specifically towards attitudes about sexuality and relationships. I’ve found that men living in Asia have been heavily influenced to believe all us western women will end up sleeping with anyone who decides to smile in our direction. We are often portrayed as easy, with little family regard and would never turn someone down if they are willing to offer us some attention. Many times, the woman is never seen as someone to consider as material for a real relationship. I’ve experienced this myself, and my friends and husband definitely agree it’s an issue for Western women in Asia.
#2: Different communication styles (indirect versus direct)
In my own household, I was repeatedly taught to speak to the point and ask for what I want or need, and learned that I shouldn’t make someone guess. That’s not necessarily the case here in Asia, where I’ve found that people tend to communicate more indirectly. And when you have different communication styles, it can create challenges in a relationship.
For example, if a problem arises in your relationship, sometimes the two of you might respond in completely different (and contradictory) ways. I’ve been in relationships with men in Asia where he may want to ignore the problem and not talk about it, while I would totally want to talk about it and find a solution.
I’ve also had challenges communicating with parents over here. I’ve found that sometimes trying to “talk” about an issue with an Asian parent basically means listening without your input. To do otherwise would be considered ungrateful and cause loss of face.
These differences can put a lot of stress on both of you when working through disagreements. Sometimes, when trying to help guys over here understand my ideas, feelings and concerns, I’ve felt as if I were continually running up against a brick wall. Sigh.
#3: Differences in how you express yourselves and your love
Unless the guy you’re dating speaks your native language well – or you’re fluent in his language — I’ve found that having deeper conversations in your relationship might take some time. It means that when you ask a guy a question like, “How was your day?” he might not always go into the kind of detail you might expect.
Also, how your partner chooses to show his love might be different from you. Is it with actual language? Even within the same cultural group knowing your love language is a skill learned and discovered with time. What is happening when you feel love from your partner? Love languages can include: physical touch, quality time, gifts, verbal confirmation or acts of appreciation. Just because you give love in one way doesn’t mean your partner will receive it in the light it may be given. Do you want love with quality time with your partner but he gives you physical gifts? Getting this far also takes a certain amount of self (emotional) knowledge (and effort to get there) of knowing and understanding yourself and your outlook.
#4: Family expectations for Asian men
Family ties and expectations run deep in Asia. It’s not uncommon for men to live with their family before and even after marriage – which might be a deal-breaker for some Western women.
I’ve also found that children in Asia (especially the men) are often expected to provide financial support to their parents, regardless of whether they live with the parents and if there’s a real need for that money. I was surprised to discover this, and I’m sure this would challenge a lot of Western women, who usually aren’t used to giving their parents money like that.
#5: Becoming invisible (if you’re not fluent in the local language)
For personal reasons I am monolingual – I can only speak English. Yet I live in Asia, where English is not the native language for the overwhelming majority of people and countries. This reality has been a hard blow for me. I was taught to be independent, stand up for myself and be in charge when needed. Yet I’ve left behind the America I grew up in for Asia, and it has meant giving up a huge chunk of my own independence. I’ve been forced to depend on my husband for a lot of things and sometimes I feel like I’ve become invisible. I’ve been at restaurants where the staff focused only on my husband, handing him the menus and directing all the questions at him. On many occasions when I’ve visited shops or banks together with him, no one would even make eye contact with me. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve faced in our relationship.
Anne Elizabeth Moss has spent the last 5 years in Asia and currently lives with her Taiwanese husband in Singapore. She teaches Bellyfit®, Bellydance and Yoga classes and can be found at https://www.facebook.com/riksardance.
Going abroad can change you a lot — sometimes, enough to realize you were never meant to date your own countrymen.
That’s the conclusion Lena, the blogger behind Lena Around, has come to, who believes the cultural differences between her and the local Danes are too great for her to go out with them. Read on for her story!
Do you have a surprising story to share or other guest post you’d like to see featured on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn how to have your words published here.
I’ve been at home for a few months now. 2015 was a crazy year. I started out with a broken heart and a lost soul. But there wasn’t much time to think about it because I was going to Australia and then moving onto China. My heart was growing back together during the month in the beautiful nature of Australia, and when I came to China I was getting stronger again. I started to believe a little bit in love or I thought so.
I met a great guy in Beijing and I was determined to move on from past experiences and be happy with this person. He was a great match for me and he loved me just like I am. I should have been happy and I tried. I fought for him for a long time while I kept wishing my heart would open up, but I was afraid. I wasn’t ready to open up yet so I had to move on again.
I travelled through China, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Laos, Hong Kong and Taiwan, I met loads of amazing new friends and hot fellas I could fall for, but I didn’t. I was just having fun. I told myself it was okay to still be nervous about the pain another person could cause you, so I let it go and travelled on my own discovering, exploring, thinking, learning and growing.
Coming back to Denmark, I was tired. I was just exhausted after 10 months on the road. I’d seen so many things and now it was time to sit down, relax and reflect. But it didn’t take long before my wanderlust came back with even bigger power than before. I felt the need to do something, so I quit my little vacation at my parents’ house and moved back to my university town. I thought to myself that now everything would be nice and I could be happy with friends around.
The problem is just that when you come back from such a long trip, not many people are around anymore. Or if they are, they are doing tons of other things. So I sat there in my new apartment thinking, Why not try Tinder? I’d tried before and it was a fun way to meet nice boys. I’ve got to be honest and say that I was pretty bored, which was probably the reason why I turned to Tinder.
After a few days, I had a match. You see the problem here is that I just do like the Asian look. I’m not saying that I only date Asian guys but I am just quite fond of them. So if I see an Asian-looking guy, I’m just more curious than a blue-eyed, blond-haired tall Dane. But anyway, the match was with a Vietnamese-Chinese guy born and raised in Denmark. I know from experience that this doesn’t mean they have any interest in Asia but I always hope a little bit anyway.
We started talking and the conversation quickly turned to the topic of Asia. I said that I’d been around. I didn’t want to mention all the places because I wouldn’t want to sound like a show-off, but he insisted on me telling. I told him about my last trip and he asked me if I spoke Mandarin. I said yes. He himself had only been to Beijing and Hong Kong for a week like most other tourists and I felt a little disappointed deep inside.
I knew I was comparing him to my first and only great love. He had the same background as this guy. But instead of not giving a s… about China, he was totally in love with China, just like me.
In the end, this guy left me hanging. Twenty minutes before meeting up, he told me he was going to play football instead. I was furious. I told him what an ass he was and deleted his number. Even though he chose to screw things up, I think it was for the best anyway. I should not date around here. My China stories can be pretty overwhelming. I don’t know why this guy didn’t want to meet. Was it because of my greater knowledge of Asia or did he really just want to play football? Who knows?
Now I know that I shouldn’t try to find a guy in this town. With a big population of pale people and no Asian studies at the university, I don’t think there’s much for me here. Also, I’m planning on moving back to Beijing immediately after graduation so why start a relationship here, right? I think it would be better to just deal with the boredom myself, become stronger, and not think too much about boys right now. I’ll just have to wait for my prince charming, who’s probably sitting on a subway in Beijing hoping for my arrival.
Lena is a 20-something Danish girl who is currently working on a master’s degree in Beijing and writing about her travels, China (her favorite place) and love. You can follow her at lenaaround.com.
But it’s not always easy to transition to a new country. After all, as Linda writes, “Before I met Jeongsu, the only thing I knew about Korea was that its capital is Seoul. I hadn’t even tried Korean food.” I asked Linda to share some of her tips for a smooth transition to life in South Korea – read on!
I’ve always been interested in Asia and its different cultures and nations. China had especially caught my eye and I decided to study Mandarin and even move to China – which I did and it was awesome. Then, I went to California to get my bachelor’s degree, with a plan in mind to move back to China – maybe even for good.
However, something, and I like to argue it were higher powers, had completely changed my path. Actually it wasn’t something but much rather someone. While studying in San Diego, I met a handsome Korean exchange student who instantly caught my eye. We quickly started dating and he is now my fiancé.
After graduating, I did, in fact, move back to China, were I stayed for a year in Hunan’s capital of Changsha. I got to travel the country and experience the local culture to a great extent. However, I wasn’t fully happy there. Being in a long distance relationship was hard and after 1 year in China, I decided to make the big move to South Korea.
Before I met Jeongsu, the only thing I knew about Korea was that its capital is Seoul. I hadn’t even tried Korean food. However, all of this quickly changed and is now a big part of my life. I would like to share some of the strategies that helped ease my transition into living in South Korea.
#1: Learn the Language
Soon after I met Jeongsu, I started learning Korean. I’m by far not fluent but the basics help me fit in the daily life here and make it a lot easier to live here. I signed up at the local YMCA and took a Korean course with other foreigners. The good thing was that I met other foreigners – some of which also have Korean partners.
#2: Eat local food
Food is a key part of every culture. It seems like Korea even takes it to a new level, having a certain set of side dishes for every meal. I remember the first time I saw “kimchi” (the most popular Korean side dish) in Jeongsu’s fridge back in San Diego. “I’m never going to eat that!” I screamed because of the foul smell. Now, I love it and eat it with almost every meal.
#3: Do as the Koreans Do
Koreans work a lot, but also take their free time seriously and love hanging out with friends. Drinking, karaoke or even Korean traditional sauna include only few of the dozens of things Korean take on in their free time. You should also be aware of the strict hierarchy here in Korea. When you treat people older than you in a polite way, you’re going to be much more successful living here.
#4: Make local Friends
Obviously, the reason why I moved to Korea was to be with Jeongsu. Having him here helps me a lot since he can support me when I have problems of communication and he explains cultural differences to me. However, even if you move to Korea alone, you should definitely make Korean friends. You’re Korea experience is going to be so much deeper when you have a chance to see how locals really live.
What are you waiting for?
If you are thinking about moving to South Korea, don’t hesitate too long! It’s a wonderful country to fall in love with. I didn’t know a lot about Korea before moving here but now I am astounded by the country’s vast history and culture. Korean BBQ, KPOP, awesome skincare products and loads of themed cafes are waiting for you here!
Linda writes about life in Korea, her AMWF relationship with a Korean man, traveling around Asia and studying Asian languages at www.lindagoeseast.com . She is also very active on social media, especially Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Cross-cultural misunderstandings are a huge pitfall in dating abroad, including here in China.
Just imagine what it must have felt like for Ava Ming, the English blogger behind My Oriental Life, when she heard these words from her date for the evening, a Chinese guy she met in Shenzhen: “I really want to kiss you, Ava, but I’m scared that I might get AIDS because all Africans have AIDS.”
Read on to learn the whole story of how things fell apart between her and Larry.
Do you have a shocking tale of cross-cultural misunderstandings or other guest post you’d like to see featured here on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about becoming a guest poster for this blog.
I’ve often considered telling the story of my first Chinese date. But usually I’ve declined, thinking it was too personal, perhaps too upsetting and might also give the impression that I dislike Chinese men, which is really not the case at all.
But the event occurred a while ago now back in 2013. After reading about others who’ve braved their souls on Jocelyn Eikenburg’s fabulous blog, I’ve decided to share. Besides, who knows, maybe someone else could have or has had a similar experience?
I met Larry at the terminal subway station. There were very few commuters around. I was curious as to why he came so close, sitting right next to me on an empty train, leaving a small space between us.
I noticed his glances in my direction, wondering if he was trying to work up the courage to ask if he could practice his English with me. Pretty soon he introduced himself and asked me where I was from, which led to a conversation.
He told me that he was a professional who’d travelled to various European cities but never England. He was 37, unmarried and feeling the pressure from his parents to change his single status. I enjoyed our talk during the long ride but initially didn’t read anything into it. Around that time I seemed to be making a lot of new Chinese friends while on various subway rides. I guess I must have exuded an approachable air!
As we approached his stop he told me that he thought I was pretty. He couldn’t believe no other Chinese guy had made me his girlfriend. Then he asked for my number and if we could go to dinner.
Have to admit I was pretty surprised. Until then I’d been under the impression that Chinese guys would never be so forward due to a natural or cultural shyness. I said I wasn’t sure about a date but we could talk from time to time.
Over the next fortnight he sent regular messages via text and email usually beginning with ‘hello, my angel.’ Yes, Larry was a charmer but the messages did make me smile.
Eventually we set up a date and met on a hot and sticky Friday evening. By now I knew that I wasn’t romantically attracted to him, but I did like his personality and I was interested in meeting more people and expanding my circle of Chinese friends. I also assumed that he didn’t have intentions of getting serious with me either. His parents probably weren’t expecting him to marry a foreign girl.
The date was nothing special. The best word to describe it would probably be ‘nice,’ well up to a point anyway. We ate rice in a Japanese restaurant and then went for a walk in the park. He kept guiding me towards secluded places, which I thought was a bit strange. But then he’d comment on the sculpture, or lotus flower pond, or round leafy bush we’d stumbled upon.
I still wasn’t feeling any chemistry towards him. But he had a gentle humour and I thought perhaps we could be friends in the future.
Approaching 10pm I wanted to leave, having made plans to go dancing, but Larry wasn’t ready. He insisted on ‘just ten more minutes’ and took me to a bench by the side of the river, again another secluded place. When we sat down he made a confession.
“I really want to kiss you, Ava, but I’m scared that I might get AIDS because all Africans have AIDS.”
I was literally struck dumb at his ignorance. Then I became so angry I actually felt tears welling up. Angry tears have a whole different feeling to ones of sadness or joy.
We’d already discussed my family history, him being impressed that my parents were from Jamaica and that I was born in England. But regardless of place of birth, how could he be so naive? In addition, was there no filter in his brain to tell him exactly when to shut-up?
I told him that AIDS didn’t originate from Africa, but was initially a disease among gay white men in New York. I pointed out that he should really think before he speaks and that he shouldn’t believe so strongly in stereotypes. On top of this, why on earth had he asked me out if he’d thought I was ‘unclean?’
Seeing my distress he insisted that I’d misunderstood when we both knew that I hadn’t. To make matters worse, he then pulled me close and tried to kiss me! Saying; “look, see, I know you don’t really have AIDS!”
I wanted to storm off in a huff, but it’s kind of difficult when you don’t know where you are, so we caught the bus back together. He begged me not to tell anyone because he didn’t want to lose face. I made no such promise. If he’d just ended the date at 10pm before his confession maybe we would have become friends, although then I would never have known what he was really thinking.
For a long time I dismissed the idea of dating another Chinese guy. If this was the common school of thought then what would be the point?
A short while later I discussed his theory with my Chinese friends, many of whom also believed that AIDS originated in Africa, but none of whom believed that all Africans have it.
As for Larry, he called and emailed several times to apologise for upsetting me. I accepted his apology but declined his offers to go for a drink. Making someone cry on a first date, even if they were tears of frustration, is really not an auspicious beginning!
As I mentioned this was a while ago and I have since relaxed my guard, becoming more open to Chinese men who just want to talk. But as for dating? Not sure. For that I think I’ll need a little more time.
I’m Ava Ming, born in England to Jamaican parents and currently living in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China where I write and teach English.
Of course, with Chinese New Year coming up, it’s as if I’m facing the yearly final exam on this subject – one that I’m not entirely sure I’m going to pass. (Ah well, at least my blunders might provide a bit of comic relief during the holidays?)
That’s why I’m grateful Yiwen Yang has graciously provided this article. It’s an introduction to some of the basics every Western woman who marries a Chinese man should know when it comes to what to call your Chinese family members.
Do you have a guest post that you think ought to be featured on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about writing for this blog.
The other day we were reading Jocelyn’s article The Chinese Relatives Name Game again, and thought about how confusing understanding all about Chinese family members can be!
Whilst we’re sure it’s not a new topic for many foreigners who are learning Mandarin Chinese, it’s definitely still a big challenge—especially if you are new to your Chinese family, and them to you.
As Chinese New Year is once again looming, why not refresh some of your Chinese language skills in advance so that you can impress your Chinese family—or maybe give them surprise at how fluent you have become in the language.
So, today, we are going to help you out!
As many of you know, Chinese family trees can be talked about forever. To actually remember the names and titles of people in Chinese family trees takes time; indeed, it’s also challenging for many native Chinese.
As Jocelyn from Speaking of China is more focused on AMWF (Asian male/Western female) love, let’s get started by looking at terms for Western women married to Chinese men.
Here’s an easy one if you are married to a Chinese man:
Husband: 老公,丈夫,先生 (lǎogōng, zhàngfu, xiānsheng)
What will your husband call you? (wife): 老婆,妻子,夫人 (lǎopó, qīzi, fūrén)
Note: 老公 (lǎogōng)／老婆 (lǎopó) are the most popular names which you can use in basically every situation, whilst 丈夫 (zhàngfu)／妻子 (qīzi)，先生 (xiānsheng)／夫人 (fūrén) are a bit more formal and used to introduce a couple to other people.
For example, 这是我的先生 (Zhè shì wǒ de xiānsheng)：This is my husband
Father in-law (your husband’s father): 公公 (gōnggong)
Mother in-law (your husband’s mother): 婆婆 (pópo)
公公 (gōnggong) and 婆婆 (pópo) are the most common words in use although, in many cases, people just use the same words as their husband use, which are father（爸，bà）or mother（妈，mā）.
Also, when you have a child, some people will follow the words the child speaks, namely: grandfather（爷爷，yéye），grandmother (奶奶，nǎinai) 。
So what will your in-laws call you? 媳妇 （xífù）/儿媳 （érxí）：(daughter in-law）
Note: in many cases, if they are talking to you, they will just say your name naturally.
Other useful names you might use:
Your husband’s older brother: 大伯（dàbó）
Your husband’s older sister: 大姑子（dàgūzi）
Your husband’s younger brother: 小叔子（xiǎoshūzi）
Your husband’s younger sister: 小姑子（xiǎogūzi）
Sounds complicated already?
Well, here are some great tips for you to follow:
For the older generation/seniors, if you forget the correct way to speak to them, just to follow your husband is fine. (Eg. it’s okay to call your parents in-law just “father” or “mother”.)
For the younger generation/seniors, you can either follow your husband or just say their name directly. (Eg. Your husband’s younger sister. If her name is 筱钧（xiǎojūn），you can just say her name directly.)
You may not need to use all of the above every day but, don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to the best/correct ways of addressing family members.
Actually, on our site Learn Mandarin Now, we recently published two Podcasts about Chinese family members:
direct family members: http://www.learnmandarinnow.com/podcast13
extended family members: http://www.learnmandarinnow.com/podcast19
We are now publishing our exciting Podcasts every day from Monday-Friday, covering a variety of interesting topics to help you learn Mandarin Chinese more effectively. They are totally free for everyone to view and listen to but, if you can kindly leave your honest opinion and ratings in i-Tunes or just simply tell us what kind of topics you like us to talk about in the near future, we’d greatly appreciate this. In any event, we’d love hear from you.
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