I’ve been keeping my dating life on the DL because, well, I guess I’m a little shy to talk about it on the internet where everyone can see (Hi mom and dad). But the truth is, western women dating Chinese guys is a rare phenomenon and there aren’t a ton of voices discussing it, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. (If your more interested in this topic you should check out the excellent Speaking of China blog which focuses on western women and Asian men.)
I know some of the more astute readers might have been reading between the lines and figured that Color, my best friend, and I were dating. Those were the wrong lines you were reading (Color is my best friend and soul mate, just not in that way). I have been dropping hints, but they’ve been subtle.
The truth is, before I was married I was pretty shy. I treated the whole dating thing as pretty serious and meaningful. But now, I feel like the pressures been lifted and I have no problem being outgoing, totally open and just have fun. (Turns out me and my brother are more similar then I ever suspected.) I’ve had a lot of, erm, interesting experiences over the past year and learned a lot.
The dating culture in China is like this HUGE part of Chinese culture I didn’t know existed before. It might sound silly, but I really feel like I understand China, and Chinese society a lot more since I’ve started navigating the world of single chinese.
Also, before I start talking about this, let’s get one thing out of the way. You know that stereotype about Asian guys? Well, it’s as true as the stereotype that all Chinese know kung fu. That is to say, it’s not totally true. But, the funny thing is that they are ALL worried about it. The rich guys, the poor guys, the older guys, the younger guys. In the west, it’s a punchline, in China, well, its a real sore spot.
Anyway, moving on. Before I started dating I had a few preconceived notions that I thought would be a problem:
- The only available guys would be students (I’m not interested in dating students, even at other schools).
- Only English speakers would have the confidence to talk to me.
- All guys would want a serious relationship.
- Only rich/successful guys would have the confidence to talk to me.
Let me talk about my experiences point by point:
The only available guys would be students: Yes, maybe it was naive of me to think this (in a country with a gender disparity of about 32 million more men than women) but in China 30 is the ceiling of marriage eligibility (especially for women). If your not married then, then people think there is something “wrong” with you. So that’s why I thought this. Well, it turns out to be kind of true, but not totally. I’ve gone out with guys from 25 to 30, but I have yet to date anyone older because I’m just not sure of they are really single. (In China, having a piece on the side is considered prestigious and I don’t want to get involved in that, even unwittingly.)
Only English speakers would have the confidence to talk to me: This might surprise you, but the truth is English speakers are a big turn-off for me and I’ve only dated guys that don’t speak English. This has been great for my chinese learning, but of course it has caused a few problems as well. Finding non-English speaking guys is a breeze. Despite every young person learning English in school it seems they forget it the second they graduate because most guys in their late 20’s-30’s can’t say anything other than, “shit” “fuck” and “let’s go”.
All guys would want a serious relationship: This was my biggest fear. After being in a relationship for 15 years the last thing I want is a serious one. Being single is just waaaay too awesome and not something I’m willing to give up. But I heard a lot of stories, such as a western woman with a chinese exercise partner. She thought nothing of it, he assumed they were in a relationship because they went running together everyday. Or stories of guys who start talking about marriage two days after the first kiss.
But it turns out guys are just guys no matter what country they’re from and tend to think with their umm, “little brain.” Just in case, because I don’t want to fall into a weird situation, I make it very clear before anything happens. With my low-level Chinese I tell them I like my freedom, I’m not interested in getting married or even having a serious long term relationship. I might be too shy to have this type of conversation in English, but somehow it’s easier in Chinese. So far, no one has turned down my conditions. Like I said, guys are guys….
Only rich/successful guys would have the confidence to talk to me: This one seems to be true when I meet someone for the first time face-to-face, like in a bar or restaurant. There’s a belief in Chinese that western women are only attracted to rich and successful men. Being with a western women can give a guy “face” because everyone else will assume he must be rich to land a western women. Of course, with me (and most girls I hope) that’s not true. Personality is most important, not their wallet size.
So when I’m out and about it seems like the more successful guys are the ones who feel confident enough to approach me. I’ve ridden around in fancy cars and been offered a weekend trip to Beijing for example.
But I have the most success meeting guys using apps on my phone like weixin. Thanks to the relative anonymity, more guys feel confident talking to me, and like I said personality wins. I’ve gone out with haircutters, office and shop workers and had just as good a time, of not better, than the rich guys. (With the rich guys I sometimes feel that they are showing me off to impress people, something I don’t like.)
Dating has had a lot of extra benefits besides just meeting new guys. It also gives me an instant “in” to chinese and local culture. For instance, when I went to Kunming for a month, I got to meet a lot of local people, go do things locals do, and even had some home cooked meals, all things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t meeting guys. During the recent Japanese riots I got messages from guys telling me about what was happening and what people were saying in their cities. And this wasn’t stuff I had to read about on a website, or hear from my students, I got to hear it firsthand.
Even after living here for more than 3 years, I continually find chinese culture surprising and unique. Like an onion I’m peeling one layer at a time. And dating chinese guys is just another layer.
Hey, great blog! I came across this from speaking of China blog (follower there).
Is this a reflective post of when you were single because you mentioned that you are married? I find that single and married people have a different prospective on things especially when it comes to dating/relationships.
Thanks Marcus. This post is a new one, based on new experiences, it is the marriage that is the old news. 😉 I came to china married, but we got a divorce about a year ago, so all this dating stuff is pretty new to me, and VERY interesting.
I have a lot to say on the subject, but I’m still a bit shy about sharing too much of my dating life online. But I know western women/chinese guys is still in the minority, and reading about others experiences is interesting (and helpful) so we’ll see!
Hello Becky – really enjoying your observations. On a different note, do you have a view about Chinese adopting Western names? What’s wrong with using Chinese names? Colour is one gorgeious man but why the name “colour”? I guess this is something your’ve discussed?
Thanks for reading Mandy! And as for english names, well, the school policy is that students studying english should have english names. Of course we don’t have to use them, but for me it is just so much easier. I can remember (and pronounce) Sunshine and Eric way better than Huang Xianyuan or Zhang Yujie. And trying to learn 400 students names is hard enough!
So me and the other foreign teachers tend to just learn their english names. This does, of course, have it’s problems. If I see them on the street, I can’t yell their name (because no one else uses it so they don’t react to it) and when they are trying to tell me about their classmates, and they forget their classmates english names, I don’t know who their talking about.
But some students who go to school abroad, or get jobs in international companies, continue using their english names and it become part of their identity.
And for people outside of school, of course I don’t expect they should have an english name. My boyfriend for example has an english name he got in middle school, but I don’t call him by that, but rather use his real name.
As for Color, because I first met him in class, and first knew his english name, it’s just what I call him. I know his real name but I think at this point ‘Color’ has become my nickname for him so were sticking with it (and he will look around if I shout out his name in a crowded place). And actually, several of the chinese students don’t know his real name, just his english name which I think is funny too. And there IS a reason he chose color, but I think it’s secret. 😉
So I don’t really have a stance on english names. Honestly, I’m just lazy and Chinese names are so hard for me to remember!
Hey Becky – thanks for your thoughts on names. I thought you might like to see this movie. It was filmed in Yunnan Province – breathtaking scenery but the faces of the actors tell you so much!
New York International Children’s Film Festival
in partnership with Asia Society presents
CHINA, RICHARD BOWEN, 2011, 96 MIN
RECOMMENDED AGES: 7 TO ADULT (IN ENGLISH)
US PREMIERE – FILMMAKER Q&A AT MAR 17 SCREENING – Based on the earliest known version of Cinderella, the Chinese tale “Ye Xian” from 768 A.D., cinematographer Richard Bowen’s wonder-filled feature debut is a gorgeous and enchanting fairytale, with exquisitely ornate costumes, dazzling scenery shot in Yunnan Province, and an underlying message that is as timely today as it was thirteen centuries ago.
In a mythical kingdom, a girl is born. The village shaman had foretold a boy and Mei Mei’s father is sorely disappointed. Years later with her mother gone, Mei Mei is left with nothing but a pair of bejeweled slippers and the hope that one day she will get to dance at the Festival of the Full Moon. Meanwhile, the kingdom has been thrown out of balance – the moon is stuck in the sky – and the handsome young king is commanded by his mother to take a wife to restore the celestial harmony. But the king refuses to have a child with a woman he does not truly love. One day, peering through a telescope from his island home, the king spies Mei Mei floating on air in her magical slippers. Convinced that he’s seen an angel, he sets out in search for her – but she runs off, losing one bejeweled slipper along the way.
Cool, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll definitely check it out. I love Yunnan. Did you guys ever go there?
Hey Becky, thought you might like this: