A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about dating in China. But here’s my little secret. When I published that I was already off the market. For the past few months I’ve had a Chinese boyfriend.
He’s actually shown up a few times on this blog. Maybe the pictures in my recent trip to Shanghai blog post, in which we went together, was a tad obvious, but he has been showing up on my blog for a few months, just subtly. I even wrote about the first time we met. A few months ago on my weixin post I said…
The day I discovered this feature I spent 6 hours, 6 hours, chatting with about 4 different people.
Well, the truth was I talked to 4 guys for about 1 hour, and the next five I spent chatting with just one; him. Even right from the start I found the way he uses Chinese very understandable. That was the first day I met him though we wouldn’t meet in person for a few weeks, and then only once, before I went away for the summer holiday. But even that first date lasted for hours as we walked around the school’s lake and talked till two a.m.
I’m not sure why, but I can understand his Chinese easily, because it’s not the case with everyone. He’s lived in a few places in China and isn’t a local guy, so I think that has helped make his Mandarin more standard. And amazingly, we don’t run out of things to say or sit in silence. Sometimes I don’t bother bringing up a topic because I know I have no idea how to properly say it, but every time we have started a conversation we have powered through it, whether it’s stories from childhood or political discussions. The dictionary comes in handy at times, but by now he knows my level really well and can always make me understand his meaning.
It’s lucky that I can understand his chinese, because he can’t speak any english aside from a few words such as, banana, let’s go, follow me and of course all the major swear words. One day he was playing with my phone when he told me I got a text.
“What does it say?” I asked.
“F-O-O-D,” he said spelling it out. The he turned to me and said “shenme yisi.” What’s that mean?
Despite his insistence that he understands western culture “because he watches a lot of Hollywood movies,” the fact is I am not only his first foreign girlfriend, but first foreign friend. So culture problems are bound to happen, though so far we haven’t had blow ups or anything. There are some things I’m conscious of (such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ In Chinese culture it is actually seen as a little rude. If you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to a close friend it implies a distance in your relationship, that you are not close. So I try to say it as little as possible, but it’s hard to stamp out a lifetime of habit), but I know that I probably do some strange–to his eyes–things. I think he just writes it off as a wacky foreigner thing and let’s it go. Luckily, he’s very easy-going.
He also has very little western sensibilities. While my other chinese friends might enjoy eating chickens feet, or pig intestines, they know that I find them pretty foul. So when we are out together, they refrain from ordering it. But not my boyfriend. Not only does he order the food himself, but he thinks I’m being coy or something when I refuse to eat it, so he keeps offering it to me again and again. Of course, I think he should eat what he likes, but sometimes I wish he just wouldn’t choose the big bowl of smelly cooked intestines at 11 o’clock at night…
He works outside my school at a barber shop. This has come in handy in so many ways. I’m not the girliest-girl and spend very little time on my hair. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like nicer looking hair. Actually, I like my hair blow dried straight, I just don’t know how to do it myself. So he can do it for me. Also, one day, when my hair was causing me trouble he said, “I think you should wear a braid, it’s convenient,” then he sat me down and did it!
In our recent trip to Shanghai together, after I bought us a western lunch of burgers and penne pasta, he told me he wanted to treat me to get get my hair washed and straightened at a barber shop. (In China it’s really common for people just to go in and get their hair washed, or styled, and not actually cut.) “Can you do it?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I’m paying. If I also did the work they would laugh at me.”
So we went into the nearest barber shop, called The Golden Prince and I got my hair washed and dried.
As the barber was blowdrying my hair, my guy comes over, grabs the brush, says a few words to the other guy who leaves. My guy grabs the blow drier and finishes the job.
“Didn’t you say they would laugh at you?” I said.
“He was taking too long,” he said. Professionalism.
Afterwards I realized that at first I shared part of my world with him, of hamburgers, Italian food and foreigners, while he shared part of his with me with the blow dry at the barbershop. And that’s what I like about our relationship. We have a lot in common and yet, are fundamentally so different. We have no plans and no expectations of the future so right now we are just enjoying each others company and being together. I’d be a fool to plan too much in my crazy unexpected life, so we’ll just see how things go and take things one blow dry at a time.