I think most people can understand the benefits of having a chinese boyfriend. Language, culture, new experiences and so on.
But you know what’s better than having a Chinese boyfriend? Having a male Chinese best friend. You see, with romantic relationships there are all kinds of social restrictions of things you can and can’t do. For instance, most relationships are kept secret from parents sometimes for years. Unless you are 100 percent going to marry, you just don’t tell your parents.
But with friendships, those rules go out the door, and as a foreign girl being best friends with a chinese guy, things get even looser.
If you’ve been reading my blog even casually, you’ll know that Color is my best friend. And not just a normal best friend, but one of the best best friends I’ve ever had in my life. We’re very Odd Couple-ish. He is a traditional Chinese guy, while I’m a modern American woman. So our word views are so different, but like Felix and Oscar, somehow it just clicks.
Our random discussions/arguments opens up Chinese culture for me in a way nothing else has. For instance when I stayed with him in Hong Kong for a few weeks I forgot my travel towel and bought a new terry cloth towel. When I was packing up to leave, the fluffy towel couldn’t fit in my bag, so I told him I was going to give it to him.
“Bring it home with you,” he said.
“I can’t. It’s too big.”
“Well, I won’t use it,” he said.
“Color, it’s practically new. Just wash it and keep it. It’s nicer than yours.”
“Yeah,” he said looking at me like I was an idiot. “But you’ve used it. It’s touched your body.”
This set off a 2 hour discussion of personal hygiene. Like most people in China, Color washes his clothes by hand. He has a plastic tub he pulls out once a week or so, and gets to work. The plastic bucket, he explained, was his. And if any of his roommates used it he would be extremely upset, and would have to buy a new one. But of course they know better, have their own buckets, and wouldn’t dare use his.
“But it’s just a plastic bucket,” I said. “Once it dries, it’s fine.”
“It’s not fine, he said. “It’s dirty. No one else can use it except for me.”
Turns out even in his own family, where his mom does all the washing, they have different plastic buckets for each family member. And if he ever came to America he would probably just bring, and use, his own towel (‘Would your family be offended?’ He asked earnestly. ‘Offended if you used your own towel? Um, no.’) To him, sharing something like a soda, or food is fine. But a towel? Even if it was washed it’s still ‘dirty.’ And after we talked about this I talked with some other Chinese people and they said they felt the same way. I mean, who knew? Who could even guess about something like that?
I also get to be involved with his family. I stayed at his hometown, ate eggs cooked by his grandma and walked arm-in-arm with his mom. This is more than just best friend benefits but also because I’m foreign. He said, if I was a chinese girl who was just friends I couldn’t go to his house or meet his family. Also, his parents wouldn’t allow him to visit my family.
But since I’m foreign, and thanks to movies and TV shows they know that in the West guys and girls are often friends, it’s totally okay. In fact, it’s MORE than ok. His parents and family can relate to me in a carefree, pressure-less way that they couldn’t act with a girlfriend of his. They don’t need to judge me, and I don’t need to impress them. We can just be very natural together. And I can break all laws of civility and culture and they can forgive me because I’m foreign.
In fact, I’m going to his house to experience Spring Festival (Chinese New Years) in a few weeks. He lives in a small village and they have a lot of strange (to me) customs and traditions that I cannot wait to experience (Even if I’m a little scared..I mean, will I have to eat fish heads or duck tongues or something?!) And again, if we were anything other than friends, it wouldn’t be possible.
I also love that I can tell him anything, and ask him anything and he’s not shy to answer me back. He doesn’t try to make me feel comfortable or relaxed like some other people do. He just wants to tell me the truth. This has especially come in handy with dating. “Color, a guy just said this….What does he really mean?” is a question I have asked him many times.
And while he helps me out a lot, I think (hope) that I do the same for him. He can tell me about actions and thoughts that might be not acceptable to a Chinese person, but for me it’s fine. Like I said, I’m a modern woman, so talking about sex and stuff isn’t shocking to me like it might be to a Chinese female friends. And just like he gives me honest answers, I give him ones too. Although I get very exasperated when he starts talking about the perfect wife who “likes to cook and clean for him and spend all her time taking care of him.”
“Why are we friends again?” is usually how I respond to that. Like I said, traditional guy, modern girl.
So even though we live far away from each other, and have opinions that are galaxies apart, something about our friendship just works. And works really, really well. So while having a chinese boyfriend is good, having a Chinese best friend is the best thing of all.