One comment on my article about intercultural relationships asked the rather loaded question “why don’t you see more foreign women married to Chinese men?” This is a question that gets asked a lot, and there really is no simple answer. It is obvious to anyone living in China that the number of foreign men with Chinese wives or girlfriends drastically outweighs the number of foreign women married to or dating Chinese men. This discrepancy is so large that websites and forums devoted to the discussion of intercultural relationships in China almost always assume that the foreigner in the relationship will be a man, and the very idea of a foreign woman being involved with a Chinese man is sometimes met with ridicule, as if it were impossible.
However, marriages and relationships like my own are on the rise. When I first arrived here nearly seven years ago, I did not personally know of any foreign women who were dating or married to locals, whereas now I know many. Even in the media, it is becoming more and more common to see a Western woman paired with a Chinese man, so obviously relationships like mine aren’t as rare as they once were. Partly this is due to changing expat demographics: foreign females in China are no longer rare. Male expats still outnumber females, however, which means that there are simply more men out there on the market.
Long-standing was the myth that foreign females simply wouldn’t date Chinese men. This was a myth with some basis in reality, as the physical differences between Chinese and Westerners are more marked and sometimes deal-breaking between Chinese males and Western females. It can be hard to date guys who weigh less than you or who only come up to your chin
Still, there are Chinese guys who would like to date Western women, and there are Western women who are willing to date them. But why are these relationships still so rare? And what can a Western woman who might be willing to date a Chinese man do about it? For starters, acknowledge the cultural realities before stepping into the dating pool.
First, Chinese people generally do not date casually. Dating is seen as a means to an end, the end being marriage. And although you’re certain to find guys and girls who do not fit that mold, and who are looking for a bit of “fun,” do not be surprised if your fun relationship is not granted a lot of respect by your partner or the rest of China.
In addition, Western women in China probably all realize that they’re fighting against the stereotype of the loose woman – the buxom blonde who gets drunk and will go home with anyone. As Western women, whether we like it or not, casually dating and sleeping with local guys only reinforces a stereotype that is not particularly flattering. Which isn’t to say that we should conform to local standards, or that the view of a woman who enjoys dating, hanging out, and maybe even sex with guys who are not her long term partner is the correct one, but simply that we shouldn’t be altogether surprised if one night stands with Chinese guys don’t turn into long term relationships.
Another obstacle to dating local men in China also has to do with traditional ideas about who should wear the proverbial pants in the relationship. As expats, whether we are male or female, we by default usually have higher salaries than all but the wealthiest of locals, and often have higher levels of education. Most Chinese men are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of dating a woman who has more education or who makes more money than him. This attitude isn’t just sexism on the part of Chinese men, but something that has been reinforced by Chinese society as a whole. Many Chinese women look to a man’s financial assets first and foremost. Even during the initial dating phase, they expect a man to shower her with gifts. My husband told me once about his ex-girlfriend who, when he was making a pitiful 1300 RMB a month, pounced on him every payday and demanded he take her out shopping.
It is not uncommon to hear Chinese men say that they can’t afford a girlfriend, or that they can’t get married until they can purchase a house for their future wife. So while it might seem like landing a “rich” foreign girl would be the solution to all their problems, in fact the opposite is true. When my first boyfriend in China and I were living together, I remarked casually to another foreign friend of mine that I was “supporting” my boyfriend while he was still in school. This sent my then-boyfriend into a fit of anger, and he didn’t speak to me for three whole days. I was absolutely clueless as to what I’d done wrong, but my ex- was so shamed by my statement that he only left me a letter telling me how I’d injured his pride, essentially emasculating him.
For most Chinese men, being able to take care of their girlfriend or wife, or, at the very least, take care of themselves, is a sign of being a man. It might cause your relationship a load of stress if you find yourself dating someone who is too far below you on the socio-economic ladder.
Almost all of the relationships between Chinese men and Western women that I know of which have actually worked have had one thing in common – the male half of the relationship has been rather non-conventional. Take my own husband, for instance. He's a guy from a rather nondescript village outside of Kunming, who left home after high school and, after a brief and unsatisfying stint in a factory, took off with his guitar and amp to tour Yunnan. He eventually returned to Kunming, where he sold guitars and did bar gigs for a living until we met, got married, and moved to Beijing.
Other friends’ husbands have been overseas returnees, fluent in English and used to Western ways; artists and performers who live on the fringe of society; divorced guys who were disillusioned about conventional Chinese love. For the most part a Chinese guy who decides to be with a foreigner for the long term is not going to be someone who is deeply attached to traditional ideas about marriage and gender roles, and often are men who deeply question these and other social norms.
There is no doubt that dating is hard as a Western woman in China. Choices are limited and Chinese society works against us in a way it doesn’t for our male counterparts. However, there are happy endings to be had, and I encourage any Western women who are willing to give the local dating pool a chance not to give up so easily. My marriage is a happy one, and, since we defy the odds, maybe we simply got lucky. Maybe, as my husband likes to say, it was fate that brought us together. No matter, because I firmly believe that there is no reason a Western woman can’t find the same romantic happy ending in China that Western men have been finding all along.
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Keywords: relationships in china marriages happy ending
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61 Comments Add your comment
It is great that in Chinese media, it is becoming more and more common to see a Western woman paired with a Chinese man. It shows the primacy of Chinese man in their own country. It will be an insult in our own country to see western man be the anchor person like in so many western countries.
Nov 23, 2009 22:48 Report Abuse
NEVER ! Oestrogen filled & Feminine Featured she boys with small packages........not in this life ! The only reason western women marry asian she boys is bec. these western women are Bisexual and too mmasculine ! That's why opposites attract ! Real feminine non asian women marry real non asian men ! Sorry to burst your bubble !
Dec 04, 2012 21:02 Report Abuse
It seems like many of the men on this post are very insecure and feel a need to bash an entire nation of males in order to few more secure about the size of their package and their "masculinity." I have been in a long term, very happy relationship with a Chinese journalist I met in Russia. It seems to me that he might be quite a bit more masculine and/or capable than you as he doesn't feel the need to go trolling on the internet proving himself by beating his hairy cave man chest in poor written english riddled with a enormous amount of grammar problems. "Real men" and "real women" marry whoever the hell they want.
Mar 08, 2015 12:58 Report Abuse
Excelent article !! I like how the author is analysing the reasons of the dating or marriage Western women and Chinese men are less than Western man and Chinese woman. Good is the first case is in arise. More open mind Chinese man go for Western woman as she says. I also like her encourage for Western girls to go for Chinese guys.
Nov 28, 2009 03:47 Report Abuse
The face thing with money for the Chinese guy doesn't surprise me at all. What you understand and wrote is exactly the scene for many couples in Hong Kong - I'm a local guy - and people keep on questioning why the guy should pay instead of going Dutch. I can't speak of mainland China at all, tho it's my origin, but I can say quite a few HK guys are quite non-conventional by your standard. Well, the sexism thing in the 6th paragraph (take a look plz), I don't even think it's specific to the Chinese culture. I think it's rather the nature of many men in many patriarchal societies. For one thing, I also heard of western men telling me, in online forums, that they wouldn't want to spend the money of their significant others (women). In a patriarchy like this, the male role hasn't changed with the changing status of women in both western and Chinese societies. So, that's why, I consider it an illusion to say Chinese men want face. No, Chinese men and western men both want face (Chinese sense) after all.
Dec 02, 2009 09:48 Report Abuse
I met a Russian woman that dated several Chinese men. The last of these, she said was very athletic and strong built. She was hoping he would be better endowed than the rest. To her disappointment, he wasn't. I've heard many people discuss this issue, both foreign and Chinese. It seems that Chinese men don't have enough confidence to date western women, nor do they have the endowment that many western women expect. However, everyone is different and when it comes down to it, love is love. Why not just put all the BS aside and just follow your heart, not get so involved in all the things that seem to make finding a mate so difficult here in China. Let love be your guide!
Jan 28, 2011 16:47 Report Abuse
Let's be frank here and not try to be politically correct. The majority of Chinese women i talk to on the net and have met do not like Chinese men. They are loud and rude and lack qualities associated with being a gentleman. Chinese women on the other hand are beautiful, intelligent, happy, and just plain pleasant to be with. They don't have the accociated emotional fluctuations Western women have and they are not demanding. They are serious about love and marriage and use common sense
A 20 year old Chinese female friend said to me yesterday "i was on a plane between two Chinese men they both stank and it was horrible." She later went on to explain, although her parents wanted her to find a rich guy she rejected this notion and told me she would rather find love.
Single western women cannot compete with Chinese women and you can see it in their faces when you walk happpily by with your Chinese girlfriend while they grimace and pretend to not notice.
Jan 28, 2011 16:55 Report Abuse
I agree,to be honest,totally honest the majority of Chinese men have bad manners,Its a fact! most smoke,spit and act in a very bad mannered way.,not all but most.I am sure many here will defend Chinese men with the normal answers but the truth hurts.Carpe diem.SOLUTION,BE A GENTLEMAN,GET A GIRL!
Jan 28, 2011 22:57 Report Abuse
Wow, I agree with both Mark and Michael. We cannot discount the Chinese parents who want their child to marry a Chinese man or woman. I mean, Chinese parents are often times more important than true love. However, I also believe that it is true that Chinese men are too patriarchal and are less gentleman like. I mean, I know Chinese men that literally smell like sh*t because they don't use toilet paper to wipe themselves. It is my firm belief that the reason why a lot of Chinese women seek foreign men is because foreign men are more romantic and are gentlemen. I also think that being a gentleman does not mean being feminine. Which I believe is another complaint from Chinese women about Chinese men. So, I think what is attractive about western men is the mixture of being a solid rock, yet still knowing when and how to caress their women.
As a matter of fact. I think that most western men have had to put up with western women at least once in their lives, and it has made them into more desirable men because of it. In other words, western women have trained us well. Let's face it, western women hold a higher position in society due to their fighting for it. And I totally think this is a good thing. So they expect more from their men. We've learned this, so when we come to China and see the competition is easy, it makes it less challenging to date a Chinese woman. In addition, the push for equality in western societies often times overreaches into denying a man the right to be a man. I mean, we're talking about gender roles as much as equality. Often times, I believe that western society has a tendency to try and cannibalize a man's role in this world. Whether or not men and women are equal, we are different. However, I believe there is a line between the two. I think that comparatively speaking, Chinese women are easier to please. Although some are worse complainers than western women.
Here is a good example of the difference, I never have to explain to my Chinese girlfriend the role of a man or why I do the things that I do. However, when I was dating a western woman, I always had to explain to her what I believed was the role of a man and I had to back it up with good evidence. In the West, "boys will be boys," but then they must conform to their girlfriends wishes. In the East, "boys will be boys," and it is accepted as the norm.
One last point. I did research in family law pertaining to biases among court rulings when it came to child custody and other issues. One major opinion from lawyers, judges and others involved, was that women, (not men), but women of western cultures, are more inclined to seek divorce rather than to work on a struggling relationship because they know they will most likely be met with little opposition when asking for custody and property. In other words, women would rather divorce than to work on a struggling marriage. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to me that western men are more attracted to the Chinese woman's point of view that divorce is considered to be a "last resort." Marriage, in China, for "saving face" reasons or whatever, is still highly regarded as a permanent thing. I think that a lot of western men that seek Chinese brides are looking directly at this type of dedication.
This is why you see so much exporting of western men to Eastern countries. Western women should wise up if they want to remain competitive in this global society.
Jan 29, 2011 03:53 Report Abuse
"They are loud and rude and lack qualities associated with being a gentleman. Chinese women on the other hand are beautiful, intelligent, happy, and just plain pleasant to be with"
I can't believe this, Chinese women are loud and rude and lack qualities associated with being a lady!
And I was at work the other day between two young Chinese "ladies" and they stank.
And Chinese women don't have mood swings??? Have you ever been to China Michael???
Jan 29, 2011 20:58 Report Abuse
Deano, I'm sure in many rural villages you can find plenty of uneducated Chinese men with terrible manners. Just as you can find plenty of Chinese women with terrible manners. Just as you can defend Chinese men with the "normal answers" the truth is that stereotyping an entire nation of people is not ignorant.
Mar 08, 2015 13:04 Report Abuse
Cannot believe the arrogance of michael's comment... especially since so many of the male foreigners dating these beautiful young Chinese women are either old, alcoholic, fat or balding - or most often a combination of the four. I am sick with jealousy!
I quite liked hanging out with different Chinese and Western guys alike - briefly dated a few but ultimately ended up the a laowai male from another country. Found the cultural differences with Chinese males to be initially fun and exciting, but in the end too difficult to navigate.
Jan 28, 2011 17:56 Report Abuse
Come on now, lets bring the indignation (no need to get uppity on someone else's account) down a notch. Please do not try to bring your version of political correctness to China. China's lack of political correctness is refreshing. Instead of tip-toeing around issues it would serve society better to get rid of this silliness. Yes, the semantic word playing is pure triviality.
Jan 28, 2011 19:03 Report Abuse
Chinese woman for their age looks at least 10 years younger than western woman...is this cause of having a Chinese partner??? I am old but chose a woman my age group and im not a drunk or a fat... maybe Chinese girls just look much younger as other woman and you think they young with this old man
Jan 28, 2011 19:39 Report Abuse
Very much appreciate your view. However, what are you jealous of? The western man who prefers an eastern bride or the eastern bride who prefers a western man? I think that western women can learn a lot from eastern women. I think that the demand for eastern women with western men is not a fluke. I mean, there is a reason. My future bride is 28 and I am 30. There is not a huge difference there. So, if you see a really old western guy with a young Chinese bride, well maybe he is a "creeper." Unfortunately, China's lack of standards condones these guys. It is no surprise to me that some western men (creepers) exploit the opportunity. When I first came here, I was not attracted to Asian women. However, their dedication to family and to marriage has changed my mind. It is quite different than a western woman's view on both.
Jan 29, 2011 04:15 Report Abuse
That is not true. There are many Western woman who are more dedicated to marriage and family than Chinese woman as well more intelligent and independent. You have not watched much Chinese TV where there are numerous shows of cheating, controlling and insecure wives who are not at all loyal to their husbands. The Western woman is much more confident and independent than the Chinese wife in general and can surpass the Chinese woman in many ways.
Feb 27, 2011 09:03 Report Abuse
Uh, I would rarely take what I see on TV as being a true reflection of society as a whole. It is the same reason why some Chinese have a false impression that all Americans are all gun owners shooting up our streets. If we took what we saw on TV as being the norm, then I would think all Chinese people could fly with swords in hand. Western TV shows a lot of cheating too. We have more reality shows that depict cheating, drinking and life drama than China does, yet we are not all like Snooki from Jersey Shore.
Feb 28, 2011 05:55 Report Abuse
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