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.
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: relationships in china marriages happy ending
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.
Don't you think you are all GENERALIZING? Plus, what exactly is "a Westerner"? An Indian, An Italian, A Frenchman, A Spaniard, a Peruvian, an American, a Greek, a Swede? I mean do Chinese people really think that "Westerner" is some kind of mega-collective identity/race/culture? Please, the variety "in the West" (again, where is this, Europe? USA? Brazil? Colombia? Canada? Southern Europe? Eastern Europe? Russia? the Caucasus? and Turkey?....I am so tired of Chinese saying that 'Westerners" are the English speaking people who all have the same culture and religion.) And I have met different kinds of people who are Chinese citizens, yet some are so superficial, rude, impolite, greedy, YET others are polite, open-minded, non-superficial, and generous. Come on, let's all hold hands and jump into the 21st century together! Let's NOT stereotype everyone around us. And remember: a "laowai" is an Indian, a Japanese, an Italian, a Romanian, a Frenchman, an American.....and guess what? They all DO NOT speak or think in English! Surprise!
I do not go around thinking anybody with an epicantic fold is Chinese. I know the difference between a Filipino and a Japanese and a Chinese, so WHY cannot Chinese appreciate the difference between these so-called "Westerners"? In other words: GROW UP and read more books.
Oct 23, 2012 23:59 Report Abuse
Ummm because they don't want to? I don't understand why some people don't understand why there aren't more "intercultural" relationships... it's no one's statistic to keep. Stop caring about other people's business. The world will not end if everyone doesn't become one giant mixed culture.
Aug 07, 2012 00:05 Report Abuse
hey Western guys,
just wondering, what do you talk about with your Chinese wives/ girlfriends?
I've been in China for a long time, and even when I talk to adult "accomplished" co-workers, I'm bored. I have more meaningful conversations with my 11 year old sister. And her sense of humour is great too.
Jul 30, 2012 18:28 Report Abuse
@G there are many possible explanations for your experience, including:
- your co-workers don't really understand you and cannot engage
- your co-workers don't like you and don't want to really engage
- you have more in common with an 11 year old school girl, than an adult professional
Jul 31, 2012 01:30 Report Abuse
musing on this article and some of the comments here, I would like to add but a few. I'm not Chinese and neither would I dare to say I'm better than any Chinese man. Matter of factly, most foreigners in china are simply shocked(culture shock) about most thing?
I have met some americans wet themselves on a train, most brits littering chewing gums everywhere,etc yet nobody seems to complain and its clearly unnoticed.
When it comes to love and partners and so on, we all have choices; the right to be with any choice-person yet I cant say the same about Chinese where family still domineers.
However, I'm just excited to witness a paradigm shift in this era where each day christens a multicultural union. And this is positive, as everything changes, so must we embrace this changes in china too. And once a change is catalysed into action, we can leave the rest to time cos that time would certainly come when foreign ladies can admit that Chinese guys are not bad at all.
And I really cant wait for that time!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jul 29, 2012 20:53 Report Abuse
I fine it so strange to be classed amongst Americans. Yes, I am a Western woman- as in 'white'- but I am African (as in South African).
I hate all these racial distinctions. Like apartheid all over again.
I find it annoying that American men assume all Western women are the same. I am not... Culturally or otherwise. Not that I'm slandering Western men OR women...
As for me, I have a Chinese husband who I live dearly. And that doesn't mean nice white guys don't exist! But there really are a great number of educated, kind and considerate Chinese men out there.
To those Western men with Chinese girlfriends: a question:
what about yourpotential half white daughters? Is this the lesson you want to teach them? the awfullness of their white femininity?
And what about your half Asian sons? Is this what you want to teach them- about the awfulness of their Asia masculinity?
Be gentle with those around you.
Jul 27, 2012 13:49 Report Abuse
This doesn't mirror my experience in China. In 3 years I have met one Chinese man married to a European woman. Compare this to over a hundred Western man/Chinese woman couples. But I hope the author is right. I am tired of seeing sad Western women who can't find boyfriends in China. I hope this is an upcoming trend.
Jan 18, 2012 08:21 Report Abuse
I dislike this kind of article and especially the kind of comments it tends to encourage: the stereotyping kind. "Western woman", "Chinese man", "Western man", "Chinese woman",... as though it is possible to compartmentalize them all neatly into 4 distinct compartments with distinct characteristics. Come one, people! China is diverse, as is the Western world. Don't stereotype!
Mar 14, 2011 02:25 Report Abuse
Manhood is stupid. Maybe if macho men in today's society would act more like the stereotypical Chinese peepo the world would be a better place. Maybe people would actually follow rules and act logically and get rid of that goddamned stupid ego.
Mar 10, 2011 18:41 Report Abuse
if a western woman meets a western man she likes she shouldn,t expect him to comform too western culture instead she should appreciate his culture since she is in his country.Most chinese men are traditional ,hence if they meet a traditional western woman good for them
Feb 08, 2011 06:31 Report Abuse
I think Western women are kidding themselves if they think that the reason that there aren't that many Western women with Chinese men is because there aren't enough "desireable" Chinese men on the market. if Western women truly look at themselves, they will see that there is no way that they can compete with Chinese women. The desireable Chinese men will choose Chinese women every time. Almost all of the Chinese men I know find Western women unattractive for the same reasons that Western men find Chinese women so much more attractive: The vast majority of Western women over the age of 14 are too fat.
My advice to single Western women is to stay home if they are searching for a mate and to avoid bringing their Western men to China or there is a good chance they will lose them.
Feb 02, 2011 16:01 Report Abuse
Many of the Chinese men I know are totally confident when it comes to approaching foreign women. In fact, one thing that shocked me when I first arrived here is how many Chinese men take an interest in me, and most of my other foreign female friends too. I have a Chinese boyfriend since many years now and back in the day his flirtatious charm definately played a role in us hooking up. Yes, there are less expat women on the market, so we can be a lot more choosy. But at the same time, there are many "types" of Chinese I would never even consider going out with because they're just too far removed from even having the slightest appreciation or understanding of western cluture, so that cuts down our choices by about 80%. The playground is not as big as it seems.
Jan 29, 2011 17:35 Report Abuse
Jessica I have raid quite a few of your articles on living in China and also your interview with middlekingdomlife on this issue and have always found your writing to be interesting and informative. On this issue, I think there are several things in play here. Firstly the availability, there are much fewer expat women, and many who do come here are not single and also stay for a compartively shorter amount of time. I know very few female expats who can speak Chinese and even fewer Chinese men who can speak English. Also, women like confident outgoing men, and most Chinese men I know wouldnt dream of going over to an attractive girl in a bar and asking her if she wants a drink. Chinese men often meet their wives through introductions from mutual acquantances, and this is not going to be prevalent among Western women.
Jan 29, 2011 08:15 Report Abuse
So many comments, I don't bother to read them all. I am a European woman with a Chinese man (living together). Yes, culture clash is a problem, and yes, his family is a pain in my ass always pushing us to marriage and grandchildren (would rather die). But over all our relationship is great and I truly love my Chinese man and wouldn't trade him for a large hairy Western guy with money. (Yes, I make more than twice his salary, so what?)
Jan 29, 2011 08:01 Report Abuse
"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. "
What you mean is that Chinese women are subservient, unchallenging and independently minded?
Jan 29, 2011 03:48 Report Abuse
I've lived in Shanghai for 2 years, and have never been attracted to any of the Chinese men i meet.
I can't explain it, they just don't float my boat. My 'type' is taller than me, built big physically, and sense of humour.
I'm hard pushed to find a Chinese man taller than me - i'm 5'8'', built big - not fat, just not a skinny dude who i'd snap in half - or funny - i've no doubt most Chinese men are hilarious, but with my very dry British sense of humour and Chinese skills not good enough to understand the local humour....it's a lost cause!
It's probably a Shanghai thing, but the men here just aren't......MANLY. It puts me right off the whole sex here when i see so many of them being shouted at in public by their girlfriends and just taking it, or holding their handbags, sitting with legs crossed arms draped over their male friends.....
I only know one Westerner who is married to a Chinese guy, but he's very Westernised. He'd never left the country before meeting her, and only studied English as school not any further but upon meeting him for the first time i thought he was an ABC. He's totally picked up the humour, way of life etc, just as my friend has with the Chinese. A rare, rare find!
Jan 29, 2011 03:02 Report Abuse