My Chinese Spouse: Love Has No Borders

My Chinese Spouse: Love Has No Borders
Jan 21, 2015 By Alex Schofield ,

When it comes to love and relationships, I’m pretty sure that the soon to be divorced Chris Rock said it best: “Relationships are hard, in order for any relationship to work both people have to be on the same page. Both people have to have the same focus, and we all know what that focus is, that focus is that it’s all about her.”

I’m sure that those words ring a bell for many people out there with a Chinese spouse. Cross-cultural relationships can be hugely challenging and much has been written about the difficulties and pitfalls of entering such a relationship, but there are also massive advantages to having a Chinese spouse in China. I feel this is definitely worth some discussion, and what I’m writing here is based primarily on my own experience and anecdotal evidence from people I know. I married my girlfriend of four years in May 2014 and I definitely feel that my life in China would have been much worse without her. Here I’ll tell you why I feel this way.

Chinese spouse
Photo: Daniel Lee

Overcoming barriers

Firstly, and this is obvious but not enough can be said about it, is that the language barrier is a colossal obstacle for the majority of expats living in China and a bilingual Chinese spouse is a huge asset in overcoming that obstacle. Not only can your spouse help with interpretation but they will have access to information that is only in Chinese such as job advertisements, housing advertisements, internet shopping sites and other legal/bureaucratic announcements. When I worked as a private teacher my wife was very effective in finding students for me as she could read posts on local internet forums that I cannot, and sometimes even advertise on my behalf.

Interpretation is not limited to verbal communication. Your spouse can also offer a unique insight into the mind-set of Chinese people. They can pick up on subtle hints indicated by body language and verbal cues that an expat may never be able to, and act as a key bridge between cultures with vastly different styles of communication.

Part of a collective whole

The family unit is highly revered in China, and unlike the West where it is considered normal to have a much more diverse range of familial structures, the traditional extended family is placed above all others in importance. Older generations rely on their offspring for support in their old age, and most Chinese feel that family and marriage provide a rock-solid support network that can always be relied upon.  Therefore, a foreigner with a Chinese spouse doesn’t find him/herself seen as a transient worker who is “just passing through”. I have personally found that when my wife and I are together I am treated with a bit more reverence, as I don’t fit their negative stereotypes of young, single foreign men. I am seen more as an “upstanding citizen” as having a wife implies respectability and stability to Chinese people.

As anyone who has spent time in China knows, relationships and connections are more valuable than money. Getting on with your in-laws is a whole new ball game in itself, but needless to say if your spouse’s family accept your relationship and they are reasonably well-off, well-connected or both this can provide opportunities that other expats can only dream of having access to. Alas, this is not the case in my personal situation as my wife is from a working class family but I do personally know of expats to whom this definitely applies.

Although the majority of relationships in China between Westerners and Chinese involve a Western man and a Chinese woman, I can’t see any reason why the advantages that I have discussed would not equally apply to a relationship between a Chinese man and a Western woman.

Are there any disadvantages to having a Chinese spouse? In my honest opinion, I can’t see any disadvantages that are specific to my wife being Chinese that would not equally apply to any cross-cultural relationship. Most of the disadvantages of marrying a Chinese person that I have heard through anecdotal evidence are often related to cultural norms and values regarding what a husband is expected to “bring to the table” in a marriage such as:

• Expectation to buy a house in China
• Expectation to provide financial support to parents
• Possibly having parents come to live with you

I was completely honest with my wife and told her I am not willing to do any of the above and she agreed with me. I was also honest with telling her that I do not want to live in China long-term and I definitely do not want to bring up children in China. We had that conversation when we had been together for about a year and my mind hasn’t changed. In my opinion that is why many relationships in China fail: couples are just not honest enough with each other about what they want.

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Keywords: spouse in China Chinese spouse


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Jan 27, 2015 12:47 Report Abuse




Jan 28, 2015 09:16 Report Abuse



Totally agree with this guy. Lots of chinese woman don't care bout the house and car thing.

Jan 24, 2015 20:32 Report Abuse



Nice post!

Jan 23, 2015 07:40 Report Abuse



Am I get banned?I can not access the question page:(

Jan 22, 2015 23:23 Report Abuse



No your noy banned. Its a problem with the site..... Unless I als got banned haha

Jan 22, 2015 23:59 Report Abuse



Hmmm,feel released.@Eorthisio,thanks for providing a Vicky entertainment,it is so fun anyway no matter what is your intention to post it^^ You have the potential to be another kind of Hulk or Crimochina.Those two guys are born for entertainment. You should keep working on it Ja ja ja Usually the a bit crazy one is the fun one.

Jan 23, 2015 10:20 Report Abuse



With a lot of capable women these days, taking up once male dominated positions, I see nothing wrong from a mans perspective on trying to lift our standards....

Jan 22, 2015 01:29 Report Abuse



This is a decent article. A lot of it is very true and foreigners are given a free pass in terms of many things that would not be applied to Chinese men in terms of courtship in China. We also have a whole new set of problems and difficulties to adjust to but having a nice, kind Chinese wife certainly makes the whole process easier.

Jan 21, 2015 01:08 Report Abuse



I hated this article.I cant understand anyone who think of their relationship in terms of advantages you will receive or disadvantages. The writer makes it sound like he married to obtain these advantages. Anyone who likes being married because his wife can translate and interpret is a tool. A useless tool. In my opinion you choose a wife because for this one person there are no advantages or disadvantages of her being Chinese. You married her for her and it wouldnt matter if she were African or Greek or a martian. To this day we havent encountered any cultural issues and I sure as shit havent noticed any advantages. We are just a couple dealing with issues that arise. Just like any other couple would around the world. There shouldnt even be a term " my Chinese wife". It just sounds wrong.

Jan 21, 2015 11:33 Report Abuse



This whole article just stinks to me off these countless relationships Ive seen of douchebag foreigners tricking a girl into marrying them and then turning into a useless blob. " I told my woman, i wont do any of your stupid chinese shit! I wont respect you or your family and if you ever want a sniff of a passport you will shut up and suffer in silence! Now cook!" Ive seen it countless times. They never learn chinese because they have duped a woman into becomming a personal slave! Honey call and ask this! Woman, order water! I dont understand this bank shit! Boy Im glad I got married. Now I never need to think. And the poor wife saw earning potential and a future, but the years go by and all she hears is complaining that " inflation is rising but salaries arent!!!" All calls to support his family or suggestions on how to improve the situation is rebuffed. She is not allowed to buy any toys or name brand stuff lest she be called a materialistic whore so the money goes to pizza and steaks and travel because the guy " needs a break" oh and I need to buy a new computer, not a shitty Sony, I need a good one " for work". The level of selfishness I have seen from the husbands in this place is sickening. This article is a prime example.

Jan 21, 2015 11:46 Report Abuse



while i agree with the overall conclusion of your rant, it has a lot of added meanings and unwarranted assumptions you give the article. you're just mouthing of against some people you know, but this writer doesn't necessarily fit the bill. it may be a typical apologist piece explaining why chinese feel foreigners are lucky, but it doesn't imply the married for the perks.

Jan 21, 2015 14:14 Report Abuse



Yeah it was quite the rant. Im calmer now. I will say one thing. The title: Love has no borders. The article makes no mention of love at all. It only mentions perks. While your totally right. It is all based on my assumptions and people i have met. No doubt about that. I have been here a long ass time and have met and spent time with many a mixed couple. And ill be the first to admit that there are probably great husbands around, there has to be. but At some point generalizations become fact. I would pose this question to all couples. What sacrifices have you had to make in order to be with a chinese girl that you wouldnt encounter dating someone from back home. Now conversely think about sacrifices your significant other must make to be with you that she wouldnt encounter with a Chinese guy. Not perks as there are many perks both ways. And im not insinuating that there arent many benifits a girl would get the second she chose a foreigner. Cuz there are for sure. But from what I have seen, the local is winning in the sacrifice department in pretty much every instancenive seen.

Jan 21, 2015 14:42 Report Abuse



For once, I agree completely with Mike (comment 15)

Jan 21, 2015 16:23 Report Abuse



"the local is winning in the sacrifice department" means they make more sacrifices? I do agree a local Chinese (girl) trades in a lot of stability and safety when she chooses to date a foreigner. She becomes the target of scorn, criticism, ridicule or worse. Most of this is passive & cultural (meaning foreigners can't do anything about this; they emburden their partner just by *being* something), leaving the foreigner on the defensive feeling like "What'd I do?" As for what sacrifices I've made personally: I didn't want to come to China; my wife became impatient because immigration to Holland was taking too long. So my income was lost (I hand it in to the family every month now), my job, my apartment & furniture, my routine, my dignity at the workplace, years of pension savings, bank/insurance/paperwork difficulties to face upon return, basically my entire country. Yes, I came to China feeling I had already sacrificed a lot, and my wife's lack of appreciation for this left me with a very bad feeling for a long time. I also lost my freedom and *all* my free time, as my wife and MIL were terrorizing me in my living place. I've never been able to force my will over hers. It was hurtling towards divorce at first, but her pregnancy instilled a deeper sense of duty. All the money went to a house mortgage against my judgement, but it seems to be paying off (if the oncoming sale goes through). Relief only came after a year, when our finances were so bad because the county school we had bought wasn't the goldmine she expected it to be. My original plan was to find a job in the city, but she refused to live outside her home county; she dictated it should be "waiguo or hometown", nothing in between. I moved to the closest city, found a job opening as teacher, and won back some freedom. After that, things became more balanced: My wife had a eureka moment when she realized her life wasn't as bad as she was making it out to be. She started appreciating the things I did do, instead on focusing solely on my non-adherence to expectations. I also watched her slowly learn from mistakes by herself, and stop submitting to peer pressure: Our baby could wear diapers in summer, no more squat-peeing, no winter hats in summer. She wouldn't listen to me, but she made the right decision by herself if I just stopped mentioning it (a pride thing, I think). Things have evolved so far, that I now feel I have too much free time on weekdays in the city, while I'd rather be with my family more often. Once the house is sold, I'll move back to Europe and get an apartment ready for all of us to live in. We're even hirng a lawyer to help MIL emigrate too, because she's a great help with our 2 bouncy boys. I'm sure we'll find a balance to live together as equals by then - a relationship of equals is a rare thing with Chinese; they either domineer or play victim. Perhaps the reason you hate those guys and how they treat their women, is because they dominate them? Have you considered that the women might be enablers to those situations? I had troubles at the beginning because I refused to submit to a controlling partner; others might prefer to submit for harmony's sake.

Jan 22, 2015 15:43 Report Abuse



Wonderful post! Good on you man!

Jan 22, 2015 19:44 Report Abuse



Your sacrifices for your family are well documented coin. I wouldnt insinuate otherwise about you. I am referring to the people that dominate their women. And your right they might be enablers as I have seen many women prefer to take a more submissive role. My wife included. But the vast majority of relationships i witness are based on the idea that the woman is lucky to have found such a gem and she better bow down and accept everything if she wants anything. I see woman losing their financial security, family bonds and material possessions ( no matter how silly they seem to some, house, car Prada ect, they arent silly to them. They are important) yet are still called gold diggers daily. For a man to say, we will never buy a house, we will never live with your parents and we will never chip in and help them is ignorant and disgusting. Not being able to and refusing to are very different things by the way. People either ignore or dont seem to understand that even though they may speak english and agree with the China bashing that they are still Chinese and even if they dont say it out loud, the man they choose will be expected to provide these basic things one day. If not now. They stupidly think that they will change the man and i would assume that most end up very disapointed. I hear people always say Chinese woman are so open. Open and desperate are not the same. So it frustrates me to hear people proud that they can take advantage of them. Sure you can go fuck a chicken too but it doesnt mean you should.

Jan 22, 2015 19:45 Report Abuse



When my wife first met me, there was some guy from Sweden who was crazy about her, inviting her to go there. She said she chose me because although that guy was wealthier and more passionate about her, I showed more signs of being a good future father, whatever that means. There are times when I feel my decision making is stronger than that of a local Chinese's, including my wife's. but it's indeed bad form to go around insulting people with alleged superiority, especially loved ones. I continually try to introspect and re-evaluate my strengths and those of others. And I have to admit that without the focus on family values of my wife and her relatives, that there would be no way I'd have a happy family with 2 kids, ever. About your perspective of those guys who just use women: Since locals place all the emphasis on looks and none on substance, girls actually believe they can get married and STAY married by just looking pretty and nothing else. There is very little chance for women to deepen their character, and we westerners are accustomed to only taking women with substance seriously. If some women want their husbands to "buy a lemon", I can imagine why some men just squeeze, drink their fill and cast them aside.

Jan 22, 2015 20:58 Report Abuse



I see your point about the lemons, i do. But i just feel that with all the anti china rants and down-looking we all do here it is hypocritical not to at least try to follow a path on the morally high ground. And too be completely honest i do seem to take extra offense to people who trick there way into a kowtowing tea-serving slave because for some reason i feel like it somehow invalidates my relationship. I hate the idea of being thought of as a cliche.

Jan 22, 2015 23:09 Report Abuse



you mad bro?

Jan 21, 2015 01:01 Report Abuse



What in the world are you talking about? I think your problems are just that... YOUR problems.

Jan 21, 2015 01:10 Report Abuse



Man haven't you heard of the saying, "Once you go black, there's no turning back!" Man up man! Go out there and show them yo thang!

Jan 21, 2015 08:31 Report Abuse



Admiral, I know a few black men here who are married. It sounds like your main worry is about sex and not a relationship. I suspect this is why you are having trouble. Most women in China don't date casually, they come to the first date with the mindset of "will this guy make a good husband/father?".

Jan 21, 2015 11:13 Report Abuse



I am not black but I understand at least the jobs part, having worked in conjunction with multiple human resources leaders. This is not to say that everyone is a racist and also I know several men of black ethnicity who are successfully married and lead happy lifes. Furthermore, the women they marry are beautiful by any nationality's standards. I have been rejected by some girls simply for being a "laowai" and I have also rejected some girls simply for being gold diggers. I know that many girls will look beyond the issues of race or financial ability and just seek a happy life with a good spouse. If you have had bad experiences, they cloud your judgement and if you suggest, you are in fact being as judgemental as those you say judge you. Try to change your style a bit and maybe look around and ask people who are successful in relationships, get advice.

Jan 21, 2015 16:03 Report Abuse



wow, just wow.. you have no idea how much special treatment (the awesome kind) you receive in China for just being white.. When was the last time a Chinese girl decides to "broaden her horizons" by sleeping with a black or Azn guy? I don't even want to mention the amount of very VERY generously paid "face jobs" (like showing up somewhere pretending to be the VP of some Chinese company)that I unfortunately become aware of on a regularly basis.. and that doesn't even bother me actually.. what really pisses me off is the girls in bars and clubs would look at white guys in a different way, like "oh, he's" type of way.. I admit that I don't have much "game", but when my inherent disadvantage is the color of my can you tell it's not easier to live as a white perspn... so Eorthisio, you are wrong, racism is alive and well in China, just like in Korea and other AZN countries.. *crimingwhilewhite

Jan 21, 2015 23:06 Report Abuse