Of Love and Money: Disagreeing About Finances in Chinese-Expat Couples

Of Love and Money: Disagreeing About Finances in Chinese-Expat Couples
Dec 13, 2014 By eChinacities.com

Of Love and Money: Disagreeing About Finances in Chinese-Expat Couples
Photo: forbes.com

Multicultural relationships can sometimes seem like a minefield of potential difficulties. Certain topics, such as raising children, the role of the in-laws, and the division of chores, are bound to stir up issues for even the most stable of couples. We are all bound, to some extent, by our culture and to have certain expectations and truths which we will be loathe to let go of. Perhaps one of the most culturally-bound issues of all is the way we approach money and finances. Even mono-cultural couples can have disagreements when it comes to money matters, but for multicultural couples in China, many of their essential cultural norms will be tested when it comes to money. Who should be the "breadwinner," for instance? What if one partner makes more than the other? The issues can start even before the relationship becomes "serious," with the simple question of "who pays for dinner?"

Despite modernization, traditional views remain in China

In many ways, China is still a traditional society with very traditional views about the roles of men and women. While women can and are even encouraged to work outside the home, it's commonly thought that her earnings should not exceed those of her husband. When Chinese couples marry, they tend to be very conscious of their relative class and status, and few women are encouraged to marry a man whose earning potential is far below her own. By the same token, men are expected to provide for their future bride and her family, and many men will not consider marrying until they are financially stable and ready to step into the role of a provider. A woman might love her boyfriend, but if he is not able to provide for her in a suitable manner, she'll break up with him in favor of someone who, while perhaps does not ignite her passion in the same way, will provide a stable home for her and their future child(ren).

Contrasting ideas of love and marriage in the West

In most Western cultures, on the other hand, we often take a less pragmatic attitude towards love and marriage. We will often fall in love first, even get married, and then find a way to make it work. Division of labor can be more egalitarian as well. While stay-at-home-dads are becoming more and more common in Western society, they are all but unheard of in China. When dating, couples will often split the check, and when they move in together they will likely contribute equally to rent and utilities. While some women might still be after a man who can provide, we have derogatory terms for them like "gold digger" which show our distain for women who choose a partner based solely on the size of his wallet. Ideally, love conquers all, including financial difficulties. Many women with high paying jobs will accept a man who is making less money than her as long as he is working hard and has goals. Simply put, intentions often count for more than the actual result in Western society.

"Supporting" a Chinese boyfriend

When our fundamentally different ideas about the role of money and particularly traditional roles of provider/providee clash, multicultural couples can experience a lot of conflicts. Back during my days as a foreign student in China, I dated a Chinese student who was from a very poor region of a very poor province. I had the benefit of generous financial aid checks from my university in the United States and I paid for our apartment and often paid for groceries, meals, and travel. I didn't mind doing this. The disparity between my boyfriend and I was not his fault, it was entirely due to the circumstances of our birth. However, for him, this disparity was extremely shameful. One time, after making an offhand joke, remarking to a fellow student that I "supported" my boyfriend, he did not speak to me for an entire week, so deep was his loss of face. Even though I had no problem sharing what I had with my boyfriend, taking financial help from a woman, from his partner, crushed his pride.

"Materialistic" Chinese girlfriends

Foreign men too can unknowingly insult their Chinese girlfriends by expecting too much equality in the relationship. A friend recently asked a Chinese girl out and told me he was planning on asking her to split the check. While splitting the check may be acceptable for a group of friends out for dinner or drinks, if you're out on a date, nothing will signal a lack of romantic interest (at the very least – at worst, a stingy character) to a Chinese woman more quickly than asking her to pay for her part of the meal. Many foreign men are also dismayed at what they see as outrageous demands from their girlfriends. One friend said, "I once asked a former girlfriend in America what she wanted for Christmas and she said ‘a paperback book'; I asked my Chinese girlfriend what she wanted and she said ‘an iPad'."

Foreign men often form the impression that Chinese women are materialistic, but to jump to that conclusion too quickly would be giving too little credit to Chinese women, who are often not any more materialistic than their Western counterparts. One difference is that a Western woman will be acutely aware of the need not to come off as too greedy to her boyfriend. She'll ask for something modest, signaling to him that all she really cares about is having him there. From a Chinese woman's point of view, however, making big purchases and extravagant gifts are ways that a man can signal he is ready to step into the role of provider. If he can't buy an iPad now, how can he be expected to provide a house and a car in the future? Many Chinese women are perfectly capable of buying their own fancy gadgets, but expensive gifts from a prospective husband are seen as an indicator that he can prove his love and devotion, prove that he's not "all talk" and that he's willing to make personal sacrifices for her.

Compromises are possible

Luckily for men and for women, there are people on both sides who are willing to compromise a bit in order to make their relationship work. A Western man might agree to pick up the tabs for dinner, but draw the line at expensive gifts, saying instead that they should put their money into a savings account for the future. Western women who do not need their boyfriend to fall into the provider category should nevertheless be careful how they frame the relationship to outsiders.

Chinese partners too should be aware of the way that Westerners approach the financial aspect of relationships, especially equality. A Western man who does not pick up the tab for dinner is not being stingy—in fact he is according you respect and signaling to you that he thinks you are perfectly capable of taking care of yourself. A Western woman who says she is happy even if you can't buy her a fancy cell-phone really is happy even if you can't buy her a fancy cell phone.

With compromise and communication our different cultural ideas about the intersection of love and money do not have to be deal-breakers, pun intended.

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: love and money in Chinese couples problems with multicultural relationships mixed couples in China gender roles Chinese couples Chinese foreigner couple issues


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.



Girl materialistic = part of their genetic make over. Not only does the woman/female select their mate (healthy), but also can secure the most food and security (money/property), etc

Sep 10, 2016 11:56 Report Abuse



damn, this comments section is as bad as youtube's

Apr 08, 2015 09:04 Report Abuse



I've met plenty of Chinese girls being 'supported' and having plenty of expensive gifts bought for them. That shows them this man is a provider, he can do it. Then she brings boys back to the flat which is being paid for by her man whilst he is out of the city. No, I am of the opinion that Chinese women ask for more because they are selfish. They are brought up in a society which makes women feel they need to be looked after and where getting what you can out of somebody is seen as good work, not dishonest. Then they can brag to their friends about how clever they are and how they managed to abuse somebody's trust. Where's my provider?

Dec 15, 2014 23:05 Report Abuse


dan patch

I met my wife on Asian Friend Finders, I placed my profile, and within 3 days I had 168 responses. I picked through them, answered the ones that peaked my interest. I deleted every one that talked about money, I narrowed it down to 3 women. Than talked more and more, and slowly asked questions, about there thoughts and expectations. 1 lady then said "we should remove our profiles from the site, she then asked me to come to China to marry, and start her application to immigrate, and that I should bring $20,000.00 for her parents, as that was the custom, That was the last time I spoke to her. The other just disapeared for long periods od unexplained time, My other lady, was the women of my dreams, we have been married for 5 years, never so much have had a disagrement, or arguement. and we are deeply in love, She has never asked anything from me, she thanked me for taking her away from a life of poverty, PS her family is wealthy, very wealthy, yet she asks them for nothing, My Lifan is a proud and extremely beautiful woman, I off subject here, But I will tell you, You reap what you sow, There are beautiful, loving, respectful, Chinese women out there, open your eyes when your looking, use both your heads, not just 1, Chinese women are the most beautiful women in the world, I always try to remember to see things through her eyes and mind. I found my love, you can find yours to in China, The most beautiful Chinese women com from Harbin

Aug 24, 2012 19:06 Report Abuse


troyce key

I'd rather have leprosy then get involved with a Chinese girl.

Aug 24, 2012 18:02 Report Abuse



Materialim is a biggest problem in our modern society.People wants to have everything without doing anything. We can judge western boys,chinese girls n vice versa but for me there is one answer for that kind of situation which article says. There is NO LOVE betwwen people! And if you met a person who just want money from u just pass by, don't pay attention! don't try to fight it and you will be happier.
Don't use people.LOVE THEM!

Aug 23, 2012 08:03 Report Abuse



attention all men!!! if you are meeting girls in bars, massage parlors, or ktvs then you are very likely to come across a money grabbing "person". if you use money to attract women then you will attract women who are attracted to money. (i follow the same rules as i did in the states) if i am dating a woman for the first few times when we go out to eat we will go to moderately priced restaurants (50 -65 for 2 people.) 2nd or 3rd date is an invite to dinner at my place . she will either become my girlfriend or i will pursue another. i never tell a woman how much i earn. i always tell them i'm poor. and i've never had trouble with girls trying to use me for money. only when they talk dowry for marriage is when i let them know "if i gotta pay to marry you , then i'll keep things they way they are now"
very simple, i have met too many guys here trying to turn their ktv girl, bar girl, massage girl into their girlfriend. and they are puzzled as to why it costs so much. stoopid stooopid stooopid.

Aug 19, 2012 15:09 Report Abuse



Its not just that. But lets ask the obvious. Do nice girls hang around in bars?

Aug 20, 2012 01:00 Report Abuse


Lucky boy

I married a good Chinese woman. She is in business and earns 10x what I do and supports me.
She is not a dragon lady or tiger mom. She treats me well, but is not push over either.
Like most things in life, we don't see the normal happy couples. We usually only see and really notice the extremes.

Aug 18, 2012 10:48 Report Abuse


Puke Stywater


Aug 18, 2012 01:10 Report Abuse



Best News Ever !

Concerning EChinaCities (ECC) : "It is developed and maintained by an international team of editors and researchers who know what information our users need.
eChinacities is privately funded and is in no way affiliated with government agencies in or outside of China."
I'm not sure about that ...

Last Thursday, I have read so many interesting post and repost about this Subject, WHERE ARE THEY NOW ? Nice one ECC
You might not be one of them but you act like one of them !

When it concerns Sexual Massage & prostitution you give to people where to look, who to call, huh !
When it concerns Opinion, then you simply erase them ...

Bravo !

Aug 17, 2012 17:27 Report Abuse



hehehe, since i met, my now wife, she hasnt worked.
however she has never asked for new things like phones or cameras or laptops. and thank god she is not interested in the 'i' craze. we have had some issues but as long as im around and working to earn some money, it seems to be enough. even our wedding was done on the cheap. from what i hear from friends. i have picked a winner and seem to have been very very lucky. (even when we got married i didnt need to buy a house or anything. just pay 8,000rmb for the wedding and it was enough)
from time to time she does get a bit angry that we have no savings even hafter 4 years, and are living payday to payday. but that passes by and then we have a few months of happy living before the savings thing rears its ugly head for a few days)

Aug 17, 2012 08:47 Report Abuse



To be brutally honest I find we (the foreign men) read and write these articles hoping to frame the problem as cultural communications and to make some kind of 'apologetic' for what we all know is a soul-crushing, marriage destroying epidemic in China: Greedy, selfish, money-hungry, status-driven women. They love cash. Period. They seek 'brand name' status like it was the 1980s (as someone brilliantly pointed out here) and they will 'game the system' at every angle.
Money is the most important thing. It is. That is more important than the marriage itself. In fact, the marriage is, primarily, a 'means to that end'. The husband is a tool to be used in any way effective towards that goal.
'Evil Sa Jiao', elaborate ongoing guilt trips, 'saving his face' is a tool in its own self. Public humiliation, private humiliation. Kids (or pregnancy) as a bartering method. Sexual intimacy is run on wealth satisfaction. Keeping up with the Jones'? We are talking 2 weeks of insidious jealousy and punishment for the husband if 'The Jones'' MIGHT be getting a 50,000 Rolex and forbid the ugliest BMW shows up in your neighbourhood.
And no more materialistic than Western girls? To be brutally honest yes, as a general and pandemic rule, yes by a long shot. As well as any other Eastern girls. Or any other Asian girls. Or any other African girls.
Honestly, I'd love to try and rationalize it, frame it as 'unique cultural perspectives' or try and take some blame as if I'm not giving due credit or clouded in my own misunderstandings of the issue,
What I see is an epidemic of pure greed, lust for materialism and slavish worship at the feet of golden Mammon. Money IS god and who the hell are you stupid?

Aug 17, 2012 04:38 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

"a soul-crushing, marriage destroying epidemic... : Greedy, selfish, money-hungry, status-driven women. They love cash. Period. They seek 'brand name' status like it was the 1980s (as someone brilliantly pointed out here) and they will 'game the system' at every angle. Money is the most important thing. It is. That is more important than the marriage itself. In fact, the marriage is, primarily, a 'means to that end' "
Ah come off it, women like this are EVERYWHERE.

Aug 25, 2012 17:06 Report Abuse


Hippie Krit

"u have no right to judge "

but it is ok for you to label all people from outside as westerners, foreigners or ghost? and you even have two very disrespectful words that begin with W and L even when you know a persons nationality and therefore could use the chinese word for that nationality thus acting with a bit of class and decency. as for deserving things. you do not derserve to speak english cos you obviously do not realise it is A POLITE LANGUAGE!

Aug 17, 2012 04:06 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

"...english ... is A POLITE LANGUAGE!"

Ah yes, especially when spoken by natives from Peckham.

Aug 22, 2012 21:23 Report Abuse


Long Jing Silver

materialistic girl friends as the article puts it is a product of a couple of cities that are obsessed with brand names. first thing the women should learn is is a word called passe. that is because in the 1980's the rest of the civilised world was obsessed with brand names. we are not any more. it is old fashioned.

next thing chinese material girls should remember is, there are plenty or other countries in asia with women who look like they do. or even better one might argue. they certainly know how to do something that rhymes with cook a lot better.

answers on a postcard.

Aug 17, 2012 04:02 Report Abuse


JAY (Just Another Yangguizi)

"...in the 1980's the rest of the civilised world was obsessed with brand names. we are not any more. it is old fashioned. "
Do you mean brand names like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft? Or do you mean brand names like Corona, Dos Equis and Stella Artois?

Aug 22, 2012 21:19 Report Abuse



too many complains here.why,maybe caz u don't have much money,so u complain chinese girls.this is answer.chinese girls have many different to others countries girls for different culture.u have no right to judge all chinese girls,caz u don't read all chinese girls.maybe u said that caz u met a bad chinese girl.anyway u deserve it.

Aug 16, 2012 23:54 Report Abuse



Afriend of mine has just broken up with a Chinese woman as she could not understand why he was not happy with the idea of her living her own life to do just as she wanted when she wanted. This included her going away for two or three weeks at a time, not telling him anything about where she was or who she was with, but expected him to fully finance that. Some Chinese women are pure gold diggers and others need to grow up a bit, but there are some very good ones out there. I know I have been married to one for several years now.

Aug 16, 2012 23:39 Report Abuse



sorry for who thinks chinese girls sucks,mostly yea,,but i think many western girls like that too.there s a few chinese girls are dont care about family thinks and they just be with who they love,and pay heart,i was with an american for 6 years,i really love him we share everything,i buy him gifts all the time just caz his friends always give him a brain wash or he read too many things abou chinese girls,no matter what i do they always judge me,he thinks i spent him a lot money he start complain,finally we broke up and i throw all the gifts he gave to me on his floor,thats his loss,he down his kneess and start crying,andwas last month he came to visit me and many nice things to me ,i was touched,but the other day he told me i checked ur computer and looked up all guys you talked?i dont want to explain anything,we broke up for6 months,he control me cant chat with others...whatever,,,i am a chinese woman.

Aug 16, 2012 23:37 Report Abuse



This article is completely accurate. Chinese women expect men to buy them expensive gifts to show commitment. What about things like love and companionship. Shows how shallow Chinese women are

Aug 16, 2012 20:41 Report Abuse



This article is completely accurate Oo ? Then for when is the article "Foreign guys looking for fun everynight with different Asian girls" ?
Talking about problems, then try to understand why at first place they want your money ? Because it's cheaper for you guys to pay a whore here than elsewhere. Now that they understand many foreign people are not open-minded towards Chinese or Asian culture but more open-sexual-minded.

foreign men expect to have sex with asian women/girls. Lots foreign of people aren't really respectful towards chinese .. Where's the article about that ? Many Asian people immigrate to foreign countries like European or American people immigrate to Asia, but the rate of asian people who accomodates more with the external culture is higher than white people. This includes speaking the language. Not because it's too difficult to learn, just because your interest is more based on girls. Clap clap

Aug 20, 2012 19:38 Report Abuse



Firstly it is accurate. Secondly you obviously know nothing about foreigners and you probably live in a hole in the mountains. Third, you need to go out and open your eyes. Us foreigners feel love a lot more than you Chinese do and we respect women much better too. Also, we have something called common sense which doesn't seem that common here. By the way I've lived here for years and even my Chinese friends warned me about Chinese women. Also, I would never pay for sex since I have a girlfriend. And I speak 4 languages so clap clap to you for using your brain.Nǐ de dànǎo yǒu shuǐ ma?

Aug 21, 2012 19:12 Report Abuse



Again, this article is not accurate.
How can I know nothing about foreigners ? I'm a foreigner, I had lived in Beijing for more than 1 year, and Shanghai for more than 2 year. I also lived in small cities. I have lots of chinese and foreign friends ... My hole might be bigger than yours.
You speak too much, I experienced lots of things, works, jobs ...
Most of my foreign friends are here for asian girls, so don't hide your true values which might be way lower than mine. So of my friends came to China to see me, the first thing they wanted to try was find some girls is Bar. I usually go to bars to have fun meet people, I never paid for sex too as I respect myself and other people when they deserve it.
Seems that your opinion is way to narrow minded. Open your eyes instead of opening your mouth.
Clap clap dude !

Speaking 4 languages doesn't make you smart or whatever ...

Aug 28, 2012 02:00 Report Abuse