The Relationship Minefield: 4 Challenges for Multicultural Couples

The Relationship Minefield: 4 Challenges for Multicultural Couples
Feb 29, 2016 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang ,

Many foreigners come to China and fall in love – not just with the culture, the history, the scenery, but with local Chinese people who become their boyfriends, girlfriends, or, eventually, husbands and wives. However, jumping into a relationship with someone from a different culture can be a bit like stepping onto a minefield. Challenges abound, and no matter how much a couple in a multicultural relationship may like, or even love each other, sometimes the difficulties get the best of us. Here we look at four of the biggest challenges of multicultural couples in China. 

The Relationship Minefield: 4 Challenges for Multicultural Couples

1) Language
Aside from the obvious fact that maintaining a relationship with someone you can’t even speak to is difficult if not impossible, even couples who share a language will find that lack of a common mother tongue will add a layer of difficulty to their relationship. Even if your girlfriend speaks English or you speak perfect Chinese, at least one person in the relationship will always be at the disadvantage of having to use a language that is not his or her native language. At the beginning having a partner around who can help you improve your second language can be great – if your partner doesn’t speak English then you’re forced to speak Chinese and your Chinese is bound to improve, which is good, right? Of course it is, but at the same time, imagine living with your Chinese partner and spending every single day of your life conversing in Chinese. Imagine fumbling for the exact right phrasing, knowing you could express yourself in English, but Chinese just isn’t cutting it. Imagine fighting in your second language – who has the upper hand? And if you’re the one who gets to speak your first language while your Chinese partner struggles to express himself in English, put yourself in his shoes.

Living life in a second language can be mentally exhausting, and if you commit to a long term relationship with a Chinese person that will be the reality, day in and day out for either you or your partner. On a deeper level, whether you decide to reside in his country or your country, one of you will always be an outsider while the other gets to be at home, in his comfort zone. Try changing things up by visiting each other’s countries for extended periods so that everyone has a chance to be the “insider” every once in awhile.

2) Expectations
At some point or another most foreigners who step into the dating pool in China realize that dating often comes with strings attached, and that the relationship life cycle in China often moves much quicker here than it does back home. It is not at all unusual for foreign men and women to be surprised by their Chinese partner bringing up marriage a few short months into the relationship. While most Western couples generally would not bring up marriage before the one year mark, Chinese people, especially Chinese people of a certain age (say 25 and up) are generally fairly fixated on finding a husband or wife, and do not, in general (of course there are exceptions) date for fun. If you’re here as, say, a student, with no long term plans in China, it can be shocking to discover that the girl you’re dating fully expects you to marry her and bring her back with you, or that the guy you’ve been seeing would like you to drop out of school and move in with him. Even if you’re older and more established but just not looking for a spouse, your Chinese partner may have different ideas. The societal pressure to get married usually starts right after college and most young professional Chinese people, men and women, are not particularly interested in dating around just for fun once they’ve hit the magic age and will want to get down to the serious business of making a family.

3) Reference Points
Most of us do not realise how essential our cultural background is to who we are until we are living in another culture. When you are with someone who is from a different cultural background even watching a TV show can lead to questions. Your partner will likely not have heard of any of the bands you loved in high school and will not get your references to The Simpsons, to name just two examples. She will not be able to discuss your country’s politics with you, and, if you do discuss politics she might think your country’s leaders are evil (for entirely different reasons than you do). She will not always laugh at your jokes or understand what you’re talking about when you quote Snoop Dogg. You don’t really understand either why your Chinese boyfriend is so obsessed with war movies or why he claims to hate the Japanese when he’s never even met a Japanese person.

While these differences in background are part of what make multicultural relationships unique and wonderful, lacking shared cultural reference points can sometimes make you feel disconnected from your partner. You may feel lonely even though you’re in a relationship, and the thought may even cross your mind that life would just be so much easier if you could be with someone who really “gets” you. It is true that dating someone whose background is very different from your own can, at times, make you feel like you have nothing in common. It can be a good idea to develop some mutual interests and start building your own shared history – taking a trip to a third country where you both are fish out of water can be a good start.

4) Clashing Philosophies
There will be times when, due to your cultural differences, your partner’s ideas and your’s completely clash and you cannot find a common ground. Say your wife is pregnant with your first child and she declares to you that after the baby is born she’ll be sending it back to the village to be raised by her parents until you both are ready to look after it in oh, three years or so. To most foreigners the very idea is completely unheard of. “Who does that?!”, you might think. Well, many Chinese people do. Or, say you’re ill but you know you just need to drink a lot of water, rest for a few days, and maybe pop a few tylenol, but your Chinese boyfriend insists you need to go the hospital for an expensive and uncomfortable I.V. You agree the first few times because it is sweet that he cares, but every time you have a cold you end up with an IV and you’re starting to worry that you’re becoming immune to antibiotics anyhow. But this is the Chinese way.

There will be times when what you know to be true, due to upbringing and background, is totally at odds with your partner’s own personal truths. It is important not to fight over who is right and who is wrong, but instead to stick to your guns on issues that are important to you and compromise when at all possible. There are some issues that will truly challenge your relationship though so try to talk through possible deal-breakers before things get serious.

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Keywords: Challenges to dating China challenges multicultural couples China


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for some people its works...

Mar 21, 2017 23:01 Report Abuse



The challenges of keeping a multicultural marriage vibrant should also include something about the in-laws. Who is going to take care of the senior citizens? When you are in your late 20's or 30's, you usually do not think that far ahead but it takes a lot of maturity and foresight to realize that you are taking on more than just raising children, but you might also take care of the parents when you tie the knot.

Jun 05, 2016 17:34 Report Abuse



True love conquers all

May 20, 2016 10:10 Report Abuse



"Chinese movie star Yuan Li has some harsh words for any Chinese women that dream about marrying a foreigner: you’re in for a world of pain and suffering."

Mar 08, 2016 04:22 Report Abuse



Who'd take marriage advice from someone who is set for her third divorce? A BHP like you doejohn123.

Jun 23, 2016 11:29 Report Abuse



"Few topics ignite passionate debate in China quite like that of interracial relationships. The issue grabbed national headlines last year when, after revealing details of her failed relationship with Canadian Blaine Grunewald, actress Yuan Li said: “You can better appreciate Chinese men after marrying a foreigner.”"

Mar 08, 2016 03:55 Report Abuse



It is difficult to keep a cross culture relations if not enough patience and real love.

Mar 06, 2016 22:19 Report Abuse



most important of all, Make sure you are fair to each other, try your best to understand Chinese culture, she has to do the same. of course both of you need a language for communication, Chinese, English, French, Arabic or.... most important is both of you have to communicate. My wife is Chinese, luckily she studied Frech at the university and she can speak good English, i won't lie because my Chinese is not good at all even if i spent three years here, i mean i can communicate with the relatives very well, but dealing with some sort of wriiten form is still hard currently.

Mar 02, 2016 16:18 Report Abuse



Some you LBH English teachers are married and have children. Seriously? How is it possible to pay your bills and raise a child with your pathetic salaries? Which fantasy world do you people live in?

Mar 02, 2016 12:37 Report Abuse



Please, please, please do not date or marry LBH beta foreigners such as RandomGay. This advice is for females of all nationalities. Date foreigners who are alpha, have nice careers, are not fat, are not bald, dress nice, have enough money to raise a family, and don't spend their free time trolling on the internet. And also date those who are well educated and can communicate!

Mar 02, 2016 10:11 Report Abuse



Mar 02, 2016 10:26 Report Abuse



Ah, people like this Guest dude sound desperate, they hardly understand the human psyche. You can't blame them for psychology with Chinese characteristics is based on myths instead of facts. The more you hammer Chinese women not to marry or date Foreign men, the more they will do it. It's human nature to go against what we are being told to do, and Chinese are no exception in that regard.

Mar 02, 2016 09:00 Report Abuse


comment|69319|1608960 r_he_forgets_which_building_he_lives_in.php _multiple_sexual_assaults_spanning_several_years.php

Mar 01, 2016 23:04 Report Abuse


comment|69318|1608960 <<<<<<

Mar 01, 2016 22:54 Report Abuse



Wow, ECC must have run out of writers. Regurgitating/re-posting articles from 5 years back.

Mar 01, 2016 12:53 Report Abuse



Sometimes bendin' o'er backwards fer a person just means they're waitin' for you to break...

Mar 01, 2016 11:28 Report Abuse



Shenzhen woman urges Chinese to avoid marrying American men

Feb 29, 2016 20:07 Report Abuse



hhaha i like mix baby i need find a western man to be my husband.

Feb 29, 2016 19:31 Report Abuse



For the sake of your children, please be careful when marrying foreigners........

Feb 29, 2016 19:51 Report Abuse



For the sake of your children, please be careful when around Chinese men. [[]] AND [[]] AND that's only for the past 24h.

Mar 01, 2016 19:38 Report Abuse



Please, please, please don't marry LBH foreigners. You will live a life of misery.

Mar 01, 2016 22:35 Report Abuse



For the sake of your children, watch this.............................

Mar 01, 2016 22:42 Report Abuse



thank you ,i watched it .ok ,maybe i need find a nice husband who around me ,maybe local person in my city is best.

Mar 04, 2016 11:24 Report Abuse



i saw it ,,thank you so much ,i will consider it

Mar 04, 2016 11:31 Report Abuse



yes ,i will ,thank you ,maybe i will find chinese native person in my city

Mar 04, 2016 11:32 Report Abuse