So, you're in trouble with your girlfriend again. Odds are, if you've been in a relationship with a Chinese girl, you've said or done something at least once that had you suddenly apologizing profusely, with your best Chinese, to a locked door, a stone face, or into a cell phone. There may have even been some shouting about how Westerners don't understand Chinese culture or have as much love for their families either. An argument with a girlfriend or wife is never pleasant, but interracial relationships in China have a few unique issues, compounded by the fear that these unexpected reactions may be part of a greater campaign to bring you under her thumb.
Of course an irrational fear that your sweetheart is in fact trying to control you is sure to produce unwanted conflict in the relationship, and plenty of perfectly reasonable issues can generate problems when integrating two cultural traditions in something as significant and love and marriage. Still, a Western husband can be something of a prize for Chinese families who think a foreign passport is a meal ticket out of the country and into a carefree life of luxury. So how can you tell if your new squeeze is a regular Chinese girl or plotting to turn you into her personal ATM? The trick is to keep in mind that, although things might have to change out of respect for each other's cultures, some things really are crossing the line.
1) Who's in charge of the money?
The Chinese and English speaking worlds see few things more differently than money. A culture of thrift, years of living in uncertain times, and an inadequate social welfare system have created a nation that stresses saving and rationing money to a degree not seen in the West. The carefree spending habits of an American who makes four times an average Chinese salary but seems to spend it all on pizza, beer, and Chinglish T-shirts can cause extreme discomfort to someone accustomed to tightly managing money, and fair compromise means cutting back on some of those things.
Making an effort to save more money can actually be a positive change, but it should be mutually agreed upon and reflect each person's contribution to the household. Some beleaguered husbands complain about turning their monthly salaries over to their wives and getting a monthly allowance (100 RMB a day is popular, as well as 25% of the salary). A common excuse cited by the Chinese wife is that the decadent Westerner is inadequate at saving compared to a rational, experienced Chinese saver. A real partner should have faith that you can decide your own level of involvement in managing the household, and only take over with your consent: anyone who continually questions your budgetary competence may be just looking for an excuse to wrest control of the checkbook. Just as you should be willing to compromise with her, she should be willing to discuss financial issues on even ground.
2) "Buy me an apartment"
Probably the biggest conflict that arises in long-term relationships with Chinese girls is the ultimate demand to buy a house for marriage. Not all girls ask their husbands to buy houses for them, but it is often expected in Chinese culture and every girl receives some pressure from friends and family to push for the highest level of (material) commitment possible between two people – investing in real estate together. In fact, there is an increasing trend in modern Chinese society to express success and status through material means, and it is not uncommon for a foreign boyfriend to receive a request for an iPad, new cell phone, or even a car.
While such demands are not necessarily out of the question, it's good to keep in mind that no reasonable girlfriend would ask for such a large show of a monetary commitment, unless she was getting a lot of grief from her parents, co-workers, and friends. A thoughtful and considerate request should reflect your real financial means (it's not OK for her to assume your parents have money and will buy you a house), and include your interests and ambitions.
That being said, if you're planning on going back home, considering moving to another city, or have more pressing financial matters, asking you to buy a house is likely more out of concern for her own needs than yours. She should not ask you to buy and iPad if you have to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas. Likewise, she should not ask you to put a down payment on a house while you've still got student loans. Conversely, if you've got a comfortable job and can dedicate to many more years of living in China, then perhaps it's not so out of the question for your significant other to suggest settling down in a place of your own. Her demands from you should take your situation into account.
3) "Aren't you tired of that job?"
Such considerations should extend to your job as well. Many foreign residents came to China specifically for a particular job, and are content with their working situation. For some ambitious and money-driven Chinese workers, however, advancement is a crucial part of developing a career, and they expect frequent promotions or even a change of job. This can lead to another potential source of conflict: insisting that you ask for a raise, work more hours, or look for a new job.
Again, determining whether or not your girlfriend is trying to control you depends on how much she has considered your desires into suggesting you change your job. One hapless teacher left a comfortable university job on his girlfriend's advice, only to be told to move again and again after a few months. If you're comfortable with your work situation, and your girlfriend still keeps insisting you get a job with a higher salary, it's likely that she's more concerned with how much money she can get out of you than your own well-being.
4) "All my friends are getting married…"
It's probably true that Chinese girls get more pressure from their parents to get married than Western girls, but it's important to remember that women incessantly nagging their boyfriends to tie the knot is a common occurrence the world over. Just because your steady girl of several years keeps asking you when she can expect a ring, doesn't mean she's a control freak. This decision, however, should only come after carefully considering whether you're really ready to commit and start a family.
If, after a short time together, she's already telling you that her mother thinks you need to get married or break up, but refuses to discuss tough issues like where to settle, how to get a visa, and what schools to go to, you might just have a control freak on your hands. It is unreasonable to assume that a university-educated foreigner would stay teaching English in the same provincial city just because his girlfriend lives there. Even traditional Chinese parents can understand practical considerations like where and when you want to raise children.
5) "You just wouldn't understand"
One issue common to expats is not knowing whether a seemingly unreasonable behaviour is acceptable in the local culture. Some, taking advantage of this insecurity, try to convince people to do what they feel is wrong by suggesting they are simply unaware of deep-seated customs. An accusation that you don't understand Chinese culture should never be used as an excuse to push you into something you don't want to do. It should not be the end of a conversation, but the beginning of one.
There is no issue in a relationship, cross-cultural or otherwise, that cannot be resolved by both parties with sufficient discussion. Both of you should be willing to put in the time to work through your problems, and make sacrifices if necessary. All relationships need give and take from both parties regardless of cultural background. Fair compromise is a key to every good and long lasting relationship no matter where you are in the world.
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Keywords: cross-cultural relationships Chinese girls Chinese girlfriend problems
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Feb 20, 2017 04:48 Report Abuse
This is my 2 cents on all this: Here is why I DON'T let me Chinese wife manage our money: 1) The Chinese idea of "saving" is putting money in a current account that barely generates interest, and just looses value due to inflation. I don't think that qualifies as being financially savvy. 2) There is no such thing as a shared account in China that. This is common in the West. You have a shared account and both can easily access it. So why would you hand over everything, then to just always beg for money when you need something. This is simply not healthy for your relationship. And that counts both ways btw. 3) Bonus: I have a financial degree, so I just laughed when she told me women are better at managing... Why I refuse to buy a house in China: 1) They are overvalued, massively overvalued. High price and poor build quality... 2) You cannot own it as a foreigner, it will always only be in the Chinese partners name. (Not in both names like for a Chinese couple.) 3) You only get it for 70 years... I mean c'mon, wtf. 4) You can buy a better house in Europe for 1/4 the price of here in China yet still get the same rent revenue as in China. And as a bonus, you own it forever! Overall, my wife is reasonable though, and we manage together, and are able to talk about all this, but it took some time, rational calm discussions and explaining each of our point of view while the other listened and was open to the other. I've had girlfriends before who were more pushy. Just kicked them out and told them if they wanted a little bitch ATM, they should just date a Chinese. (I look forward to ignorant comments from locals telling me I am "wrong".
Sep 26, 2016 11:54 Report Abuse
I don't think any woman woman should go around shouting at her man later saying its her way of expressing her love, my Chinese gf tried that once and i dealt with her properly, let her know where her anger ends that's where yours begin ,if she does that again warn her and shout at her seriously , she shouldn't take your leniency for granted. By not retaliating she thinks u weak. My gf never raises her voice anymore. Anyway it also depends on your age difference.
Jan 25, 2014 01:24 Report Abuse
David 1. I read your article with interest. Virtually everything you mentioned happened to me with my Chinese girlfriend and we were not even married at the time., After the initial coyness and timidity in the beginning she changed in a month to become a complete raving jealous shrew and control freak and in addition to that a cleanliness freak as well throwing out many things out of my house as well. She also ran around telling everyone that she was the owner of my properties and all financial affairs.I admit she was She was a good and efficient housekeeper and nurse and kind to the cat and the dog but the price she expected me to pay in return was too great a price to pay. That of complete utter subservience to her. My Chinese friends warned me that she was a Tiger lady. Eventually I had no other choice to buy her a ticket back home to dear old mother China. She can stay there. Realizing she could not do this with their own menfolk she no doubt is looking for yet another foreigner to play this game with IF she had been a beautiful woman I would not have been surprised but she was quite a plain Jane at that. Shows you can never tell
Many of us are taken in by the Asians women submissive and demure characters in the beginning.How well they play that role like an actress but once they can get hold of your assets you are dead meat. Oh yes in many countries you cannot as a foreigner own property. So if you buy in your spouses name you lose it when she dumps you.
Oh well I look at the bright side. I refused to marry her. End of the problem.
Nov 19, 2012 08:51 Report Abuse
Sounds to me like there's a lot of you on here who are now suffering from the aftermath of yellow fever. Lots of guys get blinded by it and don't really see clearly or think rationally when they choose a woman to date in China. This leads to all sorts of trouble in the future after they really get to know their partner. I've been in Asia for more than seven years now and I would still be very hesitant to marry a Chinese girl. I've seen and heard so many horror stories that now I guess I'm a bit gun shy. Either way, it sounds like many other foreigners I know or have met in the past. Just go sit in a pub for an evening and you'll hear countless stories that are similar or exactly the same. One thing that most of them all seem to have in common though is the fact that they dated or married a girl who was much younger than them. Maybe it's a coincidence but I doubt it. If you are observant or a people watcher, you'll notice that most Chinese people are much more immature than their western counterparts. For example, an average 25 year old Chinese girl would have about the same maturity level as a typical 18 year old western girl, maybe even less. The other thing is that because of China's one child policy, most of them are completely spoiled rotten and you as their new boyfriend, get to inherit that and wind up stuck with an immature brat, period. Would you marry an 18 year old spoiled brat back in your home country? If so, that says a lot about someone's character and morals. Couple that along with the other issues about face, money, materialism, etc. and you've just found yourself in the middle of a big s#@t storm. Good luck, you'll need it.....
Oct 16, 2012 21:53 Report Abuse
This I wish I had seen in 2006. It is amazing what men are supposed to know about and sacrifice themselves too. Much of this article sounds like the marriage I have. To all of you out there that think going overseas for a wife is the way to go... Be careful. I I had read this six years ago I would have been better informed, better able to make a decision and would have made a better decision.... Probably to not get married. Signed Living in Matrimonial Misery
Jul 26, 2012 18:55 Report Abuse
I first met my beautiful Chinese wife in 2008, we married in Xi'an in 2009 and honeymooned in Baisha near Lijiang. After moving into her apartment in Xi'an she confiscated my mobile phone and wouldn't let me go out alone for two whole years. I was a ' love prisoner '. Things changed when we moved back to the UK. We both still love each other, but we have faced an ongoing battle with UK immigration system. Living in times of adversity is a real test of a couple's love.
Jul 11, 2012 06:40 Report Abuse
I married a Chinese woman. She is nothing like the stereotypes presented in this article. She is hot, successful, independent, free-thinking and has her own money.
Guys, keep searching. Not all Chinese woman are like the stereotype presented here. I don't know anyone could put up with a bossy, demanding, superficial gold-digging woman. There are plenty of fish in the sea...
Jul 05, 2012 13:09 Report Abuse
My girlfriend is chinese, she has never asked these questions.in fact im the one who brought up marriage.once.we share our food, our time and even our jokes about different cultures.thats why we are still together.if u go for a girl who wants these things in the first place then u will get these problems.not all girls are mental.i have living proof.
Jul 01, 2012 17:07 Report Abuse
Mem are the head of the family,woman are the head of the house
This is how ,my house works.. .and .YES... we do have mis-understadings.
Men think with their little head ,Women ,think for life ,and family.
Sorry that you are PUSSY WIPED. Euro-trash。.
Jul 01, 2012 08:04 Report Abuse
All I see is a LOSER hunsband/boyfriend trying to blame his CHINESE wife/girlfriend for his own incompetent. If you don't share the same value of life then break up with your wife/girlfriend, find someone else you think is better for you. It's not only Chinese Women's "problem". No offence, but it's just not fair to say that all chinese women like this or it's chinese women's "problem".
Jun 30, 2012 22:08 Report Abuse