Remember when it used to be weird, sad and pathetic to meet your significant other online? When the only folks using online dating services were types that don't "’shower on a daily basis’, or even ‘at all’" or would’ve been stalkers except it meant you had to leave the house. Well Myspace and Facebook changed all that. Heck, the world’s most famous adult film star, Jenna Jameson, met current beau and baby daddy Tito Ortiz on Myspace so who knows who you might find on the internet. If you’re worried that online dating in China will be complicated, fret not, there are plenty of online dating sites catering towards both foreigners and Chinese (and yes, they are predominantly aimed at western men and Chinese women) but also ways for expats to meet up and make merry as well. This week we will address some of the hype and complications that surround Chinese dating. Next time we’ll look at where you can get your online date on.
Photo: Don Hankins
Don’t believe the hype
Not surprisingly, most of the online dating websites are dedicated to bringing together Chinese women with Western men, and the articles that accompany these sites usually range from ignorant to insulting, sometimes both. At best, they merely generalize about all Chinese women or all Western women and perpetuate the belief that China is still a strictly Confucian society. At worst, well, they’re inane, offensive and creepy. Remember that there are roughly 700 million Chinese women out there. Even if you narrow this to the ladies looking for love, or lust, we’re still potentially talking about several hundred million individuals in a massive country that is by no means homogenous.
If you’re a Western man looking to date a Chinese woman you would do best not to read any of the sites which say things like, “But here is the most important thing, a Chinese Woman marries for life. Once she commits, she will invest every ounce of her being into your future, your home, your family and your life together. If that is the kind of wife you want, then you're in the right place.” Or this gem, “Her priorities in approximate order are husband and children, parents (hers and yours), home, face (what does the world think of your family), herself, her importance to you, her job, her friends.” (A contrasting dating site perspective on the priorities of Chinese women can be found here.)
Setting Chinese women off against their Western counterparts is a common move, “Unlike Western Women, a Chinese Woman will not sit around with her buddies secretly badmouthing you. To her, if you look bad she looks bad, and she would lose face. So long as you are covering the bare basics, she will outwardly praise you to the roof, because if her friends think you look good, then she gains face. And if she says you're not a good husband, then implicitly she is failing as a wife.” Or this nugget, “Chinese women would never think of abandoning a marriage for any reason, unlike western women who decide to stay in or opt out of the marriage if they feel the marriage has no quality.” Incidentally, the author of the “badmouthing you behind your back” article links to a dating site advertising a translation service which enables people who can’t speak the same language (besides the universal language of love, of course) to communicate.
On the other end of the spectrum are the sites like Middle Kingdom Life whose comprehensive guides to relationships in China offer a more jaded, and better referenced, perspective. Their section on Understanding the Attraction to Foreign Men starts with the admission that their previous stance needs minor modifications: “In previous editions of the guide, we had asserted an unqualified, ubiquitous and pervasive preference for foreign men over Chinese men for most women in China…it appears that those claims were overstated—or, at the very least, need to be better qualified.”
Chinese dating foreigners should disregard the myths about all foreigners being wealthy and/or promiscuous. If you’re thinking of dating an expat from Italy you probably shouldn’t buy into the idea that all Italians lead personal lives as colorful as their leader Berlusconi’s. (Similarly, not all Russians ride horses without shirts on or hunt tigers.)
Dating in a foreign country, whether with a local or another expat offers a unique set of complications. Expats tend to leave China at some point, sometimes much more precipitously than they’d planned if their visa expires and a job falls through. Since the expat population is a very international one, foreigners dating other foreigners are often dating people from other countries, which can carry with it another set of linguistic, cultural and practical issues. What works in China doesn’t always work long distance, or in the home country of one half of the couple.
Western women in China have a notoriously difficult time finding and dating Western (and often Chinese) men. The extensive Middle Kingdom Life guide features only one article about Western women, written after a solicitation for entries. There is also the feeling that Western men (or the totally under discussed non-Chinese non-Western men) only have eyes for Chinese women once they come to China.
International relationships are more subject to bureaucracy than local ones. There are visas and residency permits, job and green card issues, and while you don’t want to be thinking about all this every time you log on to fiddle with your dating site profile, it is part of the experience and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Next week we look at specific sites for online dating in China and how to make the most of them.
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