If you’ve found love in China, congratulations! You’ve probably made a great choice. You can expect to learn a lot about a very different culture, one with very unique social norms and expectations. And make no mistake, you’ll learn about these norms and expectations very fast when you meet your Chinese girlfriend’s parents.
But first, a quick disclaimer. This article is by no means a statistical analysis on the topic, as the author’s sample size is rather modest. Think of it as an in-depth case study instead. For simplicity, the article will focus on the scenario of a foreign guy with a Chinese girlfriend.
Imagine the following situation; you’ve been with your Chinese girlfriend for some time, everything is going great and you feel she might be the one. Spring Festival is around the corner, and regardless of if you’re a student or working, you already know what’s going to happen. It’s time to meet her parents.
This will be an experience you’ll never forget, whether you want to or not. Let’s have a look at some of the potential things you can do to, if not to win them over, then at least to avoid being thrown out.
Okay, so your student allowance might be twice that of the average salary in China, but that’s still not even close to what you should be making in order to date their daughter. Oh, what’s that? You’re not a student. You’re working? Your ESL paycheck is actually closer to RMB20,000 a month? Okay, when can you pay for the down payment on a Beijing apartment?
There’s an old stereotype in China that all (especially white) foreigners are rich. In the last decade, this idea has been largely eroded in first-tier cities as the prevalence of grubby foreign students, ESL teachers and backpackers has shown the affluent Chinese middle-class that foreigners are by no means automatically rolling in it.
In smaller cities, the stereotype is still going strong though. It can be tough to decide which is worse: your girlfriend’s parents assuming that you’re rich, or the awkward moment when they realize you’re not. Either way, your best bet is to let it be known that you have big plans for the future. Sure, you may be a struggling teacher now, but in five years’ time you’ll have your own school and be wealthy. Keep at it, and maybe they’ll believe you.
Your Chinese girlfriend has told you repeatedly that since you’re a foreigner, there’s no need to bring a gift when you first meet her parents. Don’t fall for that. Only an arrogant fool would think that a gift isn’t necessary just because he’s a foreigner.
So what to bring then? Anything is fine, so long as you put some thought into it (and before you ask, apples in a fancy case is not putting any thought into it). How about playing to the stereotypes? If you’re from France, get a nice bottle of wine. Maybe some home decorations with quirky and potentially offensive names if you’re from Sweden. Other appropriate yet culturally stereotypical gifts could include maple syrup, barbecued shrimps, a bottle of tequila, a bottle of vodka – the list goes on. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make an effort.
You were supposed to have a nice intimate family dinner, but word got around and the dinner has turned into the biggest event of the year, with even the farthest flung relatives inviting themselves over to have a look at the foreigner. At such an event, you better keep your cool and toast as appropriate.
Your best chance of survival is to simply follow your girlfriend’s directions. Toasting will generally go from the least important to the most important relative, who will inevitably be the family patriarch. By the time you get to him, however, you might not remember too much. Just follow their lead and try to keep up.
If you’re still not accepted, there’s only one thing that will do
If things start to go sour, you’ll probably know about it. If your Chinese girlfriend looks pale and on the defence or the great-grandmother looks at you with peculiar disinterest, you know there are issues brewing under the surface.
An argument can be made that the biggest issues Chinese parents and relatives might have with foreign boyfriends is not the foreignness itself. It’s probably the fact that if you’re Westerner, they think you don’t take anything seriously. Relationships come and go for you, so why should their precious daughter spend her best (marriageable) years with someone who might leave her on a whim? Chinese people are pragmatic, and this is truly one of the most telling signs of that.
The only real way to counter this is quite simply to marry your Chinese girlfriend. It will set most, if not all, Chinese parents at ease. But of course, with marriage comes a whole other set of issues.
If you’re a guy and you want to marry a Chinese girl, you might have become all too acquainted with the word “dowry”. In the West it’s an antiquated concept that died with modernity, or perhaps even before that. In China, on the other hand, dowries are just becoming a thing again, and boy are they getting out of hand. It’s further amplified by the unfortunate reality that there are now over 30 million fewer women than men in China. In short, you’ve got a lot of competition.
Unless you’re rich and have a few hundred thousand RMB stowed away, how do you get around this? Hopefully by the simple fact that you’re a poor foreigner (with great prospects). As much as the parents might not expect you to know how to handle chopsticks, they might (hopefully) not expect you to be able to pay them for the daughter.
If you get married, perhaps you’ll move to whichever country you came from, which will typically mean unmatched possibilities for your future kids. That might be enough for the parents because, remember, Chinese people tend to be pragmatic. Failing that, find ways to demonstrate your undying love for each other and hope they cut you some slack in the name of romance.
Do you have some tips of your own about this subject? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.
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Keywords: Chinese girlfriend
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The dowry system is expected in most Chinese families even here in my own country. The male's family should provide the house while the wife's family should provide the furniture, for example. In many instances, it is the male's family who will provide for almost everything. Indians also have their dowry system with the burden on the female's family. Hence, having a daughter in India is seen as a financial burden. Indian wives have been beaten or killed just because the dowry was not deemed favorable.
Sep 29, 2018 17:55 Report Abuse