Yesterday I brought you the wonderful example of true love in an intercultural marriage, so today I want to look at some of the ways these relationships can be exploitative.
Now generally speaking when I hear Chinese-Foreigner marriage, I think of a Western Man and a Chinese woman. Typically the man is 10-30 years older than the woman, and she is far better looking than he is. In most of China’s major cities it is hard to miss seeing these kinds of relationships, and it’s harder still to believe that these could be true love. I know when I first arrive in China I thought it was disgusting that these men were so clearly taking advantage of the younger woman. Last year though I met a man who had a very different experience.
This friend was about 60 years-old, twice divorced, made a fairly average income in the US, and was a genuinely nice guy. During his time in China he wanted to find a girlfriend, and see if that could perhaps become something more. All of this was made more complicated by the fact that he spoke no Chinese.
Since he didn’t really know where to start in his quest for love, so he joined a Chinese dating website. On the site most of the women were 40-50 years-old, divorced, had custody of the one child from the former marriage, and spoke little or no English. As far as I could tell, the site was a by-product of the stigma placed on divorced women – No Chinese man will marry them, so they looked for a foreign husband. It’s a very pragmatic solution.
After a few emails he found his first date. She met him at the park with one of her friends, who happened to have a pocket translator, and over the course of the afternoon he realized that this was not going to work out with this woman. It was clear that she didn’t want to move to the US with him, and he was still a few years away from being able to retire.
So he went back to the site and continued to wade through the hundreds of profiles. It was clear to him that Google translate was being used to respond to most of his messages, and communication was often unclear. After looking through so many photo-shopped beauties, he realized that he would have to meet these women face to face just to tell if they could really even communicate.
In the following weeks he went on a couple more bad dates and was ready to swear the whole thing off. If they couldn’t even speak a word of English, how would they ever survive in the US?
He was just about to cancel his subscription to the site, when the woman of his dreams contacted him. She was spiritual, smart, and was a manager in a cosmetics company, so he knew she wasn’t interested in the little money he had.
That weekend he took the high-speed train to Chongqing to meet her, and returned a few days later telling my wife and I about how amazing this woman was. We were worried about her complete lack of English, but it seemed that our friend was willing to give it a shot. He told us that over the few days he had spent with her, she was already trying to learn a few new phrases.
The next weekend he brought her to Chengdu to meet us, and that’s when things went completely crazy…