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A Very Different Look at Intercultural Dating in China

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…


14 Comments

  1. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    This is a very interesting story – can’t wait for the next episode! My Chinese teacher is 40 and married to a Brit about 15 years older than she is – they met when she came to UK to study for an MA. I don’t know his background and he has not bothered to learn Chinese but he is delighted to be stepdad to her young daughter and she is delighted to become (very recently) a British citizen. She and I often discuss cultural differences and expectations. She’s worried about her “poor old mother” back in Chengdu with nobody to look after her and was amazed when I told her than her Mum was 3 years younger than me! As I told her, “You have 20 more years in China before you are classified as old and here in UK you have 40 more years before you are “an old person”!

    • Tom says:

      I hope you’ll share more about this couple Meryl. It’s unfortunate that this is what we often picture instead of Tim and Yan Jiang.

  2. Tim says:

    Nice cliffhanger. Michelle & I are eagerly waiting for the rest of the story. Good job hooking your audience in, I’m taking notes. 😉

  3. @Meryl:
    It’s actually roughly the same in Hong Kong – a woman gets a 20-year quota before being binned as old. Of course, Hong Kong isn’t so inflexible as it is in mainland China. Higher education and the willingness to ‘do yourself up’ a bit extends the ‘youthfulness quota’ quite a bit here. But the trend even in Hong Kong is increasingly to slap on the ‘old’ label once you hit 30. Not something that inspires much confidence in me to see this on my own turf.

    Hong Kong men are getting unhappier by the day because they can’t find their mate at the ages (or with looks) that they desire – until you realise these 40-something men are trying to trawl for girls around 19 to 25! Then you just wonder what goes on in their minds. Be assured that this is a departure from the Hong Kong personality that I know in years past.

    • Tom says:

      In the mainland this is becoming increasingly common, even if the 40 year-old man is married, if he is mildly successful it’s time for a mistress or a new wife. The middle school I worked at was for children that had already missed the opportunity to go to college, virtually all of them came from single parent homes.

  4. adriana says:

    Are you serious? Stopping here? Can’t wait to keep reading!

  5. […] Seeing Red in China The Middle Kingdom Made Easy Skip to content HomeAbout MeComplete ArchiveSuggested SitesChina Books to ReadThe Best China MoviesMap of China ← A Very Different Look at Intercultural Dating in China […]

  6. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  7. Jin Zhao says:

    No communication might actually be a good thing for a relationship. 😉

  8. […] A Very Different Look at Intercultural Dating in China – by Seeing Red in China: Here’s a post that will make you go oh sh*t. In a three part series, Tom tells the story of a Western Man and a Chinese woman. His friend is in his 60′s and used a Chinese dating site to find a Chinese woman. The outcome was unexpected and interesting. I won’t spoil the surprise. […]

  9. […] A very different look at intercultural dating […]

  10. GC says:

    i am a causian and had been married to a a Thai woman. unluckily, ours is not a marriage made in heaven so I am currently going through a legal process with my Thailand divorce attorney. the sad reality here in thailand is that intercultural marriages are escalating but so with intercultural divorce cases http://www.thailand-lawyer.com/divorce-faqs.html

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