In the week before his new girlfriend arrived, there was a flurry of emails. He told us that he was spending hours each night writing and reading her emails. She was kind enough to accept them in English and would reply in English, all with the help of Google translate. They would even talk on the phone, but that was just a few very simple phrases. My friend seemed genuinely happy with this new-found love. They were able to communicate well enough, and he thought that with her determination she’d be able to learn enough English to handle living in the US.
For now though he had a simple solution. He bought two pocket translators, and ever so slowly they could “talk” with each other. It seemed slightly crazy to me, but who am I to judge someone else’s love?
We met her on a Saturday morning. We started by heading to a very small art section on the west side of Chengdu. There we toured a photography exhibition, which my friend absolutely loved, and she seemed to have zero interest in. After about an hour there we headed to a small coffee shop.
My wife, my friend, and I all ordered coffee, while his girlfriend had tea. I had the fun of serving as their translator, and even though my Chinese is not terrific, I was causing more confusion than usual. My friend would say, “Do you want to live in America?” and she looked as if she had never considered it, “We live in China,” she replied.
“No, if we get married we move to America,” He said.
“But you live in Chengdu,” she said, I could hear the frustration.
When I translated this back to my friend he was bewildered. He told me that in his very first email he had explained that he was only in Chengdu for a few months, and then he would be heading back to the States.
Luckily at that moment the coffee shop dog came trotting over, and the conversation moved on to simpler things. I took the brief break from translating as a chance to use the restroom.
When I came back everyone look puzzled.
My wife, who speaks some Chinese, was trying her best to translate. “She said that you should use QQ now to talk with each other.”
The girlfriend nodded vigorously and said in English, “QQ, no YaFu.”
“What’s YaFu?” My friend asked. It took me a minute to figure it out. The Chengdu dialect sometimes switches “H” and “F” sounds, “Don’t use Yahoo,” I told him. This led him to the obvious next question, “Why?”
My Chinese seemed to function above its usual level for the next thirty minutes as we started to piece together why there had been so much confusion.
I’ll save you that frustration. It turned out that she didn’t want him to use Yahoo, because it wasn’t actually her talking with him through that account. She had hired a company to help her find a foreign husband, and it was actually one of their agents chatting on Yahoo and sending text messages.
My friend looked crushed, “But what about the emails I sent you?”
“The company would translate them and then I would read them. I really do like you, but if they know we are thinking about marriage, I have to pay them another 10,000rmb ($1,250). It was 1,000rmb just to meet you,” It was one of those things that feels awful to translate, but it had to be said.
Continue to learn all of the tricks Chinese dating sites use to trap you and your loved one into paying thousands of RMB for a bride that you know nothing about.