Guest Post – Falling in love with a migrant worker

Sara Jaaksola lives in Guangdong province where she write Living a Dream in China about her adventures.

What is it like to date a Chinese guy? Or in more detail, what is it like for a Finnish girl living in China to love a Chinese boy from Guangdong province? I would say that it’s an adventure that I’m happy to be in. I haven’t found anything in common between Finland and China, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything similar between me and my boyfriend.

Let’s start from the beginning which happened over a year ago by the Pearl River in Guangzhou.

My boyfriend never thought of having a foreign girlfriend. Like many Chinese guys, he thought that laowai women are out of his league. There is a stereotype in China that only the wealthiest guys are good enough to date foreign girls. But my boyfriend, a migrant worker from a smaller city, didn’t suffer from shyness that is blamed to be a problem for the Chinese guys. He met me, noticed that I didn’t fit the stereotypical category of frivolous Western girls and decided to be my boyfriend.

Chinese men are also said to be marriage orientated and that is a characteristic I admire. I don’t want to date just for the sake of dating someone. You can call me old-fashioned, but I still think that the goal of dating is to find that someone special to share your life with. Chinese people might be more practical with marriage, but still the common aim is to get married and start a family.

Commitment-phobia doesn’t seem to be as widespread in China that it is in Finland. When dating a Chinese man, and my boyfriend is no exception, the blessing from the parents is crucial. Most of the Chinese people don’t go against their parents or grandparents word. I used to date a Chinese guy in Finland for over five years just to be changed to a Chinese girl because the parents didn’t approve him to date anyone else than Chinese. Because I didn’t want to do the same mistake twice I met the parents of my boyfriend quite soon after we started dating.

Fellow foreign girls interested in Chinese men should be careful because if the parents do accept you, as happened in my case, they have some heavy questions for you. ”When will you get married?” asked one aunt days after our visit to the hometown. It wasn’t “if”, it was “when.”

The reason I emphasize the parents is that in China you don’t marry a person, you marry the whole extended family. And you only date someone if your plan is to get married some day.

Well, me and my boyfriend aren’t getting married right now so back to the dating topic!


Sara Jaaksola is a Finnish girl who since her childhood had a big dream. A dream to move to China. At the age of 21 she was ready to make that dream come true and settled down in Guangzhou. Soon she found the Chinese guy she was looking for and who can make excellent 土豆丝 tudousi, sliced potatoes.

In her blog, Living a Dream in China (, she shares her life, relationship and experiences in China.

21 responses to “Guest Post – Falling in love with a migrant worker”

  1. You dated a Chinese guy in Finland but the parents couldn’t stand him dating a non-Chinese??? Why are these people in Finland in the first place??? Indeed, do they in fact know they’re in Finland?

    • Sara says:

      Yes, that’s what happened. The family have been living in Finland for a long time, but still it was important for them that their son married a Chinese girl.

    • Will Shim says:

      Do you have traditional Chinese parents? Obviously you don’t understand the mentality of traditional immigrants in foreign countries. No matter how long they’re lived in another country, they’ll always want their kids to marry a girl from -preferably- their ancestral places or at least from their country. Some parents are more strict than others. For example, my parents -Chinese immigrants in Canada, over 20 years out of the old country- insist on asking me to marry a Chinese girl, but since I think, I’m the one who has to spend my life with this woman and not they, I’ll marry someone -whatever her race- that I can get alone with for the next decades or so, and there’s nothing they can do about it. And this does not apply only to Chinese immigrants, it applies to almost every traditional immigrant families from third world countries: India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, so on (I have many friends from different nationalities). I’m not saying this is wrong or ok, but try to understand the world before classifying everything into the “WTF-ness Scale”; it makes you sound childish and in the worst case scenario, idiotic.

      • Oh, please, Will, spare me your diatribe about me not knowing. I do happen to know, more than you suppose. I used to live in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Lebanon, Singapore and some other countries, which are all heck of a lot more multicultural than some places you mentioned. Stuff I said ranks pretty high on MY scale – others are free to rank it or not rank it in theirs (if any).

        Not to put too fine a point on it, don’t ‘shush’ me, and spare these people on the strength of some pseudo-sociological codswollop about immigrant mentality. I have seen up front and up close the mentalities of ‘les maghrebians’ (Algerians, Moroccans, etc) in France, or the Nigerians in the UK in the 70s or Iranians and Iraqis there in the 1980s – to say nothing about the various factions when I was in Beirut – whose fundamentalists and secularists alike are in fact warm-hearted, level-headed people all round.

        No, I don’t know if I have traditional Chinese parents or not – I only have one set of those and I make no representations about them. They and my grandparents were probably quite old-fashioned, judging from what they taught me then with respect to the world around us today. My maternal grandfather was an Imperial Chinese Scholar, the very last batch, and if that equates to being traditional Chinese, then so be it – but then again, I’ve never had any other maternal grandfather, so I couldn’t say for sure if he was traditional or not.

        Yes, I personally have seen quite a number of episodes of parents/grandparents (not necessarily Chinese ethnically) pressuring their youngers to marry within, just as many episodes of the reverse, and a whole lot in between.

        As to every other traditional immigrant that you refer to, I grew up, lived and otherwise worked in more than a dozen countries, (In case anyone wonders, my family never emigrated.) I am in a position (in my own small way) to relay some of MY OWN observations. Please try to understand this yourself first before pigeonholing others as childish or “worst-case scenario” (and what would that be, pray tell?) idiotic. I don’t doubt your views, but try not to be so literal-minded on this thread, please. The limelight is on Sara here, and I would not like to be the one to steal her thunder on someone else’s blogsite.

      • Tom says:

        let’s try to keep the comments a bit more civilized Will, I don’t think it’s so crazy to hope that somebody’s parents would be willing to see past race.

  2. […] had so much to say that Tom had to cut my post into two parts. The first part was published today and the second part will be published […]

  3. Yaxue C. says:

    Sara, I wish you and your boyfriend the best and look forward to reading the rest of your story. I lived in Shenzhen for 6 years before I came to the US. I miss the food there on a daily basis! The boiled shrimps, the roasted geese, all kinds of soup, and above all, the 早茶…

    • Sara says:

      Thank you very much Yaxue C. I can understand you well, because when in China I miss Finnish food so much! Luckily I can make some dishes my self here, but that’s not the same as my mom’s cookings.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nice to see that the parents accepted you …. you are correct when you say that you marry the whole family….. it actually kind of gets on my nerves sometimes… hehehe.. it is like his family is always in our business….. hehehe… good luck to you and your boyfriend.

    • Sara says:

      It’s hard enough to find the right guy and then suddenly you have to find the right family too! I’m really happy that the relatives are so nice to me and always asking what I want to eat.

  5. ashram says:

    In China the term “migrant worker” means a disgrace to those workers from rural coutries.Accord to the literal meaning of this word,they are never treated as normal local employees:even living where they work need a temporary residence permit – obviously a violation againt human rights.
    It’s weird that the shameless Chinese Communist Party speaker advocates that residents in China have the world’s most excellent human right condition and 5 times better than that in US>__<

    • ashram says:

      (the limit of words?continue last post)There are two style of democracy in the world:Democracy and “chinese demorcary”.There is only one point similar between Finland and China:We both were ruined by Russian Communist Party before and the difference is that Finland break away from it and has become one of the world’s most civilized state while China keeps being hampered by the specter of soviet communism.We never see the future in China where even the wordpress is blocked and could be accessed by proxy or vpn.Most of us young want to fleed from this goddamned prisonlike place – a feeling that can’t be compreheded fully by the foreign torists from the demoracy world considering that they were puzzled by the appearance of downtown.
      Finally,Sara,you are so beautiful and wish you happy in China.
      By the way,I like the Finnish darkwave band Tehni.Forgive my terrible English>_<

      • Sara says:

        ashram, I don’t take part in politics, but I have the impression that most of the Chinese people don’t regard their home country as prisonlike. I agree that China has lot of room for improvement, but a lot have also happened during the past 30 years.

        I don’t see my self as a “foreign torists from the demoracy world considering that they were puzzled by the appearance of downtown”, but I also didn’t come to China to change it. Just observe it. I admire Chinese people who have the courage to speak out and make China better. I believe there is future.

        And finally, Thank you for your kind words ashram! Hope you can be happy too. (And don’t worry about your English, it isn’t my native language.)

    • Actually, the literal meaning of ‘migrant’ (adjective) is to move from one place to the next, as in travelling about. However, in the Chinese sense, I grant you that it carries a negative connotation. Lots of countries require temporary residence permits, such as the UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Japan – pretty much most of the advanced countries. The difference between those other countries and China is that China locks the person to his/her original domicile with this residency permit (or hukou) for the purpose of withholding social services and to target certain individuals or groups.

      By contrast, in the other countries it is merely an administrative matter for the provision of healthcare and other basic essential services (plus, of course, taxation). Even in a small place like Hong Kong where I am, we too have this residency requirement, although it’s known under a different name and the operation thereof is done differently.

      At the other end of the scale, it could be just as much against human rights to NOT have residency requirements so that no one anywhere could obtain essential services. To have or not to have is not the question and it most certainly is NOT a violation of human rights.

      The question is one of ultimate intent on the part of the state that actually determines if human rights violations are being carried via that administrative procedure.

      • ashram says:

        whether it violates human rights or not is not important(actually in China even no such conception has existed after Republic Of China migrated to Taiwan) in the face of the concrete truth that a young man’s right to live is bereft:
        Btw,thenakedlistener,are u a native Hongkongnese?ur English is awesome.

      • Ashram, I’m unsure what “no such conception” you are referring to. It doesn’t matter. If you are referring to the residency requirements (or called “hukou” in the PRC), the concept of residency (or properly “domicile” in legal language) has been existence and also in operation for literally two thousand or more years – certainly since 1650s soon after the establishment of the Ch’ing (Qing) dynasty. The same system of residency operates in the ROC (Taiwan) plus many advanced countries, as I have said before. The difference is that domicile registration in most other countries is treated as an administrative procedure, but in the PRC it is often used for political purposes on top of the administration of essential services. This whole matter is a rather longwinded and convoluted one, and I think it’s outside the scope of Sara’s article and thread here.

        Thank you, I am a Hongkonger (not “Hongkongnese”) and my English can scarcely be described as awesome. If people stick to shorter, simpler words instead of the bigger, 10-dollar words, everyone’s language will be awesome.

  6. Chopstik says:


    I wish you and your boyfriend well. I am glad that his family accepted you. That is a very important thing – one that cannot be overrated for the success of any relationship in China, quite frankly.

    • Sara says:

      Thank you Chopstik! I totally agree with you that acceptance from the family is important for the happiness of a relationship here in China. It would be really hard for everyone if there’s hard feelings inside a family.

  7. […] 中国见红:爱上一名农民工——芬兰姑娘讲述自己在广州如何找到一位农民工当男朋友的故事 […]

  8. Sara, Guangzhou is a good city, your boyfriend is a good boy, I wish you happiness!!!

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