Dating a Chinese man, or perhaps anyone outside your own culture, isn’t the easiest thing to do. There are different ideas, beliefs and customs. Even though we both don’t belong to any religion, my boyfriend is as superstitious as any other Chinese person. He was terrified when he found out that I had taken photographs from a grave yard. He also thinks it is bad for your health to go to sleep with wet hair and bought me a hair dryer.
Being in a relationship and living with a Chinese guy is a process of learning. My boyfriend doesn’t speak any English and our common language is Mandarin Chinese. After learning the language for year and a half in Finland and one year in China, I can manage and survive with it. It means that we aren’t discussing physics, but fortunately topics like, ”what should we eat” and ”what TV channel you want to watch” are more common topics in our relationship.
While dating a Chinese man means that in the end you marry his whole family. At the same time it seems to be that you also let other people to comment and criticize your relationship. Or the others give themselves the right to voice out their opinions.
I have met foreign girls that have asked me what on earth I’m doing with my boyfriend. I have read comments in my own blog from Western guys that think I’m dating downwards and only date my boyfriend because I’m too ugly to get a Westerner. Then there are those Chinese guys that think my boyfriend isn’t good enough because he isn’t rich, he doesn’t have a great job or education and he can’t speak foreign languages. Instead they offer themselves to be my boyfriend.
And it isn’t enough that while being in this relationship I face criticism, it also creates a lot of pressure for my boyfriend. Everyone is assuming him to be something exceptional because he managed to get a girl from the West. Being with a laowai brings him face, but in the same time puts him in a position where he feels safer to avoid the attention.
Like I said earlier, it’s not too easy to be in a relationship with a Chinese guy. Then what is it in him that I see the trouble of learning to understand him in many different levels? Why do I date him against the others advice?
A year ago when we had just started dating and I ended up in a hospital for ten days. It was the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I was on bed rest and could only walk with a lot of pain. My boyfriend stayed the whole time with me in the hospital helping me every way possible.
He took the risk of losing his job in order to take care of me. He bought me food, that Chinese porridge, 粥(zhou), you are supposed to eat when you are sick. He saw me at my absolute worst, and he accepted every curse I had and still continued taking the best care of me. That was the reason I fell in love with him.
This is my story of a Finnish girl and a Cantonese boy who might sometimes be lost in translation, but never lost in love. And this is just the beginning.
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 (www.sarajaaksola.com), she shares her life, relationship and experiences in China.
[…] UPDATE: The part two of my guest post is up! […]
He is caring and that is the most important attribute in a relationship. Good Luck to you both!
Thank you Meryl!
Really enjoying your blog, thanks very much for sharing.
I wouldn’t worry too much about those people who question your relationship. “Dating downwards” is the most bizarre term I’ve ever heard of. I’ve never come across that before. I can’t imagine it being used in Europe, but you never know. Plenty of western guys date poor chinese girls, but I’ve never heard anyone complaining about that. I think people see it as quite romantic!
While a western girl dating a poor chinese guy is not unheard of, it is definitely unusual, and so interesting to read about. Looking forward to your future posts!
Nice to hear that you liked my guest post Mark!
I try not to worry too much about others’ opinions, but it’s hard to ignore fully. Making Chinese friends is hard, because almost everyone has an opinion about my relationship and they love sharing it with me no matter is it negative or positive.
Good point that people don’t complain when rich Western guy dates a poor Chinese girl! I wish we wouldn’t still be on that time when men worked and earned the money and women stayed at home totally depended on their husbands.
Hi Sara.I used to know a Canadian girl.When she just arrived in China she taught English in Danyang(a small city in Jiangsu Province) where she fell in love with her gym coach who is local.When she asked him to move into her apartment,her headmaster warned her boyfriend.The young man was scared and then they broke up(maybe also for other reasons) She was so sad and after that she moved to Guangzhou for 2 years before went back home.She said for foreigners it’s easier to stay in big cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai,because you’ll get less attention than in small cities.I think the pressure for dating with a local boy would also be less.(compared with in small cities) I am a girl so I cannot offer myself to be your boyfriend(haha ,just kidding) Best wishes to you and ur boyfriend. Btw,I traveled together with a Finnish girl in Cambodia 3 years ago,when I first noticed your website I felt some kind of intimate.
Why did the headmaster warn the Chinese guy not to move in with the Canadian girl?
It’s right what she said that it’s easier to live in the big cities even though I get enough attention in Guangzhou too! But when I was in my boyfriend’s home town and walking on the street on my own, everyone shouted hello at me. And I really mean everyone. And when we went to eat to a restaurant with the family members all the customers there were really curious why that white girl is with a Chinese family.
That’s interesting that you were traveling with a Finnish girl!
I don’t know the exact reason.According to my understanding foreign teachers in small cities are “precious” and they will be better “protected”.Thus the headmaster warned the young man in order to protect the Canadian girl .or,I’d rather say,to avoid any potential trouble for his school.As you know,in China if something happened to a “foreigner”,it’ll rise more attention and pressure.
May I ask a question?I hope it’s not too personal.Since your boyfriend cannot speak too much English or Finnish and your mandarin Chinese is not perfect so far, it seems that you cannot make deeper conversation now.Will it become a problem in the long run? I mean you cannot only talk about food or TV all your life.What’s your plan or opinion?
According to my familiarity with such guys in China,I’d rather describe things like that:
The headmaster heard about that this Chinese guy would move into the canadian girl’s apartment and he happened to want have a relationship with this girl,so he decided to warn this maverick guy to leave this girl alone.here is the talk between them:
H:how are you recently,xiao T.
T:I’m fine,thanks for ur caring headmaster H.
H:But some students responsed to me that there was some problems with ur way of life.
T(he was terrified and then thought hard about what he did these days): … I’ve no idea,headmaster.Can you give some cues about this?
H:Ok.I can frakly tell u i’s about ur thought?
T(more scared and confused:recently he recited Maoist , sung the anthem for the Party and learnd the principle of party everyday):I still have no idea…
H:U guy is so obstinate and u wanna be obstinate to death?it seems that the decayed capitalistic idea has invaded into ur bone.
T(stunned):u mean that canadian girl?I can swear to the Party that I Just want to collect intelligence from enemies through this girl for our great country?
H: ….So u r gonna move into her apartment and sleep with her.it’s ur way to gather intelligence?
H:This job is too tough for u to do and I must take over it for u.Well done!I misunderstanded u.jia you.
T: … Thx for ur praise. And here is her address.
(Can’t reply to your second question so I’ll reply here)
You are right, our communication is limited as long as my Mandarin isn’t good enough. But we do have our ways to talk about something more complex than food and TV. We don’t need complex words, but just little bit more explaining. Sometimes we don’t use the correct word, but we both know what we mean.
This won’t be a problem in the long run because my Mandarin is improving all the time. My goal is to be fluent in few years. Even better for us would be if I learned Cantonese too because that’s my boyfriend’s second language, Mandarin is only third.
I heard so many western girls saying that Chinese boys are not attractive to them. But as a Chinese girl, I know most Chinese guys can do a very good job in taking care of girls. Usually, being Chinese guys’ girlfriend is like being their children. If you told them that you felt uncomfortable, they would ask you a bunch of questions, urge you to see doctor, buy medicine for you, cook for you, give you massage and many other things that can make you feel being loved so much. In their mind, girls should be always protected. Sara, you’re lucky because you met a traditional good Chinese guy.
My husband is a western guy and he is wonderful to me, but when I feel uncomfortable, I still think a Chinese guy can do a little better job(sorry to my husband).
“Being Chinese guys girlfriend is like being their children…” Wow! I would not like being “infantilised” like that! But then I am a grumpy old laowai woman. I can open my own doors, thank you very much!!!
I think I was so general about “Being Chinese guys girlfriend is like being their children…”, I mean in taking care of girls when they feel uncomfortable physically.
Well, I think there’s a big difference being a girlfriend than being a kid. Don’t want to go too far with that idea.
I do agree that Chinese guys are good of taking care of their girlfriends. For example my boyfriend is often offering me water to drink even he surely knows that I can get the water my self when I’m thirsty. It’s his way of showing that he cares about me.
My husband and I are an old Western couple, married many years, and we often offer cups of tea to each other (or cups of coffee). I agree that this is a way of showing caring and I can confirm that this is very important in a relationship. However, “Babying” the girlfriend or wife is not so good – taken too far, this behaviour comes at a price! The “Baby” finds that her boyfriend/husband does not actually consider her his equal. Chinese women are still not equal to men in China, despite what Mao said.
Your boyfriend doesn’t speak English – that’s understandable in a country like China. The question I’m now dying to ask is, has he tried to learn English or Finnish since the pair of you are together? Answer this and I’ll let you know later here what I’ve seen in the older generation of Chinese people who married non-Chinese.
He can speak little bit English and little bit Finnish, but I have to say that I’m a terrible teacher! I prefer being his girlfriend than being his teacher. It also goes the other way around, he doesn’t teach me Chinese.
He would like to learn English, but that would mean hiring a teacher or going to school but he prefers working and earning money. I do feel like it’s my responsibility to teach him, but still I’m not doing that.
This `He also thinks it is bad for your health to go to sleep with wet hair and bought me a hair dryer.` sounds too familier to my ears. My bf also sayed this to me and first time it was really weard to hear.
Looks like the Chinese guys are take a care their love ones. I wish good luck for both of you and prepering me once again for my upcoming trip to Shanghai next year.
Hi Tiina! I have to admit that I still don’t believe it and sometimes go to sleep with wet hair. But I understand that of course he feels the need to share this knowledge that every Chinese person knows. He has to educate the poor foreigner who doesn’t have a clue!
Sara, I saw more posts of yours on your blog and pictures of you and your “boy”. The two of you are very becoming together and the love between you two, one can just sense, is quite thick. I was reminded of how beautiful a thing young love is. Like thenakedlistener, I have questions and concerns, but you know what, you don’t have to worry a lot of them, and for now, I just hope you enjoy what it is and when it is.
So lovely words you just wrote Yaxue C. Thank you! This is the right place to ask questions so if you want, I don’t mind. If something is too personal, I’ll let you know. (I don’t like being questioned in the real life by people I don’t know, but this is an appropriate place to ask.)
Comment on your Chinese: I listened your reading of the paragraph about Chinese New Year. It’s very smooth, correctly paced, and I can completely understand you. I don’t hear southern accent at all; to me, the accent is still that of a foreign speaker (A Chinese couple I know here had a baby daughter, and when she started speaking Chinese, her mother said, “Where did she get that Hunan accent when the two of us are Beijingese?!). Ask your boyfriend to speak as much Mandarin as possible with you. Besides speaking, reading aloud is always the best way to get into a language. You can ask any of your Chinese friends, whose Mandarin pronounciation is more or less standard, to record your favorite stories or articles for you and you can read after her or him. Anyway, Just keep at it 🙂
Good to hear your opinion especially because you could understand me. It gives me confidence to carry on with my studies. We speak Mandarin all the time with my boyfriend because that’s only common language we have. His pronunciation just isn’t the best example for me to follow. Actually I have a cd to that book from where I was reading from and thank you for reminding me that I should listen to it and imitate.
This commentary was formerly posted on your blog,Sara, but I think you’ll never find it recently because it is in your old post abou 1.5 yr ago.You know my english is not very good and it takes me a lot of time to type it -_-.
China has an arid soil for religions(zongjiao,宗教) and most Chinese even take superstition(mixin,迷信) equal to religion. Any kind of a divinity(shenling,神灵) which seems adapted to exert a
favourable influence in any given direction will be patronised, just as a man who happens to need a new umbrella goes to some shop where they keep such goods for sale. To inquire into
the antecedents of the divinity(shenling,神灵) who is thus worshipped, no more occurs to a Chinese than it would occur to an Englishman who wanted the umbrella to satisfy himself as to
the origin of umbrellas, and when they first came into general use.
This lack or even devoid of any definite sense of personality is a fatal flaw in the chinese worship of “divinity” and thus could be called superstition.
Unfortunately in China it seems that the role usually played by religion is supplanted by face(mianzi,面子) which has its definite meaning in an acquiescent way though a little divergence
exists among different people according to the regions.But such conformity to “face” is only confined to public and stealthily these so-called “disciples”are inclined (indead glad) to
violate the rule of “face”especially when it can benefit from doing so because actually they don’t take the conformity as a responsibility but as a burden.
Typically religion enables us to feel guilty when we did something wrong;on the contrary,face has no such obligation on us but even pampers us in doing wrong stealthily.As a result,the
atmosphere of hypocrisy and imorality permeates in China.
In my opinion things happening to you are not about face but about natural prejudice coexisting all over the word in the human beings(think about that every king almost married a princess
in the medieval Europe) and not uniquely in China if you comperehend the chinese political condition and old custom in which no equality conception between people exists and someone is
considered to be doomed to struggle to get through thier life. “Each dog has it’s day”,in China it will never happen.Most of us(from a chinese angle) would ask the question that “would
you mind if you live like his mother” because their son is exactly the same as his father psychologically just as what a chinese proverb said:”有其父必有其子(Like father, like son)”.
I guess you are a theist,sara and religion makes you absorb morality at every pore-__-.
I get emails of new comments even to old blog posts. Just during these few days I haven’t had time to answer comments in my own blog. I will try to do that as soon as possible.
Actually I don’t have any religion.
Hi Sara, I loved your story!
My husband is also Chinese and I can see myself in SO many of the situations you describe.
Regards from Nanjing
Thank you again Aorijia! Seems like many of us Western girl who date or marry a Chinese man have similar experiences. I think it’s good to share our stories so we can relate to each other.
As a Chinese born guy, however having lived in the US since I was 6, I can relate to how hard it can be to “catch” a Western girl, even over here in states (Cali). I can only imagine how much harder it would be for a native Chinese in China.
This is a really nice story and I wish you two the best.
Sara, it’s funny that western guys say you you are ugly so you are only able to have a Chinese bf. And the Chinese guys say your bf is not good enough for you and so want to offer themselves as your bf. Really, the arrogance of these fellows. I say you are pretty and what’s that about a guy not being good enough? People should just mind their own business and let others be. LOL.
Sara, this is a great post. I wish you and your BF can love each other forever. Because he is the one who you deserve to love! See you soon.
Beautifully said. I have dated two taiwanese guys, very different from Mainlanders, BUT i can relate with some of the things you said. In my case as well we had to use chinese to communicate and i also had to hear nasty comments from western guys (not many, thankfully, but god they irritate me, it’s so stupid).
I don’t want to say one should only date asians or only date people from their own race, what’s beautiful is to like someone – and eventually love – regardless of your culture. It’s challenging yet enriching at the same time.
Good luck for you two!