This post was written by my good friend Heather, about her new life with her husband Huichun. I had the honor of being the best man in their wedding and wish them both all the best as they work through the immigration process.
None of my friends or classmates of other racial backgrounds have EVER asked me to elucidate my experience as a “white woman.” So now that I have been called upon to give a kernel of insight into White American woman–Han Chinese man marriages, I can understand a little better the plight of the lone Black American in some of my high school and college classes who would frequently be expected to give the “Black” outlook on the topic. How can one person speak for such a large and varied group?
First of all, depending on the area in China your husband is from, there will be any number of stereotypes which will come with him. He’s from Shanghai? So he does a lot of housework, henpecked, gentle, short. Beijing? Elitist, cares about hierarchy, looks down on migrant workers, talkative, humorous, generous, possibly tall and an alcoholic. Hong Kong? Ostentatious, vulgar, crass, materialistic.
Fortunately my husband is from Nanjing, a city located on the Yangtze and thus neither northern nor southern. No one seems to have a problem with Nanjing – the city’s worst stereotype is that its people are naive in the business world (possibly true!). For me, dropping the “I speak Chinese and my husband is Chinese” card to a Chinese person opens the gate to instant friends and discounts (in fact, you might want to start saying “I’m buying this for my Chinese husband” even if it’s not true, at least the vendor will like you!).
Strangely enough, Chinese people themselves do not seem to have much confidence in their men’s ability to “catch” a white girl. When my husband and I are together, strangers rarely assume he’s a local, preferring to guess he’s Korean, Japanese or Hong Kongnese. Also, although, most Chinese assume that my husband has wooed me by flashing money procured from wealthy parents, they don’t directly voice it. Actually, as far as his stats go, he’s a very normal Chinese guy: average height, lower middle class, graduated from one of the (as my Chinese host put it) “worst of the very best universities.” Although he’s probably in the top 99 percentile as far as friendliness and handsomeness is concerned.
Of course, I also have to deal with stereotypes from non-Chinese.
Acquaintances: “He’s actually quite good-looking for an Asian guy.”
College trash: “Soooo, is it true that they all have small penises?”
Non-Asian, non-American men “You have a husband who’s Chinese!? That’s not possible. How could a Chinese guy get you??”
A couple of friends: “I want my kids to look like me…”
Other friends: “OMG! Your kids will be bilingual! Soooo awesome!”
So now I arrive at the question you all have been dying to ask: “in spite of these stereotypes, what IS different about being married to a Chinese man?”
Firstly, since Chinese women have collectively decided not to consider marrying a man without a house, a Chinese man frequently comes with a house (or down payment) donated by his family. I did not realize this until a couple of months ago and have been forever endeared to my in-laws with my protests of not wanting it. By the way, if a Chinese person compliments you by saying you “understand matters,” it is actually code for “resourceful, not greedy, low maintenance.”
Chinese men also come with involved mothers…continued