Stereotypewriter: Welcome to the ‘Get With A Chinese’ Club

It’s an interesting statistic that my friends in China have changed over the two years I’ve been here from those that are just visiting to those that are here and have serious Chinese relationships (read that how you will – wife, girlfriend, etc.). It raises an interesting question about whether there is any other reason to stay in China?

I’m sure there is – and I’m sure there are plenty of people not married to, going to marry or otherwise seriously dating a Chinese national that find China a perfectly comfortable place to live – but to put it in perspective… here is a partial list from my daily reads of foreigners talking about China whom have some sort of romantic connection with China:

Me (the humanaught)
Steven (people’s republic of…)
Hector (Chronicles of a Confused Chicano in China)
John (Sinosplice)
Kevin (Just Another Laowai)
Jeremiah (The Granite Studio)
Dezza (Mask of China)
Bill (This is China!)
The 88s (The 88s)
Shaun (Xiao Niu)

Though this only includes those I definitely know to be in relationships with Chinese and available at first glance of my RSS feeds and blogroll, I think it illustrates what I’m saying.

Two interesting reads have got me thinking about the fact that I’m marrying into this niche.

The first is Bill’s post, “Same Bed, Different Dreams” at his This Is China! blog. It’s (in a rather circular referencing fashion) actually a response to a comment I made on a previous entry of his. He goes a long way to adding to the thought though, and raises some excellent points about miscommunication between cultures.

This is something that only after a year and a half of living with Maggie am I starting to understand – and as Bill candidly explains can still slip past even after more than eight years of marriage. Cultural differences go much deeper than just whether or not you celebrate Christmas or Spring Festival – eat pasta or mian tiao – wear long-johns or go without.

The second article that got me thinking about this was at The 88s blog. His post entitled “How To Date Asian Women” is one that shouldn’t be missed. It is (in some way) a review of an ebook for those looking to, well, date an Asian woman. He doesn’t offer much direct criticism of the book (which it well earns), but rather explains, “Some things are such pure objects of self-parody and absurdity that it is better just to marvel at them in quiet awe and bask in their radioactive, crapulescent glow. You know, like David Hasselhoff or the Bush administration.”

It all makes me realize that where many people marry into an institution and a statistic (often of failure), I am marrying into a stereotype… and that’s a bit weird. In the most important ways it’s not at all strange, because I know Maggie. I live with her and I see our relationship from the inside. I see the goofy affection, the stupid and inescapable fights, the inevitable and welcome makeups, the incredible amounts of patience and understanding needed to make it work, and the pure -unaffected by culture, race or backgrounds- love that we have for each other.

But from the outside, I am just one more laowai hooked up with some hottie Asian looking for her ticket to easy street. Just another Westerner that decided to get himself a complacent woman from a backwards and under-liberated society to cook and clean for him. Marrying someone willing to trade in her search for Mr. Dui for the opportunities that marrying a foreigner affords.

Funny, that.

11 Responses

  1. Nice post. I’m married to at Chinese woman too (as you soon will be). We live in Denmark though, but this doesn’t leave out Danish/Chinese miscommunnications. As you say, things seem different from the “inside”, and I really never think of my wife as a forigner. I just see her as the woman I love and thats that. How other people see us, I don’t think much about, but sure would be funny to creep inside the head some “outsiders”. Well, maybe not. Could turn out to be a nasty surprise of course.

  2. Hey Peter, thanks for adding in. The strange thing at least for me is, I was an “outsider” and I remember very clearly placing judgment on men with a Chinese girlfriend/wife in tow. Now, this perhaps speaks more about my need to be less judgmental than it does about all “outsiders”, but I don’t think my views were that uncommon. At first glance it’s just too easy to fall into stereotypes. In then end though, you’re absolutely right – love is love.

  3. I have a question which I don’t dare to ask my friends in real-life. Whenever I meet foreign women in China, they always seem to breathe a proverbial sigh of relief when I mention that I have a long-term relationship with a western woman here in China. It’s as if having a western partner here raises my score on the normality meter, and they seem happier to sit and chat with me “knowing” that I’m not a horny, yellow-fever stricken, sexpest.
    What I would like to know, is if you experience the negative side of this kind of attitude when you tell female expats that you have a Chinese partner? If people really hold the attitude (like you mention) that a man with a Chinese partner is only after a free maid from a “backward society”, do you encounter hostility from western females often? My thoughts immediately turn to a female poster on a certain expat site who automatically accuses any male member whom she disagrees with as being “unable to find pussy back home”.

  4. @Ryan: I agree. I had the same thoughts myself, before I found my wife. Many people joke about having an Asian wife here, and I do the same myself too. I must admit that I believe that jokes between good friends are just jokes, but of course they sometimes reflect something more. I am pretty sure some acquaintances would categorize me as a loser or just yellow-fetishy or similar, but I never hear those things. Now thinking about it, I heard those things before I was an obvious target, so why shouldn’t it occur still? Now I’m just not one-of-the-guys who can understand these things to the public. Thus I am kept out of that circle of jokes.

    My close friends, on the other hand, know that I expect harsh jokes and that I can take it. Actually I prefer friends who dare use direct humour to tell me that I’m fat and not dance around the truth (I have a mirror you know). The same goes for my relationship, as long as it is kept between me and them. No need to hurt the misses.

  5. @Meursault: Definitely. But then again most Western girls in China are weird to a whole other level – so it sorta balances out. 😉

    @Peter: I can’t say that I ever get anything directly thrown in my face about Maggie – but we still live in China, so perhaps that’ll change once we migrate to Canada in the future. I have had a friend say, “So, c’mon, what’s the deal with you marrying a Chinese girl? I never considered you into the submissiveness thing.” But I don’t count it much because it was A) to get a reaction from me and B) comes from a rather bright, if not culturally sensitive friend.

    @Lonnie: That post was great. Very touching and perspective-expanding.

  6. I can understand how it appears that I (we) have married into a stereotype, but it usually isn’t thrown into our faces. The only time we even notice it is when we are in the same room with a racist or when we visit Chinatown in NYC. Holding hands and standing too close to my wife is a good way to get dirty stares from older, Chinese women and some men. Most of the younger generations don’t give a crap. I should also mention that when we visited China on our honeymoon (pretty much side-by-side and hand-in-hand all the time) that we got way more dirty looks than I expected. So, I feel for you having to live in China and deal with it more often.

    I’m with you though. I don’t see the race of my wife everytime I look at her. I understand it is there, but it isn’t the first thing on my mind. We are two people in love, married and enjoying living life together. The same thing goes for cultural differences. These are just things that make up the person that she is and the person that I am.

    People can change though. My father in law didn’t have much of a problem with me marrying his daughter or his other daughter marrying a white guy. His only concern was that his son marry a pure Chinese girl. He wanted him to have a grandchild that would call him grandpa (wai gong). What he ended up with is a grandson (and soon to have a granddaughter) that are only part Chinese that he adores and would not give up for anything, and a son marrying a pure Chinese woman that he doesn’t like at all.

    One more thing. I think that most people that have a problem with mixed couples are just ignorant. People that stereotype Chinese women as “submissive” certainly haven’t met my wife and her sister. There is a nice article on the web about the average IQ of racists. It seems that racists have a noticeably lower IQ than non-racists. It also says that most racists lack higher education. That doesn’t mean that people that haven’t gone to college are racists, but it is an interesting result of the study.

  7. Not to minimize the cultural differences inherent in Chinese/non-Chinese marriages, but just among my friends here in Seattle, I can hardly think of any whose marriages do not involve major cultural differences. 1. Big City Jew/Small Town Wasp
    2. White/Black
    3. Chinese American/White
    4. Democrat/Republican
    5. Catholic /Protestant
    6. British Protestant/American Jew
    7. Black/White Jew
    8. Hispanic/White
    9. German/Spanish
    10. Chinese/Japanese (man, that was an interesting wedding!)
    11. A “million” Catholic/Protestants
    12. …..

    Not that I am necessarily the one to be talking about this (but I have been married for more than 25 years), but the reality is that all marriages will have their differences and their similarities and there will always be outsiders who do not approve.

    Also, many of the bloggers you mention do not live in China.

  8. Nice post. It sounds like all of the comments posted here have a happy marriage with your Chinese wives. That is good and I’m happy for you. As Ryan said that he once joked at others who dated or married an Asian woman. Now he is married to an Asian woman himself. I’m not racist and in fact I have many friends from different cultures. I’m a 2nd year sociologist student and thinking of writing this topic. I would like to understand. Why are you, white men, attracted to Asian women? What do you see in Asian women that you don’t see in white women? Is that true that white men looking for an Asian wife who does the cooking and cleaning for them? Do you encounter the same problems with Asian wives in general and Chinese wives in specific as with white women? I’m very appreciated with you can shed some light.

  9. Sean, I think you missed the point. A Chinese wife, though culturally different, is really not any different then any wife, visa versa western husbands.

    I’ve never considered myself attracted to white women or Asian woman exclusively. I’ve had many Western girlfriends, and marrying an Asian girl was not a shun against white girls… I just happened to have fallen deeply in love with the woman that is my wife, and she happens to be Chinese. I didn’t fall in love with her because she is Chinese… I fell in love with her and she is Chinese. The two things are mutally exclusive.

    That said, I’m sure there are guys that take advantage of the fact that Asian women tend to be more “traditional” than most Western women. It is, however, completely unfair and a huge disservice to judge the majority by these folks.

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