In China many young girls dissatisfied with the traditional Chinese man are seeking a foreign boyfriend, love and eventually a husband. In this article we will examine some typical case studies as seen in counselling sessions where young women come to seek solace, explanations and support after breakdowns from relationships with foreign men. To protect the identities of the clients some details have changed and names but the essential psychological trauma are common.
So why do many Chinese girls want foreign men? To answer this would take an article in itself so here I will just precis a short over-view. (See Dr. Myler’s article the Chinese Patient) First many of these girls come from the main cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou (we discount Hong Kong as it is too Westernised) they have been exposed to a variety of Western media, movies, magazines, fashion and life-style influences. This media show the Western men as romantic, kind, supportive, handsome, sexual and strong, all very appealing attributes to many young girls ideas about Mr. Right. The Western men they meet daily in China are however not typical of the average American, Englishman or Europeans but are the educated, from higher social classes, above average income and alone in China for the most part. If you add these two elements together you get a good idea of how Chinese girls view Western men as something special. However as in cognitive dissonance they tend to ignore all the warning signs that they would normally associate with other relationships. In the West we would phrase this as rose-tinted-glasses or the “Halo Effect”. Also most Chinese girls are less mature than similar aged girls in the West. They tend to have less experience with men in general and no sex education at school. It is amazing to ask even basic questions about pregnancy and sex and find they are unclear, confused and ignorant of even the basics of protection and disease. (Speaking to a 24 year old here is like talking to a 15 year old in the West – that is the best analogy for their maturity). In conclusion you may ask why they do not want to be with a Chinese man. Most have already had boyfriends finding that on average Chinese men are too traditional, controlling, uncaring and put their mother before the wife or girlfriend in all things. So with disappointments already in their mind they go off and seek the ideal Western man who they think will deliver them from their unfulfilled lives. One other important aspect with age is social pressure in China for a girl to marry before she is 26 years old. If they miss this deadline, then parents, friends and others all start a fear process of men will not want old women (they mean 30) and your babies will die if you have them too late. Of coarse this is all a non-sense in the modern world, but the girls all seem to believe beyond doubt that is you are 27 and above you have no chance of a good marriage. So many almost panic and marry the first man who asks – even if love is not in the equation. They quickly have a baby and then tell everyone how miserable they are in a love-less marriage with a man they can barely stand to touch them. Sad but often true here in China. So for these older single girls, Western men who care little about their age seem like manor from heaven.
Most girls find a Western man in five distinct ways, first the work-place, many International companies set up offices in China to take advantage of cheap labour, inexpensive rents and huge potential home markets. Along with this they send their senior managers and staff to guide the Chinese workers in their practices. Many Chinese want to work for foreign companies as the pay is higher on average and have better working environments. The second is the teachers, at language schools, universities and other educational outlets the native speaking teacher is king. Teachers tend to be more out-going, confident and have a charisma that young girls do not usually see in their own teachers. Third is the club scene where young Western men, on short-term contracts, are looking for entertainment and company. Fourth the bars, much like the clubs but more relaxed atmosphere and less noisy. Finally the fifth and most popular way of meeting Western men is the internet. Chat sites and dating sites are in the hundreds here. Many girls from 18 years to 100 looking for Western boyfriends via this medium. Often with little of no English except written, so even when they arrive for that coveted date they cannot communicate sufficiently to make an impression. So with all these ways of meeting Western men why are so many of the girls frustrated by not finding a suitable man or date? Here we have to break the myth of Western men in the eyes of Chinese girls.
The first myth concerns money, most Chinese girls think western men are rich. This is because on average even a teacher in a low income school will earn three times the monthly average of a Chinese teacher. However in many companies the foreigner is paid via his home-office at the rate he would be paid in the normal home position. In this case he will be earning considerable income compared to a Chinese worker doing the same task. This gives the false impression to girls that the man is wealthy at home. However for most foreign workers here at home they are middle class at best and many of course just working men. At home they would in a social scale of income be lower to middling at best. (I exclude the businessmen here). So while in China they can afford the best apartment, the best restaurants and clothing – at home this is clearly not the case in general.
The second myth is handsomeness. When you first come to China as a man the first thing you see is hundreds of pretty, delicate girls who are like spring flowers. In time familiarity tends to tone this down by noticing many are far too thin for western tastes, many have pock-marked faces and bad complexions. Then you begin to discriminate between the ok, the pretty and the beautiful. This is a natural process of becoming familiar with any race. So you have to imagine this in reverse, the Chinese girls tend to think most foreign men look handsome, however because the exposure is quite small and limited – they do not tend to become so familiar to them from a perception point of view. So they continue to see most of them as handsome, even though to the Westerner’s eyes the attractiveness seems to be an illusion. However if enough pretty girls tell you, you are handsome – then you may start to believe it. Often that calls for a dose of reality on the part of the man to stop vanity taking over your thinking.
The third myth is intentions. The Chinese girl listens to the Westerner’s sweet words, praise, support and caring attitude but unlike a Western woman who may be able to sift the salt from the sugar, the Chinese girls takes it all in as perfectly reasonable. Many are later shocked by the idea that he did not actually mean a lot of what was said and was in fact seducing them. Seduction by a Western man is more subtle over-all than a Chinese man’s approach. The Chinese man is more practical talking about security, family, home and long term goals. Where-as the Westerner is thinking more often about short-term goals of sexuality and companionship. Very few Westerners are looking for a wife, long term partner or commitments – they are here today, gone tomorrow.
The fourth myth is about a twist in history. Western men always have a good storey to tell of woe and misery in their love life. Chinese girls find this irresistible, their mothering instincts fairly bound into play. You can almost hear them saying, “oh poor you, let me comfort you”. What they fail to appreciate is that these men already have failed relationships in the past or have girlfriends and wives waiting back home for them but this of course is rarely mentioned. So the history they hear is a fabrication on the truth for the benefit of their-would be suitors. You may think I am being a little harsh here on Western men’s integrity but this insight comes mainly from Chinese women who have a broken heart and a story of their own to tell.
Myth five – it is better in the West. From the media depicting life styles of the rich and famous you could forgive the Chinese girl for believing this is how everyone lives. Just as before I came to China I thought they would all be wearing Chairman Mao suits and short hair only to find modern western dress and a McDonalds at very street corner next to KFC. While certainly living standards in the West are over-all more advanced than China as a whole, this is not true of China’s main cities. Shanghai for example would rival any western city such as New York, London or Rome for night-life, art, events and living standards.
Lily: 24 – Westerner (France) Met in bar, she was a virgin, he single and looking. After three months – he left her for another girl. After the relationship Lily discovers she is his 30th girl in two years.
Sophia: 22 – Westerner (American) already she had left an older man (50) who she loved but knew her family could not accept – so found a young man of 24. After six months his contract ended and without a goodbye left China. He told his French friend he could have her as he did not need her anymore and she was easy. The girl accepts the next man and marries him – despite the fact she is not in love.
Dolly: 27 – Western (Italian) after many promises of marriage she gives up her virginity to what she believes is her future husband. Two months later he is bored with her sexually and leaves her for another girl. Dolly makes a suicide attempt to try and keep him. He has no interest in her games of drama and goes back to Italy.
Elaine 25 – Westerner (English) having met when she was 21, she fell in love with a man of 51. After four years they are still together and happy. However he is her number one secret. She does not tell her work colleagues or her family and friends. He is unhappy being her secret but accepts the culture and tries to be patient. He knows at some point she will leave him under family pressure to marry a traditional boy.
Margaret 37 – Alone (No-one) despite some boyfriends when young she continues to dedicate herself to her business interests with little time for men. She is still living at her family home despite her success at work. She does not date. Recently she has met an English man who likes her – but she cannot commit as her family would never accept her even dating a foreigner. At her age no Chinese man is interested in her as she is seen as no longer viable for a baby. She sees her future as being alone.
Joan 32 – Westerner (Australian) having dated one foreigner after another she is alone most of the time. She believes that a Mr. Right is out there for her if she can just find him on the internet. Every night she searches for men – offering marriage and her sexual contact. Recently she has dated an Australian man (27) but he only wants a sex partner and so she agrees in the hope he will get to like her.
Daisy 23 – Westerners’ (many) she drifts from one man to another in the hope of finding the right one – most use her sexually and then dump her quickly. She talks of getting married to them almost in the first date and the first conversation. Western men quickly realise she is a desperate girl and easy to use her. At the moment she is alone after therapy to give her insight into her behaviour.
The conclusion is obvious, Chinese girls get hurt and often. Many Chinese girls will read this paper and say, “well these girls are stupid” and maybe they are right, however when talking to these women they all have the same traditional thinking and want simply to find a good man to be with and more important to marry. The Western men love them and leave them in quick succession. It is not that Western men are bad people, they simply put less emphasis on relationships that they see as simply short term dating and that sexual contact is a normal part of a relationship even if it is not one they see as lasting or leading to something more. Of course many Western men enjoy the company of a gracious, sexy, smart Chinese girl and they too can fall in love and completely commit to the relationship like any other. Many do go on to marry their Chinese girlfriends and produce offspring (that are considered to be very beautiful in their looks having a mixture of East and West). Many of Asia’s top models, singers and actresses have mixed parentage and are seen as exceptionally good looking. This may also explain there psychological appeal to both Western and Chinese audiences. Another aspect of course is once the couple do try to make a go of things – the Western man now has to face her family. Westerners’ underestimate the power of family in China. If he cannot be accepted by the family he may find despite her deep love for him she will in fact end the relationship rather than lose her family. For a Chinese girl being ostracised by the family is about the worse thing that can happen to her. So if it is a choice between her Western boyfriend and her mama and baba – you can bet she will do as her family demands of her. Many Western men get very angry about how their girlfriend puts her family first and them second – they are not used to the situation where when her mama says do this and do that – the girl obeys – even if she is deeply in love – she will on most occasions do what the family tells her.
This article is not to put off Chinese girls and Western men having relationships but perhaps it will help to open their eyes to the realities of dating and falling in love with someone who has a different take on the world of relationships and love. Cultures can mix successfully and a happy future can pursue. However with divorce rates at an all time high in the West relationships can be seen as disposable and not permanent as in the past. Also as stated with strong family ties in China, Western men can too become victims of love and rejection when family takes a hand in the relationship. Some Chinese girls are strong enough to defy the wished of their parents in the knowledge that under the one baby policy in China, her parents only have one daughter – and they may not risk losing their future support when they are old because of a prejudice against her choice of husbands. Life is never easy and love is not always smooth.