Monday, March 29, 2010

An everyday novelty

I had a great "last" Suzhou wknd, with one of the best parts probably being catching up with my friend Rocky (alias the Hunan boy). Rocky and I have known each other for 2 years now. He used to be a personal trainer at the gym where I went, and we quickly became friends. When we got to know each other, my Chinese was quite terrible, but I didn’t care, I kept talking to Rocky, and him, not being able to say much more than “hi and bye” in English, was happy to listen to my bad pronunciation.

I’m really happy I persisted because over the years we have become good friends. When I went to Hunan’s capital Changsha last spring, Rocky’s family (who lives in Shuangxi, some hours outside of Changsha) invited me to their home and I had a wonderful time with them at the countryside.

I left Suzhou for Shanghai 3 months ago, however, so Rocky and I have not seen each other for a while. So, when I came to Suzhou for my “last wknd” I decided it was time to catch up. And he agreed.

It was great to see him, and he looked happy to see me too. One of the first questions he asked was:

-You La, how much do you weight now?

(some things never change, huh?)

Saturday came with wonderful weather so we decided to go for a bike ride at Jinji Hu (Literally translates to: “The lake of the Golden Chicken”). We rode for a bit before a guard told us that we were not allowed to ride our own bikes at the lake area (“only the rented ones!”) and decided to walk.

Now, it’s one thing being on a bike and riding through throngs of people without as much as paying attention to them. But when you walk, people really see you, hear you, and vice versa. And I soon noticed that Rocky and I walking together along that lake, was quite a novelty to some of the people around us.

I’m used to being stared at in Suzhou when I walk somewhere with my boyfriend (after all, we are “the monkeys” -and when people stare it is mainly at him because he's considered to be so "perfect" in the eyes of Chinese people), but this was completely different. This was not the usual, curious staring; this was real, raw, staring! When we walked by some people they went completely quiet, obviously listening into what we were talking about while glaring at us suspiciously. And it’s not as if we were holding hands or anything. Just walking next to each other and chatting in Chinese. Maybe the fact that he is taller than me caused some of the attention? After all, I’m supposed to be one of the tallest flagpoles in Suzhou. I guess some people must have thought we were dating.

During the early days of this blog I wrote a post commenting on the fact that you don’t often see a Western girl with a Chinese guy, meanwhile the combination of a Western guy and a Chinese girl is very common. It was a kind of immature post, and it caused a storm of comments (and emails from guys telling me everything from “get lost, you know nothing!” to asking me if I’d like to go out with them and try for myself). Since I wrote that post a lot of things have changed, and I now know some western girls dating Chinese men. After being stared at while out with Rocky for a walk, however, I wonder how they learn to deal with being a novelty while in public.

17 comments:

kanmuri said...

I don't think writing about how little foreign girls date Asian men is immature (saying that, I haven't read your post). There are some, true, but there are a whole lot less and it's the same in Japan and in Korea (according to my sister who lives there.) I think it has a lot to do with the Confucian roots of many paternalistic Asian societies. There is a lot of pressure on Asian men to continue the family line, as I'm sure you know. Also, I don't know about China, but in Japan the JET program is a "great" program for males foreigners to come to Japan and easily get some Japanese p***y. It's not the majority, but it's definitely there... Also some Japanese women want a foreign boyfriend because of the image it provides. All in all, there is a lot involved, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Western men dating Chinese girls is absolutely correct, you got it right down pat! Those western men who attacked you are just born losers in their own countries be it the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, Russia etc who would not even get one first glance from their own western girls.

These western men on the lookout for Chinese girls once they are there should get down on their knees & kowtow to you instead for letting them know that they will looked upon as KINGS among the Chinese girls who are desperate for them.

I am very glad you brought this issue up again as western men need to examine their psyche as to what makes them sore losers in their own country.

胡崧 said...

I remember that post, it was EVERYWHERE at the time.

Ikabod Grinwud said...

I've never been to China except for a 7 hour stop-over in HK airport. My father was from Shanghai. From what I was told the family owned a big house there until it was taken over during Mao's time. I and all my siblings grew up here in Manila not knowing anything about mandarin or even fookien. But still it would've been just great learning the chinese language.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I think they (from my perspective if i were in their shoes) that they were impressed/surprised that your Hunan friend managed to get a western gf.

I have to disagree with kanmuri that it has to do with confucian roots since I don't see any rules/teachings that forbid men/women to marry someone outside their culture/race. Plus mixed kids (white and asian) tend to look cuter on average! From what I heard from an American-born korean women (in her early 40s), American-born koreans tend to dislike having their children (especially their sons) to marry someone outside their race (or non-koreans) relative to the American-born Chinese. She had lots of friction with her parents when she dated her current American white husband, fortunately she has a very happy marriage. Like kanmuri, i have met many asian women (from china, singapore, indonesia, taiwan) who wants western boyfriends to get high peer status.

I have to agree with you (in previous post) that east asian men are generally more feminine, whereas Westerners are more macho, although Chinese ppl expect men to be more resilient and yield more to women in some ways. For example, one time i told my China friend that men cry when they are really sad, she went "Men do cry?" as though i was from Mars. And she went to ask her Chinese female colleague. -_-;

Stereotyping is politically a bad word, but it works most of the time in some context! I use it all the time. :>)

Chinese dude

Jonna Wibelius said...

kanmuri -nah, it's not an immature subject, but I should have known more before I wrote that post. It spread like a wildfire and triggered a lot of angry emails. I think it was also published at sina.com?! It was quite mad.

I've never heard the Confucian roots being an argument before, I always thought it was the culture difference and the language barrier, as well as the fact that western women and Chi men have got completely different physique! But maybe it will change with time, who knows?

Anonymous -hm... well this post was actually more about western girls w Chi men... the "white man + chi girl" has been written about enough...

胡崧 -oh, so u have been reading this blog for a while then? Yeah, that post was everywhere, I got sick of it. I then also realized how sensitive it is to write about these things. U have to be so careful not to step on anyone's toes... and still u always do!


Ikabod Grinwud -interesting comment but not sure if that relates to this post?

Anonymous 2 -yeah, despite the fact that there are some severe culture differences I nowadays don't see why a Chi man + western girl should not work when so many Chi girl + western man -couple do... Chinese girls are getting more independent by the day -maybe a western girl will not be considered to be independent for that much longer in China?

In the post I wrote some years ago I referred to Chi men as more "feminine" something that I kind of regret today. I mean, I've met some really great Chinese male friends here and none of them are feminine... so calling Chinese men feminine isn't really fair. There are obviously feminine western men too.

I sometimes feel that Chi men are cooler than western guys... they just.. don't care so much about what other people think?! They sing out loud on the metro, they tell you to your face if you have put on weight (not always appreciated, but it takes some guts!), and I don't know... they don't pour alcohol into themselves every Fri night. Or OK, some obviously do.

miss. chief said...

Yesterday I noticed a banner downtown in my city that proclaimed we are TWIN CITIES with Suzhou, and I thought of you!

Hendrian said...

Anonymous 2 -yeah, despite the fact that there are some severe culture differences I nowadays don't see why a Chi man + western girl should not work when so many Chi girl + western man -couple do... Chinese girls are getting more independent by the day -maybe a western girl will not be considered to be independent for that much longer in China?
My guess is that there may be several factors. One is that proportionately there are more male expats than female. Two is that female asians have more drive to get western bf than male asians do. Three is that European females may find east asian men less attractive from several comments i heard. However i have heard from several indian friends that Indian men are hot items in europe. Oh well, Chi population have gender imbalance towards men, so they can't be choosy anymore!

About feminine
That's true. It probably is universal that most men don't like ppl to question their masculinity. The furors may be less, if it was worded as "Western men are more masculine" instead of "Chi men are more feminine". I still think Chinese men are 'generally' feminine.

I don't think it's a matter of guts, but more to do with social mores. For example, westerners (e.g. Brits, Dutch, Canadians) like to talk about weather as social openers/conversation. To some asians this may be somewhat of a turnoff, since it signals disinterest in getting to know the person. And you must have met Chi grandmas/grandpas who ask you for your age and whether you are married just 5 minutes after meeting them, which you may consider it rude. Hence, it's not guts, just a normal routine social interaction.

Joyce Lau said...

In Hong Kong, you guys wouldn't be looked at twice. Then again, we were a British colony with generations of mixed marriages and Eurasians.

I recently met Nancy Kwan, the actress who played the original Suzie Wong -- She's was born almost 70 years ago in HK to a Chinese man and a Western wife. So it's not new!

But we still see an imbalance here. 80-90% of the mixed couples I know are a richer, older white guy, with usually a dependent, younger Asian woman.

I had lunch with friends several weeks ago -- four white guys and four Asian girlfriends or wives, including me.

A Japanese friend o(who has had two white bfs and no Japanese bfs that I know of) had one explanation. Many Asian men don't like to date women who are more educated, or make more money than they do. They have traditional expectations of what a good gf / wife will be.

Whereas Western men tend to be more open-minded about being with a strong careerwomen. And there's not all the baggage of the Chinese parents-in-law, etc.

I don't know I totally agree. I'm overseas Hong Kong Chinese and my husband is French. I never thought about race when I dated and eventually married him. I chose him for who he is, not the color of his skin.

Dr. Heckle said...

I have had quite a few female friends of different races (white, black, latina) over the years and I have asked them if they would date an Asian man. Most of them said no.

(I have a double major in sociology and anthropology so this type of subject has always fascinated me)

Three reasons came up most often. 1) Asian men tend to be shorter and women usually perfer taller guys.
2) They were afraid an Asian man would be too controlling because of stereotypes they've heard.
3) The "size matters" issue. They all firmly believed the stereotype that Asian men have smaller "packages" than other races. (Only one friend had actually slept with an Asian man and said it was true - however one person is not exactly a credible random sample of data)

I find that people will still generally do a "double-take" here in the US when they see an Asian man and a white woman (or any other race for that matter). It's very unfair, but unfortunately a reality that people are not very accepting. There was a time here when any kind of mixed relationship was unacceptable.

Things have improved some, but there is still a long way to go.

Also, it cracked me up when my dashboard abbreviated your post. This is what it said:

"Rocky and I have known each other for 2 years now. He used to be a person..."

胡崧 said...

I still think the a lot of Chinese men are rather shy and not as aggressive when it comes to approaching ladies. This could be seen as a huge turn-off to some western ladies because it projects insecurity and lack of confidence.

Jonna Wibelius said...

miss chief -what city is Suzhou's twin city?!!!

Hendrian -u r right.. it has prob nothing to do with guts. It's a rather "no chitchat"-attitude, but I kind of like that. It's refreshing.

Joyce -Yeah Hong Kong is def an exception. I was stunned about how many goodlooking people I saw when I was there (from all nationalities!) That's when it hit me "ahhhh, so it's heeeeere all the hot western guys hang out?!" Amazing city though, seems like so much fun!

Dr Heckle -"Rocky and I have known each other for 2 years now. He used to be a person... but now he's a pumpkin...!" Hehe

I think u are as fascinated by this subject as I am. However, I have never heard anyone (Chi or western girl) use "size" as an argument. Rather, it's always about culture difference (and when it is the guys saying "why" they often mention things like "different eating habits/language barrier/ she might be too outspoken/ western girls don't get Chinese humor").

胡崧 -some are, some are not. When I was in Changsha a Chi man walked straight up to me, asking: "so, I'm heading to the food market to eat a fish head -would you like to come with me?!"

胡崧 said...

ha ha, I am REALLY impressed by that guy. It takes some serious balls to do that.

Ikabod Grinwud said...

Jonna -you said "my Chinese was quite terrible, but I didn’t care..."
That's what my initial comment was about. On that note may I add that during my 7 hour stay in HK airport, I was with a full-blooded Chinese woman friend (also Manila born)on our way to Italy. I recall, a complete stranger(Singaporean Chinese) introduced himself to us while we were having a snack at a lobby. We found the guy's actions rather rude. At least I did. Mainly because at times he would speak in Chinese to my friend without me having a clue of what he's saying. My fault really for not trying to learn the language when I was younger.

Anonymous said...

as it was before- an interesting topic ;-)
I AM a western girl and I just love the features of a lot of chinese men and the culture (not all of it though but in general) and the 'feminism' but also being cool- especially the eyes are often so beautiful- and I would't care at all about what people are saying... but then I find it difficult to 'find' a chinese boyfriend... I guess I am too shy to make the first move because I think how can he possibly like me with all those pretty chinese girls around- and from what my chinese girl-friends tell me, if there was a guy who actually liked me, he would most likely be too shy to approach me... it's not gonna work isn't it?!

Ikabod Grinwud said...

anonymous - think of your shyness as an asset. I believe a lot of people will love or like you as you are and not for what you are not.

Joyce Lau said...

Hi Jonna -- You're always going on about the attractiveness of HKers. It embarrasses me! :)

On the darker side of this topic, a few HK blogs written by people with mixed-raced marriages (including me) have been hit recently with racist comments or emails sent by who we think is a natioanlistic Chinese guy. He has some hateful things to say about Asian women with white men.

Of course, we can't figure out where this guy is from. His English is quite fluent, so maybe he's overseas Chinese. Anyway, it's clear that -- at least among some people -- this is still a problem.