Thursday, December 4, 2008

Money, money, money

This has been driving me crazy for the last 2 weeks now so I have to say something. Warning to sensitive readers: it may come across as a rant.

During the last 2 weeks we have been discussing the most-popular-and-loved-to-talk-about-topic in class, namely: boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife qualities. I have taken a total of 3 full semesters at Chinese universities, and this is a topic that keeps coming back, no matter where u study, no matter who your teacher is, and no matter how unwilling u are to discuss it. My current speaking teacher seems to have a minor 'thing' for the whole 'love' topic, as she has brought it up numerous times, asking us students if we are dating/single/married, and, more importantly, what our partner is like (or how we wish him/her to be like). This could have been a quite interesting discussion if we could have kept to the basics, or, to cultural related things in different countries, focusing on different traditions and so on... but noooooooooooooooo that is the one thing we don't do. What we do talk about, however, is the one thing that seem to be on top of the list of a lot people's wish list: MONEY.

-How much does s/he has?
-How much does his/her family have?
-If it is a guy, can he afford to buy you a house/ jewellery
(apparently the man should buy the girl a necklace, a ring and a bracelet, and/or earrings when they get married in China?)? As for the house, it is becoming more and more common that the boy and the girl's family share the cost of the house, although before it used to be the man's family's job to pay for the property.
And then finally:
-how IMPORTANT is money?

Our teacher asked us all to tell her what we found to be the most important in our partner. She started with us girls.

-Personality, stable, trust, values, education, common interest.... was some of the things people mentioned.

She combined a list of all the qualities, leaving the number 1 open.

She went on to the guys:

-Looks, body, sexy (we have a lot of young guys in my class), interesting, funny...

Again, she left the number 1 spot open.

And then, she turned to us and said, with a grave expression on her face:

-I think you have forgotten the most important thing here. If your partner, and mainly your man, doesn't have any money, how are you going to support yourselves?

-Well, how about working yourself?
I said. I couldn't believe what I was hearing?! People live their lives before they get married, supporting themselves. Why on earth would u stop once u get married?

-But the man has to have money, she insisted. Otherwise you'll be unhappy.

-Why, can't you work for yourself?

-What if you don't have a job?

-Well then you have a real problem that u should solve before u get married. Should u just marry someone so that he can support you?

A giggle revealed that that was the end of that discussion. (which leads me into another thing that annoys me over here: why does so many discussions end with a giggle/nervous laughter?)

OK OK... I am not that naive that I am going to write something like 'money doesn't matter, personality is everything' because I know that money matters. U need money to live, obviously... but would I put money on the top of my list when it comes to finding a partner... no way! And, even if I was so damn money-hungry, would I be so open about it? I don't think so?! I understand that you cannot compare life in the west to life in China, but sometimes I feel that the way some girls over here speak about money is just somehow sickening. There is no 'we can do it together' attitude, it is more like:

1. Does he (because let's face it. It is often a he) have money?
2. Can he buy a house, a car, jewellery, new furniture, and so on?
3. Can he support me and my baby?
4. Can he do it NOW?

Actually... it more and more makes sense why many girls here marry a much older man... how easy is it for a young guy (who doesn't come from a rich family) to be loaded? Saving up money takes time! It takes years of hard work, of (hopefully) being promoted, of working together and saving up... I don't know anyone (who isn't rich) who has just gotten married, bought a brad new house and filled it with new furniture, and then a BMW for the parking lot to top things off? Like, really.. it doesn't happen like that. U buy things gradually... at that is part of the fun. That you can finally get yourself something that u have been saving up for for a long time.

Or, am I the most naive thing to even think like this? I feel that I sort of backlash when I get into discussions like this and people nag about money as it was the only thing to live for.

Sure, money is important.

But is it, really, the most important thing when it comes to finding yourself a partner to spend the rest of your life with?

(And no, I am not talking about someone who has NOTHING. I am talking about an average girl -or boy-, just like my teacher. Who has studied at the university, who has a job, who wears pretty clothes, who eats good meals every day, who has a gym membership, who smiles and laughs a lot and who seems quite happy in general.)


Anonymous said...

chinese men are the poorest men in the world..we have problems with western girls and have to save money for chinese girls and even in a relationship we are whipped..

Anonymous said...

it is a well known fact that (ok, most) shanghai women put money before anything else

and the greed grows with age, if you think these young ladies are sickening you should meet their mothers

Jonna Wibelius said...

Zhou -Gosh, u make it sound as if I am caning Chinese men!? :) as for problems with western girls, I think western girls have as much problems with Chinese men... how many of my male (chinese) friends haven't told me I am 'too big?!' Aooch! Being a girl and not being petite in China = not easy! (and I don't even consider myself to be big in any sort of way...well, at least not in Scandinavia/europe)

As for being whipped... I thought it was only Shanghainese man that were a bit whipped...? In northern China I believe it is the other way around, no?

Anonymous: I thought it was the younger generation that was the most money hungry...

m--e said...

It really seems to be the culture. In the West, we marry for love. (usually, I think!) Here, I've been told it is a status symbol. You must be married and have a child. It doesn't seem to matter so much if you love that person. I've heard many gay people are married with a child, just because they "have" to. So, if you have to get married at a certain time, I guess money and looks are the things you console yourself with if you don't have love.

Just my opinion! Of course, this scenario won't apply to everyone!

Anonymous said...

OK, first let me say I don't blame you a bit for being disgusted! But can I play Devil's Advocate for a second? I have three observations to make on that front.

1) I once took a class in college to fulfill my "Core Curriculum" science requirement. The actual name of the class was "Human Behavioral Biology," but most people called it "Sex." Which was a good name for it, because it was not just about people, and it WAS just about sex. We covered mating relations in just about every kind of animal, and every kind of human community, that you can think of.

One of the most striking patterns that emerged pretty much across the board was the consistent need for the male to display a high earning capacity, whether that took the form of presenting the female wasp with a nice juicy bug or the man picking his date up in a BMW and taking her out to an expensive dinner.

I'm not claiming that the kind of gold-digging attitude you find so offensive is biologically encoded and the people who act that way can't help it. If that were true, how would we explain the many people who don't give a damn about material security? I just wanted to make the observation, sans conclusion.

2)Aren't a lot of women turned on by certain qualities in men that are (from a certain perspective)more or less equivalent to material wealth? Seems like I'm always hearing women say their number one turn-on is intelligence. If a guy is super-smart, that's the ball game. Nothing else matters. (And the number of married, Freakishly-Intelligent-But-Totally-Lacking-In-Any-Other-Quality-That-Would-Initially-Attract-Anyone men that I have come across suggests to me that there might be something to this.)

3) Is it possible that your various Chinese teachers are putting on an act, as it were? I mean, your present teacher seems a little weird anyway, but overall, might they just be trying to get people to talk? People say all kinds of things in language classes. At least, that's what I've found.

Anonymous said...

I constantly have the same problem with Chinese women (I'm an American guy). You sound like most college educated Americans.

I met my first group of Chinese people who have not brought up money ONCE in the 4 months I've known them. They are all graduate students who are getting a Masters in Music.

I like them because they are more well-rounded than another other Chinese person that I've met in China or in the states. They are knowledgable about World Affairs, politics, food, and other things in life that don't revolve around money.

For what it's worth, I've had two Chinese girlfriends out of the dozens of chinese women that I've had chemistry with, one way or the other. My screening process is basically to see how long a Chinese woman can hold a conversation without bringing up money. Or if we are shopping, to see if she fills the cart with everything she wants, regardless of price or quantity, expecting me to pay for everything.

This is kind of off topic, but I was surprised how easily Chinese women would throw themselves at me, even when I was with my girlfriend. This is so common, that my last Chinese g/f refused to introduce me to her friends, whom she said were prettier than her. I said, "But you've known them since childhood. Would they still try to steal me away?" With out hesitating, she said, "Yes!" I told her that I was used to it, so she shouldn't worry, b/c I wasn't going to leave her. She replied, "But they're all prettier than me!" So I never got to meet her friends. And yes, they were prettier than her. She was quite attractive...

My problems haven't been Chinese women, but dealing with potential in-laws.

Anonymous said...

Many chinese girls is truly naive and have no real sense on what life is all about. Just walking around beliving their life will end up being some sort of fairy tale where the rich prince will come driving in his white bmw.

Still I hear these stories all the time, but I have yet just experienced it once. Went out with some girl, and we went to some bar and she wanted me to pay for her and her friend, which I of course refused, and she got her bitch mode turned on and we never talked again.

But I guess it of course depends on where you hang out aswell. The few times I go to some nightclubs in China is seems to be a enormous meat market for rich boring guys and cheap girls. Still I think it is true what they say about that the mothers are the worst. I know one guy who had been together with his girlfriend for 3 years, but in the end they had to break up as her family was furious about the relationship, since the guy was not rich enough (might also have something to do with him buying a bike for 40k) and in their eyes not being able to take care of her

Anonymous said...

Where I live here in Xinjiang there is a part of the dating logic that makes sense to me. I used to wonder why people would wait years to get married until they had the money to have a house bought and decorated. Years!

One of my friends asked me, though, when I brought this up - "Where else would they live if they got married beforehand?" There isn't really any temporary housing like the apartments we have in the west (at least not here) and nobody want to move in with the parents. So they wait.

Of course, this doesn't really explain the phenomenon of greed that I also witness here with marriages. I agree that such an emphasis on money can be annoying to those of us who are not part of this culture.

Anonymous said...

"The financial condition is so bad that jewish women marry for love now."

is this a popular saying in the West?

Jonna Wibelius said...

flyingfish -I hear u... u made some good points. Like I said in my post, I would never say that money 'doesn't matter' coz it does, big time. I just think that some Chinese women (like my teacher) have such a weird attitude towards being rich/poor. It's like all or nothing, black or white. They don't even seem to think that there are many other important things than being rich. I've been out with a couple of loaded a**holes, and that wasn't one bit of fun. I can't even imagine what it would b like to end up with a guy like that... Not saying all rich people are a**holes, not at all, but they way that my teacher favours 'money' over 'personality' makes me sort of wonder... would she settle for a rich guy although he wasn't that nice to her/people around her? Probably.

I don't think my teacher is faking her speaches just to get us to talk.. I think she is just a very naive woman, kind of like the girl that Emil described in his comment. Waiting for a guy in a white BMW. Although when she's not talking about money (or alcohol) she's a really nice and fun girl.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - I hadn't heard that before, but pretty damn funny!

Anonymous said...

here is a thought for you to ponder.

remember china just came out of a "shit-hole" not too long ago. 20ish years ago, people in china were still worried about being fed enough food, and have enough clothing for warmth, quiet a bit of them still do today. It makes sense to put on that "survival mode" thinking when it comes to a life long commitment. It's only when you have enough wealth to be able to afford all your necessities, before you can start thinking about what else is there in life other than just to feed and cloth oneself. I think most people here are being too idealistic, but that's just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the love of money is limited to Chinese women only. Watch some Korean soap of love stories. Observe how rich parents react to their child's poor boyfriend/girlfriend. Also observe how poor parents react to their child's rich boyfriend/girlfriend. Asians in general place a far more important value on money than Westerners (of course this is a sweeping overgeneralization). The reason is obvious. There are more opportunities in most Western countries where young people can make it if they work hard. In most Asian countries (except for Japan), it's too hard for any young couple to make it. In some rich cities like HK and Singapore, housese are too expensive for young people. When you don't have it, you value it a lot more. Someday Chinese women will be less materialistic when they have more.

yuyang said...

Maybe that issue is more about chinese culture. Money and societ statue has hihest influence on chinese people.

It might also related to China is a developing country.

but what the heck, i dont believe this.I think married is find a partner u are very happy to be with.

Hang said...

Poor Chinese learners, you don't deserve the 'torture' of this type of teacher. The Money First attitude is sickening. I cannot imagine your teacher would say money first in a relationship in a class discussion like this. What's the meaning of life if money is the ultimate goal? Weird and stupid.

Jonas said...

It's a kind of modern illness to think that a man should be monetarily successful as pre condition for a successful marriage.
This is a totolly sich pattern of self-abusive thoughts. We, chinese men, should learn to take it easy. I've been living in Europe for 10 years. The biggest difference between european men and chinese men is, that the europeans think about sex when they date and we think about marrige during the date.
We don't actually have problems with western girls - neither physically nor mentally.
In the reality I have to admit the fact that it's absolutely an exception to see a couple with a chiense man and a western girl.
if you want to put the phenomena back to arguments such as: we have to earn money. It's totally nonsence. I know what a western earn. if they earn 30,000 Euro after tax, it's already a very income. The average income in German is less than 20,000 Euro, which is less that 200,000 a year. Everyone I know at my age (31) eanrs more than this in China. And more than 40% of households in Germany don't own a condo.
Why should we put so much material pressure on us? Why should we only work so hard to earn money? Why don't we invest some time on our characters and personalities?
If you like someone, just tell her!
If you wait till she comes to you, forget it. It'll never happen!
If you want to be a father taking care of a little girl, just adopt a child from the earth quake region. Forget about a western girl. They need private space and independence, just like us.
We don't have problems with western girls, just like the westerners don't have problems with chinese girls. The problem is the attitude of life.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna,I've been reading most of posts in your blog over here and you are absolutely an extremely interesting foreign girl with very strong and aggressive mind.But I can see that you are also an extreme individualist and racialist,too.Anyway,I do agree with you on your opinions from this,"Money,money,money".Yes,actually nowadays I can say that all young Chinese girls representing this generation have known nothing but damn money without clean soul but dirty tricks who are absolutely paranoias and ingrates either.In my own opinion,they are all innocent prostitutes who have been crazy about money only which they are eager to marry.Unfortunately,I've been single and kept searching such a girl in my homeland like you but failed even if I ain't poor and well educated.
Finally,I tell you what,there are many many many perfect boys in China and those weak-minded Chinese gals have no eyes.Please don't hesitate to invite them for hunting for Mr.Chinese Right if any of your girl friends are so interested in China,Chinese culture and so forth.

All the best,
Shen,From Nantong China