Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"It’s a man’s job to carry heavy things!" -enough said to get him to carry your handbag?

It started off as a friendly, yet mocking conversation between two western guys and a Chinese girl at a company. One of their visiting-from-overseas colleagues had just showed them a handbag that he had picked up for his girlfriend back home. While they praised his choice of handbag with moderate excitement, they started joking about it as soon as he turned them his back.

-You know, maybe that handbag wasn’t for his girlfriend after all? Said one guy.

-Hehe, no, maybe he’s been so inspired by all the Chinese men he has seen carrying around handbags that he decided to get one for himself? Said the other guy.

-It is definitely his color! Said the Chinese girl.

They all laughed heartily together.

-But actually… what’s that whole thing about men carrying their women’s handbags here in China? Asked one of the guys once they had calmed down. Why don’t you carry your own purse?

The girl gave him a startled look, obviously hinting that he'd just asked a very stupid question. 

-Because it’s heavy!
 she said.

-Heavy? But it’s your own stuff? Why do you have to carry with you so much stuff that your bag is too heavy for you to carry on your own?

-It’s a man’s job to carry heavy things!

-But like.. when you buy your handbag, don’t you then pick and match it after what you are wearing that very day?

Silence from the girl.

-Isn’t the bag… like… a part of your outfit?

-You guys just don’t get it. The man should carry the woman’s bag. It’s his job.

Angrily, the woman strutted off.

End of story. 

However, when I tried the same argument meanwhile handing my boyfriend my pink little clutch he rejected it as if it was poison. Regardless of how ‘heavy’ I thought it was.

How do the girls down here do it?! Like, seriously?


Ramesh said...

Chinese men are chivalrous, thats all !! :)

Anonymous said...

Hahaha... Jonna, Jonna, Jonna, it doesn't matter how good your Chinese language is as you don't learn the Chinese culture. It's not only culturally acceptable, but also a must-have sign of a good, caring boyfriend or husband to carry his gf/wife's purse. Not only that, a truly caring bf/hubby should pick up and carry his gf/wife's purse without being asked to. Man, I hate Chinese culture. Yes, I am a Chinese male.

incognito said...

yeah, I concur with Ramesh!

Chinese men are indeed chivalrous! No wonder their wives get to keep their last names.


Godyssey said...

Such a funny story!

Reminds me of when my grandparents would go shopping and my grandfather would always wind up holding my grandmothers purse as she looked around and tried things on. I always looked at it as cute.

However, that was the ONLY time that he would ever carry it, and it was not pink. :)

CJ said...

That is so cute!Do they really carry their woman's bag.Oh gosh!so lovely :)I am impressed :D(big grin)

WoAi said...

I'll carry your suitcase, I'll carry your grocery shopping, but the day I start carrying your little pink purse is the day I start looking for a new girlfriend. Oh, unless I'm wearing pink as well that day, then it's fine :-p

Jackie said...

I don't see that as chivalry on the man's part, I see that as the women being lazy. They have no right to complain about their man expecting them to stay at home cooking and cleaning if they aren't willing to carry their own purse. Absolutely silly!

Hang said...

Ha, ha ...very funny observation. As a Chinese I would say I will carry a girl's purse for several minutes only because she needs to free her hands to tie her shoelace or something like that. Even Chinese guys give funny looks at those guys who carry their women's purse all the way.

Anonymous said...

Jackie, don't say that is silly. some Western things may be silly in Chinese eyes but they are common in West. It's all about culture differences.

For things of culture difference, it is funny to observe but not proper to comment on whether they are good nor not.

Martin said...

When I was in China, my wife always handed me her purse as well. I guess it is just the Chinese way.

******************** Shanghai MiFeng said...

Jonna , I say lideting482 is very much correct on that issue .
I was married for thrity year's before my Wife passed away , i carried my Wife's Purse any many occasion's , for that very reason , being too heavy . I was thinking the same thing , why is she carrying all this with her everywhere ? But , I never said anything mean because of it . For Love one will do anything .

胡崧 said...


Why do western gentlemen open door for ladies? I mean they all have hands so shouldn't they do it themselves?

Why do western women take their husband's last name after getting married? Isn't that a sign of absolute obedience? That's OUTRAGEOUS because men and women are created equal!

But seriously, you need to relax and stop being so judgmental.

Anonymous said...

>Chinese men are chivalrous, thats all !! :)

It's not only in China but also in other places. For example, in Eastern Europe.

flyingfish said...

@ 胡崧

I don't think Jackie was being any more judgmental than you were, and I don't think either of you was out of line. (Except when you told Jackie to relax and stop being so judgmental, which I think was a bit uncalled for.) We all have the power of judgment, after all. Whether we use it well or badly, we have it, and it is our right to use it. Jackie was just delivering an opinion. Why not?

It seems to me that we should be able to state our opinions without fear of being labelled "prejudiced," "judgmental"or "insensitive." It's one thing to broadcast hate-filled, narrow-minded, mean-spirited remarks. It's quite another to post a negative opinion, AS an opinion, and in relatively mild terms. I think there really is a difference between these two activities, and I think too often that difference gets ignored.

So, how about a little mutual tolerance? Let's all think before we call each other out.

The Casual Observer said...

Have you tried strutting off angrily? It seems that works for some people :)

Anonymous said...

The arguement can stop here. Let's not blame each other here. It is not Jonna' intention to spark debate among her following readers. Let's see the culture thing in a funny perspective.

Jonna Wibelius said...

whoa whoa whoa... heated discussion here. I just thought people would laugh about it, coz that's what I do.. I find men carrying their women's handbags weird but at the same time kind of fun! I was hoping this story that I heard would put a smile on some of your faces too.. (and, i was hoping to hear from a Chinese girl how she does it.. but apparently there are more males than females leaving comments on this blog!). But come on guys, let's not jump on each other.. everyone's entitled to an opinion, and you don't have to love what everyone are saying... but let's just leave it there. No point to become offended or to be offensive. I don't want to have t filter out any comments because of the fact that some people cannot handle other people's opinions... so I don't know... just don't take things too seriously.

Woai -not even if it was my pink, spotless, Gucci bag and I was about to die because it was so heavy.... ;) (it would go well with your dark hair...!)

Reyjr said...

A lot of Filipinos also do that. Personally, I think its weird so I don't do it with my girlfriend. :p I tell her to leave her bag if its too heavy. :D

Shopgirls Shanghai said...

i wonder as well.

my chinese friend here in sthlm makes his bf carry her bag some times...

and this bf is Swedish.

it's in their blood

Brad Farless said...

My wife (a Filipina) and I (American) noticed the same thing with Chinese here in Singapore.

The first time I saw it I watched for a while, trying to figure out what the girl was doing that prevented her from carrying her own purse. When I realized the guy was just carrying it, not for a reason, I asked my wife about it.

She said it's a common thing here. I think it's ridiculous.

She doesn't want to carry it because it's too heavy? Then bring less with you. Purses are accessories as well as bags. What good does it do for the bag to be carried by someone else? I think it's just women being lazy and using "chivalry" as an excuse to get away with not having to carry their things.

My wife agrees.

MJF said...

My GF ALWAYS threw her bag on me as soon as I meet her out there on the street or when I was picking her up after work to go on a date, this is annoying.... not to speak HEAVY! I once walked 4 hours carrying her super duper heavy hand bag, which is kinda of pink now that I think of it.... meh! Sacrificing too much for love?

The Candid Yank said...

LOL why would I want anyone to carry my purse? Sometimes it is heavy, because I carry lots of stuff with me, like cell phone, camera, water bottle, food, etc etc, and I want access to it at all times. Not to have to ask someone to stop and please hand me my camera!

I don't understand the girl in the story strutting off angrily, ha! It sounds like a the man thinks he is doing a nice thing for the woman, if they both like it then it's OK, but I agree that if your bag is too heavy to carry on your own, you should leave some stuff at home!

and I also like WoAi's comment, sounds like my boyfriend. He will carry anything for me that is too heavy, but if before we left the house I informed him that he would need to carry my purse as well he would probably suggest that I transfer its contents into a backpack...?

p.s. is your boyfriend chinese jonna?

Brad Farless said...

Jonna, maybe you should invite that girl to go to your gym with you, so she'll be strong enough to carry her own bag.

Jonna Wibelius said...

shopgirl -uve got to get to the bottom with this... how does she do it??!

MJF -deeply impressed by the fact u do it. My bf would have thrown the purse back at me. haha

Des -nope, my bf is Finnish.. just to get him to hold my bag while I am tying a shoe lace is a challenge. He's a real 'sauna man' (any Finn would understand).

Anonymous said...

They do the same thing in South Korea, apparently.

I personally think that if your handbag is too heavy, you should take stuff out, period.

The Casual Observer said...

Kanmuri - love your logic!

Pete In Syracuse said...

I think it's funny Jonna,
That's probably how people started wearing backpack here in the states. You know the purses started getting to heavy even for the guys haha! To answer your question for me , not being a girl, I could imagine maybe giving the one who you want to carry the purse that "LOOK" maybe "I care for you PlEASSSSE carry for me???" You know the sort of look you get from puppies in the pet store that always get bought, because you get that look!! haha And then WaLa the BF is holding your bag!! Maybe this is how it's done.
Just a side note it doesn't work the other way around....lol, but it's sure fun to try !!!

Matthew said...

When my wife and I were dating, she tried to make me carry her purse...I refused. I told her I'd embrace most Chinese customs, but that one would never fly with me.

I only have to hold it while she ties her shoes.

Unknown said...

I'm a foreigner (Western Europe) living in Chongqing, got a Chinese girlfriend and I do carry her bag for her, it's no big deal =)

Anonymous said...

Actually in Malaysia also we can see men carry their wife /gf handbag....Hmmmmm - I think just showing caring.

Anyway, I still think kinda weird for men to carry handbag!!

조안나 said...

Same goes in Korea... I used to laugh at it all the time. Now I'm dating a Korean and he's always asking me if he can carry my bag for me. I don't usually give in, but sometimes if I ask him to hold it for a minute he just puts it on! Fortunately it's an asexual sort of messenger bag.. I've seen guys around the city with the same one (girls too... seems to be fairly popular). So.. I guess I'm not allowed to laugh anymore.... but... it's still weird.

she said...

yes. It is true that bf always carries the bag or everything or even gifts or flowers they just bought or gave to his gf. It is a 潜规则,haha

mtl said...


I'd like to ask: why wouldn't a guy help his GF hold a purse if she could use the help? Seriously why do western guys care? It's not like other ppl care.

(note: I am Taiwanese but went to american schools from a young age)

mtl said...

but of course, if she is just being lazy and going over the line then it's a big no.

All about whether she genuinely needs the help imo.

michelle said...

Here in Taiwan we see this all the time, too. But ONLY boyfriends carrying GF's bag. I do not think I have seen a husband doing it.

Brad Farless said...

Jonna - Culture clashes are bound to happen in a blog like this, especially when it's over something that's so completely at odds with what other cultures do.

Which makes me ask:

Someone said that in the "West" we open doors for women, and said they have two hands of their own. Is it not common practice in Asia to hold the door open for a woman? It's not really common practice in the US anymore either. It's a dying custom, but still, it seems "normal" compared to holding a girl's bag.

On that note... strangely enough I found myself carrying my wife's little pink coin purse around last night without realizing it. She asked me to hold it for a while because her hands were full and I forgot to give it back. When I noticed it, having just read this blog, it was like finding a snake in my hand and I tossed it back to her. Ha ha ha!

Jo-Anna, I'm in Singapore and I've adopted the "messenger bag" as well. Somehow, it was easy to fall in with that custom. It let's me carry my stuff, plus a camera, tissue (because napkins aren't common here), phone, cigarettes, etc etc all in a bag, keeping my pockets flat and not bulgy.

Even after I go back to the US I think I'll keep carrying my messenger bag around. I'll be living in NYC, so at least most people will only think I'm cultured or well traveled.

Brad Farless said...

dfvxc - I think what Jonna's talking about is not when you hold your girl's bag temporarily, but when you're expected to carry it for the full duration of the outing. I see it all the time here in Singapore. I'll see two guys and two girls. The girls will be strutting along trying to look polished, while the guys are following behind like the hired help, toting their own things as well as the girls' purses.

Emil said...

I heard several Chinese girls said it looks stupid with guys carrying their girlfriends bags, as it looks weak and pretty gay.

If some girlfriend give ask me to hold their bag or purse I would hold it far away, like if it was used toilet paper or worse.

Though I can carry stuff for any girl if it is a heavy thing, but carrying their purses just makes you look like her bitch

Unknown said...

In case people will rob the hangbag,that's the only reason I will ask my guy to carry my hangbag. Actually,I seldom carry my hangbag walking on the street when I am in Dongguan. :(

Suiiki said...

It doesn't matter so much with me and my wife, since we are both girls. But I have dated boys in the past, and I would never have made them carry my purse for me unless it was temporary (Like if I needed a safe place to put it while I looked at something in a store or tied my shoe or something) My wife agrees that she'd never make a guy hold her purse for more than a few minutes either. But I have noticed, my wife's purse is always very, very heavy (Her mother is Chinese, so maybe it's an Asian thing?) My purse is light and small, I only carry my wallet, tissues, chapstick, small notepad and pen, asthma medication, hand cleaner, tampons, and sometimes a camera and/or MP3 player. Just the necessities...My wife seems to have everything she can in her purse at all times! Everything I mentioned plus two coupon books, a year's worth of receipts, five more pens, loose coupons, makeup, etc. etc. I wonder how she can run around with it for hours on end when I get tired of it after five minutes if I have to take it while she does something else! I don't understand what it is with these big, heavy bags...

Zofy said...

Well, I think it's adorable when a guy offers to carry something for me. I think it's chivalrous! And it shows that the guy cares too. But when it's a purse it's too much. Unless it really is very heavy and it's not the girls fault. Like schoolbags for example.
Anyhow, I agree with Lan. When in some places in China, my dad will always carry my moms bag/purse for her, since there's less chance of him being robbed.

Anonymous said...

我几岁时看到欧洲为女人开车门的礼节,觉得太可笑了,现在还是有点别扭,你看不惯中国人提包是和我一样的。只是你为什么不想想你们那个呢 ?我觉得你除了S。H。E还应该Think

Unknown said...

Actually it's not only BF carries GF's purse. My father, uncle, cousin's husband all carry their wives' purses for them. I've seen my father even carried 2 purses at once (one of my mom's and one is my grandma's). It's just a culture thing and we never think it's weird or anything. I get irritated when my husband (Caucasian) won't carry my purse for just couple of minutes while I take our son to the restroom in theme parks. But it's my choice of chosen a white boy, I guess I can't complain about it.