Crossing the great relationship divide

Updated: 2014-03-28 07:43

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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Future imperfect

Hu is also uncertain about his future plans. "I may start a travel agency specializing in overseas destinations," he said vaguely. His e-mail contained more than a dozen attachments, introducing him and his plans, which include traveling the world with his future wife.

Roseanne Lake, a China-based writer from the US, has interviewed many Chinese women. In her experience, one regular comment she hears is that Chinese men are not very proactive in the dating or courtship process, and the phrase habitually used about them is bu zhu dong, meaning, "Don't take the initiative".

"I think that many - not all, but many - Chinese men are looking for a wife with a 'domestic' or 'introverted' character, or at least a sense of security. This is changing, of course, but it has been such a dominant aspect in how wives have been chosen for such a long time, that remnants of this thinking are still prevalent," said Lake, who has lived in China for more than four years.

Alicia Feng, 26, who works for a law firm, recently arrived in China from the US and has found that people are very different from her peers back in California. "I think it's just because of the cultural differences, but men here just appear more introverted. I haven't spoken with that many, so I guess it doesn't automatically signal a lack of confidence," she said.

Andrea Bacon, 29, came to Beijing more than 18 months ago with her Chinese boyfriend. They met in 2010 while studying on a PhD exchange program in Philadelphia. "We were in the same class, and his industry and talent attracted me at first. Later, I discovered that he has more humility than any other man I have ever met, and I really began to notice him," said Bacon who works as a foreign expert in a State meteorological lab.

When she took the plunge and decided to accompany her boyfriend to Beijing, the challenge was huge, for both parties. "It became serious at that time, and we planned the next steps. Obviously, Beijing is quite a strange place for me and at the beginning he tried to accompany me to many multicultural events so I could mingle in a familiar environment. I thought that was very sweet," Bacon said.

However, she admitted that her boyfriend's attitude is very Chinese and the problems that face all young people in the big city, such as buying a house, weigh heavily on him. "He always seems to be under some sort of pressure, but I care more about how well we get along with each other," she said.

Staying power

Most people in interracial relationships said they believe that good communication, trust and understanding are essential to make a relationship work. The hard part, however, lies within the institution that occurs later.

According to Ming Li, the marriage counselor, 20 percent of the cases she deals with involve interracial marriages. "Once you've entered into the institution of marriage, no matter whether it's people from the same culture or a different one, it's better to stick with it to the end," she said.

For Roy Huggins, who has provided long-term counseling for 10 interracial couples in the US and other countries since 2010, overcoming cultural differences is crucial to ensuring the longevity of a relationship.

"Based on academic studies and my experience with clients from Japan, Southeast Asia, and a few from China, being from a collectivist culture, Chinese partners are likely to clash with American or other Western partners about responsibility to family and helping each other meet individual needs. For example, a Chinese partner may think less of an American or Canadian, etc, partner who seems 'needy'," he said.

While researching a recent article "It's Hard to Say 'I Love You' in Chinese", Roseann Lake discovered that Chinese men find it very hard to cross the boundary into uncharted territory and express their love in a straightforward, direct way, even though they may be intensely in love with their partner or spouse.

The last word goes to Hu Yiqiang, whose ad read: "I won't care what jobs you did before. I won't care about what you have done before, as long as it wasn't illegal and you have no criminal record, just as long as you will fall in love and marry me in the near future."

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