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John Abbot is co-owner of Married to a lovely Chinese Lady and living in China, John knows and respects China, Chinese Women, Chinese People and Chinese Culture. His blog will include good stuff about Online Dating, Chinese Women, International Relationships and Things Chinese. Join John Abbot on Google+
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Is This a Chinese Woman / Western Man Thing, Or Is It Just Us?    

By John Abbot
7638 Views | 22 Comments | 8/12/2012 12:54:36 PM

Not every dispute is because she's a Chinese woman and you're a Western man. Maybe none of them are.

Since going back to Canada for my Mother's funeral, my wife and I have been on a working holiday, and chose to set down in one location somewhere on Planet earth. We actually aren't working any less and we decided that extensive travel would be too difficult when we have to be online 10 to 12 hours a day, so we decided that we'd better pick a location and explore it in depth. To be honest, after 10 years I was China'd out and needed a break, and she wanted to see somewhere new and explore a little, so for the next few months we'll be doing our thing from outside China.

However, our trusted web developer, William, and our other Chinese employees, will still be back in China "watching the shop" so to speak. So things should not be noticeably different for you members. At least that's the plan.

So where are we? Well that's a secret for now, and I'm interested to see if anyone can guess based on the content of my blogs and CLM Magazine articles over the coming months. So I'm going to write about what is happening around us without naming any locations, or mentioning any languages spoken or saying anything that seems like an obvious giveaway, and then in a few months we'll have a little contest to see who, if anyone, can guess where we are before we head home to China again. And we'll think up a prize to make it worthwhile for you guys to try to guess.

I realize that this isn't going to appeal to many of you, but the articles themselves will not be solely focused on this and will generally be about things somehow relevant to CLM, ALM or Online Dating, etc.

For example, something happened over the last couple of days between my wife and I and it got me thinking about whether the cause of what happened was due to cultural differences between us, or to simple male/female differences regardless of culture, or maybe to personality differences that do not relate to culture or gender.

We'd been traveling by bus to another city from the one we're staying in, and due to the fact that the normal language here is neither English or Chinese we were struggling a bit to find the bus station, then the right bus, then the connection in an intervening bus station, and the times for departure, and gates, and even the right seats, etc. All this was wearing thin and there was kind of a wedge of angry fatigue growing between us.

Now as couples go we are a pair of humans who fit the cliché that "opposites attract". Personality wise we are very different. She does everything in a hurry, and believes that a job well done is a job done quickly, whereas I believe that a job well done is a job done right no matter how long it takes. Wherever we go she is on the run, trying to be the first on the bus, the first to catch a taxi, the first to walk through any door, etc. I, on the other hand, have difficulty getting excited about time, and tend to work or move at a steady pace but not one where speed is my priority.

When we're just at home this doesn't often create any stress between us, but traveling it really can become a near deal breaker, as we tend to frustrate the hell out of each other. Just for example, when we're trying to communicate with that bus ticket sales clerk in a foreign language, and I'm working my way through the odd word I might know, and using the usual universal hand signals to get my question across, just as I'm starting to get to where the clerk is understanding and starting to grasp where we're going and when we want to get there, my wife runs out of patience and starts butting in to get the conversation over with more quickly.

When she does, she starts firing questions at the clerk, in her broken English, like a machine gun going off. Of course the clerk, who was having a difficult enough time trying to understand my native English being spoken slowly, has no chance trying to understand English spoken as a second language at about 1,000 words a minute. So the clerk will turn back to me and start trying to slowly work through her very limited English to provide the answers I'm looking for, but my wife will then start trying to guess what the clerk is trying to say and continuously cut her off with her guesses, again in a form of English that she has no hope of understanding, instead of letting her just form her answers in a way that will eventually lead to understanding and the right tickets being obtained.

It is these moments that lead me to suddenly, briefly, conclude that while we men should never be allowed to strike our women, we should occasionally be allowed to fire them from a large cannon far into some distant location, such as the moon. And we were having quite a few of these moments during this specific trip.

On our way back we were on the first leg, which was supposed to take 3 hours but was already over 4 when we still had 50 kilometers left to travel. I'd been told that no buses left the upcoming city heading for our home city after 8 PM and it was already about 20 minutes to 8, so I was sure we could not catch another bus and would have to stay the night in the intervening city. By luck I had just been reading about a good B&B in that city, owned by an expat and only about 3 minutes’ walk from the bus station. I'd already decided we needed to stay there one night soon just to be able to pick the owner's brain about the country we were in and he had lived in for many years. So I started to search out the B&B on our iPad and was in the process of booking a room there when my extremely dollar-wise wife jumped in and insisted we could still catch a bus.

I was confident once we arrived in the upcoming city we'd have missed all connecting buses, so I waited until we arrived to tell her she was wrong and I was right. I was almost hoping the B&B would not have a room by then so we would have missed that because of her stubbornness/cheapness. I was all prepared to gloat.

However she left the bus on the run, leaving me angrily behind to deal with the bags. She managed to somehow enlist the guy who was directing traffic off the bus to follow her on the run to show her where the ticket counter was for tickets to our final destination. This in spite of the fact that she speaks not a word of his language and he spoke no English or Chinese.

Damned if she didn't come back with 2 tickets for a connecting bus leaving in about 4 minutes. We raced to the bus and got on just in time.

So now I had to listen to her gloating all the way to our final destination; how much we had saved, how clever she was, and worst of all that she was right and I was wrong. Blah, blah, blah.

I love this woman dearly, and in all honesty I have to say that she has been remarkably good for me and changed my life for the better, including driving me to a much healthier state than I've been in for many years. Just the same she possesses certain traits that really annoy me.

She knows everything and believes she is always right. When she is proven conclusively to be wrong she will not ever admit it, she will just change the subject. But when she is proven conclusively to be right, she will never stop reminding anyone who will listen how she was right. I cannot suggest these are traits of a Chinese woman however, because unfortunately i share these same traits so that would mean I am a Chinese woman.

The question is, are our differences that cause occasions of stress such as our bus incident culture related, gender related, age related (she is 10 years younger than me) or just personality differences that can exist between any two people regardless of culture, gender or age?

I raise this question because I believe most differences between life partners who come from different cultures are not, in my opinion, culturally related at all, but are just simple differences in personality. But because we come from different cultures we tend to blame every little spat, every moment of annoyance on the other person's culture. It just seems so easy to "understand" then. Unfortunately it also then seems easier to ignore instead of to resolve.

After a while we cross cultural couples will have built up a mountain of problems supposedly cultural in nature, too large a mountain to climb. And we'll let our relationship fail then, when maybe it would have succeeded if we'd just recognized many of our differences as purely being personality differences and worked to resolve them the moment they surfaced, instead of sweeping them aside until it was too late.

I urge you couples who are new to this and maybe struggling a little, to look at each dispute or difficult moment as something to be resolved between you at the time it arises, and to be treated as differences between you as two people, not as differences between you as a Chinese woman and A Western man. I truly believe that you'll find problems somehow easier to work through that way, and much less weighty or overwhelming.

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#2012-08-12 15:40:53 by panda2009 @panda2009

It is just you two. It is not related races and nations. Sweet dispute.

#2012-08-12 22:58:10 by Mellisa @Mellisa

i guess you wife is just demanding woman as many chinese women, they think they are better than anyone , that is the way they are trying to show their are powerful and smart because in this society , men are always control the world especilly in china. and i wonder why you wife hasnt learn some good manner to wait for others to get on the bus and or train, like most chinese do the same. she is with you and know your culture, but she is no difference with other chinese , just rush everywhere, to be the first all the time. she is with you a westener, what good about westener culture influnces her to behave more considering in public?

#2012-08-13 05:16:09 by danruble @danruble

John, john, john.....You hiit the nail on the head ...She knows everything and believes she is always right. When she is proven conclusively to be wrong she will not ever admit it, she will just change the subject. But when she is proven conclusively to be right, she will never stop reminding anyone who will listen how she was right. I cannot suggest these are traits of a Chinese woman however, because unfortunately i share these same traits so that would mean I am a Chinese woman... With out communication, and compromise this ship is bound to run adrift...better stock up on life preservers. The willow that will not bend will break in a strong enough wind. I really don't think it has much to do with age, gender, culture or phases of the moon.. ,but that neither will readily try to stop the foolish behaviors.Sometimes( many times) it is difficult to curtail destructive behavior. step away from the fire..admit that one may be wrong, until a chasam has been created in a relationship... remember by the time you say " i am sorry, I was wrong some damage is done..I am sure you have tried to discuss this before.. It can be frustrating when someone "helping" (butting in) , serves to only make things more convoluted.Think you guys need to have a talk.. Count to ten.. good luck.

#2012-08-14 12:21:19 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Thanks Cao Hui, for understanding this was intended to show the humour in many "disputes" and to not think every difference of opinion is about cross cultural issues.

Melisa, I apologize to you and to my wife for clearly not making my description of her very accurate. I did not mean to make it sound like she pushed people aside to get on a bus first as some Chinese seem to do (a growing minority). She's actually very well mannered and Westernized, having lived in Australia as an Australian citizen for close to 20 years. And she went there originally on a University education visa, so I think she was probably already pretty well educated and well mannered. I simply meant that she is always in a hurry to get anywhere or to complete any task, it is just in her nature. But it is never done in an impolite or intrusive way.

DanRuble - I clearly missed my mark and failed to convey the humourus aspect of this as I had intended. My wife and I are both knotheads about some things and as a result we frequently butt heads. And she is the living proof of my favourite saying which i'm sure you've heard me quote before, "Never marry a Chinese woman. They are steel rods swathed in flowers." (Hong Kong journalist Richard Hughes - deceased). But we both get over the sore foreheads very quickly and our relationship is in no danger at all. Relax on that point.

In truth I don't have the desire to fire her out of a cannon more than once or twice a month :-)

#2012-08-14 14:37:37 by danruble @danruble

Oops! sorry...Missed it by a mile..

#2012-08-15 01:10:49 by bmccull @bmccull

Yes, the personality differences come first! There may be a little of the male/female thing in there too but I think the cultural differences play very little part. Good topic.

#2012-08-15 05:54:20 by kalzorch @kalzorch

I think that this a personality thing. Maybe you could agree to alternate days being "in charge" when traveling. The person in charge makes all decisions and arrangements. The not-in-charge person must be endlessly patient and is only allowed to "help" when specifically asked.

#2012-08-15 17:05:29 by sisi0923 @sisi0923

Communication is very important.

#2012-08-16 12:02:26 by canadianmike @canadianmike

Personally, I found this quite funny. I had a solid mental image of you two as you travelled along. I even had much the same experience travelling through China with a Chinese woman. She knew *exactly* how to get everything done for me. I had to tell a Beijing taxi driver how to get back to our hotel one night just to get my oneupmanship. Sure, most of the Beijing taxi drivers know the city as well as a Canadian tourist, but I'll take advantage where I can to keep up with her! Clash of the Personalities!

#2012-08-16 12:28:22 by davedoyle @davedoyle

Ha, ha, ha. Your story gives me a good laugh. Very well written and with a good seasoning of dry humor. Too funny, really.
Firstly, I wanted to ask about your age difference and thought it would be about 20 years, ha ha. But you said it's only 10 years. That's a healthy difference. I tend to favor Melissa's comment as I've observed this type of behavior so many times during my visits in China.
But then again, I believe that you are a smart man and you already look at the situation with a keen eye.
From what you write I can glean that the difference in character seems to be at the root of this situation.
What were you thinking when you picked this woman? (Okay, that was meant as a total joke... couldn't hold it back, though).
Anyways, thanks again for the great story. Maybe you and I should go for a drink and talk about our female partners? There seems to be a lot in common here, ha ha ha.

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