Chinese Women, Asian Women, Online Dating & Things Chinese and Asian
Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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On dating a 'Traditional' Chinese woman    

By Garreth Humphris
12836 Views | 12 Comments | 12/11/2011 2:46:41 PM

Lost Love On The Great Wall - painting by Hua Long

If you read the introductions on CLM, many Chinese women (over the age of 30) will describe themselves as being 'traditional'. Some chinese bloggers have also added a little to the discussion about 'real' Chinese women and 'virtuous' Chinese women through discussion of character and thought patterns.

But to most 'men' this would still be quite elusive... men are quite simple creatures really - we need 'instruction books' or 'practical guides' to things we don't understand...

So this is a bit of an open letter - it is not intended to be insulting or ’bad’, but may appear so - it is more an observation of cultural differences and is based on an experience of meeting a nice lady through the ’friendship recommended' route in China.

After about 2 months of 'nagging' from my friend, I was finally convinced that I should meet a “nice traditional lady” that he knew from his home town to see if we “had feelings” - this is the quintessential ’blind date’ but it has much ’higher stakes’ in China because a recommendation by a friend in China is actually more of a “strong suggestion”. She already came “with feelings” and those were “must be married”.

She was told I was a man with “good heart” and “ready to be married” so she came much the same way... ready to relocate, heart on sleeve, practicalities on hold.

To be fair, I was expecting this, so I was careful with my words and actions - but my ’I like you’ was quickly translated to ’I love you’, and ’I will come to your hometown’ into ’let's get married’, I found myself in a position of liking a person, but finding her so totally besotted that I could not breathe.

So at this stage - the Chinese ladies reading will say I am a playboy, that I was not honest to her... but to be fair - the Chinese courtship is like a runaway train... there is so much steam in the boiler, so much push from the society to rush this direction that it is very hard to slow down to a more delicate pace.

I would like to marry, if the right lady comes along... but it takes me more than a 3 hour stilted Chinglish meeting in a coffeeshop to determine this!

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind - so I was cool to her for a while - gently explaining to her how impractical it was for her to immediately move away from hometown and family, throwing in a senior position in healthcare in her hometown to enter a junior one nearby me, to dispose of hard-won assets to create a married life, to go against the wishes of family, to remove herself from the support of friends...

We shall see how things play out - but I wanted to add some other comments about the experience (and a few others over the years) for the consideration of the audience.

In my experience, many ’traditional ladies’ will not have had much ’experience’ in the rough and tumble world of dating, since they often met and married the first man they were introduced to a few years ago - if they suffered marriage breakdown/divorce they they are often ’demonized’ as the perpetrator, and subsequently meeting ’boyfriends’ places them in an altogether different league of women in the eyes of their neighbors and family.

In many ways, the Internet is a clandestine playroom where ’traditional women’ can meet potential suitors without the gaze and condemnation of others. It is ’liberating’ in many ways but it also holds dangers for the unprepared.

So in this light the ’traditional lady’ package comes somewhat damaged, a little inexperienced and vulnerable in games and ’love politics’ and often adding more value to words, actions and deeds than the foreigner may have intended.

You cannot underestimate the cultural differences, expectations and “norms” that can be “poles apart”.

For example, the Western form of family is ’immediate family’ and ’extended family’ - we expect to make important ’family’ decisions in our immediate family and the extended family can ’like it or lump it’... but in China there is only one concept of family... one in,all in!

There are family expectations to share houses, share food, share money, share resources... but most of this will seem hopelessly lop-sided to a foreigner. The Chinese family will “expect” but does not appear grateful - there is no “obligation” to return - you have to ask. There appears to be no consideration about your present situation - if i need It, I will ask you, and you are obliged to give it to me. The only real order seems to be that the foibles and fallacies of the sons will be met before the needs of the daughters.

There is also a disconnect between meanings of words - many foreign males, would probably say they were looking to get married soon - meaning ’soonish’ - after practical details have been arranged, after meeting and arranging living, visas, certificates, families politics - more like sometime in the next 6-12 months. But a ’traditional lady’ is more likely to want to marry first and arrange practicalities later. In a previous post, I suggested that in China it is common to ’act first, and ask permission later’ and this is often the position a ’traditional lady’ will be in - facing lots of opposition from family and friends - she would rather have won the war (married the man) to face the final battle (win over the family).

In general, a ’traditional lady’ has no idea about foreigners - her interactions with them are few and far between. She certainly will not be privy to our methods of making decisions, our likes and dislikes, our needs and desires. Examples you may specifically come across are:

- She often does not understand our need for additional social contact with others - in China, family and close family friends are all you need!

- She sees many of our social activities as immoral with bars and drinking alcohol as mortal enemies. So will her friends, family and neighbors and she will be seen as ’weak’ in not being able to control this.

- She will expect promptness in returning from work, advising of shopping expeditions, cups of coffee or anything keeping him away from her. A 30 minute delay of arrival is akin to amoral behaviour - where are you?, who were you with?, what did you do? A perverse jealousy that you were not spending time with her.

- she cannot understand our desire to 'do the right thing'. We are usually brought up in environments where law and responsibility are well defined and in many parts of China these are more loosely applied.

- she cannot say 'no'. And we can easily do this, but she cannot - family responsibility and pecking order, social pressure and expectation, all factors meaning she must eventually say 'yes' or do 'yes' (often hiding it from her partner).

- money is the overriding factor in her life - it buys security, it buys medical assistance for family, it buys friends and influence - it protects her from that time in her childhood when her family did not have much. If she has been divorced, she probably supports parents and older family members with her earnings - she has obligations to unmarried brothers and sisters with money for education and marriage and life. To us it seems like gold-digging, to Chinese ladies it is a necessary practicality in her daily life and family function.

- A ’traditional Chinese Ladies’ signs of affection will be pride in keeping a good home... of ironing, cooking, cleaning and “advising” on how to live a healthier and happier life. This is what Chinese people do... you need to lose weight, drink more water, stay away from XXX! In general, they do not include kissing or holding hands in public - more than one ’traditional lady’ friend has walked 3-4 paces behind me, much to my horror.

I hope this gives a little insight - of course I could probably write a book about this. They too are generalities - there are degrees of “traditionalism”, depending on locality, family pride/tolerance and life experience.

I'm sure people can give other examples, many more inspiring than mine so I'd welcome comments!

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#2011-12-11 14:52:27 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Garreth, this is one of the best efforts I've ever seen in explaining both what is a "traditional Chinese woman" in the modern sense, and in explaining why the approach of Chinese women to marrying quickly is so dramatically different than the approach of Western men (or Western women).

I hope that you'll forgive me that I've taken the liberty of adding a photo to hopefully draw some additional readers because I strongly feel that this is a blog article that should not be missed by any man seriously seeking a lifemate on CLM.

In a nutshell, great article.

#2011-12-11 15:40:40 by Serendipity33 @Serendipity33

A fine Blog on the "Traditional" ...which begs the question of "Non traditional"

#2011-12-11 18:29:10 by Bluefoxcoffee @Bluefoxcoffee

Wow, in my point of view, the "traditional" has quite different meanings. Maybe you should or already know, we have different customs or cultures in different provinces, particulaly between north and south, west and east. When I moved to the southeast of China from my hometown (northeast), believe it or not, I got a culture shock. I couldn't understand lots of their manners and ideas which are totally, totally different. I lived in oversea for a few years, I got a culture shock. But in my home country, I have to face the shock too. Well, people are different. the world need the diversity. So deal with it, if you love the girl.

BTW, I don't know what happen to these people who rush into a marriage. someone said family gave many pressures; someone said "I'm not young to wait"; someone just wanna get married because most friends got married. so many reasons...but only reason can explain it should be you do wanna share your rest life with this man/lady.

Hope you can find your right lady soon...and having, sharing...

#2011-12-11 23:17:55 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Regarding your specific comment about a 'traditional Chinese ladies' signs of affection, I think you're quite right, but what I've discovered is that she will quickly come to like the holding of hands and the nicer forms of both public and private displays of affection, especially as she realizes that these western signs of affection are genuine indications of love for her. Everyone loves a hug, including traditional Chinese women.

And accepting some of her admonitions about ways to improve one's life style can actually dramatically improve your health. Grant you my wife makes a science out of knowing what is and isn't healthy by constantly updating herself about the most recent medical and scientific studies on nutrition and good health practices, but I confess by following her heartfelt advice my health is vastly superior to what it was when I met her and I've no doubt I've added years to my life.

The point being we've taught each other new ways to show love and to gain from them, emotionally and physically.

#2011-12-11 23:35:00 by fengyan5746 @fengyan5746

And people are different and I divorced from the thirties, raising children alone, working to retirement age, but not the object to find a suitable marriage.
Woman is ever-changing, men also. A Chinese woman to marry as soon as possible, is her own thing, and traditional Chinese woman no direct relationship Oh, you write so much, really a bit hard to understand the Chinese women in fact need not be so complex thinking.

#2011-12-11 23:51:44 by tanshui @tanshui

Thanks for writing this Garreth.

The comments by Bluefoxcoffee are great because they certainly mirror my experiences in China. There is no 'one China' but many Chinas culturally as he says.

And of course John speaks from first hand experience especially with regard to holding hands and affection and being cared for. Everyone loves a hug.

We have so much to learn from each other - Chinese and westerners - and it can be a richly rewarding experience when as a westerner you keep an open mind and are prepared to perhaps change.

But one thing I have come to understand is that a Chinese women will often say that she needs to do, or not do, something because it is the Chinese traditional way. hmmmmm. Often it is her way and her preference. hahahaha

So the most important of all the many and varied Chinese cultures to come to understand and be comfortable with is the personal culture of the Chinese woman that you are with. But then this is true of all women in all cultures I think.

But how would you know unless you have met and dealt with many Chinese women and of course talked to Chinese men about this sort of thing.

#2011-12-12 11:27:31 by oneforall @oneforall

Wonderful article and great responses! It would be great if women from the different areas were to add their own thoughts about the cultures from their home areas! It might give many of the men on CLM a better insight as to what "Traditional" means for the woman they are seeking. Garreth, thanks for the enlightening article!!

#2011-12-12 21:54:38 by aussieghump @aussieghump

These are not intended to be complaints - just an idea about how some 'behaviours' and 'actions' and 'ideas' appear fundamentally different - at a deep rooted level. I can only write from a 'Gareth' (western) viewpoint because that is all I know - but I have tried to outline some of the 'dilemmas' surrounding the situations and why the 'behaviour' may be exhibited as I understand it.

You don't have to be married to know about women!... I have dated a number of 'traditional' Chinese women from a number of different cities and they all appear to have similar ideals...or more to the point, my response to their actions/behaviours is similar. Maybe this is too unyielding by me - but I too have my own preferences, standards and ideals about the type of woman I like and how I would like to have their 'situation' in relation to me...there is no way I am going to ask a lady to uproot her life for me unless I am sure I have the necessary tolerance and appreciation for her that she is entitled to. I would view my actions as being 'Chinafied Westerner' having lived here a while and genuinely tried to rationalize and understand my China experience in many ways.

I am only trying to put into some perspective some of the 'dilemmas' a foreigner may face in meeting and dating local ladies (especially if it is a 'speed trip' of a few weeks) - so they are better prepared for some of the common dilemmas and can identify some of the situations that may cause these (especially if the 'traditional lady' knows little about the other culture and to her, the foreigner is being 'totally irrational' because "in China ...").

I knew the topic would possibly be contentious - and of course, differing degrees of compliance to what I have suggested will occur - but I also think there is enough commonality between the actions, belief and attitudes of 'traditional' ladies to write about it in this way - my own view, based on experiences.

#2011-12-16 18:04:12 by anonymous3004 @anonymous3004

With the exception of money, this article pretty much sums up the woman I found on CLM. However, unlike western men I have no trouble with any of her attributes. I don't desire a real social life, I don't desire to go out at night. I actually desire just to be smothered by a motherly wife. Call me crazy, but this is what I want.

#2011-12-17 16:32:53 by fanghnsea @fanghnsea

The difference is exactly exist,but since we plan to choose another loving and family style,we should deal with things in many aspects,and prepare it enough, with an open mind and with many many love,then can we share a happy and long marriage.Just as the writer SanMao and her Spain husband,there loving story spread so far.

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