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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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Perils of China: 3rd Date Marriage Proposal    

By Garreth Humphris
4628 Views | 13 Comments | 6/30/2014 10:16:02 AM

There is an assumption in China that if you are going to meet with a lady, and you both find each other 'suitable' then you are going to marry...sorry, this is how it is done in China!



Of course, ’suitable’ might have different interpretations for different people, but in general, if you have 2 arms, 2 legs and a few of your own teeth, you qualify! Well, that might be a little bit of a lie - but they do say "love is blind"!



This might sound condescending, but it is not intended to be - if a chinese lady has decided to meet you (a foreigner) then she is pretty serious about a relationship with you - it is not some casual fling - the very fact that she is potentially sacrificing her friends, her job (yep, you better believe it!) and her status as a 'good woman' in the community is a pretty full undertaking that many foreigners fail to comprehend...and also, being with you in the future opens her to a fair degree of ridicule and unwelcome attention as well!



So, if you show interest, such as asking her out on a second date or saying you think she is nice/pretty/interesting/a good cook or agreeing to be chaperoned/double date with a pushy friend/family member, you are well down the matrimonial pathway. 



And by a third meeting, you have made your intentions pretty clear! 



Maybe they aren't saying it, but they are damn-sure thinking it... and plans for weddings, babies, houses and the trappings of marital bliss are in play!



The radar is also out for 'approval’ signs as well - innocently benign comments or questions about family, children, likes and dislikes, activities together, acceptance (or non-negative indifference) to her plans, eating, your thoughts about what a future could be like ... All these become steps and signs of a growing relationship that might be stronger than the male gives credit too!



If you are traveling to China, she will (rightly or wrongly) assume it is to meet her and to marry her. If it is your intention to 'meet but not necessarily marry',  plan your flight to arrive somewhere else in China or HongKong and make an incidental visit rather than a full frontal assault! Or let her know you are in China for other reasons and would just like to see if you like her!



If she meets you outside her home environment then she is doing this to be away from prying eyes and waggling tongues - a semi-low stress environment to ascertain 'suitablility'. But this ’getting to know you’ phase has the same rules - if you are going on a second or third meeting, then it means a serious thing - strong messages such as changing travel plans, accepting an invitation to go closer to where she lives or moving under the same ceiling (usually under the guise of unavailable accommodation) means things are hotting up! Yes gentlemen, she is open to a more physical relationship! And yes, this is a serious escalation in the wedding/baby/family stakes - passing this milestone is akin to engagement in her eyes!



Next step in the process is meeting her friends...and she will try her hardest to have you go meet her family...this may as well be the announcement of engagement! The first family members will be fairly benign - a cousin or sibling - it is their role to break the news of the lady's potential boyfriend to the family in veiled whispers - let it slip in casual conversation so to speak to warm the parents to the idea of the change. Remember that after her first failed marriage or failure to launch by age 28 (and I have chosen failure here for a reason) that the parents have gotten pretty comfortable that a daughter will be around to cook, clean, clothe and console them well into old age and they often aren't so happy with the idea of someone upsetting this situation...thank you very much!



If she has children that live with her, compatibility with them will be an important step! Having them like you is  essential to the plan! 



After this, she may grow bolder and be seen in public or closer to her home environment with you - usually in a hostess or travel-guide and living away from you. Introductions to extended family might occur but beware as older relatives hold a lot of sway - be courteous to uncles and aunts, older brothers and sisters because they are often the lynchpin to negotiations and approval.



In these situations you need to be showing that you are responsive and caring to her needs, providing money where needed (for food, gifts and entry into events and social situations). It is especially  important if she invites the people to dinner in a restaurant or outing, you joining her as a gracious host will set you in good stead with the family. Consider small 'leaving gifts ' like fruits or snacks, or something from your own country based around food! If there a young children a gift in a red envelope is a good idea! You know how hard it is to raise a family - responsible you!



If a guest points to some fruit or snacks on an outing, be sure to 'fight' them into buying it for them! This is a mock 'no, no, no, impossible, ok if you insist' battle! 

As a side note, handing a smoker father a couple of packs of 80RMB ChengHwa or Panda brand cigarettes is a good gift!



Remember that these people might be 'invisible' to you - they might be introduced as an old friend or neighbour (or even be lurking around the hotel where you are staying, following you when you go on outings with her or somehow 'bump into you and her' accidentally) so make sure that you are earnest and respectful when meeting them and watch for signs of discomfort from your partner if you are too close or holding hands. They are all 'sizing you up' a little like a prize bull at the market yards.



Keep your cool and promise your eternal support for the lady! Don't be offended by being called fat, old, unattractive, slow, bald and/or ugly! It is probably true in Chinese terms so get over it - if you live in China you will be reminded 50-300 times a day!



Eventually (usually within 2 weeks), when the path is smoothed and you have enough of the king-makers in the family hierarchy on your side, you will meet the parents in a pretty formal setting! Like a dinner in a restaurant or an invitation in her home where you play host! 



The most common situation is they they will sit across a table from you in a restaurant - mother scowling (but remember most Chinese women over 60 scowl) and usually father will be smiling from ear to ear and offering you a cigarette every 2 minutes because he doesn't really know how to be polite to you!



He may tell you a story of a time long ago that shows some knowledge and kinship with your country, but it won't be translated too well and the relevance will be lost! You need to laugh, nod and thank him for his generosity of thinking of your country in that way! The scowling mother is the nicest...you know she doesn't like you! The effervessant and perfect host mother is the worst - she is sizing up every moment for a tirade of unsuitability that your partner will have to sit through! Just because they smile and laugh - doesnt mean they like you!



If in the home, most of the interaction will be with the men-folk. You will sit in the lounge uncomfortably silent for an hour with father (and maybe brothers) while mother, sister/chaperone and partner compare your relative deficiencies and modifications required before marriage can proceed while making lots of noise in the kitchen! Every now and then the mother will come out to fluster the father, asking him if he thinks your nose is too long or if he thinks your health will hold out until their daughter is old!



You will just have to sit quietly, smile from time to time and offer to light father’s cigarette every now and then - if you accept a cigarette be prepared for a bitter rasping experience! But if you smoke it without vomiting you have passed a test. Good job!



If the family approve, it will be nearly impossible to actually let her down gently!

You have involved 500 people in a complex web of favours and factions!

See, dating in China can be fatal family affair!



Now, I know some of the CLM members will disagree, but the truth is, most of the ladies that describe themselves as 'traditional' and/or 'simple Chinese' have this set of 'rules' engrained in their psyche and all that ranting, raving, ducking and weaving by a suitor will come to nought! On this issue, Chinese women (or more to the point, their families) will be uncompromising...and not without reason!



If you are outside of China, you often do not realise how 'traditional' the society still is in China. While it is true that the country has been 'open' for around 30 years, it has really only been the last 8-10 years where the influence of other cultures and attitudes has been able to be known by many Chinese...the internet is a newer tool and most Chinese will not have ventured too far beyond the free movie downloads, chatting to friends, buying anything imaginable in the online stores and taking photographs of food on their mobile phones.



True, the younger society has opened to greater possibilities, but the older thought-processes of family/home/male/female/parent/child/husband/wife stereotypes still hold significant sway! And will, I dare say, for a generation or two yet!



Even the seemingly liberated young start to 'breakdown' to the constant moaning and vexations of their family. By the age of 27, most of the fight against conformity has gone!



I watched a recent advertisement on local TV recently that had a dialogue over time of a young woman just finishing her high school and the grandmother urging her to marry, scene 2 was finishing university with grandma asking 'are you married yet?', starting first job and next a promotion and still the same question until finally, with grandmother on her last few breaths, the young woman tells her she is finally married! The implication being that Grandma could die a happy woman knowing granddaughter was married.



Put simply, marriage in China is pretty much a game of life and death - like it or leave it!.


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#2014-06-30 12:27:37 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

This advice is certainly true of the general female population of China, at least in the generations that were born before 1990 or so. It is likely even more true of Chinese women who are less educated, and also more true of those who have grown up in rural areas or cities that are not yet as advanced economically as the major ones.

But throughout China it is safe to say that there is consistent family and peer pressure on all Chinese women from the age of about 26 and up to get themselves married immediately and pregnant soon after. And because of that, combined with other related cultural pressures and beliefs, Chinese women are in a rush to marry compared to their Western counterparts and compared to Western men.

This is something that all Western men looking for a Chinese wife are bound to encounter, need to recognize, and need to accommodate while at the same time resisting being sucked into the rush themselves. You should neither write a woman off for being in such a rush, because you will toss away a lot of diamonds if you do, nor should you sway from your desire to take the necessary time to be sure make sure the match is a good one, because otherwise you might just marry a lump of coal.

So reading this blog and storing away Gareth's valuable advice in the back of your mind will be of great value to you.

Having said that, we've noticed on CLM over the last 5 years that more and more of our ladies are not in such a rush, and are themselves now wanting to take their time and find a great match rather than risk the rush into a possibly bad marriage. This is likely partly due to a general change in China that is slowly taking place, but also due to the process of self education that is happening on CLM among the Chinese women as they use the forum and the blogs to discuss and rethink many issues like this one

We are blessed that a large number of highly intelligent women are actively participating on the forum and helping their fellow members "see the light" in so many ways. Some of these women are among the very best that China has to offer, and I hope they'll offer their thoughts on this post by Gareth.

Once again, Gareth, you've provided an incredibly valuable post here for any man seriously seeking a Chinese lifemate, and likewise for those women seeking to be a Chinese lifemate. I hope all members give it their full attention.

#2014-06-30 15:12:05 by anonymous10722 @anonymous10722

Gareth, when you wrote "taking photographs of food on their mobile phones" I had to laugh out loud. It is so true! There is some fascination with food which is incomprehensible to many westerners.

#2014-06-30 15:26:02 by Joewood @Joewood

John and Gareth,
This is an interesting topic. I have a question about the Chinese women that are on CLM that live here in the states. For me, traveling to China will not be any type of easy option, I don't fly well, and my situation may keep me tied down in the states. I had a rough time flying for just 4 hours twice in the past year.
So how would this work meeting a Chinese woman here in the US? I know there would be the initial meeting up, say a "first date" to take her out to lunch or dinner, or how is this best approached for her comfort in a meeting if she is on her own here?
Can you shed some light on this for me?
Thank you

#2014-06-30 19:57:10 by Barry1 @Barry1

@aussieghump

Thanks for this enlightening yet entertaining look at aspects of the marriage process in China.

I must admit that it made me smile a little because as I read your words, I realised that in my current China trip, I broke just about every rule or concept that you mentioned here - it made me feel like a blundering idiot!

My ham fisted ignorance of matters Chinese may in turn leave me to be a single man, despite my best intentions. Readers will have to keep reading my blog articles to find out, I guess!

Where were you with your sage advice when I needed you at those critical moments, Gareth - such as the important dinner date I had with the parents, where I gave them nothing, paid for nothing and said nothing! :D

#2014-07-01 09:50:48 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@Barry1
Haha Barry, it wasn't my intention to 'show you up', I have had a draft of this sitting around my computer for months! But the impetus was spurred by recent articles by you and Imi!

I just wanted to make it clear - this is my take on the dating process and I have my personal foibles and reasons for baulking and being critical! They may or may not necessarily apply to you and your partner but ... The sentiment does!

So, if you are 'feeling rushed' about the process, you aren't the only one! And the ladies reading, be aware of some of the guidance and expectations you need to give your hapless foreign friend around friends and family!

#2014-07-01 13:25:22 by melcyan @melcyan

@Barry1
Where was Garreth's advice when you needed it, is the wrong question. The more appropriate question is "Where was Tina's advice when you needed it?". Tina knew enough about you to predict your short comings in meeting the family. Why didn't she coach you and assist you? When it came to meeting my partner's family for the first time my partner stage managed the whole process. She guided me on the clothes I wore, the gifts I gave and the words I needed to say and when to keep my mouth shut. I listened to her and I made a good impression.

#2014-07-02 23:55:18 by Barry1 @Barry1

@melcyan

"Where was Tina's advice when you needed it"

Good question, Melcyan - I must ask her about this!

You also said,

"Tina knew enough about you to predict your short comings"

I feel crushed, Melcyan. Are you suggesting that I have.... shortcomings? As in faults or deficiencies?

Surely not, Melcyan..... surely not? :^)

#2014-07-03 00:00:41 by Barry1 @Barry1

@aussieghump

"And the ladies reading, be aware of some of the guidance and expectations you need to give your hapless foreign friend around friends and family"

Yes, I fully concur, Gareth.

I agree that it's never the poor man's fault when he stuffs up in front of Chinese friends or family, acting like a bumbling idiot. It is ALWAYS the ladies fault - well spoken, Sir - all the clodhopping men on this website enthusiastically salute you! (y)

#2014-07-03 05:16:38 by YinTingYu @YinTingYu

@aussieghump
Hello Garreth,
I have to "jump in" here.
You have mentioned many things about western and eastern societal/mindset challenges.
I always read what you have to say !!
I feel is very "on point".
Good grief,...you live in China now, I must pay attention !!!
So,...I don't know if my writing is in the correct place but,...wishes to share the following;

First,...when it comes to choice of " life partner" for a man or woman,...for it to really work out good for rest of days,....both must understand and agree that there are many different kinds of love/attraction.

Each must know themselves on a very deep level.
There are many different kinds of love.
One cannot truly love another until one has love for self,... unconditional.
I remind all of Erich Fromm's short book, "The Art Of Loving".
I really feel he was correct.

He states basic love types following:
1. Brotherly love.
2. Motherly love.
3. Erotic love.
4. Self love
5. Love of God (however one perceives).
Ah,...there is more with combinations of all.

Next I wish to share discoveries about the "Couples journey".

Is taken from Susan Campbell's conclusions.
Many years of research observed (25+years over 300 couples).

Is from book titled: "The Couples Journey".
Author: Susan Campbell

1. Romantic Stage.
2. Power Struggle.
3. Owning Projections And Accepting Responsibility.
4. Plateau Intimacy.

I type for all a condensed version of what the author says.

1. Romantic Stage:
Each couple has been in love with each other.
There is a fusion of psychological boundary's.
Couple feels excited and powerful as though all can be conquered together.

2. Power Struggle:
Individual boundary's return.
Fusion of differences is slight or great.
Each person's family of origin "rules" (conditioning) come into play producing disagreements.
Feelings about money, sex, sickness, socializing, celebrating, household maintenance, possible parenting, etc...have to be re-negotiated.
The couple really comes to know and understand each others' differences.
A stable period of calm routine returns.
Maybe takes 10 years time,...maybe less.

3. Owning Projections And Accepting Personal Responsibility:
Individual soul searching journey of personal responsibility and quest for ultimate meaning.
Each partner "owns" their male and female projections.
Men find their "feminine" side.
Women find their "masculine" side.
Discovery of generative needs for self-actualization.
Each partner becomes more and more complete.

4. Plateau Intimacy:
Partners become complete within themselves.
New bond established based on desire, choice, and decision rather than,.... fantasy bonding out of neediness.
Each gives truly to the other because they really want to.
Some qualities of romance return but with more friendship, respect, and appreciation of each other.

"The journey towards intimacy is marked by the following: excited romance, healthy conflict, learning to negotiate fairly; patience, hard work, and the courage to risk discovering and being an individual. Above all, it is marked by a willingness of each partner to embrace a "disciplined love".

"Achieving love and intimacy in a relationship is a dynamic process,...it ebbs and flows with certain times of disagreement, agreement, and individuation".

I think this is good for all to remember and assess.

Also,... I recommend to all the Carl Jung, Isabel Meyers, David Keirsey test from the book,..."Please Understand Me".
I feel this is better than astrology or enneagram because it gives the chance to observe how a person feels at the time,.....feelings and sentiments may change !!
Is only a 70 or 72 question and answer format (Yes or No).
Has helped me with assessing a "ground zero' base to start from.

It is just a part of our living in the mystery of each moment.

OK,... I've said enough for now.
Peace and Blessing
Yin Ting Yu aka,... Gongji

#2014-07-03 16:00:46 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@YinTingYu
Your summations about love and relationships are interesting especially in the context of China!
Really what the blog is about is realising that culture, family and history will have a significant bearing on the 'pathway' to love!

Many foreign men have not experienced to 'Chinese Rairoad' style of marriage proposal and are not aware of the status and signs... Although I don't pretend that this story applies to all couples, certainly the ideas behind then are strong in the Chinese community (and therefore cannot be ignored)... I just wonder what your parents might make of the 'love test'?

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