by Melanie Schubert
Whenever I am talking to any western woman living in China we soon arrive at always the same topic. Man. And how desperate it can feel to live as a single woman in China.
Why? You may feel forgotten, left on the sidelines, out of the target line.
China seems a paradise for Western Man. I saw some kind of stories repeating itself again and again. Western man comes here and finds himself in the focus of (female) attention. Even back in his home country he might have received only moderate attention he is able to win the affection of any Chinese girl easily. Some might enjoy this privilege by hopping from bar to bar and having loose acquaintances. Others might chose the more responsible way by picking the one Chinese girl they really like, marry and start having a settled live in China.
But what is it like to live in China as a Western woman? Right – in a way the western women in China still finds herself subjected to a lot of attention. When walking on the street we all find Chinese people glancing at us in a way and duration that would probably be considered as impolite in our home countries. Occasions of random people telling us to be remarkable “piao liang” will happen with a frequency which we are also not used from home. In these matters we will actually receive more attention than the Western Man.
But how about the romantic attention every woman wished to receive from the other sex? As the Western Man is so busy enjoying all the sudden opportunities and attention he receives from the Chinese female world he will perceive Western Women only at the outer angles of his radar. As this is what he knows from home he will rather like to seize the new opportunities and have a taste of the exotic.
In analogy this could mean that the foreign women in China could seek a Chinese guy or vice versa. However – as we all know – it almost never happens. Reasons are various. Chinese flirting culture in general might not be the same as in the West as it is much more diffident and subtle. On top of it Chinese Man tends to be when it comes to Western Women especially shy. How else it can be explained that according to my one German colleague the whole male section of his department is in love with me, but let me meet them in the elevator their eyes suddenly will be firmly fixed on the ground. Certainly Chinese Man would like to get closer to Western women and have a try. But there is something like an invisible gap – let it be the fact the Western women appear to be more confident, more independent, that most of them living in China on an expat status – which most of the men here do not dare to pass.
Let’s have a look on it from the other perspective. Many times I was listening to my female foreign friends complaining that Chinese Man seem to be just not their taste. In their appearance rather short and slim it might especiallyfor tall Western women indeed difficult to find a suitable match. If there will be an actual interaction of these both then in most cases the Chinese Man will appear as the industrious but rather plain coworker, as the party acquaintance who is trying to polish up his English, as the nervous waiter or just as the guy on the street who is passing us by hollering the obligatory “Hello”. Indeed these are ways and constellations in which the lady normally will not start considering the male counterpart as a potential mate.
But, stop! Let’s think about it again. What I have written above is all true. But in a way it is also a mantra which many Western Women are repeating for themselves again and again. What if it is to some extent only used as an excuse to not break out from our egg shells and at least have a try? The more I actually open my eyes and look around me the more I realize that above reasons only partly reflect reality. It is true that most Chinese guys will not radiate the same masculinity as their western counterparts, but isn’t a gentler and more caring man sometimes what we wish for? And why I always glance so jealously to the Chinese young couple in the subway, where the guy is so gently taking care of his girl. And for me personally speaking wasn’t my big love and the reason why I moved to China actually a Chinese boy? And coming back to our Chinese Man – even there is a chance of being rejected when approaching a Western girl(basically there is this chance when approaching any girl),on the other side it might be a hit and you would never figure out if you don’t give it a try. And to the Chinese Man struggling for the language part – as per my observation there are by far more foreign girls out there willing and capable of communicating in Chinese than their male counterparts.
So let’s stop our jealous glimpses and bitter discussions about Western Man and Chinese Girl couples. Before desperately running after the next Western guy think about it again – and right, wasn’t there this cute and nice Chinese guy on the other floor of your office always secretly smiling to you – why not just smile back? Maybe your China adventure will reveal a completely different side.