Yeah, But I Am Not Chinese!

Chinese woman carrying
Chinese woman carrying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things we face being an intercultural marriage is … well .. basically the differences in cultures and social norms.   Our views on some things do not always mix. For Example:  I think because we work long hours we should have a maid to clean our home…. He thinks it is a waste of money.. no matter how inexpensive it is….. I think a day off means to go do something and see some sites in China…. He things a day off means just sleep the whole day.   I think going out to eat is a treat and something special…. He thinks why go out when we have food in the house…

These are simple things that we bicker about but get thru rather quickly.  However, somethings are not so easy to get passed.  Our ideals of what the gender roles should be for one.

A traditional Chinese man… (my husband) believes…. If he is out of the house working, or forming relationships (as you have to do in China to get ahead)... it does not matter what time you get home or if you make it  home at all because you are not doing anything “Bad” (meaning .. No other women, No gambling and No bars) …. He also thinks … working seven days a week or 15 hours a day is okay… because it is for work.  He is just doing his job of taking care of the family.

However, my views on what a husband should do are a bit different.

I do not agree with the long hours, long nights.. and most definitely the over night outings for forming relationships for business.  I do not agree with wives staying at home and men go out and .. do whatever they do .. in the name of business.  Family time and quality time are very important to me.

Wherein lies the problem, Chinese social norms suggest that the men go outside the home and have dinner, drinks, or whathaveyous…. for hours at a time without your wife.  If one was to bring his wife to these social outings he is considered less of a man.   He is pressured to participate in all activities if he wants to be accepted as “one of the boys”.   Which usually means heavy drinking, long dinners, KTV and maybe having female companionship.

The women, however, are supposed to go to work  (if they work) then stay home with the children, clean house, wash clothes..(by hand) and cook dinner if necessary.  It is not acceptable for them to go to bars, go out drinking, etc.

Lately, my husband and I have been butting heads on these social norms…. I find them unacceptable..and I am not happy with the arrangement.  I am totally appalled at the disrespect the men show their women.  When I asked Chinese women about this arrangement they even say they do not like it either but it is the way it is and you cannot do anything about it.

They even told me that sometimes their husbands will have other girlfriends.. they have to accept it because if they divorce they will lose everything and never be able to find another husband their life will be unbelievably hard… and they would get no support from the ex husband.   So, basically women’s rights are nonexistent over here.   Not a good thing for a strong, outspoken, Black woman like myself.

However, after a long…. long… long … discussion with my husband … I realized that in all the time we have been together that he has kind of forgotten that I am American.  I mean he knows I look American.. but he forgets my ideals and beliefs are different.   He even told me … But you are Chinese….. I had to clarify that I was not Chinese and although I have adapted pretty well to the culture, the food and the craziness here.. my thinking and ideals are and always will be … AMERICAN.

I think this really was an eye opener for him…. I feel he really did consider me just like any other Chinese woman… that in his mind and eyes I wasn’t any different….. I am confused by this

… I think it is a good thing that our marriage in his mind isn’t any different from any other marriages… but I also think .. It is a bad thing that in his mind our marriage is not different… because we are different from other Chinese couples.

So… we did come to an agreement that he would pay more attention to the fact that I am not a traditional Chinese woman and I have very different ideals…He will do his best to come home at decent times… and spend more quality time with me and a little less at work…. and I would try to understand that he cannot change an entire culture… and it is not so easy for him either.  We are in China and the game is different here… like or not.. you have to kind of deal with it….

Our marriage has challenges that we face because we live in China.. that maybe we would never have to face if we were in America.  However, .. through communication, love and determination… we will find away to make it work.


until next time….


21 thoughts on “Yeah, But I Am Not Chinese!

  1. I can sympathize with you from the opposite direction. Prior to my current school, I was at a private school where I was the first foreigner to ever work there. When the school owner/director/ Big Boss decided it was time for a “staff meeting” at the local 5 star restaurant with a followup team-building events at the local KTV to which attendance was “mandatory.” Once I saw that only the men from the company was there, I figured out what was going on and politely took my leave.

    Next day I was called into the office where the boss why I declined to attend. He really didn’t understand why even after I told him that going out on a late night bender of stuffing myself, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, wailing away like a banshee in heat wasn’t nor would it ever be a part of my job description. He didn’t like it when I told that that unless it was a function that included female employees, wives or families I preferred to be left out of future “meetings.”.

    The very idea that I would rather go home to eat a home cooked meal, be able to enjoy a beer or two watching TV or a movie with my wife was so foreign to him that they finally stopped asking. He probably could have fired me, but I had developed such a following amongst the students and their parents that they told him that if I was fired I, they would also leave.

    When it was time to renew, I decided it was time to move on to a better situation.

    1. @Caseyorourke….. Thank you so much for giving an example of what men go thru in China. It is hard to explain.. but you sharing your experience and how the other men viewed it … helps alot. As you well know.. if you had been a Chinese man you could have been fired… thank you so much …

  2. Jo, as you know Jaison and I will be married soon. We are in the process of applying for the spouse visa which upon my research takes about 5 months to be approved. I am really concerned about the type of work he will be able to find in America. I am praying he doesn’t get discouraged and despondent with the lack of job options he may face in America. I also know you and Michael are in the process of emigrating back. A few questions for you, how does Michael plan on obtaining work? Do you all have a strategy planned? My dad has a few business partners who are Chinese. I’ve known them since I was 6. He said he would ask them to consider giving him a temporary position until he finds a permanent job, but my biggest fear is that I dislike the thought of living in Miami so much I may cripple his chances if I live in any other state!! Help! By the way, hope to see you and Michael on July 8th in Hangzhou. I’ll send you a formal invite soon.


    1. Esther@.. employment is the big problem for us too…. especially with the US economy the way it is… we decided to try to get our business going here… well enough so when we go to the states.. we can do that business there. I have went thru this before.. and it is not something i want to face again… You really need to take that into consideration. It is not easy for a Chinese man.. directly from America…besides the culture shock, the job market, the people… it is harder on them… than on us… think about it.. I am waiting for your formal invitation.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. It was interesting to read your response, especially how women are expected to marry richer In this country they would call a woman like that a ‘golddigger’. I wonder how the men are dealing with the disparity between men/women. Are the men marrying more foreign women?

  4. sarahinguangzhou

    This sounds pretty typical of any mixed-culture relationships I’ve had or seen in China actually. Good on you for having the patience to work through the differences, I’m afraid I just find that cultural gap too huge when it comes to relationships.
    A lott of the women I see are not happy but lack the economic freedom to do anything about it, so the men get to behave as they see fit and the women just put up with it.

  5. As usual, your posts raise a number of questions. As I read, a nagging one is: “why did she marry this man? Is he all of that?” Another: “is this marriage headed to Divorce Court?” Then I decided the “why” and “is” are none of my business. So….here is the question I’d like you to consider: If I were to become an expat with a US high-salary job and by some stroke of luck (one Chinese female date in 8 months — he he) marry but refuse to accept traditional gender norms, I suspect that my male Chinese colleagues would think I’m not manly or a “wussie.” Right? I don’t drink. No interest in KTV. Prefer provocative dinner conversations rather than mere chit-chat. Hope to meet you before I head back to the States in late July.

    1. @Harry…I am sure … many people are thinking the same questions you are… But… I will tell you and them my answer… Why did I marry him? … Because I love him…. Is he all that? To me.. Yes.. he is.. if he wasnt I wouldnt have married him… Is this marriage headed for Divorce court? You know.. I think people are too quick to give up on marriages… when you get married you make a promise to each other.. good time and bad times.. sickness and health.. rich or poor.. until death… it seems to me that people want it easy.. once it gets hard they are quick to throw up the divorce card. I come from a traditional believe that unless he is beating the hell out of you, he is gay.. or he is having babies with other women…. You stick in there …and do everything to make it work… call me traditional or stupid or whatever..but that is what I believe. As for you….What you seem to forget is YOU ARE NOT A CHINESE MAN…. so the rules do not apply to you… if you have a US high salary job.. then you dont need.. “guan xi” relationships… You dont need to worry about your job or your money.. because you are an Expat. If you were Chinese and you wanted to be successful in business … you need to form these kinds of relationships because you would need help…you can do nothing in china with out a “friend”… to get these friends.. you need to do things for them.. or show them you will do whatever it takes.. totally different situation for you Harry.

      1. Jo, every time I read you you open my eyes big time. Sometimes I wish I could become an expat with a US salary, but I’m an Old Head, an American, and you’re right: I am not a Chinese man. Glad to know you plan to hang in there with Michael. Keep on keeping on, sistah.

        1. @Harry… Thanks … I guess those values… that were forced into my brain by my grandmother .. still hold true… I am the true optimist… if I fall down.. I dust myself off.. and say… that was fun.. lets try it again.

      2. Are you sure we did not have the same grandmother? He he. On the serious side, the irony is that I have intentionally avoided the expat community. I rarely see another black person and I did not come to China for a year to hang out with or meet Americans or Europeans. Returning to the US will be rather difficult, initially, I suppose.

  6. Ha ha ha. sorry to laugh but I know all about what your talking about after being married to a Chinese man. It really is a honor to you that he thinks your Chinese 🙂

    But yeah he needs to back step a bit and remember your not. Part of being in a interracial relationship is respecting both view points and meeting the person half way. I find Chinese men have a little problem with this.

    I hope you guys find a middle grown on some of the issues. In the long run working late hours isn’t worth making a wife unhappy in any culture

  7. Jo, that sounded so sad. I feel for you. I know just being an American and not tring to put you down or anything I would not want to live like that. You have been and always be a much stronger person than me and you and your husband I pray you both will find a way to work it out. You both are in my thoughts and prayers . You are and always have been a good kid, up to a teenager, and grew up to be a strong woman. You have always been a great friend. Love Susan

    1. @Susan… I guess you have known me longer than anyone around here… since we grew up together… your support means a lot Susan.. thank you .. for your prayers.. and for being by me all these years.

  8. mayiara

    Actually, communism has done a *lot* for empowering women in China. You often speak as if the world were just two data points, China and the US–perhaps if that were the case, one could argue that women’s rights are non existent in China. In any case, I would suspect that not all Chinese women accept the gender norms and that it will vary according to socioeconomic status, and the individual woman’s external power (ie economic, social and otherwise). In other words, economically successful women would not say that life would be incredibly difficult without a husband, even in China. However, it sounds like you haven’t seen that where you live, which is interesting.

    Also, I thought that because of the one-child policy and the resulting larger proportion of boys vs girls that the younger adult generation right now is experiencing a relative scarcity of girls, so that they are more valuable. From your perspective, it sounds like the men still have all the power right? Do you think it is different in large cities?

    Anyhow, thanks for the great blog, and for sharing your experiences with us.

    1. @Mayiara… you have brought up some good points.. however… That is only in the big cities… and those women are least likely to get married. Due to the fact that traditionals social norms state that … a woman must marry a man richer and more powerful than she is… no man will want to marry her if she is more successful than he is… therefore.. she will have to marry a foreigner or stay single… When it comes to choosing a wife… maybe the women have a little bit of an upper edge that is only until they get married…. then .. like James Brown says…. “It is a man’s world” … 80% of China is still rural-ish and small cities… therefore the traditional Norms still hold strong.

    2. C.

      In addition to what Jo said, all evidence from India, China, and late 19th century US indicates that women’s rights DECREASE when there’s a gender imbalance. Countries like post-war Rwanda show that women’s rights increase when the gender imbalance is in women’s favor. It’s one of the very few things in demography that’s holds true across radically different cultures.

      And communism did about as much for women’s rights as democracy did for Western women at the turn of the century. Which is to say, neither did nearly as much as their proponents think.


What do you think about this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s