Section II: Living in China continued—Dating, Sex, and Relationships
This rather extensive section was written in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of foreign teachers in China are single men and, as such, they will meet, date, and perhaps even marry a Chinese woman. Despite the fact that Western men who arrive in China will find themselves surrounded by millions of available Chinese women, most do not have a very clear or realistic understanding of what to expect at all, which is to say that most Western men do not know very much about Chinese culture and how it impacts on child development, gender roles, social norms, or customs. The following eight chapters were written for them. In addition, and in the interest of completeness, we have added a chapter outlining the status of homosexuality in China today as well as the history and current state of prostitution in the Middle Kingdom.
The material for the eight chapters that follow is based on years of consensual anecdotal data (i.e., personal stories and accounts) supported by research data from external sources wherever possible. Obviously, there will always be exceptions to the rule. In that regard, the author seeks to make it abundantly clear that the purpose of this material is not to challenge the validity, integrity or happiness of anyone's particular relationship or marriage but, rather, to inform and advise foreign men who have never dated Asian-born girls before.
The reality is that the rate of divorce in intercultural marriages is significantly higher than it is for couples who were born and raised in the same culture. A good part of the reason for that is the general lack of awareness or full appreciation for those differences prior to dating and even marriage. The following chapters simply seek to identify some of those major differences in the hope of informing and better preparing Western men who will soon find themselves in cross-cultural relationships with Chinese women.
One of the most common comments we receive from our female readers is that the section on dating, sex, and relationships is absent any specific information that would useful to single Western women in China. There are two reasons for this.
First, there are in fact far fewer female teachers in China than men, especially single ones. If our collective survey data are any indication of the actual relative percentage of women to men foreign teachers in China, then it appears that women compose between 16 to 25 percent of the total foreign teacher population, based on our teacher satisfaction and reader surveys, respectively. However, of that 16 to 25 percent, about one-fourth are over the age of 40 and about half of them are single. Restated, and looking at this as an average of the averages, about 20 percent of all foreign teachers are female and most of them are under the age of 40 and in China together with a significant other. It would be fair to say that single (unattached) female foreign teachers represent a relatively distinct minority in China. In addition, unattached foreign female teachers under the age of 40 are the least likely to remain in China for more than four months to one year.
Second, the reality is that Western female-Chinese male couples are statistically rare. An exhaustive search of various online academic databases, particularly PsycInfo and SocAbstract, revealed a complete absence of empirical research literature devoted to this specific area of study. In addition, we could not even find casual or non-scientific references to it in newspaper or magazine articles. Anecdotal evidence suggests that whatever few instances of Western women/Chinese men relationships do exist in China, they are grossly overrepresented by Western-born Chinese women, e.g., an American-born Chinese woman teaching in China who is married to a Chinese male national. Although we did find two isolated blog entries written by Chinese men in regard to dating Western women, we were unable to extrapolate any useful information from the perspective of the women themselves.
The primary reasons cited for this relatively rare type of coupling include an absence of mutual physical attraction and the fact that Chinese men, whether in China or foreign-born, hold unfavorable views towards and are far less open to interracial dating than men of other nationalities (Uskul, et al., 2007). In China today, the eldest son still bears the responsibility of caring for his parents in their old age and this will obviously be easier to accomplish with a wife who was raised in the same culture.
If you are a single Western woman in China, we enthusiastically invite and encourage you to submit a personal story highlighting your experiences with dating and other aspects of your social life in China. One such female foreign teacher agreed to do so and her personal story can be found in our blog, titled Western Woman Dating a Chinese Man. In addition, in March 2010, we added an article to our companion blog featuring an interview with four American women married to Chinese nationals, which Western women should find to be very illuminating: Western Wives, Chinese Husbands.
Aside from this personal story, there are two blogs maintained by Western women married to Chinese men that offer personal glimpses into this relatively rare type of cross-cultural relationship: White Girl in a Chinese-American World (as a blogspot blog, can only be accessed with a proxy server from within China) and Speaking of China.