Chinese Dating: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Dating anywhere in the world that is not your home country, you are bound to find some cultural differences and experience culture shock. This goes for Chinese dating too. Depending on where you come from, Chinese culture is probably very different to what you are used to. This doesn’t stop when it comes to dating Chinese people. Or, indeed, other expats living in China from different countries other than your own.
This is a down to Earth account about experiences dating in China – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how to deal with the cultural differences that almost certainly will arise.
*Disclaimer: This is a generalised, personal account, and certainly doesn’t mean all Chinese guys are like this!
Chinese Dating: The lack of middle ground
In many Western cultures, there are certain steps involved before you can change that Facebook status and you’re actually ‘in a relationship’.
This usually looks something like this:
Meet – maybe on the internet, through dating apps, or friends. Maybe you are friends first and want to take things to the next level.
Date – So you’ve met, you’ve had the first date, and if that went well you probably decided to have a second, third, fourth… etc date. It depends on individuals how long the dating period lasts for. Those with commitment issues will find it much harder to move on to the next stage, which comes with a label… This stage is probably one of the most important stages. You’re getting to get to know each other and testing out your compatibility without the commitment and responsibility of having a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”.
“In a relationship” – So you’ve made the final step (let’s not even get to talking about marriage) and you’re now officially… In a relationship! At this stage you call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, and generally it’s expected that it is an exclusive relationship. Meaning, no cheating!
Dating In China – Asian Culture
In Asian culture, however, including dating in China, they often seem to miss out the middle step. The idea of “dating” is a rare one to many. The most important one! You will meet a guy, or a girl, you go on your first date and then if that goes well, I guess you’re… together? Nothing needs to be said, e.g. nothing is discussed about “taking things to the next level” or whether you can call each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. I’ve often found that it is just presumed so. This is kind of scary, and definitely something to watch out for – since you don’t want to give people the wrong impression and potentially hurt peoples’ feelings without intending to do so.
It is important to be clear from the beginning, and if you’re made uncomfortable by things moving too quickly then make sure to tell the person you’re “dating” (or apparently not!?) and help them to understand the important cultural differences.
Chinese Dating: ‘Going after’ girls
A strange concept that isn’t found too much in Western culture, or perhaps not in this capacity, is the idea of ‘going after’ somebody. Sure, if you like somebody you will ‘pursue’ them, and perhaps this is China’s dating equivalent of the lost “middle ground”. The main difference here is the way that it’s done. It could be likened to an old-fashioned “courting” method. If a guy likes a girl, then he will flaunt his stuff by buying presents and showing her what kind of good home and family he can offer.
Chinese Dating: Present Buying & Materialism
One of the best ways to show your love and affection in Chinese culture is by showing it with objects. Expensive ones. China is obsessed with material objects and brand names.
Just recently there was an article about a Chinese man who bought his foreign girlfriend a Lamborghini as an engagement present. Unfortunately, she said no. Money doesn’t always buy everything apparently!
Chinese Dating: Friends going after the same girl, at the same time, at the same party…
Another aspect to this “going after”/“pursuing” business is the fact that friends liking the same girl and trying to go for it at the same time is absolutely no problem.
In Western culture, this would often result in the end of a friendship, or at least some arguments. The general etiquette in Western culture would be that if two (or more) friends like the same person, it would either be decided that turns would be taken, let the other person decide, or no one can have them – in order to avoid conflict.
In Asian culture, however, it seems that this is not an issue. I have been in situations before where 3 or more friends have all been trying to show off their stuff, actively and openly competing against each other. Whilst fun, it can be a tad odd and overwhelming at first if you’re not used to it or aware of this kind of culture.
Chinese Dating: Matching outfits
You will either find Asian couples in matching outfits super cute – or super sickening. I am totally on board and find it super cute. Although I’ve never done it myself. Any takers?
Couples buy the same clothing attire, or as we can see here two pieces of clothing that can ONLY be worn together, and they go and show themselves and their deep love to the rest of the world on the streets of China!
These outfits are called 情侣装 – Qínglǚ zhuāng and can be found in sets on Taobao and in stores.
Grab your other half and get shopping (or be sick in your mouth a little)!
Chinese Dating: Everything is pretty quick
As I touched on earlier, dating in Asian culture escalates pretty quickly. Dating Western men (or women), bringing up marriage and children is almost a taboo topic and only brought up at least a few months or even years down the line. It’s often greeted with a casual “Ehhh yeah yeah one thing at a time” and a quick topic change.
In Asian dating culture, however, it is not abnormal for this to be brought up on the first date. Yup. To be fair, this is great because at least people know what they want. But on the other hand, it’s truly terrifying (depending on where you are up to in your life). And can be a complete turn-off. The talk of marriage and babies doesn’t stop after it has been discussed once. It may be brought up daily, or even multiple times a day.
Why is this so? This is largely due to the…
Chinese Dating: Extreme pressure from family for marriage and kids
Parents around the world are different, and many cultures have different family ideals and parenting styles. Coming from a British family, I think that I can say I’m not an anomaly when I say that my mum and dad would freak out if I was to say I want to get married and have kids now. Well, I’m on the wrong side of 20 now. So maybe they’d be more cool with it, but Western values are much more concentrated on independence, rather than family values. This obviously has good and bad points.
Whilst in Asian culture, however, and particularly so within Chinese culture, there is extreme pressure from family, friends, and friends of the family to get married and start a family of your own. In fact, in China, it is not abnormal for parents to organise dates for their son or daughter. Parents may even attend marriage markets with pictures and information of their child for other seeking mothers. Here they will look at and try to pick a match for their child.
Chinese Dating: Looking at people’s phones & phone usage
There’s a strange lack of privacy when dating a lot of Chinese men. They’re not untrusting, but they like to look at your phone. And vice versa. In Western culture, this would definitely be a sign of lack of trust. In fact, we may actively NOT look at each other’s phones in order to show our trust.
To be honest I don’t mind it at all. I have nothing to hide and it’s a bit of fun. It’s not meant too seriously, and just something they are often used to doing.
So if you’re asked to show your phone or someone is eager to see yours, don’t take it too personally and just get on board with things. If you don’t like it, explain it may be a part of Chinese dating but it’s not a part of your culture.
And to sign off from Part I of our series on Chinese Dating, here’s a video on how NOT to ask someone out in Chinese, brought to you by our old friends Ben and Zoe. Take it away guys…
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