One of the best things that China has brought into my life is my girlfriend, Hong. I met her as a pen friend in my home country of South Africa. I found her very interesting because of the cultural divide between our countries. Her life is something of a mystery to me, motivations and inclinations being fashioned out of a country so different in ideological foundations. So here I will write a little about what it is like to have a foreign girlfriend.
Prior to my arrival in China I had two long term relationships which I use as a base for comparison, though I am sure my girlfriend would kill me if she knew! Sorry honey! One of the biggest differences I find is that my current girlfriend is more compassionate and receptive to my feelings. That being said, I think that many Chinese people enjoy a certain amount of teasing in a relationship, indeed I have become accustomed to the phrase ‘Tao Yan’… though I am still not sure what it really means, I am sure it has something to do with her wanting to hit me with a mallet…
As a Lao Wai dating a beautiful Chinese woman my friends back home think that I am very lucky! Because of this reason I am proud to display her on MSN and through emails. However, I notice a bit of trepidation in her department when it comes to admitting she is with a Lao Wai (at least to her parents…) boyfriend. I have heard stories of inter-international couples who have broken up due to interjection from the disapproving family. This is something that makes me think. In the west, it is quite alright to date a Chinese person, in fact, the family would welcome it, and they would think it ‘cool’. There is also a preconceived notion that all Chinese women are soft, easy to manipulate, waifs with only one goal in mind, to look after the man. I can tell you that my female friends do not fall into this category, nor does my girlfriend. In fact, it is I who dotes on her (the girlfriend).
Another thing that I find interesting is the level of romance that I experience. Many of my male friends who have Chinese girlfriends say that they are not that romantic, at least when compared to western girls. There seems to be a different mind set when it comes to love here. I find that people in china are more used to the idea that love does not work, does not last forever, and that awaiting them at the end of the affair is some romantic little ‘death’. They are far more cynical then western people. Indeed western people appear more na?ve but at the same time, more hopeful. We can even see this in the movies that are produced. How many times do you see a western women die in a love drama? Once, twice? But in almost all Chinese movies the love interest dies, usually in the arms of her lover. There are also always two men after her, one who is the true love, the other some rich or powerful man after her. I think this is a subconscious representation of a countries psyche. The rich man represents what many women want in marriage, stability, and financial peace of mind and the real lover, her desires which are forbidden. In her attempt to achieve happiness she is punished, in the case of movies, she is killed.
I often talk about the future with my girlfriend as something that will be grand and joyous. She seems to take a more cynical approach, one that can even be seen in her poetry. Many of my friends also tell me their girlfriends are like this. I think that the reason for this goes back many years, when women did not have a choice in who they married. And, unlike the west, this only stopped recently. So the image of love being a painful thing is still prevalent.
One thing that I really like to do is to walk at night with my girlfriend. I enjoy holding hands as it is a sign of affection. However, this is something that has a time and a place. Situation: when in the company of one’s friends the level of physical contact drops to nil. Unlike the west public displays of affection are not socially acceptable in front of friends. It is common for me to see lovers kissing, holding hands, but never in a social group. This is very different to the west where people do not mind kissing or showing love in front of their friends, or indeed, in front of their parents. I think that this has something to do with respect, and I have to admit it is a refreshing change.
Of all the things that I have written above, none of them are of a nature where I cannot adapt. Perhaps in the future we will get married; perhaps we will even go live in the west. In this case it is her who will find love a very strange thing. Either way, when in a different country it is our responsibility to adapt and to accept the social setting, especially when your girlfriend is Chinese and you are in China.
(作者：Nick 南非/英国 廖波/编译 本文作者现居上海，是一位网络英语外教)