In this article I share an interview I did with John Abbot, founder and CEO of ChinaLoveMatch.net. In this article John discusses his own personal experience in international dating, as well as some cultural insights regarding western-Chinese relationships.
What initially drew you to China?
I originally traveled to China on a business trip on behalf of a company I had formed with several partners with the intention of introducing a high-end Emergency Health Kit to the market. I went to meet and negotiate with suppliers for the content and manufacture of the kits.
My meetings there were set for the City of Shenzhen, for only 2 days, but I booked two weeks around those 2 days to visit three other cities in China. Being divorced at the time and having always been very attracted to Chinese and Asian ladies, I joined an Asian dating site and met a number of very interesting Chinese women on the site.
From among them I arranged to meet one for a few days before heading to Shenzhen, one to spend a few days with in Shenzhen, and then a couple more in two other Chinese cities before returning home.
The first three-day date was a bit of a disaster, but when I landed in Shenzhen it was quite a different story. First, Shenzhen is an amazing city and I was captivated by it from the first drive into the city from the airport. But secondly, upon meeting my second Chinese date I was instantly even more captivated by her.
She was exotic, beautiful and so full of personality that I was completely smitten within a few hours.
I cancelled my next 2 dates, cancelled my flights to the other cities, and spend the rest of the trip in Shenzhen. I was completely hooked on both China and my new Chinese girlfriend.
Within a couple of months, because she was unable to get a visa to come and visit me (which is still a common issue, but is improving), I was back on my way to China for a second 2 week visit with the woman I was so infatuated with, and during those two weeks we planned on a life together and I planned on selling my law practice, moving to China and setting up a coffee shop by day and pub by night as a new lifestyle. It was a colossal and sudden change.
What has been your experience in international dating/marriage?
After 3 years with my first Chinese love things started to sour. While there were definitely some cross-cultural hurdles that got in the way, I think our relationship ended because we just were not the right people for each other. Frankly her innate dishonesty kept rearing its ugly head for me; on topics from the crucially important ones to the most mundane, she seemed to always opt for a lie instead of the truth.
The Chinese will all tend to gloss things over to avoid losing face or causing others to lose face, but she went way beyond that. On the other hand, I am perhaps far too brutally blunt with the truth.
On even the smallest of issues I tend to pop out with an obvious truth when even the slightest effort to simply ignore the facts would prevent unnecessary pain to the person I am speaking to. Having said that I learned a lot from this woman, and it helped me greatly in my relationships with Chinese women that followed.
After we split up I dated various Chinese ladies over a couple of years, as well as a couple of Thai women in Thailand, a couple of Filipinas who lived and worked in China and even one Czech woman who I met online but got together with in Thailand.
This was all done primarily on a casual basis while rebounding from a broken relationship, although I did develop a nice relationship with one of the Thai ladies and did ultimately meet the Chinese woman I have now been married to for over 10 years.
John's site China Love Match connects Western men with women in China
Attraction: when East meets West
In your opinion, why are Western men attracted to Chinese women?
There are probably two answers to that question that may well apply almost universally to the Western men who are attracted to Chinese women. They apply to me in any event:
Natural and exotic beauty
As a young man of about 18, I encountered 3 Chinese sisters who ranged in age from about 14 to 18, and who worked evenings and weekends in their parent’s Chinese restaurant in a small town I was staying in connected to my summer job working on a pipeline. These girls were all truly stunning and I was so drawn to their exotic, Asian look that I could not get them out of my mind.
I thought about the oldest one every moment it seemed like, and I tried desperately to make a connection with her. Her father was ever watchful and was going to have nothing to do with her dating a Western man, and therefore neither was she. I could not break through, but my attraction to Chinese/Asian women never changed. I have no explanation for it, I am simply one of those men who has a built-in attraction to Oriental women.
Desire for something different than Western culture
Where I come from in Canada, there are likely about 1 Asian woman in every 300 women, so the chances of meeting one is very slim, let alone dating one in the face of their cultural duty to date and marry only a man their parents approve of, and their parents almost universal propensity to approve only a man who is of their own race and culture.
So, after that initial failure I spent the next 30 years in 5 long term relationships with Western women, two of which were marriages that lasted for 12 years each. When the second of those marriages failed I knew I gave up on Western women and decided to finally follow my heart and start to meet and date Chinese women.
I was attracted to them then because I thought of them as being the opposite of what I had been getting used to in Western women. They seemed to be like our women of old, with strong family values, feminine and proud to be so, demure, easy going, practical and sensible, good with money, and always, it seemed, taking good care of their appearance and striving to look their best.
"Chinese women are rarely obese and always dress well it seemed, and it appeared you would always feel proud to have one by your side in any public situation."
Chinese women are rarely obese and always dress well it seemed, and it appeared you would always feel proud to have one by your side in any public situation. And frankly, after feeling burned by Western women, Chinese women looked to be a little submissive and easier to live with. A word we like to apply to them is “Traditional”, and it is a word they also like to apply to themselves. But what they consider to be a traditional woman is not what we consider to be a traditional woman.
Why would a Chinese women be attracted to a Western man?
There are two basic types of Chinese women who are in the market for Western males:
Type #1: They've been hurt by Chinese men
Many Chinese women have been through bad relationships with Chinese males who are unfaithful to them, keep one or more mistresses going on an ongoing basis, leave them at home alone night after night and expect them to keep a good home, care for their child and suffer boredom and loneliness silently.
Because it remains a shameful thing in China to be divorced these women feel trapped and do, for years, tolerate this treatment. Not all Chinese men are like this, but if you’re a Chinese woman who has been trapped by one, it seems like they are.
These Chinese women see Western men as being much more loving, and much more faithful. They yearn for the kind of love they feel Western men will give them, and they yearn for a relationship in which they are treated as equal partners and not underlings or even slaves.
It is probably true that a higher percentage of Western men are faithful and do treat women as equal partners, so these women are not necessarily wrong to hope for a better relationship with a Western man. It is also true that “love” in Chinese culture is much more practical and economic than is “love” in the West.
We tend to offer a more caring, passionate and romantic kind of love. While this often is very attractive and exciting in the beginning, it is by no means a guarantee that the relationship will be lasting. When the passion fades there had better be some other cornerstones to rely on to keep the relationship alive.
Type #2: Sheng Nu (China’s Leftover Women)
In China it remains the case that Chinese men, regardless of their own age, are not interested in marrying women who are over the age of about 27. This is not universally true, but it is true of a large majority of Chinese men.
If the woman is over 27 and divorced, she is completely unacceptable. If she is over 27, divorced and has a child, she might as well be a leper. Interestingly, Chinese men also do not like to marry up, because they consider it a loss of face if their wife is better educated, has a better income or is simply better off economically. So, the women at the very top of the social food chain have the most difficult time finding a spouse who will marry them.
A Closer look
China's "Leftover" Women
These women are turning to Western men because we, by some sort of cultural miracle, are attracted to women who have some experience, some maturity. For the most part, we do not want a partner who is childlike and immature.
The Sheng Nu are a cultural reality in China, and a source of great Chinese women for Western men, not because they are attracted to us, but because we are their only choice. But tread in this water carefully, because being married to a great woman may not last if she isn’t truly attracted to you because of your personal character traits.
Fact from fiction: stereotypes
What are some of the common stereotypes Western men have of Chinese women? How true are they?
As I’ve mentioned, the biggest stereotype that Western men have of Chinese women is that they are universally submissive and docile. Of course, as in any culture, there are such women in China, but I suggest that the percentage of them is very low in China and growing lower as China’s overall economic status grows.
If you are truly seeking such a woman, I like your chances better in some of the S. E. Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and maybe Indonesia and Malaysia. But even in those countries I suspect the percentage of women prepared to be less than a full partner is shrinking.
Our viewing Chinese women as being better looking in general, and of taking better care of themselves and dressing more attractively than Western women is undeniably a true generality, simply explained by the fact that our Western countries have rates of over 60% of our populations being overweight/obese, while the same statistics for China are below 5%. Of course, women who are of normal healthy weight and body-fat are going to be more attractive than those who are overweight or obese. They’re going to dress to show off their attractive bodies instead of trying to hide them.
The docile stereotype
But if you think that Chinese women are going to be docile and obedient, and cater to your every whim, you are in for a rude awakening. This is not to say we shouldn’t be attracted to them, but don’t be attracted to misconceptions. One of my favourite comments on this topic was by an Australian journalist who lived in Hong Kong for most of his life, and who died after being happily married to a Chinese woman. He said “Never marry a Chinese woman. They're steel rods swathed in flowers.” Now, he didn’t mean you shouldn’t marry one, but don’t marry her with false expectations.
A clearer picture
If you are a male who is economically responsible, caring, faithful and a good family provider, a Chinese woman can make a great wife for you. But if you think that you are going to be a hard drinking lay about and your Chinese wife is going to obediently support you, are you ever in for a rude awakening.
Finally, your Chinese wife is going to consider the home to be both her responsibility and her turf. You are not likely to be the Master of the House. In fairness, even if you both have jobs, she will likely take on the vast majority of the housework and only expect you to chip in in a symbolic way. But in return, she will expect to make about 95% of the rules in that house, and you might as well get used to it.
"Your Chinese wife is going to consider the home to be both her responsibility and her turf. You are not likely to be the Master of the House."
What are some of the common stereotypes Chinese women have of Western men?
Chinese women have been subjected to American movies, like everyone everywhere has been. They tend to really think we Western men are all going to be romantic lovers, loyal and faithful husbands, great providers, excellent fathers to their children, and great equal partners who will always treat them with honor and respect. Of course, some of them will get lucky and find such men, but many are doomed to bitter disappointment and disillusionment with Western men.
I will say this, though. If you have it within you to become such a man, and you meet the right Chinese woman, she will make you want to be a better man and you will become one. And you will have a marriage to be envied.
Are there any differences between younger or older Chinese women in what they expect or look for in relationships? How do the generations differ?
There’s no question that younger Chinese are vastly different to older generations. In fairness, what I have been discussing are probably Chinese women roughly age 30 and above. The generations below that have been fairly radically Westernized in many ways. And even those not Westernized have changed dramatically in their outlook at life.
Chinese women traditionally want to be married, want to have children, want a relationship that is equal but where the woman has her wifely duties and the man has his husbandly duties. They will accept that economics may demand that they also hold a job, but they will see their primary role as being the homemaker.
As a western man, what are some of the common pros and cons of being in a serious relationship with a Chinese woman?
This depends so much on what you, as a Western man, are looking for. If you’re looking for a strong family life (even if the family is just you and her), you’re far more likely to find your equal among Chinese women than Western women.
She is going to expect your relationship to be one that lasts forever, one in which she is primarily responsible for the home and you are primarily responsible for the household income, and she is going to expect you to be a loving, giving, responsible bread winner who is faithful to her and expects her to be faithful to you.
She will do what it takes to make this work, including take a job for a second income, so long as she sees that you are doing everything in your power to live up to your end.
If that’s you and what you are looking for, then it’s mostly Pros. If that’s not what you’re looking for, or you can’t live up to your end, then it’s mostly Cons.
Again, this is not a universal truth, but it is a fair generalization.