When adolescents make their first steps in dating games, they often tend to over-analyze the signs received from their infatuation object. What did that strange look mean? Why did/didn’t she laugh at my joke? Did he say “Hello” because he is just polite or because he likes me? Why isn’t she calling me: because she is not interested or because she is shy?
After gaining more experience and depending on our personal characteristics we learn to translate these signs and transmit the signs of our own in a certain way. And even if we don’t do it very efficiently – at least we have less questions and doubts.
But the same doubts can reappear if we start dating a person from a different culture. Suddenly the rules change and many of the acquired habits are not valid anymore. Again we are not sure what to do and how to understand the other person’s behavior.
This is one of situations where stereotypes might be helpful to a certain degree. By their own nature, stereotypes are generalizations which provide us a “road-map” to make judgment. And there are plenty of stereotypical advices and tips one can find when it comes to intercultural/interracial dating (me being one of those who wrote tips to foreigners on dating Chinese girls). But they cannot be applied to every single case. The story below is the best illustration of situation where girl’s behavior didn’t justify any of the stereotypes about Chinese girls. Or maybe it did? Judge yourself…
The guy’s name is Cheung Wai Lan. And the beginning of his story is taken from one forum where he made a post:
I was born and raised in UK. I have never visited China and I have had limited contact with those who have been born-and-bread in China, although I am of Chinese parentage.
I am currently studying as a postgraduate university student in the UK. (I’m 35 but often mistaken to be approximately 26-28). A few Chinese students have approached me who appear to be ‘over friendly’ towards me from my ‘Westernized’ dating/friendship viewpoint.
For example, about a month ago I met “Miss B” – 21 year old student. She sends me multiple text messages daily and will make an effort to find and chat at least once a day. As she is quite fun, I have invited her to join me and my friends at various events, lunches and she always seems keen to accept.
Several mutual friends began to ask us questions about our relationship status but she never replies either way when we’re asked together. Twice I have taken her out for dinner (just the two of us) and I am now developing quite a strong attraction to her.
My concern is that I don’t know where I stand on the friendship/dating scale and more importantly how to proceed. I feel that I am entering a cultural minefield as I don’t know how the situation can be interpreted in my ‘Westernised Dating’ experiences. Additionally, due to my Chinese appearance, I am doubly concerned that others would ‘expect’ me to know the norms.
The last thing I want to do is to unintentionally mislead someone due to my lack of cultural understanding. My Hong Kong/Malaysian/Singaporean Chinese friends have jointly warned me to be very careful not to rush things. I am repeatedly told “dating is very different in China” and I should take things much more slowly than I would for a “Western” relationship.
Most people agreed that Miss B definitely likes him, and if he is interested he should take initiative and “push” things further. And so Cheung did. The second part is taken from my correspondence with him (which he kindly agreed to publish here):
Since that forum thread, I took ‘Miss B’ to a restaurant opening where we were the last people to leave at 02h00 since chatting for hours.
I interpreted everything as a sign of interest so I told her that night that I liked her and she completely freaked out saying that she “had no idea” and is “too busy right now” etc. (Yes – we were very drunk – 2 bottles of wine and a few cocktails each).
This following week I expected her to be completely distant but everything seemed to be instantly back to normal. So she’s still actively finding and chatting to me during the day. I invited her to come to my friend’s birthday party with me this weekend and she said yes. (She’s only met the birthday girl twice).
One of our mutual (non-Chinese) friends had a chat with me and I was told that she definitely likes me but that I should take things slower as she’s still adjusting to everything in the UK and apparently she’s still uncomfortable with little things like everyone trying to kiss her on the cheek when they say goodbye!
I’m completely and utterly confused now… if she was someone who grew up in Europe I would know but I’ve been warned that there is a bit of a cultural barrier…
At this point I was still optimistic and thought that it was just a little misunderstanding, and in the presence of previous signs of interest Cheung should not give up. However, I was wrong and the story didn’t have a happy-ending:
Well, here’s the conclusion of this particular saga. As I feared, there have been some huge, possibly cultural, misunderstandings.
A good mutual female friend of mine and ‘Miss B’ had a chat with me a few hours before we left college for the birthday party I mentioned in the last email. Apparently a few days ago, ‘Miss B’ confided in her about everything that’s been happening recently as she’s very confused and she didn’t know how to handle the situation.
Bottom line is that Miss B is shockingly naive (by UK standards anyway), she had absolutely no idea what she was doing or what was happening, and isn’t interested in me… :’-(
Apparently she was extremely concerned about ‘offending’ me but really likes me as ‘a friend’ only.
Our mutual friend had a very long chat with Miss B and was surprised to learn that she didn’t realize that cuddling me, holding my hand, meeting my friends and going out to dinner with me several times was anything other than being ‘friendly’. (What?!?!)
The mutual friend didn’t reveal the reasons which Miss B gave but did say that ‘age’ was one of them. Apparently Miss B claimed that holding hands doesn’t mean anything more than close friendship in China(?) Is that right?
Everyone in our close circle of friends is very surprised. Our mutual friend was convinced that we were already together and many of my other friends, unsurprisingly, thought the same that evening at the birthday party as she was still quite close to me.
The mutual friend is now giving her a crash course on how to interact with men in the UK so she doesn’t do it again to anyone else.
This time I will refrain from commenting, and want to get some feedback from the readers. Do you think that the girl behaved as a typical Chinese girl. Or was she naive according to ANY standards?
Confused Crystal Tao