Guest Post: Are You Ready to Marry Your Chinese Family?

Spend a few weeks in China and you’ll undoubtably notice that there is a very large amount of white males dating asian females. While the reverse does exist (just check out Ruth at China Elevator Stories), it is a rare sighting. As a person who has pretty much exclusively dated people who are not American, I always find international couples interesting. Most of my male friends in China have dated or are currently dating a Chinese girl, and while a few have developed serious relationships, most find the cultural differences too taxing to invest in a committed long-term relationship.

What happens when a committed relationship with a Chinese girl turns into marriage? C. Fernandez of My New Chinese Wife  fills us in on his experience. Fernandez is a Brazilian currently living in Germany with his new(ish) Chinese wife. They met in 2011 when Fernandez took a job in Shanghai. When he’s not doing his wife favors, working or traveling, he’s usually online sharing his knowledge of China.

While this guest post may be a little controversial and certainly doesn’t represent every interracial marriage in China, I think his perspective is extremely interesting. Marriage is different in every culture, and each society has a completely different set of expectations. So if you’re in love with a beautiful Chinese girl, are you ready to marry her family?

interracial marriage in China

Are You Ready to Marry Your Chinese Family?

When it comes to dating Chinese girls there are only two types of men: those who quite accidentally ended up with a Chinese woman, and those who are burning with yellow fever. Either way, most men have absolutely no idea what awaits them on the way to marriage in China. Most modern Chinese girls are sweet and are really just looking for a soul mate. Due to their wish to preserve their relationship with you, they might sometimes fail to point out what marriage is really like in their culture. So if you are looking to get hitched in the Middle Kingdom, here is a heads up for you.

If I had to summarize all types of Chinese women into a single type, then I would dare say that there is only one type of Chinese woman: The one who is looking for marriage. No matter how liberal they are or how sexy they dress or how modern they seem to be, you can be sure that in the end of the day they are always aiming for a long-term relationship. The reasons for this are purely cultural. Ever since they were small they have been prepared for this moment. Marriage (and food) is something that is practically hardwired into the mind of every Chinese person. Even if they don’t think much about it, you can be sure they have parents (and grandparents) that will be reminding them and pressuring them to find a match as soon as possible. In the end, like so many things in China, it all comes down to doing what is best for someone else or what will make you look socially correct.

And since we are on the subject of marriage, I thought I’d give you a general idea of what marriage, the Chinese way, is like and lay out the only two different courses of action a foreigner can take when deciding to embark on a serious relationship with a Chinese woman.

In short, marriage in China is about one thing and one thing only: money. Now, this might shock some and there will always be Chinese people trying to put their foot down and saying that it’s not like that, but the fact of the matter is that it is. As a Socialist country, China has managed to become home to some of the most capitalist people I know. I do agree that for many young couples love is the key factor, but for their parents it is most certainly about the cash. Don’t feel surprised if upon visiting your Chinese in-laws for the first time, you find yourself feeling like you are in the middle of a business negotiation with your girlfriend’s mother. Interesting enough, I have found that during such “negotiations“ the father remains quiet or prepares some tea. It did not take me long to notice that women are the ones who wear the pants in a Chinese marriage.

Already in the first minutes of the conversation your future in-laws might ask your salary and begin proposing their terms for your marriage. If you don’t pull the brakes, they will practically already set a date and place for the event. Not to mention make a list of 400 “must-have“ guests to which you will be footing a bill of about $150 per guest at the very least. Did I mention that you will also be expected to provide your Chinese wife with her own home (bought not rented) and also purchase a car? If you are planning to live in a large city in China after the wedding, then you are looking at at least $200K for the apartment alone. Fear not, you can get some money from the bank and pay back in a period of 20 years or if you have rich in-laws, they can buy the apartment for you in exchange for control over your mind, body and soul. You decide, but one thing is for sure the days in which you could get by with just romance are now over.

Seeing that family is another huge pillar of Chinese society, you will find that maintaining a relationship with your Chinese woman also means maintaining a relationship with her parents and sisters or brothers. Please note that in China the word “brother“ or “sister“ also refers to cousins, which she might have dozens of. Now picture this: you don’t come from their country, you don’t speak their language, you don’t understand their jokes, you don’t share their passion for drinking large amounts of “fuel“ and on top of that you are stealing away their princess. How can they ever like you? If you want to make sure you are liked through and through, then something has got to give and in this particular case what gives is your wallet!

Well..actually there are two ways of doing it: treating your Chinese girl with respect and MONEY (of course)! In some occasions you may substitute the money with little gifts, but since these gifts should also be something meaningful, you might as well just hand them the cash. This is especially true if you are visiting your Chinese family during the Chinese New Year holidays. If you fail to do so, you might be regarded as a stingy person not worthy of their blessings.

Having a relationship with your Chinese wife without the blessing of her parents, will pretty much be like governing a country with 95% opposition in Congress. The only way of doing it, would be to take a totalitarian course of action and isolate yourselves from her Chinese relatives, which in time would just bring suffering to your Chinese wife and could eventually ruin your relationship.

So to wrap up the situation, you as the outsider marrying into a Chinese family can really just take two courses of action. You can be the team player and agree to your in-laws’ terms at which point you should be ready to spend literally thousands of dollars or you can be the self-centered runaway foreigner. In this case, your strategy would be to just play dumb to the whole situation, bring your Chinese wife to your country and encourage her to accept a Western lifestyle, which these days seems to be more modest than the Chinese one.

As tragic as the whole situation might sound, I believe it is a necessary topic when speaking of marriage in China or marriage into a Chinese family. It is possible that a few might come forth to criticize what I have written here, but I still believe that talking about marriage in China without ever mentioning money is like talking about a train trip through the Siberian winter without ever mentioning the snow. Money is a topic that most Westerners like to avoid, but if you are about to be part of a Chinese family, you should know what awaits you.

Bare in mind that the numbers and examples mentioned here could vary for better or for worst. Depends really on the financial situation of your bride to be. If you are dating a simple peasant girl (which I doubt), then you might be able to ride the whole thing through by spending much less, but if you happen to have caught the sights of some government official’s daughter, then get ready to sell your mind, body and soul as outlined in paragraph 5.

It would be unfair of me to end this article without mentioning the fact that in most cases, your Chinese woman might actually be embarrassed about this whole situation and really try to protect you from it as much as possible. You should try hard to understand her and realise the pressure that she will be living under. On one hand, she wishes to have a pleasant and normal relationship with you, but on the other hand she will be begging for her family’s approval. Acting as the proxy between two very different lines of thought is a situation so delicate, that it can only be justified by love. I can tell you from personal experience.

What do you think? Is money really this important in a Chinese marriage?

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

6 comments on “Guest Post: Are You Ready to Marry Your Chinese Family?

  1. Just out of curiosity, why have you dated non-Americans (almost) exclusively? is it a conscious choice, or is it just the way it has turned out by chance?

    • Great question! I wish I knew the answer. I think I’m just naturally attracted to things that are new and different, whether that’s food, travel or people. When I find out someone is from another country, I automatically have something to talk about with them. In college I dated an Australian for over a year and a guy from the UAE for a few months. We didn’t have a language barrier, which was helpful, but the guy from the UAE and I had a few cultural barriers. I’m not adverse to dating an American, I just normally end up with people from other countries.

  2. Pingback: Guest Post: Are You Ready to Marry Your Chinese Family? | Travel Tips

    • Thanks Jason! I agree, this site is definitely pretty valuable for foreign guys attempting to traverse the cultural area of Chinese dating. There’s always a lot to learn!

  3. Pingback: Getting Married in China is Harder than You Think – Online Journalism Group 2

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