Oh how times have changed among the cross-cultural dating and marriage scene! Tracy delves into some of the different points from women and men’s perspectives on eastern-western relationships.
Decades ago, Western women in China did not have much choice in dating as it was unusual for them to be seen with Chinese men. There were very few couples made up of female expats and Chinese men. In recent years however, AMWF (Asian male Western female) or WWAM (Western women Asian men), have become increasingly more common and drawn public attention. Blogs created by expat women talking about cross-cultural relationships have sprouted throughout the country. Headlines about successful and sometimes eccentric Western-Eastern marriages seem to draw in the masses; even books dedicated to “dating Asian men” are appearing more and more often on the shelves.
Led by a bunch of open-minded Western women, a small but steadily growing AMWF community has formed online. They exchange experiences and thoughts about love, family and cross-cultural relationships via blogs, forums and WeChat groups. For example, initiated by American writer Jocelyn Eikenburg who had married her Chinese husband, WWAM Bam is a website to help AMWF couples navigate cultural differences and “weed through the racism and stereotypes about Asian men and culture.” Over the years, the website has featured and shared hundreds of Eastern-Western couples and their stories.
The younger generation is more open to the idea of dating someone of a different culture. They like the independence of Western women and their ideals.
One outspoken WWAM activist is Jo Bai, an African-American woman who has lived in China for over a decade and is married to a Chinese man. Her marriage is legendary within the community. Her husband is gorgeous and muscular with a vivid dragon tattoo on his chest and arm—quite a contradictory image to a “typical” Chinese man. On the night they first met, she literally just grabbed him out of the crowd and pulled him to her table with her friends in a club, because apparently “no man was no fun.” It turned out that her husband was an orphan and a former gangster who turned into a good guy. Does this make you believe in love again?
Another well-known WWAM example is German Esther Haubensack, a China TV star married to a Beijing taxi driver. Esther is best known as the American wife who can speak excellent Cantonese in the popular Cantonese TV series, “Outside Wives, Local Husbands,” which has aired since 2000. She met taxi driver Wang in the early 1990s when she studied in Beijing and was taken all around the city by Wang. In this marriage, Esther is the breadwinner and Wang supports his wife wholeheartedly as the full-time house husband, which is frowned upon by many Chinese men with the traditional mindset on gender roles.
Yet, China is changing and so will the general attitude. “I used to teach high school students and adults here and I can tell the difference, big time,” said Jo. “The younger generation is more open to the idea of dating someone of a different culture. They like the independence of Western women and their ideals. The older generation of men still think it is almost impossible to have a relationship with a Western woman.”
Jo has been running a popular blog named Life Behind the Wall since 2010, where she talks about her life in China. Recently, she’s finalizing her book, Asian Men: An African-American Woman’s Tales of Dating Asian Men and Finding Love. “It’s not really about promoting Chinese men at all. It’s about women feeling that they are limited to who they can date,” she said. “Black women, in particular, feel that they are only attractive to black men or some white men. I am living in China and I meet black women all the time that have trouble dating here. They get lonely and depressed and end up leaving. All because they feel they are not attractive to the men here. So, I am not really promoting Chinese men, I am promoting black-Asian couples.”