Foreign Boyfriend, Chinese Parents
04 Mar 2004
I normally am not very interested in reading Chinese online. I just really can’t get interested in a lot of what’s written about. Recently, though, I found something that caught my eye. The writer is a Chinese girl with a foreign boyfriend (who is also very coincidentally named John). When she told her parents about her boyfriend, they were less than supportive. Below is a translated excerpt from the original.
> Friday, I finally mustered enough courage to tell my mom: John is my boyfriend.
> My mom was shocked, this being totally out of her realm of expectations. Without thinking she responded, “No way! Absolutely not! Your dad and I do not approve!”
> Although I had already steeled myself for her response, I never expected her attitude to be so adamant. Worriedly I asked her, “Why?”
> “He’s a foreigner. Your life backgrounds are just too different. In the future how are we supposed to communicate with him?”
> “He’s studying Chinese, so you can speak to him in Mandarin,” I said.
> My mom went on for some time, almost in tears by the end, saying, “What would you have us tell our friends? You’re not a kid anymore, why can’t you just find a nice classmate? I’m begging you!”
> I couldn’t continue the conversation with her; her words had stung me. It was as if John was her sworn enemy, who wanted to steal me from their side, never to return again.
> My mom called my dad into the room, because ever since I was little I had always listened to him the most. My mom hoped he could persuade me. Dad was calm, hoping I could consider the matter practically.
> My dad said, “You haven’t been dating John for very long at all — how can you understand him? Other than what he’s told you, you have no way of knowing about his past or his family. Westerners are too independent. Your methods of solving various problems are going to be drastically different, and your lifestyles are different. A lot of this can’t be changed over a whole lifetime. He can’t stay in China his whole life; he’ll want to leave, and he can leave any time he pleases. Then what are you going to do? There’s a whole string of problems that are going to be very hard to solve.”
> My parents love me deeply, and I’m their only child. They have put their everything into raising me, keeping me from all harm. All their hopes lie in me, and I’ve always worked hard to perfect myself. Nevertheless, their brand of subtle affection can sometimes feel suffocating. It’s like I’ve broken free from the refuge of their embrace to go explore a strange and wondrous world. I’m not my parents’ property. I should have my own life.
What strikes me most about this story, which took place in northern China, is how completely different it is from my own experience. My girlfriend’s parents’ reaction to me was not even remotely similar. They have always been warm and friendly, and talk to me like I’m a normal Chinese person. My girlfriend’s dad loves having a few beers with me. My girlfriend’s mom makes mental notes about any food I particularly like or mention liking, and next time I go to their house for dinner, it’s on the menu. I could go on and on. While I can never know how my girlfriend’s parents really feel deep down, the evidence seems to indicate that their point of view on this matter is worlds apart from the parents of this writer.
All I’m trying to say here is:
1. China is such an incredibly varied place; you get all kinds of people with all kinds of life circumstances and outlooks.
2. Shanghai is a singular phenomenon in China. There is no city like it, for so many reasons.
3. I am really incredibly lucky.
[NOTE: This excerpt has been translated and published with permission from the author. I am grateful to her for allowing me to share such a personal experience with an English-reading audience.]