Weekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience ChinaWeekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience China

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture,Dating | Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I’ve been a little lax on keeping up with what’s happening around China with the Olympics less than a month away. Actually, it hardly feels like the Olympics are so close. The weather has been unusual for a Beijing summer: rain every day, what is this London? Also, while people are working feverishly to finish things, subways, buildings, restaurant menus, still feels odd the ‘Pics are so close. But, deep down in the background, there is a wave of excitement that is slowly building; that the Olympics will be here soon.

Fortunately, some friends have been forwarding me some interesting articles about China that I’d like to share and here is one from the Independent Enter the Dragon..and Gain.. This talks of the benefits of (UK) students coming and experiencing China first hand. Also, it mentions how the quality of teachers coming to China has increased dramatically and that I’d agree with. Remember to get your qualifications before you come to China if possible if you want to teach.

Another great article, actually a nice series of articles, that I found on MoneyMSN, is called Keeping up with the Wangs: Land of 1.3 Billion Shoppers. It’s a lengthy piece, but the charts are fantastic, if you’re a nerd like me and like to read interesting charts and statistics – i.e. there are more cell phone users in China than people in the U.S. All in this series of articles looks fascinating.

This last article from Asia Times, touched me close to home, as a 30 something guy who isn’t married and who has an active father who’d like to see me get married off. Sunday Afternoon at the Marriage Mart

This talks about how parents of one-child babies sometimes go to the park and try to sell (pair) off their child. I found it quite interesting and terrifying. I was interested in how even in pairing off their children, how the selling (girl’s) parents would lie and try to trick the unsuspecting buyer (boy’s parents), by showing a different picture of their daughter. Like all things you buy here, you need to examine it closely to make sure you aren’t getting cheated: this includes love to I guess. What terrified me, wasn’t that this happens, it’s only parents who love their kids and want them to be happy, what terrified me was thinking about my dad being unleashed in this park trying to get (buy) me a nice girl and to see what he’d write on my advertisement card.

Culture Class (Clash) – Open Westerners

Matt | Chinese Culture,Dating | Saturday, May 10th, 2008

“So do you want to spend all your life with your wife?” asked my student.

“I’m not married.” I replied.

“But, when you get married, do you want to spend your entire life with one woman?” she returned.

I looked at her in surprise, “Of course I do. If get married to one woman, I would want to spend the rest of life with her.”

Now she looked surprised. “Why then do they say westerners are so open if you want to share your life with only one person?”

I was a bit shocked to her questioning and I thought the conversation was leading down a path of westerners being too open physically, or sexually, with our relationships and that Chinese were more conservative and so in some way better. This is a conversation and feeling that has grown on me in a negative way over the years.

As there were only two female students in class, I thought we could have a discussion – and it seemed a more electrified topic than the grammar we had to review, so we went down this path of western relationships being “open”.

I started by trying to explain that westerners often date for fun especially before marriage. That it is common for us to have many partners; to date many different people casually before we decide to get married. From between the ages of 16 to about 26 westerners date for fun: to get to know many partners; to get to know what they want in a partner and in a relationship. But when we get married that we try to stay together, “until death (or divorce) do us part.” Then I went on a tangent talking about how social pressures are leading to higher rates of divorce. After that we got back on track to western relationships by talking about my parents being happily married for over 30 years and how most people who get into marriages, hopefully, intend on staying together for the long-term.

Then I tried to show my understanding of Chinese relationships and how most Chinese don’t date for fun. They nodded in agreement. That in China dating is serious. People date to get married. It seems like Chinese don’t start dating until much later than westerners. I have met a lot of my university students, 18-19 years old, never having kissed a boy or girl. (Looking back on my spin-the-bottle kissing parties at the age of 13 did make me judge my own moral past!) But if Chinese start dating and kissing in university, it makes sense for them to be a bit more serious about their relationships. From my perspective it seems that in China if you aren’t serious about a relationship and aren’t ready to take on the responsibility that comes with marriage, then it’s best not to get into one or to be very honest about your intentions. Again she nodded in agreement. Yet, she was still quite puzzled.

From watching TV shows, movies, music videos and from hearing things from her parents, friends and teachers, people say westerners are “open”. Being open sometimes means open-minded which I proudly agree with. But it also often has the connotation of being open sexually, to be promiscuous and or to be morally dirty. This I hate. I guess I hate the idea of being morally judged. My poor student was still confused by this perceived contradiction and my explanations.

Then my other student chimed in and told us about her Chinese girlfriend who married an American. Her friend, the married one, thought that while Americans may date a lot before and are more “open” than Chinese before they get married, but after they get married they become quite conservative maybe more so than Chinese are. When I heard I felt that this was right. I also felt a bit morally vindicated; that not all westerners are “open” and that our relationships are great, challenging, happy, horrible and hopefully lifetime pursuit. That is once you’ve had your fun and met the right person to be with for the rest of your life.

The comedy of confusions over cultural clashes to be continued in my next class…

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