To date or not to date in China, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous, er… parents, or to take arms against a sea of… craziness, and by opposing… that’s all.
Unlike my country, and some other Western countries today, marriage is still very important in China. Having children and grandchildren is also a must. Worldwide, passing on the family name is still essential, but in China, this is heightened, due to the obligation of children taking care of their parents in old age.
Now, my country is not completely heartless. Most children do remain close to their parents and provide assistance to them, when needed.
Then, the bravest of them all spoke. “I would follow my heart and marry the handsome one. I can make money, too. I don’t rely on others,” she said.
In US culture, it’s the parents that are actually different. Adults there raise children to quickly be adults themselves. The adult children then move on and have children of their own and do the same. When children reach maturity, it’s time for parents to relax and enjoy life.
So, how is China different?
Given the importance of marriage in China, we were curious: what exactly does a Chinese girl need to finally bring a boyfriend home to meet the parents?
In many countries today, it seems as though many parents are just happy if a girl brings home a boy and vice versa (although, prejudices about same-sex dating or marriage are slowly changing). Is this also true here?
To find out, we asked the following questions about dating to a small group of Chinese girls, aged 20+:
1. What is the most important when you bring a potential husband/wife to meet your parents for the first time?
2. If your parents don’t like your boyfriend/girlfriend, what do you do?
3. If your parents told you that you could NOT marry someone you loved (and whom also loved you), what would you do?
4. Is it important to you or your parents that a potential husband/wife have a specific hukou or be from the same province?
5. What’s more important: a handsome man that you love, but has no money, or a very wealthy man that you don’t love and is ugly?
Here’s what they said
The first question offered some obvious answers like be dressed decently, be polite, bring presents, blah, blah, blah. One responder simply said “etiquette.” Another said that she asks if the boy can really take good care of her before she presents him to her parents. She defined care as “money, mind, body,” in that order.
The second query was perhaps a badly designed question because either Chinese girls have no answer or didn’t want to speak their mind. In general, they replied that if they think their parents will not like the boy, they simply wouldn’t bring him home (and therefore, probably would not even date or get serious with him).
The third question gave quite enlightening responses. A cross-section said that they trust their parents and assessment of the boy. Others simply said that they didn’t know what they’d do in this situation. One said that “some” Chinese couples will have a child and leave no other choice, but to get married, which the parents must accept.
Number four saw opinions run wild. One said her family wanted her to marry someone from not just the same province, but the actual hometown. Interestingly, another respondent said that her mother specifically forbid marrying a foreigner because they will later leave the country.
In places like Beijing or Shanghai, the hukou may be more important, as someone noted, but not as much for other places. The biggest concern for most seemed to be how close the couple lives from parents and if regular visits and holidays like Chinese New Year would be difficult. Unsurprisingly, others mentioned that things like this are important to parents, but not to the younger generation.
The tantalizing fifth question judging superficiality really got them talking.
“It really depends,” one girl began, “I do like handsome men, but there must be something wrong with him if he has no money. Maybe he’s too lazy, not ambitious, or has gambling problem? If he has no money, I’d have to think it over. After all, I want to live a better life day by day. I might be willing to marry [an ugly, rich man] if he deeply loves me. Well, I guess I’ll just marry someone I love who is not ugly and who earns more than me.”
Another responder felt differently.
“For me, my husband’s love is very important, and second is finance. Though, he must give all his salary to me because there is an old saying that a man with money will be bad,” she explained. “Still, I don’t really want to marry since men easily change their minds. What should I do if we had a child and later, he cheats on me? There is another saying that marriage is important to girls because if they choose a good man, great, but if they choose a bad man, her life will be destroyed.”
Then, the bravest of them all spoke.
“I would follow my heart and marry the handsome one. I can make money, too. I don’t rely on others,” she said.
This all proves what we already knew: Chinese girls are mostly just as superficial as the rest of us.