From parental pressures to societal stereotypes, get a first hand perspective on Chinese dating in America right here!
By Katherine Chong
In America, the Chinese community is represented by all walks of life – educated and unschooled, Buddhist and Christian, immigrant and American-born, first generation to sixth. There are dozens of ethnic groups, each with their own dialect, spread throughout the different regions of the United States. Despite descending from a country so massive, people with Chinese heritage still share a common culture and value system that rings true with many other Asian cultures. The importance of family, honor, and hard work are reflected in all aspects of life, including romantic relationships and dating.
As a first generation Chinese American, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a major hub for multitudes of Asians and Asian Americans. I had always understood certain facets of everyday life as norms since most of my peers were like me and grew up in households like mine. I never attributed tenets as simple as honoring and respecting elders, especially parents, to my ethnic upbringing.
The Parental Influence
Like many Chinese parents, mine only expected the best – the best grades, the best schools, the best jobs, and the best husband who shared those same qualities. As such, I always feared the chance of disapproval when my love interests deviated from that of dating the ideal Chinese doctor. Even after trying to ignore parental pressure and their sometimes unreasonable requirements, many of these qualifications are still ingrained in me and my generation alike. Just like my parents, financial stability and a respectable career are basic prerequisites that seem to unconsciously take precedence over many other traits in younger generations.
Parental concerns aren’t the only factors that influence relationships, but stereotypes brought on by the American media also fall into play. As an Asian American woman, sometimes I too fall into the trap of labeling Asian men as passive. On the other hand, some men might wishfully believe that Asian women are submissive and will cater to their every need and want. These are all blatant generalizations, and these social biases are often untrue. As a strong-minded Asian American woman, I embody characteristics that are quite the opposite of the submissive stereotype, and know many Asian men who break the boundaries of their misconstrued identity as well. Over time, I have learned that the best approach is to shed those misconceptions and instead focus on the person in front of me.
In any kind of culture, commonality often makes dating easier. Sharing in traditions, food, and basic upbringing and values can decrease points of conflict that may otherwise arise. Dating another Chinese American would be familiar – not just to myself, but for both families.
There are many levels of language barriers in the Chinese community, where many first generation Chinese Americans have parents who speak little to no English at all. Where family is of utmost importance, finding someone who can communicate with them is a huge factor to consider in the dating world.
Although dating a nice Chinese doctor may be at the top of my parents’ wishes, dating people from other cultures and backgrounds is not out of the realm of possibility.
Respect and honor of the Chinese culture might have to be learned, but the same goes for the other person’s heritage. Certain foods or traditions might need some easing into, such as becoming accustomed to chicken feet on the table during Sunday morning dim sum, or politely arguing over who will pay the bill.
With mutual appreciation, understanding, and a little patience, these are obstacles that both parties can benefit from, whether or not the relationship works out. There are many Chinese parents out there that may be hesitant about the unfamiliar, but with an open heart and an open mind, what is different can be embraced and ultimately turn out to be a great experience.