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The experience of being in a foreign country and culture somehow liberated us from our usual American expectations for men and dating itself. We could even reinvent ourselves and what it meant to be in love with someone.It seemed natural and normal to do the same in China.He was more of a gentleman toward me than any other man I had ever known.He was Chinese, a man named Tian who grew up in Zhengzhou.Back in 2010, I discovered a post on a now-defunct blog authored by expats in Shanghai.The post was written by a white American woman based in Shanghai and titled, "So, how's the dating scene?And I as I came to know him better, he didn't disappoint me.He always opened doors for me and wouldn't leave my side until he escorted me all the way to the entrance to my apartment.
This Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences professor surveyed over 100 Western women from diverse countries including France, Germany and the USA via questionnaires, and then interviewed over 20 of them in a focus group in Shanghai.One American participant in the study actually blamed Hollywood for projecting a poor image of Chinese men around the world, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was thinking of at the time.Zhang's findings -- that Western women from around the world have consistently pejorative ideas about Chinese men -- remind me this isn't a problem confined to some insular expat circles in China.The woman who wrote that post never specifically said any of these things about local men in China, but she didn't have to. Then again, her post appears downright classy in comparison to what I've read in the free-for-all world of anonymous expat forums across China.
There was a brief time when I tried combing these forums in search of discussions about dating Chinese men, hoping to gain some insights, but I soon gave that up.
When I thought about my burgeoning crush for Tian, I figured it was no different from that college semester when I studied in Spain.