Article by Benjamin wall
“If you are interested, I know the won- derful girl who would like to practice her English, and you never know, she might be ‘the one.’” In some context or another any male expat living in China has heard these words. For some it’s just another thing that gets you to chuckle, for others it’s the hope that maybe they will nd the one, and for the other third of
the group, myself included, it’s the frustrating stereotype that has been thrust upon us. Frus- trating as it is, there is a solid foundation to this stereotype about western men coming to Asia to nd a love and a wife.
Western media and lms have depicted Asian as an exotic world, and in a way, rightly so. However, constantly depicting Asian women as either hard- working businesswomen; ex- otic, gentle owers; illegal immi- grants selling DVDs; or simply as “Miss Saigon” the helpless Viet- namese woman in love with an American soldier, doesn’t help Western cultures understand our Eastern counterparts.
Asia is a mysterious world to Western cultures. It has only been within the last 100 years that China has been truly accessible to Western populations. It wasn’t until the British, French and Amer- icans signed the Tianjin Treaty around 1912 that Europeans were allowed to freely travel throughout China. Prior to this, our go to for understanding Asia was Marco Polo and the art and literature that he helped create after his accounts of traveling along the Silk Road.
It is from here, Marco Polo in the 1200’s, that Sheridan Prasso, in her book The Asian Mystic, traces the creation of “Asian exoticism” in western minds. Making the matter worse, western involvement in wars in Korea and Vietnam has only helped create a larger “exotic” stereotype of Asian women. It is these exotic stere- otypes that have brought so many west- ern men east, to travel the great distance to nd “love” in Asia and follow the ideas they obtained from western media. They believe that when they arrive they will find what the BBC referred to as “passive and submissive” women.
The nal piece of this puzzle is the cul- ture of marriage in China. Though many Chinese women have excelled in life, be- coming CEO’s, high powered business women, and even talent agents making a cool million RMB a year, there is one thing holding them back. Asian families focus on how important it is for women to be married by a fairly early age. This concept of making sure a girl is married by the age of 28, when added to the western concept of “exotic Asians,” only breathes oxygen into that aming stereotype that western men are here to get married.
Helpful as this information may be, it only seems to bene t the group that is here to nd marriage and love. However, it doesn’t do much for that nal third of the expats that might have been looking for answers at the start of this piece. Here is the answer that has dawned on me through writing this piece: laugh. Take a hint from that rst group of expats, and laugh. You may be like me, a person on a search to nd themselves and not someone else. If that is the case, when these situations arise, just try to chuckle and remember that it’s not them; it’s culture, the media, Miss Sai- gon, mynewchinesewife.com, Marco Polo’s journal entries and even world news broadcasting companies that have spawned this stereotype that we all live in.
Benjamin Wall, high school English teacher and bachelor not looking to get married, can be reached at benjamin.wall.87@gmail. com. However, expect no response because he doesn’t like people.