Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 2

Note: Please make sure that you have read Part 1 first.

The Dating Introvert: What have you been doing to get better at dating?

Fu Quan: By making more mistakes than I dare admit 🙂 I would say I have been trying, adjusting, and trying again.

One problem was an inadequate set of reference points. My parents pressured me to do well academically all the way through to the end of my undergraduate degree, so I didn’t focus on social skills, and was completely oblivious to flirting. And, unlike American kids, I almost didn’t even think about sex because of the intense focus needed to get good grades.

Then, suddenly after my first degree, my parents were asking me about when they will have grandchildren! It is odd in America to graduate from college and not have any dating knowledge, let alone dating experience. My parents never talked about sex, and I rarely saw them hug or kiss.

… physical and verbal expressions of love is not commonplace. Whether it is between parents or parents and their children.
   https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minority-report/201506/5-asian-love-languages

The Dating Introvert: And what about that “Three Date Rule” you mentioned?

Fu Quan: Yes :), my parents come from a time of arranged marriages. Their relationship started with a mutual introduction by their parents, followed by a small number of dates, and then the wedding. As a result, a date is taken much more seriously when compared to American culture.

So even though I know intellectually that America operates differently, I would be far too nervous on dates.

The Dating Introvert: I’ve got to say: The more I hear from you, the tougher it sounds.

Fu Quan: Yes, I think what helped me was to stop seeing my dating problems as personal failures. After all, I’m battling major cross-cultural differences!

I feel the culture I’m from focuses a lot on maintaining “face” – in other words, keeping up appearances. People may choose to suffer for years, or even life, to avoid the “shame” of admitting they have problem and asking for help. Rather, I ask sympathetic friends or a culturally-informed counselor for dating advice.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you’ve clearly done a lot of thinking about culture clash and dating. Do you have any other advice you would like to share with other Asian-American men?

Fu Quan: I can only speak from my perspective as a Chinese-American influenced by both cultures. I suppose men from some other Southeast Asian countries might share similar experiences. In any case, my advice is that it’s easier to date a woman in a similar situation – someone who is also caught between two cultures.

This is not always possible, so I would also recommend the following:

  1. Understand your dating audience: Americans care about dressing well, confidence/assertiveness, and social skills a lot more than education. People might regard your PhD as impressive, but it won’t help you get a date. This is hard to believe coming from my background, but it is true.
  2. Be aware of different attitudes towards sex: American culture is much more sexualized. So if you want to save yourself for marriage, ignore the fools on the internet who are shaming you for being a virgin. On the other hand, if you choose to have pre-marital sex, this is America, and you should not feel guilty about it.
  3. Relax! As I said, Americans do not take dates – especially first dates – as seriously. If you want to get to know a woman better, just ask her out. Go on dates with more women and discover who you really like, rather than worrying about the wedding.
  4. Acknowledge that dating can be tough: It is tough for many people but unfortunately, it may be even tougher for you due to cultural differences.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, that was some pretty fascinating stuff! Thank you for the perspective – it will be great for the blog.

Fu Quan: You are welcome. I hope your readers like it.

The Dating Introvert: Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Advertisements

Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 1

I was recently in San Francisco and got a chance to catch up with my old buddy, Fu Quan (a pseudonym), a PhD student at a university in California. As we walked out of the Starbucks in the Ralphs supermarket, I noticed that his name was predictably misspelled on his frappe cup. The conversation shifted to his dating life, and I had a unique opportunity to ask him about his dating experiences as a Asian-American man.

This post is an edited summary of our conversation, with his permission, heavily reworded in the style of this blog.

Disclaimer & Trigger Warning: This represents the opinions of Fu Quan only and do not necessarily represent the views of this blog. Fu Quan makes generalizations about people and culture to allow for simpler explanations, in the context of a casual conversation. Like any generalization, they do not apply in all cases.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you moved to the United States from China when you were 7, so you basically grew up here. So I’m surprised to hear you talk about dating challenges that seem unique to your background as a Chinese immigrant.

Fu Quan: Yeah, dating here is complicated. It is a culture clash. Although I grew up in America, I internalized many values from the culture of my parents.

I had always thought of cultural differences as surface-level things like a different-looking hat or different-tasting food. However, it recently hit me that culture is a way of thinking. What seems normal in one culture seems rude in another. What is attractive in one culture is unattractive in another.

That Dating Introvert: Can you give examples of these differences?

Fu Quan: Yes but first some background is in order: China is influenced very much by Confucian values, and there is a big gap between the rich & the poor. They do not have the upward social mobility that America has. If your grades are bad, you will not get one of the scarce university places, and you will be doomed to a life of poverty. So there is a huge emphasis on academic achievement. Whereas in America, if you drop out of university, you might become the next Steve Jobs.

In my home culture, the “cool kids”:

  1. achieve high grades: because these are the guys who will end up making the money
  2. are quiet: because this is a sign of strength and intelligence. In school, they are given leadership positions, like your Prom Queen & King.
  3. wear fashion that would be construed as a bit feminine in America
  4. avoid conflict: because avoiding it is a virtue
  5. wait until marriage before having sex: because it is an ultra-conservative culture. This is a sign of restraint.

But in America, these things would fit the definition of being a Nice Guy and be highly unattractive.

In China, a brawny football jock who sleeps around would be seen as unsophisticated, and end up doing manual labor. In America, you give them scholarships to the best universities.

The Dating Introvert: Wow, those are big differences! But growing up in the United States, didn’t you notice the difference in attitudes?

Fu Quan: Well, you get conflicting messages. My extended family thought I was a hero for starting my PhD and not sleeping around. You grow up and you trust your parents more than peers (again, a feature of Confucian culture) to have an accurate read of reality. But my parents were born in the 1950s in China, so their idea of reality is different.

The Dating Introvert: But there are plenty of Chinese girls in California. Wouldn’t dating them avoid the cultural conflict?

Fu Quan: Let’s say that, broadly, there are two kinds of Chinese in America. There are those who grew up in America, who are more westernized. And there are those who just arrived in America, the more recent immigrants.

Some recent immigrants look down on me because I have “lost” part of my culture by not being able to speak Mandarin fluently. Some westernized Chinese women avoid me because they mistakenly associate me with the ultra-conservatism of China. They want to be seen as equals with men, they want to be sex-positive, and they want to be liberated from outdated ideas.

I should add that there are very few positive Chinese or Asian male role models in American mass media. Asian men tend to be portrayed as weak or comical. As a result, this stereotype means that even some non-Asian women will not date me because of my race.

The Dating Introvert: You sound like a serious racist 😛

Fu Quan: Our society has become so “PC” (Politically Correct) that I can’t – even as a member of a racial minority – talk about a racial problem that I’m facing, without being branded a racist or a whiner. Yes, it is up to me to be successful at dating, but you cannot ignore the broader societal influences.

There’s a 2014 Huffington Post article about this: Black People And Asian Men Have A Much Harder Time Dating On OKCupid.

The Dating Introvert: Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview. Until next time my friends, keep dating!