Inside the Mind of a Chinese Woman

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Inside the Mind of a Chinese Woman

I was having dinner with my old classmate yesterday  and she basically poured out her soul to me.

Now usually when someone opens their heart to you; really, just spills their guts, you discover new things about people you never knew before.

You start to question your own life, your own goals, this world, the universe, why life and death exist.  Nothing is the same for you, for your friend–for anyone.

My reaction?

 Do all Chinese Women Want the Same Thing?

Oh, I think they do my dear reader.  My friend’s worries are also the worries of all the millions of women in China.

She recited to me the basic dogma for every woman in this country.

Oh, what did she say?  Are you curious?

The Mental Thought Pattern of a 22-28 Year Old Chinese Woman

“Mary, it was my dream to become an interpreter.  Really.  I thought I couldn’t fail in this area, I was so confident.  My English was so good, I got into this famous masters program, and everyone told me that simultaneous interpreters make a ton of money.

But then I came to Shanghai from my rural village and saw that everyone speaks English and has degrees from Columbia and UCLA.  I feel so overwhelmed.  Everyone in the class is talented at interpreting.  I looked at the alumni list of our schools and almost half of them were still without jobs, or working freelance.  I’m really starting to doubt my career choice.

There’s too much competition in China, especially in Shanghai.  I’m afraid I won’t find a good paying job because there’s too many people just like me.  Shanghai is full to the brim with smart, successful Chinese.

Plus, buying a house in Shanghai is too expensive.  There is absolutely no way I could ever afford to buy a house here (*note: small apartments in Shanghai will literally sell for 1 million USD), and my parents can’t help me to buy one either.

And why would I rent a house?  I would pay a ton of money to rent a house, when I could just own one and have property.  That’s a much better investment.  All Chinese women need their own house.  A Chinese man should already have a house to provide for his wife, don’t you think?

That’s another thing: Finding a man.  That’s one reason I want to go back home.  I want my mom to introduce me to a good man.  I trust my mom in her decision to find a husband for me–more importantly, she has better connections.  My parents both worked for the government so they know people in high places to match me up with.  For example, my mom’s friend has a son with over 4 houses in Sichuan, a really high paying government job, plus a super rich family.  This lady introduced her son to another classmate of mine, and now they’re dating.  I mean, it’s hard to find this kind of opportunity in Shanghai.

This is another worry of mine in Shanghai.  I don’t have connections here so it will be impossible for me to find a man with equal standing assets.  How am I going to meet a good man here?  Maybe after graduating I’ll just go back home and get married.

Buying a house in Sichuan will be much more affordable.  Of course, it’d be more ideal to marry a man with a house, but if we both had to purchase one for some reason, at least in Sichuan it would kind of be possible.

I thought I wanted to work abroad and have new experiences, which is one reason I came to Shanghai, but here I am and I feel overwhelmed. Maybe I can’t make it abroad.  But I’d be ok to go back to Sichuan, get married, and have a house.

Either way, I’m stressing out.  I really hope I can find a good guy, have a house, and maybe if I’m lucky he will have a car.”

Let’s not forget…

This classmate is 23.  These are the everyday woes of a 22-28 year old Chinese woman.  It gets way worse after 25.  When you pass 25 you’re almost doomed to being single forever, and once you pass 30 you can never go back.  You might as well die alone.

How do I feel about this?

I have heard the above story from so many Chinese women, I could recite it in my sleep.

I think the emphasis on a house is ridiculous, which has also led to a severe amount of pressure on the men, which has resulted in a large pool of single bachelors that can’t manage a to snag a woman.  Unless your parents saved their brains out to buy you a 1 million dollar apartment in Shanghai, I just don’t think your 700 USD/monthly salary is going to pay the mortgage–and get you a woman.

China is extremely materialistic, and Chinese people are caught up in the wealth of being able to afford luxurious material possessions.  Chinese people put emphasis on providing for families and stability, but when it comes to doing the greater good for mankind of achieving something that doesn’t have a monetary value, they fall somewhat flat.  It’s vital to believe in, and work for, a greater cause.

When Chinese women tell me about their goals, it’s never: “I want to speak English so that I can help bring the world together, meet foreigners, or teach English to others.”

Or, “I want to study engineering so I can invent a new engine that runs without gasoline and help the environment.”

All goals usually end in money.  I’m an engineer because my mom told me to do it and the pay is good.  I studied English because I want to meet a foreign man, marry him and get US citizenship.  Most goals have a monetary value attached.

Life isn’t about money, and although there are probably 100 chengyu that express this phrase, it seems like everyone has suddenly forgotten what it means.

5 thoughts on “Inside the Mind of a Chinese Woman

  1. Richard says:

    Hey, wow. I’m amazed to have discovered your blog (off a link from a comment in Jocelyn’s site). Who knew there was a site so thoughtful, witty, and cutting in its insightfulness on this neglected corner of the interwebs.

    You’re right that China has become amazingly materialistic. When my parents were growing up (in Sichuan of all place!), the country was a lot poorer but people more down to earth and there was a genuine sense of camaraderie. One could travel cross country and stay in people’s houses along the way. I always tell people that the country became too wealthy too quickly, and never really had time to develop a moral system. People always want to get ahead, and are willing to push aside everyone else to do so, even close friends and family. If you see successful entrepreneurs, they’re hardly ever the philanthropists you have here in the states.

    I understand very well the mentality of the women you describe though. Life is very competitive, and poverty, starvation, and ruin are always lurking around the corner. Everyone is always trying to claw their way ahead, if for nothing else than to stay in place on the every moving treadmill. Getting ahead is difficult enough on your own, so why not ensnare a wealthy man to help you along? Oh incidentally this had led to the phenomenon of Shanghai women being focused on finding a man with education, money, and connections. Other attributes like being romantic, thoughtful, or a good partner are not so important initially; they can be “trained” after all.

    I’m sure our travels may intersect at some point; I’m a bit of a digital nomad myself. When that happens, I’d be glad to meet up for drinks+chat. It’s rare enough to find someone with your interesting pattern of thought. Oh, also if you’re ever back stateside and are free to meet up, give me a holler via email.

    • maryfoobear says:

      Hi Richard!
      So happy to see your comment! I just revived this blog not too long ago and I really hope I can get it up and running!

      Yes, Chinese people are unbelievably materialistic. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think Chinese equate the idea of happiness with material things and ‘status level’ of family. Sudden wealth can be attributed to the Chinese ‘twisted morals’ per se, but I have a theory that the mannerisms and human code of conduct was shattered during the cultural revolution–I would really like to see what China was like pre-revolution. Foreigners often say that Chinese people are so ‘uncultured’… and really, that’s what happened. They were robbed of their culture and were pitted against one another. Anyway, I could write a whole book about that so… I’ll leave it at that for now. Although the youth are somewhat improving, I still meet people my age or younger that show no respect toward others and live in their own bubble.

      yeah, it’s just as you said, women here almost don’t have a choice but to marry a well-off man. Still, I think it goes a little too extreme sometimes. My former co-worker actually said to me: “I need a man that is over 5″8’, makes at least 10,000 RMb a month (high salary in China), have a house, has a Shanghai hukou (residency) AND is compatible with me. I thought: Good luck with THAT. And it’s not just Shanghai women after wealthy men (although they tend to be worse), I think all of China is shaping up to be this way.

      I do understand, though. It is a means of survival, and the family pressure to get married and buy a home is incredible. Being a single woman with a loser husband in your late 20s or early 30s is one of the biggest shames you could ever have in China.

      You really understand China! Is your family originally from Sichuan? I checked out your blog and you have a ton of amazing ideas! I’ll definitely keep an eye on it. You’re so well versed in a variety of industries too–can’t believe you’re going to study medicine, in addition to all the other things you’ve accomplished. You’re so well rounded.

      Yes, please let me know if you’re in the Shanghai area! Would be happy to meet up for a chat. I’ll let you know if I’m in the bay area!

  2. Richard says:

    Thanks. I was actually born there and moved around growing up all over the world. Can’t really say any particular place is “home” to me. Actually, home will probably be wherever I am at the moment. Even my friends have now scattered all over the globe for work and advanced studies. It’s a bit tough actually.

    My mother (always a fount of wisdom) said that Chinese people treat life as a spring up to the top of a mountain. They run up as fast as they can and when they finally get to the top, they huff and puff and think “that’s it?” Westerners are more apt to climb slowly, smelling the flowers and enjoying the vista along the way.

    Yeah, everything in China is so expensive when compared to salaries. That’s in part why westerners who visit are in so high demand. No matter his status back home, in China his earnings are many times the average local’s.

    I don’t think it’s so much the Cultural Revolution as much Deng’s opening of China to the world. There’s a good contrast between the youths today (post-1985 or so) and the older generation. The older ones (and by extension those in Taiwan, HK, Malaysia, Singapore, and overseas Chinese communities) have preserved Confucian morality. The youths today in the mainland are much more me-focused and materialistic, for the reasons you and I discussed above.

    Fun topics. Let’s move the conversation offline. You have my email, right?

  3. James T. says:

    While I agree that a large percentage of the young female population in China thinks that way, I think that to say “at least 80%” is a hyperbolic exaggeration. (And I have lived in Shanghai for eight years.) I would estimate closer to about 30-40%.

    Nonetheless I definitely agree that there is a bit of an excessive focus on materialistic possessions in China. However I think that it is completely natural. I think that when Japan first gathered a lot of wealth, the initial generation that experienced this growth was similar. And likewise for the first generation in Europe to reap the economic dividends of the Industrial Revolution. It is a natural process as a society first accumulates material wealth and I think it is often the case that a bad even is not as bad, nor is a good event as wonderful as people often make them out to be. The truth is usually somewhere within that range. As China becomes more accustomed to this, young Chinese will become less materialistic.

    I hesitate to be harsh but I would also say that you do not quite understand the Chinese. Your statement “Whatever their goal may be, that ultimate goal always ends in m-o-n-e-y” exemplifies my claim. I think any Chinese born and raised in China, or anyone really intimately familiar with the Chinese know that what a Chinese mother, or a Chinese parent really wants is a good life (especially education and intellectual enlightenment / competence) for their children, not money. This fact is very obvious to someone intimate with Chinese culture.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      This is another one I would like to re-publish, particularly because since moving back to the USA I’ve seen the same pattern of women in Los Angeles (they want a man with a good job, the big house and a Mercedes).

      You are also correct in terms of economies becoming wealthy and with it the tendency to reap the benefits. I have yet to do research into the Japanese gold-diggers that once were, but it’s an interesting topic and I’ll look into it.

      I think I was a bit harsh with my last paragraph, stating: “Whatever their goal may be, that ultimate goal always ends in m-o-n-e-y.” In China, it seemed like this was all anyone ever talked about and I truly grew tired of it–and that cynicism may have leaked into this post. Many of my girlfriends also denied good, honest men a chance because his annual salary was missing an extra zero or he didn’t have a house (one one my friends denied a man because his house was in the suburbs instead of downtown Shanghai–ouch).

      This article sums up the differences between the marriages of previous Chinese generations in comparison to the modern. According to research, 70 percent of Chinese women believe a man should provide an apartment, along with a marriage offer. It’s a very Chinese trait to have.

      Again, not all Chinese women are like this. My friend Z, which I write about on here often, couldn’t care less about a house or a car. She just wants someone that makes her laugh.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment, they are very well-written and interesting.

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