I Married a White Chick
Marriages between Eastern men and Western women provide a look at what happens when worlds collide.
So much has been said and written about Westerners taking wives from the East. We’ve heard a million times that Japanese brides are the best housewives, Chinese girls are gentle, pretty and fragile like… well… like china and Thai women can make any man happy. This time, we won’t be discussing how reliable these assertions are; those of us who have lived in the East long enough know that women here may radically contradict common clichés. The thing is, while a marriage between a Western man and an Eastern woman has for centuries been widespread and commonly accepted, couples comprising an Asian man and a western girl used to be frowned upon by bigots and were rare. Today the number is growing. And yet, the subject of Western wives of Eastern men is nearly an uncharted area, even though cultural differences mixed with peculiarities of female psychology can be intriguing.
In Taiwan, more and more local men are longing to find a foreign wife; and more often they choose not a quiet and obedient girl from nearby China or Vietnam, but a loud redheaded Australian or a perky blue-eyed Russian. Taiwanese seem to be keener than any other Asian men to diverge from traditional, time-tested lifestyles and plunge into an unpredictable family adventure with emancipated western women. This unconventional way was pioneered by none other than the son of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Jiang Jing-guo, who married 19-year old Faina Vakhreva in 1935. A lot of things have changed since then, but the tendency only grew stronger, which is even more surprising in a country where traditionally men were the masters of the world and women were treated like slaves.
One of my Taiwanese male friends said that Western women are more fun to marry. They are stronger, prettier, express their thoughts directly and often provide better citizenship in case of need. “I would love to have a Western girlfriend”, he added. Not that he had any experience of marrying or even dating a girl from another culture. Reality can be much more challenging. It is one thing to hang out with a person from a different world; it is totally another to share a home with her.
However, I personally know dozens of Western women who have found their happiness with Taiwanese men. Sceptics say these women come here to marry businessmen for money. I say this is nonsense! Most of the women I know married average Taiwanese guys and just like many other women around the globe they take care of kids and the house and often work as much as their husbands, sharing all the ups and downs of family life.
Anna, a 21-year-old Russian met her husband Michael online. They dated for two years before they got married. They are the cutest couple one can imagine. Every time I see them, they look genuinely happy. “Well, we have our moments”, says Anna. “Sometimes I get jealous, or he shows bad temper, but it’s not because we’re from different cultures. My father-in-law – he's a traditional guy, you know, the head of the family and all, but Michael is more Americanised, I really don’t feel that he’s different from any man from the West, not that I knew that many.” Then she adds: “Actually, I think young Taiwanese men are gentler than Westerners and they take good care of their families.”
Anna and Michael
Oh, who needs language.. It’s the language of love we’re speaking.
Anna speaks little Chinese, so they communicate in English in their family, but she hopes to pick up more Chinese soon. Language can be a problem. Few Taiwanese speak a foreign language well, and when they do it’s usually English, which is not native for most of the foreign wives in Taiwan. “Oh, who needs language," jokes another Russian woman married to a local guy, "It’s the language of love we’re speaking”. Jokes aside, after the honeymoon, one needs conversation to keep the marriage alive. Luckily, women seem to be more flexible and capable of picking up a foreign language.
Colleen and family
“It’s for the best sometimes", says Colleen, a 30-something New Zealander who’s married to a Taiwanese salesman and speaks some Chinese. "It’s difficult when you really can’t express what you want to say, but this language barrier can also be a good thing because you can’t tell each other off, so in that way, stupid little things are never said in haste. Also you have to state really clearly what you are feeling, so the other can understand; thus, things can actually be clearer than a same country marriage! And as for the difference in cultures I can say that obviously there are big differences, but that is the attraction. I love that my husband wants to take care of me and wants to treat me like a lady. An Australian man wouldn’t do that I can assure you!”
Angie, a perky freckled Canadian, met her husband at the resort town of Kending, where she was teaching English. She adores him, he spoils her. Sometimes, she shouts at him for working late, sometimes he nags at her for spending too much money. They are happy together. They have a house, a dog, two kids and are thinking about having a third. I don’t think she ever has time for discussing cultural differences between Taiwan and Canada except when she’s driving and then she discusses it loudly.
Veta, a Ukrainian girl who married very young, says that Taiwanese men are generally softer and less mature than their peers from western countries. “They also don’t drink," she notes, "not even at a New Year party.”
“My husband and I still spend a lot of time talking about culture issues six years into the marriage", adds Cheryl, a photographer from the US, who met her husband when he came to fix the phone in her Taipei apartment. "We fell in love, got married five years later, had a child and just live our lives like anyone else. I think that the divorce rate between Western women and Asian men might not necessarily be because of the traditional issues as much as the unwillingness of the western women to put up with the bad situations that can develop. Traditionally, husbands and wives in Taiwan have stuck it out even when there is really no marriage left. Even if they do get divorced, it is a secret. I think Western people, especially women, feel it is more important to communicate clearly with their partner, where that is not so often the case for Taiwanese, especially men.