Help me get out of my head a bit when it comes to dating (esp in China)
September 5, 2017 5:04 AM   Subscribe

I’m currently living in a smaller city in China (well, by Chinese standards). I’m comfortably conversational in Manadarin — working every day on making it better! — and I plan on being China for the forseeable future; I don’t know if I’ll be in this particular city for more than a couple months more, but my plans are very open ended. I’m a bisexual, thirty-something white-ish male who tends to really overthink romantic social interactions and is trying to make sense of how to think about dating as a foreigner. More details within…

I’m from America, and even in the states, I can be a bit neurotic about dating. Being in a foreign country has heightened it! I’m happy being single so this isn’t about like… being desperate to find a partner, but I am interested in long-term companionship and as I am planning on traveling for a while, I figure there’s no point not rolling the dice while I’m traveling. That said, I feel weird about it! The benefits seem clear: 1. you never know, maybe you meet someone really great! 2. you still get to meet locals, practice speaking, learn more about the culture 3. it’s something to do 4. even if you don’t have a romantic connection, you might make friends out of it

That said, as a white guy in an asian country, I’m very wary (probably overly wary?) about yellow fever and similar tropes around white dudes trying to get with asian women. There's even a term for it: sex pats. And tons of jokes about guys coming here and trying to sleep with everything that moves etc. Even in the states with a more diverse dating pool, I tend to get really in my head about dating and masculinity and heteronormativity to a degree that doesn’t really lead to very good dates… and so the added dynamic of being a white dude in china is really throwing me off.

Added to that is the aforementioned bisexuality. These days I mainly date women (for a host of self-hating reasons I am sure), but I mean, I have had multiple boyfriends in the past and it’s not really something I’d like to hide from someone I date. That said, and this is something I struggle with in the US as well, I don’t really know how to approach this. My experience is essentially that straight women find bisexual men extremely unattractive. There are of course exceptions, but on the whole, I’ve found it to be a big hindrance. Gay men are significantly more forgiving in comparison. So I’m not sure… I can be fully honest up front as a screen for people who are shallow (in china, this is likely to be a turn off to most people). Or I can not hide it per se, but not bring it up until it is more relevant (for example, if I hit it off for someone and we started dating more regularly). This seems sort of shitty, but I do wonder if putting myself in more context wouldn’t possible break down the potential ignorance of people’s knee jerk reactions to bisexuality.

So I guess I’m looking for any and all advice you all have to give about this situation. A lot of this isn’t specific to being in China, and I’m very open to your advice there as well… this is something I have had many talks with a therapist about and while we made some headway defining it, I haven’t really gotten to the point where I can act different. I’m hoping that I can make progress while here! But basically I’m just so aware of the mountain of privilege I sit on as a white american male, and I’m also so aware of how shitty men are to women, and I’m so aware of how awful traditional heteronormative expectations are… I just get super in my head. The thing is though I still find women sexually attractive…

I know plenty of people that will get on tinder even if they’re somewhere for just like, a night or two… so I know that this isn’t wrong per se. But I’m just trying to get over my anxiety about it all. Thankfully I’m fairly happy single and studying and whatnot, but I also know that I’m not getting any younger and that while it’s possible that love will strike in some unexpected way, if I want long-term companionship I’m going to have to be proactive in seeking it out, wherever I am…

I appreciate any advice you have to give.

PS I suppose there is a broader question of "why china," but just take that as a given for the sake of this question. Taiwan is definitely a possibility at some point, however.

PPS White-ish because I'm mixed, but more or less everyone outside of northern europe assumes I'm white (just not of the translucent variety)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (5 answers total)
Are you comfortably monogamous? That is, when you were in previous relationships, did you easily handle/brush off crushes on other people, regardless of their gender? If so, I don't think you need to ethically disclose bisexuality to any potential partners until they get to the "know everything about you" stage of dating. It's simply not relevant that you're *also* attracted to men if that desire is never acted upon once you're in a relationship with a given woman.
posted by serelliya at 5:53 AM on September 5, 2017

I'm a white american woman who lived in china for several years and dated there. While there, i joined a chinese dating site and met a lot of people. Have you tried that? I doubt you're having trouble meeting people though.

One thing i encountered tbat was challe ging was that most chinese people either daye for marriage or are into one- night -stands. There's little in between, especially in smaller more conservative cities. So if you're dating women, especially women over 25, they are pressured by society to be thinking of marriage.

As far as dating men, as you probably know china is a pretty socially conservative country and most people are expected to marry someone of th e opposite sex. Gay marriage os not legal. So, while there are thriving gay communities everywhere in china, many (most) gay people eventually also marry someone of the opposite sex. So you may find you are dating married or partnered men, or men who have the intention of marrying a woman.

In all, from my experience cultural differences in dating were challenging but i definitely did find people to connect with. Knowibg mandarin helps a lot. Be prepared for marriage talk early on though.

Good news is, there are many people you can meet and many people who will be curious about you.

I think dating would be easier in taiwan, especially in the gay community, so you might wa t to be open to trying that.
posted by bearette at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2017

I do agree that many chinese people won't be super knowledgeable about what being bisexual means and women you date may have a hard time with it, to be honest.if you lived in say, beijing, shanghai, or guangzhou I'm sure you'd find a greater number of people qho understand. You could also try to get involved in an arts or music scene.
posted by bearette at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2017

Middle age overweight black guy here. Years ago, I manage to have a gay hookup in Beijing without speaking a word of Chinese, just with eye contacts in the street and a French-Chinese dictionary. I was there on business so it wasn't going anywhere but I was immensely proud to have managed to meet someone. He even took me to a local gay bar with the usual crowd. It felt like coming home.

who tends to really overthink romantic social interactions
This right here is your problem, son! Your post waaaaaay overthinks social stuff. My advice is to first get out of your head and make yourself available. Meeting women will be the easy part.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stop focusing on systemic social issues and start focusing on meeting people you think you will like.
posted by Ahniya at 3:05 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

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