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"Whenever I arrive at the airport in America, the first thing I notice is our men, how handsome and how tall they are," one of my white female colleagues mentioned over lunch."I'll just stare at them for hours, as if I was Chinese and had never seen a foreign man before in my life." At least that woman wasn't as blunt as another colleague, who used to bicycle with me through the streets of Zhengzhou.The question haunted me as I pondered my crush on Tian.
The worst of these threads generally devolved into a low-brow, expletive-laden conversation more appropriate for a bathroom stall.As I continued to date the locals in China and eventually married a fellow from Hangzhou, I would come to realize that most expat women in China agreed with my Zhengzhou colleagues. A European woman I worked with in 2001 famously told me that, while she found all Chinese men completely repulsive, she considered Chinese children so adorable.But some of my most fascinating and educative encounters with this idea of "Chinese men as undateable" happened online, when I came face-to-face with these opinions distilled into the cold, black-and-white reality of blog posts and expat forums.The experience of being in a foreign country and culture somehow liberated us from our usual American expectations for men and dating itself. We could even reinvent ourselves and what it meant to be in love with someone.It seemed natural and normal to do the same in China.