As we know, many western gentlemen come to China and fall in love – not only with the country, the culture, the history, the scenery, but also with local Chinese girl who become their girlfriend, or, eventually Chinese wife. However, jumping into a relationship with someone from a different country may be a bit like stepping onto a minefield. Challenges abound, and no matter how much a couple in a international marriage may like, or even love each other, sometimes the difficulties get the best of us. Here we look at four of the biggest challenges of international marriagein China.

1) Language
Aside from the obvious fact that maintaining a relationship with someone you can’t even speak to is difficult, even couples who share a language will find that lack of a common mother tongue will add a layer of difficulty. Even if your Chinese girlfriend speaks English or you speak perfect Chinese, at least one of you will always be at the disadvantage of having to use a language that is not your native language. At the beginning having a partner around who can help you improve your second language can be great – but imagine living with your Chinese girlfriend and spending every single day of your life conversing in Chinese. Imagine fumbling for the exact right phrasing, knowing you could express yourself in English, but Chinese just isn’t cutting it. Imagine fighting in your second language – who has the upper hand? And if you’re the one who gets to speak your first language while your Chinese girlfriend struggles to express himself in English, put yourself in her shoes. Living life in a second language can be mentally exhausting.

2) Expectations
At some point or another most western men who step into the Chinese dating site realize that dating often comes with strings attached, and that the relationship life cycle in China often moves much quicker than it does in their home. It is not at all unusual for foreign men to be surprised by their Chinese partner bringing up marriage a few short months into the relationship. While most Western couples generally would not bring up marriage before the one year mark, Chinese people, especially Chinese girl of a certain age (say 25 and up) are generally fairly fixated on finding a husband, and do not, in general date for fun. The societal pressure to get married usually starts right after college and most young professional Chinese people, men and women, are not particularly interested in dating around just for fun once they’ve hit the magic age and will want to get down to the serious business of making a family.

3) Reference Points
Most of us do not realise how essential our cultural background is to who we are until we are living in another country and culture. When you are with someone who is from a different cultural background even watching a TV show can lead to questions. Your Chinese girlfriend will likely not have heard of any of the bands you loved in high school and will not get your references to The Simpsons, to name just two examples. She will not be able to discuss your country’s politics with you, and, if you do discuss politics she might think your country’s leaders are evil (for entirely different reasons than you do). She will not always laugh at your jokes or understand what you’re talking about when you quote Snoop Dogg. You don’t really understand either why your Chinese girl is so obsessed with QiongYao’s novels or why she claims to hate the Japanese when she’s never even met a Japanese person.

While these differences in background are part of what make international marriage unique and wonderful, lacking shared cultural reference points can sometimes make you feel disconnected from your partner. You may feel lonely even though you’re in a relationship, and the thought may even cross your mind that life would just be so much easier if you could be with someone who really “gets” you.

4) Clashing Philosophies
There will be times when, due to your cultural differences, your Chinese partner’s ideas and your’s completely clash and you cannot find a common ground. Say your Chinese wife is pregnant with your first child and she declares to you that after the baby is born she’ll be sending it back to the village to be raised by her parents until you both are ready to look after it in oh, three years or so. To most foreigners the very idea is completely unheard of. ‘Who does that?!’, you might think. Well, many Chinese people do. Or, say you’re ill but you know you just need to drink a lot of water, rest for a few days, and maybe pop a few tylenol, but your Chinese girlfriend insists you need to go the hospital for an expensive and uncomfortable I.V. You agree the first few times because it is sweet that he cares, but every time you have a cold you end up with an IV and you’re starting to worry that you’re becoming immune to antibiotics anyhow. But this is the Chinese way.

Do these challenges scare you?
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