at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Blogging a China Relationship – Chinese Characteristics, Indeed

As everywhere, there are lots of stereotypes about people from different places. Hunan, as I recently came across, is said to produce good politicians – because Hunan people will first hold back and listen, rather than simply blurt out their own view.

Of course, Chinese in general aren’t exactly known for their liberal stories about personal life. Sure, a foreigner may be asked about his salary right after “where are you from?” and “what are you doing here?” (it has happened to me). Chinese also feel free to comment on foreigner’s foreignness and everybody’s apparent physical attributes – a fat person will be called a fat person, and you are somewhat fat very quickly, to Chinese eyes.

Interestingly, this openness seems to translate to the blogosphere rather too well. Opinions which might not be freely voiced in real life (yes, yes, also because you aren’t supposed to, and so on) will be debated vocally on-line, anonymously, and in strong language. Chinese who take foreign citizenship, Chinese women who are with foreign men, the few Chinese men who are with foreign women, officials who are corrupt and womanizing, women who are not acting like the demure Oriental fairies even Chinese (or particularly them?) seem to expect, children who want to grow up to become a corrupt official… you name it, it’s fair game (check ChinaSmack or ChinaHUSH for English translations of such stories).

Private life is just that, however. Private.

In part, that’s the factor explaining why the majority of blog posts I have been publishing here have been commentaries published elsewhere, too. I’m not Chinese, but I’m still rather private. My parents and I see it as a good thing that we can talk about nearly anything, and of course I have seen them kiss and say I love you to each other often enough. – Not something the typical Chinese child will see. It’s at least unlikely even for Chinese children and their parents to talk about things that are too private, except in circuitous ways.
This mixture of openness and reluctance makes blogging an interesting exercise:

Jocelyn, for example, is pretty forthcoming (at least at a certain distance in time) about her life – and her relationship with a Chinese man is basically the raison d’etre of her blog; Ellis strikes a balance that works in her case, telling personal stories to the extent to which she wants to, and making it so that you would have to know her pretty well to know who else she is talking about when things get into rather private matters.

In my case, it may be interesting to hear more about personal life, as I am in a relationship with a Chinese woman and it’s providing all new insight. There are rather too many people around here who know of the relationship and do not need to have their fantasies fed (they seem to run somewhat wild anyways, it seems – or so I can assume – and without much basis). I am also not willing to lay open details of the relationship to the whole world simply because I would not want to do that (and my girlfriend, much less so) – but, of course, it is a great influence on the topics I think and write about, and in the China-related virtual circles there is rather too much that is out of balance. Particularly when it comes to discussions about relationships, whether it be that of China and other countries, or Chinese people and non-Chinese ones.

Balance. Maybe that’s the key word. Isn’t that what makes for good relationships, good lives even? So, how about that for a guideline: more that is personal, but nothing that is (too) private?


Karate Kid Goes China, I wonder


Yellow Fever, and other ways of not seeing the world

1 Comment

  1. Great post, Gerald, and it is a tricky thing to keep the balance. I think it’s easier for me to write more personally because I have some distance from the material. But I can tell you, when I was living it, I had an extremely hard time opening up because of my closeness (in time and place).

    I couldn’t agree more that truly personal writing is the most engaging thing there is. Personal never has to mean too private. And sometimes going too private can have repercussions for all of us (as you have suggested above).

    Besides, I think you offer a much-needed voice to the blogosphere. I am really tired of hearing from foreign men blinded by yellow fever — you, on the other hand, offer a more nuanced and balanced approach.

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