Last week I went out to a dance club with some new foreign friends. We’re all teachers and—like most teachers in China—we know how to party. The night’s agenda was simple: chug a few Tsingdaos and try not to look too inept at dancing. Everything was going swimmingly.
Well it turns out that my inhibition-less dance skills attracted the attention of a young Chinese girl sitting in a booth nearby. She approached me and, yelling over the din of the booming stereo, asked me to come sit by her for a moment. I obliged, of course.
She was really cute, at least from what I could tell in the dark club. Her english was decent, which is always a good sign. She legitimately seemed into me and I was digging her. She had to leave so she asked me for my phone number and we said our goodbyes. I returned to slaying the dance floor and she left the club.
We exchanged texts after the fateful night. She wanted to see me again and I wanted to see her again, partly out of curiosity because I couldn’t remember if she was smoking hot or if it was just all the Tsingdao in my system. Since this is China—and Facebook doesn’t exist—we got each other’s QQ account numbers and started communicating via the Chinese ripoff of Facebook.
I asked her if she wanted to meet for dinner this week. She agreed and the date was set. This wasn’t my first date with a Chinese girl, so I (sort-of) knew what I was doing. It was going to be a nice romantic evening, I thought.
The night finally came. I suggested we meet at a big shopping center between both of our homes, then we would take a taxi to a small barbecue restaurant that I know and like. I was on the bus heading toward the meeting place when I received a text message. “Where are you?” She was there fifteen minutes early. A little eager, I guess.
So I showed up—four minutes earlier than originally scheduled—to where she was already waiting for me at the 24-hour KFC. I was nervous because I couldn’t exactly remember her face and I was about to attempt to identify her in a crowded place. I worried for nothing because she flagged me down the moment I walked in. To say that I’m recognizable in China is a gross understatement.
Ugh. Just as I suspected. She was with a friend. The last date I went on with a Chinese girl, she brought two of her friends, so I guess one friend isn’t that bad. She introduced the third wheel as her much-better-at-speaking-english friend. That’s a common thing when going on dates with Chinese girls, I’ve gathered.
We left the romantic KFC and got in a taxi to head to my favorite restaurant. We sat down at the restaurant and ordered some dynamite food-on-a-stick and beer.
I was impressed with myself. She was even hotter than I remembered. The conversation was flowing, partly due to the help of her english-speaking friend. We laughed, we talked, she invited me to be in her selfies that all Chinese women love to take. Yep, my date was into me, and she’s definitely girlfriend material.
Her friend finally went to the bathroom so it was just me and her at the table. I was silently rapping Eminem’s Lose Yourself in my head, getting focused. This was my chance, I thought, as I leaned closer and casually asked her if she had a boyfriend. In a very matter-of-fact way, she said yes, they will get married in March. All the butterflies in my stomach died. Nope, she was not into me.
Her friend came back from the restroom and rejoined us. The conversation shifted to talking about how long my Chinese date and her boyfriend had been together, when they are getting married and how excited she is about it. I was not amused.
As I pretended to care about her and her boyfriend while our third wheel played the translator, my mind was exclusively focused on how much food I could eat without my stomach rupturing. I contributed to the conversation by chewing and nodding. We left in separate taxis and returned to our normal lives again after that dinner.
I was “friend-zoned”
Looking back, I’m not upset about the date. She told me that she’d never had dinner with a foreigner before, and that it was a very entertaining experience. For her I was an exciting new foreign friend, not a potential flame. It was my fault for projecting western dating beliefs onto her.
Honestly, it’s very easy to go on a date with a girl in China. I’ve gotten a girl’s phone number 100% of the time when I’ve asked for it. But in my city—which isn’t as westernized as Shanghai, Beijing and the likes—the women don’t view dating the same way as we do in the west. The ritual of exchanging phone numbers doesn’t carry the same weight.
In America, when a guy asks for a girl’s phone number, most of the time, it’s because he’s into her. Western girls understand this, and they’re selective about who they give their number to. But when people ask for each other’s phone numbers in China, its often just a harmless exchange of digits necessary to begin cultivating a new friendship. When I think about how my date approached me and asked for my number at the club that night, it all makes sense.
Because I’m a foreigner, Chinese girls approach me all the time to give me their QQ numbers or phone numbers. I’m thinking, hell yeah, this girl wants me, but in reality, she probably isn’t as attracted to me as she is fascinated by my foreign-ness. She just wants to practice her english and she views me as a potential new friend to include in her frequent selfies and impress her Chinese friends with.
As a foreigner, making friends is a piece of cake in China. But finding a hot girl who actually wants to date a foreigner is a whole different ballgame. I’m sure that it’s more feasible in Shanghai and Beijing, where the young Chinese women’s minds are tainted by tempting western ideology. Here in Rizhao, I guess I’m just viewed as a foreign guy dwelling comfortably in the friend zone.