Love Costs Money
The author is a Russian-American woman who works and lives in Beijing
Most societies that I have encountered in my lifetime would almost certainly accept the following famously clichéd quote, “Money can’t buy love.” Most people think of marriage as a sacred love contract, and in modern East and West European, North and South American societies, individuals simply do not wish to settle for a loveless life-long partnership. We are about to discuss the kind of love that one feels towards a person who is not related through family ties. If you are a wealthy, Western male who has had a history of bad luck with love, do not despair. There is a perfect place for you with an abundance of eternal love for sale. Welcome to China!
In China the meaning of the previously mentioned quote is completely reversed. Money can indeed buy love! What is rather fascinating regarding this issue is the fact that love has acquired an entirely different definition in China. According to a Thesaurus dictionary love is defined as “an intense feeling of deep affection.” This feeling is familiar to most people as any other natural human emotion. A close friend has once explained to me in simple Chinese, “love in China carries a meaning that is different to that in the West.” Before a woman can grant her love to a man she must ask, “Can you buy me a home? And what about a car?” If the answer is “yes,” sold!
It is true that this pattern is undergoing a change. More and more Chinese women earn their own income and learn not to rely on men’s financial umbrella. Unfortunately, most Chinese women remain seeking material love.
This interesting characteristic of Chinese women has posed a small, but comical problem for Western women who reside in China and encounter Chinese men in their daily lives. One wealthy, yet physically repulsive Chinese man asked me, “What kind of cars do you like?” “Hm, let’s see, I like Porsche,” I replied. “I will buy you one, but you have to marry me!” “Well, that will never happen because I am already in love with my boyfriend and I hope to marry him!” “But, he can’t buy you a house or a car, how can you be in love him?”
What was even more frustrating is that no matter how hard I tried to explain to this man what love meant to me, he just did not understand. This was not an issue of a language barrier, but a matter of a different mindset.
It would be difficult to speculate whether this kind of a mindset will change for a few more decades. Women seem to have equal opportunities in China; some become CEO’s of corporations and succeed as business owners. Oppression over women is no longer a sufficient explanation for why so many rely on their husband for financial assurance. The fact that so many women remain dependent on fortunes from a marriage is deeply embedded in the culture, but may also have something to do with the Chinese education system, which is another immensely interesting subject to discuss.