Monday, February 4, 2013

Dating a Chinese Woman Need Not Be Dull

It can be safe to generalize that conservative cultures do not leave much room for humor. Tending to preserve what is conventional, being inflexible, resisting change, and limiting creativity, humor is often stifled, and laughing at the expense of oneself or others is actually considered rude, more often than not. China, with a society founded on deep-rooted traditions, and having a Communist government to boot, is as uncomical as they come, right? This, by extension, would mean that dating a Chinese woman would be a dull experience, correct?

As Peter Vernezze related in his CLM blog, Chinese women have their own brand of humor, based on his own experiences. Of course, an outsider would have to have a certain degree of understanding of Chinese culture or a certain level of open-mindedness, or both, to know how to properly respond to Chinese humor. Even with a working knowledge of the Chinese language, a foreigner would still have to know to put any humorous comment coming from a Chinese in its proper context, that is within the workings of current events in Chinese society or of Chinese history, to avoid an awkward situation involving a complete lack of any response or, worse, replying with bias and an offensive or defensive stance.

Laughter is supposed to be a universal language, but humor comes in different shapes and sizes. Even within the same culture, local brands of humor exist and which only insiders can relate to, hence the phrase "inside joke." When in a foreign country with a foreign language, one can understand the words but their meaning, or the joke, may be lost in translation or just a lack of understanding of the local culture. It can be a frustrating situation to be in. It can be even be embarrassing when you don't know when it is proper to laugh and when it is not. There are a few important things any westerner in China should remember and would find very helpful when in such situations.

Whether or not the exchange is in English, if you understand the Chinese language well enough, you can engage in question-and-answer jokes, which are common in China. The trick is to have a witty, surprising, or even sarcastic answer to the question. Here is an example: Q: How does every Chinese joke start? A: By looking over your shoulder.

While censorship by the government is still alive and well in China, albeit a bit scaled back, and rebellious forms of comedy may still be unacceptable in Chinese society, people have found a way to use sarcastic, exaggerated, or cynical humor to express their complaints and criticisms without being considered subversive. For example, here is one joke made about Chinese youth born to rich parents and which points to a serious issue: Son: "Dad, I have a problem. I just came to Germany, but I can't seem to fit in. I am the only kid in my class who drives a Benz to school. My classmates take the train." Dad: "It's okay, I just transferred 5 million Euros to your account. Go buy a train."

Then there are jokes that are not supposed to be funny at all and are not told to produce laughter. Such a joke is called a "cold joke" and is akin to what westerners know as "distasteful" humor or, simply put, a bad joke that would make one groan instead of laugh. Here's a good (or bad) example: A mom dad and baby tomato are walking down the street and the baby starts to lag behind so the dad goes back and smashes the baby and says "ketchup."

In the west, if you have to explain a joke, then it wouldn't be funny anymore. As one article on pointed out, in China, explaining the joke actually makes it funnier to the listeners. The explanation of the punch line actually becomes a secondary punch line or an extension of the joke. The writer, John, gives as an example one such joke delivered by stand-up comedian Zhou Libo. In one of his stand-up shows in Shanghai, he joked about China buying large amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds. "“I am really confused about why a poor guy lends money to the rich. We should just divide the money amongst ourselves,” he says. “But on a second thought, each of us would only get a couple of dollars!” Then Mr. Zhou adds: “Because the population is so big.”" (

As reserved as the Chinese can be, they still have a funny bone in their bodies, and Chinese girls may be demure, prim, and proper, but dull they most definitely are not. Find out for yourself when you learn more about the colorful culture and traditions of China and the many interesting attributes of Chinese women at

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