Love is elusive for Chinese students

Updated: 2015-03-13 13:00

By Niu Yue in New York(China Daily USA)

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"Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" "When are you going to get married?"

Such are common questions older people ask younger ones during family get-togethers in China and a common headache among Chinese youth, who are busier with education and career and more careful in seeking a satisfactory relationship.

The problem can be even worse for overseas Chinese students in the United States. There were 300,000 students from China studying in the US in the 2013/14 school year, but the population pool still seems too small for romance.

"The Chinese circle in the US is actually very small," said Chu Rui, a graduate student at Penn. "It's not hard to find people to hangout out with, but you'll find the people are all the same in the end."

Extending the dating circle outside Chinese is difficult due to cultural and language barriers, according to Chinese international students who spoke with China Daily.

"Chinese are too introverted. When foreigners approach them, they often feel embarrassed," said Chu.

Most Chinese international students prefer to keep to themselves and do not engage with Americans, said Anna Lu, an American-born Chinese woman studying at NYU. Even as a Chinese American, she still has limited interaction with Chinese students.

"I don't know why," said Lu. "Maybe they still feel: 'I am different, even though my Mandarin is not bad'. For other ethnicities, it is [less possible]. Chinese students are shy, but in the United States, if you don't speak out, we won't help you."

Dating culture in the US is different from China, said Zhao Qinghua, founder of 2RedBeans, a dating website for Chinese living in the US. "Dating withmultiple men/women concurrently is unacceptable," Zhao said. "There's very little 'dating around' in the Chinese community."

Chinese men also often "do not know how to express themselves or open up to show how amazing they are, especially on the first date," Zhao added. "This leads to the impression that they are less interesting people when you first meet them."

2RedBeans also finds US citizens and green card holders are more popular than aliens, a sign that Chinese living in the US want stability, something Chinese have to worry about when dating in the US.

"They are living in high instability. Will they stay or will they leave?" said Lina Mei, a jewelry dealer and a community activist in Flushing, Queens, who has held more than 30 monthly dating parties for local Chinese.

"In many cases, people start dating after my event, then one of them goes back to China, and the relationship is done," she said.

Chinese international students can work in the United States using a student visa (F-1) during the optional practical training (OPT) of 12 to 29 months.

Afterwards, they have to find a company that will provide them with a working visa (H1-B) to work legally in the US. For fiscal year 2015, there were 85,000 H1-B visas available and 172,500 applicants. Applicants go through a lottery process, so it's all up to luck.

The barrier has stopped many Chinese from falling in love. "As you step into your 20s, you get mature and think more about the future," said Li Yichen, a graduate student at Columbia University. "I want to go further, to marriage."

The 6-foot-tall, gym-going gent doesn't lack female friends, and he has seen girls of his type. However, he has not started to date seriously yet. "When I think of the future prospects with her or life goals of two individuals," he said, "we might not really fit."

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 03/13/2015 page1)