What do you think when you see a white Western man with an Asian woman? Perhaps if I asked you this question whilst hand in hand with my Korean wife your response might be something like, Nothing different to any other couple. I would love to believe that this is honestly true, however, my experiences since being with my wife do not reinforce this nice idea. Not even talking about the racists and the truly ignorant, our relationship is still viewed with suspicion in many peoples eyes. I suspect they just cannot get past the idea of slimy old men with young Thai brides.
Despite the fact that I am married to an Asian woman I cannot honestly include myself in the enlightened group just yet. When I returned to England a couple of years back, I met an acquaintance who had lived in Thailand for about the same length of time that I lived in Korea and was engaged to a Thai woman. When I first learned of this and saw them together I must admit that I found myself in a state of suspicion about their relationship. It took me a good few minutes to turn this around. They were of roughly the same age and seemed to suit each other but I was making wild assumptions about them without knowing anything about them, I was being grossly unfair. That I – a man married to an Asian woman – can judge so quickly is the power the stereotype has over peoples minds.
Stereotypes are not often without any glimmer of truth, however, and a recent trip to Thailand taught me precisely why it is present. In Bangkok, there was about a 50/50 split of some rather dodgy looking couples as in old ugly men with young Thai girls and couples of roughly the same age that seemed entirely natural. In Pattaya, on the other hand, nothing was normal-looking; it was simply weird looking older guys, sporting grey pony-tails and fat stomachs with skimpily dressed young Thai girls everywhere you looked. This is a powerful picture that not only sears deep into your psyche but it is also something that is a fit subject for jokes between friends over a few beers because, after all, it does look horrendous and quite ridiculous.
The image of the aging, beer bellied, creepy-looking guy with a petite, pretty, and young Thai girl is so ingrained onto the brain that I notice a few things are forgotten when people enter into dialogue with a mixed race couple of White and Asian decent (White man and Asian women). I have experienced this countless times personally, much to my annoyance.
Other stereotypes make their way into conversation as well and I have had all sorts of questions that regularly turn into assumptions before I can answer them properly. For example, What is your wife doing today? Cooking? Cleaning? I cant ever recall asking anyone this question or having it asked to me about ex-girlfriends of White-British ethnicity. My relationship could even become a fit subject for jokes in a way that would be taken with genuine offence with a conventional white-white (or in fact almost any other combination, including black and white) couple. Friends, of course, start to do this in good spirit after a while, but others regularly do not and expect you to take such jokes in good heart. I can remember commenting, to someone who was a little more than an acquaintance, on how good-looking a girl was that passing us, he disagreed and replied, Well, you do have strange taste in women. I was tempted to ask what exactly he meant but I decided not to rise to the many back-handed comments I received like this. I would not dream of saying such a thing about another mans wife, but it seemed fair-game for many people because my wife was Asian.
The other really frustrating element to being an White man Asian woman couple is that you experience prejudice from opposite directions. When I am in England I am the sleazy Western man who cant find a woman in my own country, so I bought an Asian, and in Korea, my wife is the dirty, easy, Korean slut who just wants sex, money or wants to learn more English. I suspect that these assumptions are matched in other countries both Western and Asian and not just in Korea and England. The subject of love is utterly lost when the eyes of others appear to show the inner-workings of their thought processes in trying to figure out just what is going on between my wife and I. Even friends take a while in breaking the barriers of stereotypes and working out just what really brought us together. Thankfully, in my case, their puzzlement did not last too long. It really is no mystery; our relationship most probably evolved in roughly the same way as anyone else’s.
It is probably important not to let the minds of others affect you too much in this regard. Because I have had the same thoughts and feelings when seeing White men with Asian women, I can understand how they come about. It is an association made out of simple ignorance all round. The purest sense of ignorance is that people know nothing about the private relationships of others, we cannot know what is going on in other peoples heads and we don’t know how they really feel. This alone suggests that we give all except the most obviously suspicious couples the benefit of the doubt, checking our naturally suspicious and gossipy attitudes. There is ignorance present in the West about Asia generally as well. It is nowhere near as poor as people assume it to be and much of it quite rich. Asia is also a vast continent with a variety of different cultures that do not easily fit into one box. An assumption of the behaviour and thinking of one culture cannot be accurately translated to the rest. These factors also relate to how some people from different Asian countries view Westerners as well, the term Western again covering a range of equally diverse cultures and countries.
So, do women in Asia generally value the size of a mans bank account? Yes, sure they do, but I have not met too many women from any culture that wouldn’t factor this into the appeal of a man. Are Western men almost always looking for sex and a pretty face? Yes, definitely, but I have not met too many Asian men that I cant say this of either. This is not to say that there aren’t large differences between us all but in many respects attitudes in the world are beginning to start coinciding, and when it comes to the art of attraction I think it is remarkably similar across most cultures, it is just that socio-economic differences have been so vast until recent times and now the rest of the world is catching-up with the West. Times are changing and with this attitudes must also. Although the old stories of Asian women marrying purely for money and security still occur, the fact is many Westerners are now living and working in Asia and genuine relationships are widespread.
Maybe we can even begin to sympathize with the stereotypical old, ugly, overweight Western man with the young Thai bride. Can we acknowledge that Thailand might be top of our list of places to go if we are old, lonely and perhaps a little unattractive and socially inept? The thought of a young and attractive Thai woman looking after you might not be such a disgusting idea after all. If we were a young, poor woman and had family members to take care of as is the case with many families in South East Asia, especially in the past could we blame ourselves for giving up on the idea of true love and a normal relationship to guarantee some security for ourselves and our family in the future? This can be an issue of life and death for some people and their families as healthcare doesn’t pay for itself. What would you do in the same situations? In a perfect world this kind of thing wouldn’t happen, but the news just in is that the world is not going exactly according to plan.
This classic stereotype may even disappear as it explores new grounds and former developing countries become richer. In Korea, a social stigma is starting to be created that is similar to what we have in the West. There is a trend for Korean men, who cant find wives in Korea, to go outside the country to find wives, with women from the Philippines and Vietnam being highly popular. Maybe this could even start becoming more favourable to some South East Asians than relationships with Western men because of the similarities in their cultures and a closer proximity to their country of birth. The desirability for pure Korean blood-lines mean these people face some prejudice and, unfortunately, their children also often bear the brunt of significant discrimination and bullying. Despite the fact that it could be true that these are just desperate people coming together and it is not for pure love, shouldn’t we all be giving them the benefit of the doubt? Maybe they weren’t desperate, they could have met each other on vacation or while working and fallen madly in love. Perhaps they could have been desperate originally but found themselves kindred spirits anyway, or they could be desperate, but so what? None of us know the truth behind almost all of the circumstances behind these relationships, so who are we to judge?
I look forward to the day my wife and I stop receiving stares of disgust in her country and back-handed, ignorant comments in mine but I am realistic and I realise that this is a stereotype that is going to linger. With the increasing wealth of the East, it could be that these attitudes will disappear in time as the advantages of Asian women marrying Western men become weaker and weaker, surely they will increasingly stay at home and marry within their own culture. Could there even be a day that White Western women start becoming interested in rich Far East Asian men? This is perhaps unlikely and more to do with culture than anything else. I suspect the popularity of White Western men with Asian women is not only to do with wallets but increasingly especially in Far East Asia to do with how they are treated by men in their own, still rather patriarchal, countries. At the end of the day, though, men are attracted to women and women to men, regardless of race sometimes they will just get it on and hit it off, no explanation needed.