I was having lunch with my boyfriend. Suddenly he starts talking about gallantry.

“I was talking to a friend this morning and he was complaining about the British young men because he thinks they don’t know what “gallantry” is any more. But seriously, I think it’s just old-fashioned rubbish. I would never open a car door for a girl. It feels like as if I don’t think she is capable of opening the car door. It’s an insult to her as well, isn’t it? Men and women are equal nowadays. If men do those things for women then men are not respecting women’s ability to be independent.” He said, munching the food with delight.

“Ah, no.” I disagreed, like always, “I think it’s nice that you open doors for ladies.”

“Most of the girls I know wouldn’t be happy that I open car doors for them, and I know none of my friends would do that to a girl either.” He said, with the expression of telling a universal truth.

“Yeah, because you are Dutch. Where do you think the phrase ‘go Dutch’ come from?” I was smiling, teasing him.

“Ok, do Chinese men do that then? Opening car doors for girls?” He asked with a bit frustration.

“I don’t know, but I know that a Chinese girl would love that.” I said.

He was silent for a few seconds, looking at me.

“Ok.” He said, and then he went on keeping himself busy with his food. I smiled, let the topic drop.

After lunch I was still thinking about our talk. We had similar discussions before, and they were all about him believing that women are strong and independent. It’s a good point, of course, but sometimes it just goes too far. I guess the problem is that in China we didn’t make such a big fuss about Feminism like the Western world did, so we don’t really think about gender equality that much when it comes to men doing things for women. Actually many Chinese girlfriends quite enjoy it when boys do things for them, and sometimes the girls deliberately assume the weaker of the two sexes. We even have a phrase for these kind of girls, which is a good praise: 小鸟依人(xiao niao yi ren, as a little bird rests upon a man — a timid and lovable little woman)。

So, here’s one more secret for those western men out there who have their eyes on Chinese girls: we are not as obsessed with feminism as the western girls do. If you want to do something for us but fear that it might be disrespectful in terms of gender equality, don’t worry, just do it!

  • Emily

    I would agree with above post, since my husband is also a feminist, and more than I’ll ever be. But if I may add, I think Chinese ladies after communism had already been treated like men, mostly, and most of them and the women in their families had never been treated like what a western lady had been treated before the feminism. I think that’s part of the obsession with “gentlemanliness”, and wanting to live in a Jane Austin novel, which to many western girls actually represent the repression of women in the past. However, Chinese girls definitely has no trouble at all romanticising all that 🙂 So now you know, boys.

  • chaobaozi

    Hi Mia. I want to say that your article really resonated with me. I happen to be living in the Netherlands as well, with a Chinese girlfriend. As someone who’s spent most of my life in the Netherlands, I can understand your boyfriend’s point of view very well. Feminism and equality is so pervasive here that it’s easy to mistake it for being a universal truth. However a girlfriend has shown me a different point of view, time and time again. She wants me to spoil her and treat her like a weak girl. Years of Dutch society has programmed my gut feeling to tell me that I should treat her like an independent adult, but that’s not what she wants. We’re slowly finding a middle ground. 🙂

    That being said, I have a Chinese background so I can understand this concept without too much trouble. There’s a part deep in me that tells me I *should* be a gentleman. After meeting my girlfriend, this part has only been amplified. Although Dutch social norms say that men and women should be equal, my feeling tells me that women, no matter where they are from, have a part in them that longs for the galant, gentlemanly, powerful man who can protect them. Furthermore, I believe that being gentlemanly is not mutually exclusive with respecting the girl’s independentness. Galantry can come from a position of respect.

    I can only imagine how hard it would be for a native Dutch person to enter a relationship with a Chinese girl, or even a Chinese guy. There are so many cultural assumptions and differences that stand in the way, so misunderstandings can happen quickly. Do you find yourself misunderstanding your boyfriend often? How do you deal with them?

    • Mia

      Alles goed Chaobaozi,

      Thank you for your reply. I’m happy that you found resonance in my post, and I’m happy to know that you feel the same way. You are absolutely right, gallantry can come from a position of respect!

      As for your questions. I don’t really quite often misunderstand my boyfriend because he’s very straightforward to absolutely everything, always telling the painful truth, even if he knows I wouldn’t be happy hearing them. At first it was quite annoying but after a while when I got used to it, it’s actually quite nice — because then I know he’s completely opened up to me, he would always be absolutely honest with me with everything and I trust him with all my heart, and trust is the most important thing in a relationship I think. When you trust each other, you can over come any problem. So if your girlfriend misunderstands you a lot, just talk about it, let her know what you think, how you feel, open things up, let her know she can absolutely trust you. I believe if you build up a strong foundation of trust between you, nothing would be a problem 🙂

      Veel geluk!