Archive for the Intercultural relationships Category

Cute but whiny? It’s “sajiao” [China Daily]

Posted in China, Intercultural relationships on May 23, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

How did I get along before experiencing “sajiao” in my life?

“Sajiao” [撒娇] or “unleashing coquettishness” is a kind of hard-to-describe childish,  fetching behavior by some Chinese ladies for the benefit of their significant others involving sulky posturing, batting of eyelashes, a bit of a wheedling voice…and much more.  I’ve found it amusing when coming from my significant other, it makes me laugh as it’s basically playful.  But it’s not for everybody…

I’ve been treated to “sajiao” for a few years but never knew it had a name, until now.

Incidentally, I’ve been told that this foreign writer is wrong in saying that all Chinese men want and love “sajiao”; apparently it is definitely not appreciated by all of them.

2010-05-10 by Joseph Christian

For all that has been written about cross cultural relationships I am really surprised no one has really mentioned sajiao.  Of course there are a lot of cultural differences that influence any romantic relationship between a Chinese and a Westerner but in my opinion none as often, or as much, as sajiao.

So what is sajiao? It’s not as easy to answer as you might think. Chinese people know what it is because it’s such a big part of their romantic and family relationships.  Almost every young Chinese man wants his woman to sajiao to him.  But if you ask them for a definition most have a hard time coming up with something precise…

…One way to describe sajiao is when Chinese women act like a cute but spoiled child in an attempt to appear gentle and soft.  The pouty faces and innocent eyes are enough to melt the heart of any Chinese man, making them ready to do anything for such an innocent and helpless looking beauty.  Which by the way brings me to another aspect of sajiao…the feminine performance of appearing weak to get what you want.

A perfect example would be when I am sitting at my computer surfing the Internet and my Chinese girlfriend is sitting across the room, right next to the water dispenser, watching TV.  She will then turn to me with a sulky face and in a childish voice ask me, “baby can you get me some water?”  From my Western perspective my first thought is, “What the hell! You are the one right next to the water dispenser…get it yourself.”   But most Chinese men would jump to their feet and rush to the water dispenser to get a fresh glass of water to reward the sajiao of their girlfriend.   While I might think it is acting spoiled, Chinese men love sajiao…

Full article here


Love lost in translation — “Sajiao” (撒娇) and other Chinese customs of affection [China Daily]

Posted in Intercultural relationships on May 22, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Qi Zhai


[I don’t agree with all the author’s sociological commentary but the introduction to Chinese modes of affection is excellent.  -S&SS]

Getting into an intercultural relationship in Beijing [or any other Chinese urban environment*] is as easy as letting an indiscriminate eye wander during a happy hour at Xiu, locating a language exchange partner on online classifieds, or logging onto the many dating websites that cater to English-speakers looking for Chinese love.

But getting into a fulfilling – not frustrating – intercultural relationship with a Chinese “other half” requires a little more thought and effort than goes into clicking a mouse.  Although the contemporary Chinese conception of romance has changed radically from a generation ago, the norms of male-female relations here are still rooted in traditional gender roles.

The Chinese view of relationships is very different, and in unexpected ways, to the pragmatic egalitarian approach [?] that Westerners are used.  A brave lover in Beijing [see “*” above]  must be prepared to accept a paradigm shift to enjoy the cross-cultural dating experience.

Forget everything you learned about love from your British boyfriend or American girlfriend and get schooled in these essential Chinese concepts of love.

Love lost in translation

First and foremost, you know you’re in a Chinese cross-cultural relationship when sajiao [撒娇] rears its pretty, or ugly, depending on your taste, little head.  This distinctive set of behaviors, perpetrated by Chinese females, often takes the unsuspecting Western male by surprise.  Sajiao is hard to define, but you’ll certainly know it when you see it.

Its literal meaning – “to unleash coquettishness” – doesn’t divulge much.  Ask a fan of Chinese coquettishness and he will probably tell you that he just “can’t get enough of the stuff”, referring to the feminine voice, tender gestures, and girlish protestations.  Talk to someone less keen on the sajiao and he’s likely to shudder and say, “I can’t stand it!” citing the whining, clinging, and childish tantrums as just some of the annoying features of sajiao.

Why does sajiao produce such polarized opinions? I think it’s because the behavior involved is based on gender norms that are completely opposed to Western post-feminist social sensibilities.

To better understand sajiao, and, hence, to better understand why your Chinese girlfriend sometimes acts like a spoiled child, or understand what kind of feminine mystique your Chinese boyfriend is looking for from you, you should familiarize yourself with a few other key Chinese relationship concepts.

One of the fundamental concepts in a Chinese relationship is zhaogu [照顾], or “taking care of”.  Although Chinese women take care of their men, the implicit and explicit cultural consensus is that it is a man’s job to take care of his woman with the attentiveness of a father doting on his little girl.  Therefore, sajiao manifests as a means of inducing zhaogu behavior when it is lacking, or to pander the male ego as a reward.

Taking zhaogu a step further, some Chinese other halves strongly believe in “spoiling” – guan [关?]. I t’s not uncommon to hear Chinese girlfriends asking their western boyfriends to spoil them.  While the request sounds unreasonably absurd in English, in the Chinese language and to the Chinese frame of mind, it’s as natural as asking your partner for “support.”

Thus, you see Chinese men willingly shelling out for gifts, entertainment, and otherwise indulgencing their ladies.  This social norm can be a source of tension for the intercultural couple.  Western men may find the request for “spoiling” a little too materialistic, while Western women can take the lavish attention as chauvinistic or overbearing.

Before the age of the market economy and commercialized love, there was a more tender version of guan that served as a Chinese relationship norm.  It was known as xinteng [心疼], or heartache.  To have your heart ache for someone in the Chinese romantic sense is to love them so dearly that you feel compelled to do small caring things for them, from pouring a glass of water, to offering a piggyback ride when she’s tired.

Again, from a pragmatic Western perspective, even xinteng can appear excessively pandering.  But from a Chinese perspective, when you do something without being asked to do it, it shows that your heart truly aches for someone.

Now that I’ve explained a few basics of Chinese dating, the cultural experimental daters can decide for themselves whether sajiao, zhaogu, guan and xinteng are right for them. If things don’t go well on these fronts, don’t be surprised to hear your Chinese other half complaining of feeling weiqu [委屈] – indignation at being wronged and mistreated.

Article link here