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Asian Dating

Issues of Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Expectations

I was reminded recently that Asian shame permeates in the world of Asian-American dating when it comes to parental and family expectations in our choices of dating and marriage partners.

First is the more obvious and blatant contempt for dating outside your race such as a friend who dated a white woman and his family ostracized her by not talking to her during the first few years of their courtship and even into their marriage. But there are just as many issues for dating outside your ethnicity (e.g. Chinese dating Japanese, Korean dating non-Koreans, etc.). One Chinese-American woman was told in no uncertain terms by her father she was not allowed to date Japanese or risk being disowned by her family. It gets even more complicated if you’re Taiwanese (family originally from Taiwan) and dating someone who’s Taiwanese (but family is originally from China). In its extreme form, I've heard several stories of mothers threathening to commit suicide if their sons stayed with their girlfriends from a different ethnicity.

When it comes to cultural expectations, Asian parents have a desire to not also want their children to marry within their ethnicity but also to have them fit into their own professional preferences and Asian STEM (careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) stereotypes. In one scenario, a mother disapproved of her son’s dating choice despite being of the same Asian ethnicity when she learned of the woman’s SAT score (she was graduating from college at the time). Apparently, the mother that her son’s girlfriend’s score was too low and would affect the potential to have smart children. In another all-too-common situation is one where the daughter is dating a man who the family feels isn’t working a typical job that has enough prestige for them (i.e. a blue-collar job or a job with limited Asian social status or income).

What’s disheartening is how insidious these thoughts and feelings permeate the Asian-American experience. The Asian shame felt in these situations is not one from exclusion from the mainstream American culture but one from within. The hurt and damage is therefore oftentimes much more painful and hidden from the rest of society to see.

More from Sam Louie MA, LMHC, CSAT
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