One day in March 2013 my fiancé and I go to the hospital to see a Chinese doctor. We sit down to tell her my ailments and while she feels my pulse my fiancé starts chatting with her.
Y: “Are you from Henan? The way you speak sounds like Henan-dialect.”
Doctor: “I am. I have left Henan for Shenzhen in the 1980s. Besides Shenzhen, I have also lived in Hong Kong.”
After a short while, she goes on: “How did you find your lovely wife? Did you meet abroad?”
Y: “The question should rather be: How did my lovely wife find me?”
Doctor: “Did you meet working at a foreign company here in China?”
Y: “Actually we met working at a Chinese company here in China.”
Doctor: “That’s great. I’d also like to find my son a foreign wife. He’s already quite old – 33 – and still hasn’t brought home a suitable wife.”
Y: “33 is still young. Look at me – my mother recently said it took me more than 30 years to find my real love. Not that I started looking for a suitable match the second I came out of my mother’s belly. Love can’t be forced – some might find it at 20, some at 40.”
Doctor: “You’re right. I’m still worried about my son. Western women make for great wives. How about you help me look for suitable matches?”
Y: “We don’t know any western single females here in Shenzhen, but we can ask around and see what we can do.”
Doctor: “Great. Can you give me your phone number? This way I can contact you. I’d really love to find my son a gweilo-wife.”
I choke upon hearing her use the word gweilo, which in its original meaning really isn’t a very friendly expression. But seeing that she doesn’t mean to be offensive, I don’t take it personally.
Y: “You know, gweilo isn’t really a nice word for describing westerners.”
Doctor: “It isn’t? Do you mean because of the word ghost (gwei)?”
Y: “Its original meaning is an insult. This Cantonese word was commonly used in a pejorative sense to describe the foreigners who invaded China during the Opium Wars. It can be translated as foreign devil.”
Doctor: “I see.”
Y: “It would be much easier for us to find someone if your son was a girl. I know a British guy who lives in Shenzhen.”
Doctor: “Actually, I do also have a daughter. She’s 13.”
Y: “Oh. That’s really young. He’s double her age.”
When the doctor is done with prescribing me medicine, she gives my fiancé her WeChat number, so we can contact her if we find a suitable match for her son.
Has anyone ever asked you to do some matchmaking?
This is part one of the conversation with the doctor. Stay tuned for part two: “You can’t like her too much.”