In Taiwan, I lived with girls that had never heard of feminism in the way that I knew it. That’s not to say that they weren’t feminists but they had never asked themselves if their situation was equal to that of the men in their country. They were expected to be good so that one day a man would marry them. Over the months that I lived with the girls and because of our girls-night-in conversations (which I imagine they thought were very mischievous) I recognized a great deal US relationship culture while learning about theirs.
I was the California girl from the movies that had already had boyfriends (plural, they noted) and shamelessly kissed boys that were never my boyfriends at all. They were raised to understand, they explained, that they were to get married to someone that was stable to please their grandparents and families. Often, they asked about relationship culture in the US. Describing the culture was much harder to do than I expected simply because of the incongruences of what we believed to be true. They took days considering the strange things that emerged from my mouth like, “You don’t have to date someone with the intent to marry them” or “Dating, for many people, is a casual experience – not an obligation”. I hadn’t realized how privileged my perspective was until I saw the reactions from girls raised on the other side of the world from me.
I think that in the US it is generally accepted that an adult woman can date whomever she wants regardless of her family’s opinion. It is also assumed that a relationship may (and perhaps should) be developed initially based on mutual feelings of attraction. In Taiwan, a relationship is supposed to be a strategic step towards an established life that would please parents and grandparents.