Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

How Chinese Students Do Valentine’s Day

30 Chinese students sat before me, waiting with baited breath for my answer.


“My most romantic Valentine’s Day. You guys really want to know?” I asked hesitantly. Many of them eagerly nodded their heads. I stuttered and then gave them a story about a Valentine’s Day I had during a relationship. I finished explaining and asked them for their romantic Valentine’s Day stories. No one offered a hand. Either they didn’t have romantic stories, or they were too shy to share — both were plausible.


“Really?” I asked. “No one?” In response, the students pointed at my Chinese teaching assistant, the one who had originally asked me the question about my most romantic Valentine’s Day. Dicken smiled coyly and then talked about his most recent Valentine’s Day.


“I bought a train ticket and visited my girlfriend in her hometown.” Valentine’s Day occurs between the Chinese school year semesters, so all the Chinese students are at home during this holiday. Dicken added, “My parents didn’t know.” The whole class gasped. Travelling to another city to visit a secret girlfriend was a very daring thing to do.


He then added the information that she was his second girlfriend, a shocking revelation for a class that consisted solely of Chinese college freshmen. After the class was over, Dicken explained his first dating experience to me, confessing that it had taken the form of an illicit high school relationship.


The relationship was “impressive, but it didn’t work out,” he said. He was 15 and had a crush on a schoolmate, but when it turned out to be an unrequited love, his first girlfriend was the one friend there to comfort him. Eventually, the two of them would turn romantic, telling their friends but keeping the information strictly out of the hands of their teachers and parents — authority figures who would have put an end to the budding romance. What would have happened if Dicken and his girlfriend hadn’t listened to their elders?


“They will watch you very closely,” said Dicken.


The pressure to study reaches a zenith in high school as Chinese students prepare for the gaokao, the national college entrance examination. The last thing parents and teachers want is for their students to date.


But that doesn’t deter them from doing so. Dicken estimated that 30 to 40 percent of his high school classmates had dated. The problem was that high school was, “completely not romantic.” Dicken and his girlfriend struggled to find time to be a couple during school days with classes and homework that lasted from 6:30 a.m. to midnight. They were able to see some movies on the weekend, but eventually the short relationship fizzled out. Two months after they started as a couple, she wrote him a letter confessing to him that she “didn’t feel happy in this relationship.”


Dicken reflected, “We wanted to try, but [at the time] we had no idea about how to be together.” Dicken continued, “Because it’s a morally wrong thing to have a relationship [in high school]. People try to keep us away from it. But we just want to try.” He concluded, “It’s very naive.”


Chinese high school students have no model for what a relationship should look like, so they turn to media, which Dickens describes as the place “exactly where we can try to learn.” But the relationships on TV are either “sad or romantic,” and there are “very few [shows] about love between teenagers.”

Though Dicken was unable to reach a deeper level in his high school relationship, he has found what he was looking for in his second relationship. He met his current girlfriend a year ago during a student union meeting. They would text each other and find excuses to meet up, until one day he took her hiking on Xiangshan, a beautiful nearby mountain. He had injured his leg while playing basketball, so she took his hand to help him along. He turned toward her and told her, “I want to hold your hands forever.”


A year later, both Dicken and his girlfriend have still not told their parents, whom he describes as “very conservative.” Dicken’s parents want Dicken to wait to date until he has graduated and found a job. “They want me to only start dating when I’m totally ready for marriage.”


But he has other plans. “If I accepted their opinion, then I would have a very boring life,” he said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *