friendship

"I’m a white guy and I am married to an Australian Chinese girl."

Image: Supplied.

By Jeffrey Charles

I’m in an interracial marriage.

I’m a white guy. A white guy who goes all the way back to the First Fleet. And I am married to an Australian Chinese girl.

This is what you’d see if you saw us walking down the street: a white guy that looks like a vampire, next to a petite Asian girl and a baby that’s a mix of the two of us. What would you think about us?

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I’ll give you an insider’s perspective.

Many assume that I have a fetish for Asian women. This fetish is also known as ‘yellow fever’. I’ve heard this term from Asian and white people. ‘Yellow fever’ is the colloquial (and kind of racist) term for anyone non-Asian who is crazy about Asian people.

People often think Jeff has "yellow fever". Image supplied.

I don’t think I have ‘yellow fever’. I’ve dated white girls. I’ve been attracted to women from many different ethnic groups. I find the term to be sort of offensive and racist. Like there’s something abnormal about me being married to a Chinese woman. I haven’t gone on a rant when I’ve received this question, but I do think less of people that ask me the question.

Another question I’ve been asked is: Are you an ‘Egg’? That is, white on the outside, yellow on the inside. I’m not an ‘egg’. I like Chinese culture, but I’m not trying to be Asian.

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Unfortunately, I get other kinds of racist of racist propositions and questions. On several occasions I’ve been asked to make friends with someone’s brother because that person is also ‘married to an Asian’. It’s as if I’ve met every Asian person in the world, and I’ve never even been to China.

Many assume that my wife Carla can’t speak English, just by looking at her. Chinese people will often start speaking to my wife in Mandarin or Cantonese and they sometimes give her a hard time because she can’t speak those languages. (Post continues after gallery.)

I did become briefly obsessed with learning Chinese, because I wanted to impress some of wife’s family. This made me look great, even though I gave up learning after two months. My wife eventually got me back when she tricked me into ordering something using a Cantonese word at yum cha and everyone laughed at me. Apparently I was ordering a ‘poo’. Serves me right for being a smart-arse.

There have been a few incidents where we haven’t been accepted, such as the time we were in Chinatown in Adelaide and some Chinese girls pointed at me, laughed and called me a ‘gweilo’ (a racist term which roughly translates in Cantonese to ‘dead ghost man’).

It didn’t really bother me, but it really bothered Carla.

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There was another time when we were searching for a rental apartment and the real estate agent looked at me and said, “Jeff, we’ll need a copy of your passport”. The lady then turned to my wife and said, “You’ll also need to bring your visa”, even though Carla was born in Australia and has a thick Australian accent.

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We didn’t say anything back, because we wanted the apartment. But to this day, I’m still angry at myself that I didn’t tell the lady off for being a presumptuous pig. I understand that there are lots of people who are born overseas and live in Sydney, but come on real estate lady. Chinese people have been living in Australia since the Gold Rush.

Jeff and Carla when they first started dating. Image supplied.

But overall, I’ve been lucky that we haven’t experienced too many overtly racist comments. In the scheme of things this isn’t too bad, because some couples deal with some really ugly situations.

One of the most fascinating elements of being in an interracial relationship is seeing and experiencing a different culture. And this isn’t just about exciting cultural traditions, such as Chinese New Year and the Mid Autumn Moon festival, even though those are awesome.

My experience with Chinese culture is limited to interacting with my wife’s lovely family, so I can’t (and shouldn’t) speak about Chinese culture in a universal sense. What I have observed is that everyone in wife’s family works very, very hard at everything they do.

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Carla will often say – in a nice way – that I’m lazy, and that I need to be “more Asian”. I’m okay with this because it’s true. I’m quite happy to spend Friday nights chopping between the cricket, rugby and two different action movies.

What does Carla mean when she says I should be "more Asian"? Carla says “It means you should use the majority of your spare time to pursue your interests and develop your skills in something you love, because my relatives that migrated to Australia had to work hard for absolutely everything. You can’t take anything for granted if you’re lucky enough to be born in this wonderful country.”

Some wise words from Carla. Image supplied.

Carla is always doing things. I’ve learnt to use my time in a similarly productive way since being married. I used to always talk about writing, doing comedy, making a podcast and it was Carla who told me that “no-one’s going to give you your own comedy show, you’ve gotta go and do it yourself”. Good work ethic. Good advice.

Despite the fact that my wife has a way better work ethic, we don’t have a lot of differences. We share the same core values when it comes to most of the hot button topics like politics, race and religion.

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We’re ethnically different, but we’re on the same page with most of the big things in life. And that’s what’s truly important to me – sharing the same values with the love of my life, instead of sharing the same race.

I love my wife and it so happens that she’s Chinese. The fact that she can cook awesome Chinese food is a massive bonus.

Do you and your partner come from different backgrounds?