I recently came across a few blog posts about dating in China--in particular, one at ShanghaiShiok caught my attention. And I realized I never wrote about my experience of dating Jia (though I use the term "date" loosely).
Jia and I began our relationship as co-workers and friends. She took it upon herself to plan a few weekend excursions around Shenzhen with Winnipeg and me. Of course, office gossip caught up with our friendly relationship--oddly enough, I wasn't the foreigner mentioned in the gossip.
By the time our relationship turned romantic (about a month after my arrival in China), we decided to keep things quiet. It sounded like a good idea, as I didn't know where it might lead. A month later it was apparent that we made the right decision to keep it quiet--Jia's boss warned her about hanging around foreigners. In a staff meeting for our Chinese colleagues, the boss made some veiled threats of termination if the Chinese staff spent time with the foreign staff outside school-approved activities. Not wanting to end our relationship, Jia and I kept it a secret.
We casually met at the bus stop, avoiding anyone we might know, and pretended that it was a coincidence that we were taking the same bus to other parts of Shenzhen. Somehow, we turned these chance meetings into dates, even though I had to fight with Jia to pay the bill at restaurants. She always found a way of either paying for part of a meal or paying for something else to even things out between us.
The most difficult part of our quiet relationship was explaining my travels. I took some impressive trips that first year, and had to claim that I took them alone (as well as hiding photos with Jia while using the school computers to email home).
We maintained our secret for the first seven months, though a few of the foreign staff guessed there was something going on (in particular, the foreign couple we kept running into late at night, which forced me to make up some lame excuses). Even after the summer, our relationship was kept quiet from the Chinese staff--even the other foreign teachers knew not to mention it.