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Shanghai romance, across cultures

Couples from all cultural backgrounds live, work and fall in love in Shanghai. Sharing a life with someone from a different culture can be both amazing and challenging. Shanghai Daily photographers Wang Rongjiang, Zhangsuoqing and Dong Jun question four couples about how they met, and how they live and love.


Ding Yifan, 20, from Rizhao, Shandong Province.
Sabrina Green, 19, from Baltimore, United States. Both are students at NYU Shanghai University.

What is your most cherished memory?
Ding: Last year, Sabrina and I went back to my hometown, a small and remote village in Rizhao. She was the first foreigner ever to visit it. Even the village chief came over to say hi. It was the first time for Sabrina to discover that part of China. There are no electric lights in the village at night, but Sabrina said she saw the most beautiful stars there.
What is the cultural difference that has bothered you most?
Ding: Whenever I make any big decisions, I ask my parents for advice. But Sabrina is very independent and basically does what she wants. Her parents often support her decisions.

How will you spend Valentine’s Day?
Ding: I’ll take Sabrina to watch the sunrise back in my hometown. There is a saying there that if you love someone, you must take her to watch a sunrise.


Joan Huang, 28, from Changzhou, Jiangsu Province.
Alex Karaivanov, 27, from Bulgaria, chess teacher.

Joan and Alex have been married for five years and live with their parrot Gaga. They are expecting their first baby in August.

How did you meet?
Joan: We got to know each other through Facebook six years ago. After chatting for a year online, Alex came to China to meet me. Then we got married and he settled down in Shanghai.

What attracted you to one another?
Joan: He is handsome, pure and responsible.
Alex: At first, I fell for her exotic look. Later I found out she was also fun and we could talk about all topics. And we share a love of chess.

What is the cultural difference that has bothered you most?
Joan: Mostly the food he eats and the time he eats it.

How will you spend Valentine’s Day?
Alex: We will go to her favorite Korean restaurant.


Yang Yang, 32, content director for an Internet company.
David Costa, 36, from Spain, business development manager at Yougov.

How did you meet each other?
Yang: We met each other about 18 months ago through a Chinese dating website.

What language do you use when you quarrel with each other?
Yang: Both, it’s more interesting and we are both fluent anyway.

How will you spend Valentine’s Day?
David: The way she prefers it, with a nice dinner at her favorite restaurant. I’ll also get her some nice presents as a token of my love. We will take our daughter because I love them equally.


Yuan Fanglai, 36, executive.
Nicolas Coster, 35, from France, law office worker.

How did you meet each other?
Yuan: We met in 2002 at the University of East Anglia in Norwich in England. It was a blind date. I was instantly attracted by his blond hair and queer accent.
Nicolas: I have never dated an Asian woman before. Meeting her has broadened my world.

What is the cultural difference that has bothered you most?
Nicolas: Chinese people have too many relatives and we have to buy too many presents for them whenever we go on vacation.
Yuan: Whenever I remind him to put on more clothes, he thinks I’m meddling. It can be a bit hurtful.

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