Having been in Beijing more or less since July of 2010 (with frequent travel to other locales, of course), I've gotten pretty acquainted with the dating scene here in China. I've been with a good number of girls, have had a few girlfriends, and – as I like to dabble in all things – have been sporadically active in the different expat communities in Beijing. In fact, I moonlight as a rather well-connected man-about-town in the expat community here (or rather, I was doing so earlier this year… I've since slowed down).
So at this point, I feel somewhat confident saying I've learned much about how things work in this city and in this country. And there are, needless to say, some rather fascinating differences between here and the West.
The women are different. The social values and cultural expectations are different. How men and women go about dating is different. It's a bit of a different ballgame out here.
Let's start with the obvious: Chinese girls. I'd been with a few prior to relocating to China, but didn't really know a whole lot about them aside from that they were supposedly more conservative than Western women, and tended to marry much younger and to make a bigger deal of marriage. It was my understanding as well that many of them lived with their parents.
All somewhat true, but rather incomplete. Here are some of the main things I've learned since:
- Chinese women are more "innocent." They lack the cynicism toward men and dating that many women in the West seem to have. They generally have a more innocent, fairytale view of romance and the world – partly shaped by their experiences with men, partly shaped by the media they're exposed to over here (tightly controlled by the government to promote "family values").
- Chinese women are more aggressive. Despite their "innocence," I also find that they fight more for what they want than Western women do, strangely. Many people from the West – men and women – seem to have this strange passiveness about them, perhaps from having lives that are too easy and from not having to fight for what they want out of life. Chinese women make no apology about telling you what they want and expect, though they might be a bit less direct about it than a Western woman would, as they are more deferential to men.
- What Chinese women want is changing. Their parents tend to push them to marry as soon as possible, but many of them want to find the "right guy." In the past, Chinese women used to marry any guy who seemed "good enough," from what they tell me, but today's Chinese women – at least, the ones with good jobs you'll meet in the city – want love most of all. They're less afraid of being 28 or 29 and unmarried, though they do start panicking a bit at that age. There is a strong element of "I want my parents to be happy" that still exists here, and women tell me they would consider marrying a man they weren't in love with if their parents really wanted it.
- Chinese women are curious. Of course, like most foreigners in a foreign place, if you're from outside of China you'll be a curiosity here, and there are a number of women who are curious to see what it's like with you – despite cultural warnings against it (a common one I hear from girls is that all of their friends say "American men are nasty"). The warnings don't seem to hurt much, though – it seems that women all say them, but they all assume that those warnings are for "other" women and that if they themselves want to date a foreign guy, it's okay (so long as none of their families find out, of course!).
- Chinese women are feminine and nurturing. Well, I suppose to the West, women anywhere else seem feminine and nurturing! But girls here cook me dinner, help me clean my place and do laundry, and pay for most of the meals I have out with them. Okay, I guess girls did that for me in the States too, but I get more of it here. My current girlfriend even likes washing my back and legs in the shower.
- Chinese women have good bodies. Coming from America, it's no small contrast! Whereas when a woman says she's "average" sized in the States, what she means is "plump," when a woman says she's "average" sized in China, what she means is "thin." I can't tell you how many girls I've seen with hourglass figures here complaining that they're getting fat. Many women here are also quite flat-chested, but you can find women who are well-endowed – my current girlfriend has B-cups and a good butt to go along with her tiny waist, and my architect girl had perfect C-cups and a waist I could practically wrap my fingers around.
There are a few other things that are different, as well, but not universally so. Many of the women living in Beijing have their own apartments, since they came for college and left the folks at home. You run into more sexually inexperienced women here – most of the women I've been with in China only had one or two lovers before me. But you still run into some pros, too. Most of the women also don't shave – which means armpit hair and no bikini line. The good news is that the hair on their legs is almost invisible without a magnifying glass, and their pubic hair is of a much nicer, more naturally trimmed shape than the wild manes of a Western woman who hasn't shaved. And you can always tell them to shave if it bothers you.
In addition, a surprising number of Chinese women are actually quite tall – much more than you'd expect based off what you see abroad. My architect ex-girlfriend was nearly as tall as I am, and I'm 6 feet (1.83 meters). I suspect taller women are considered more beautiful and thus get better treatment at home and have less incentive to move abroad, which would be why you'd see lots of them here, but few of them outside China. From what I'm told, the women from Northern China are taller, while the women from Southern China are shorter. My current girlfriend is from the south, and she's quite short; I can easily rest my chin atop her head. Even for China though, she's considered rather tiny.
An expatriate, or expat, of course is a woman living in a country other than her own. Most of the expats you meet in China are from Russia (lots of Russians here), Europe (especially France and the Nordic countries), or America, though there are some from other Asian countries, some from Africa, and a handful from Latin America.
Expat women face an unfortunate predicament in China and, from what I hear, throughout Asia. Their problem is that the expatriate men who come to China come for the local Chinese girls – and the local Chinese guys are too intimidated to go for expat women, or are too focused on finding a local wife, and in any event really aren’t all that attractive in their own right.
What that means, of course, is that there are a lot of lonely expat girls in China.
It's something you can tell right away. When I first moved to Beijing, I saw three Russian women on the subway, one of them strikingly beautiful, and the other two not half bad. The instant I started talking to them, you could see their faces melt, and they just about started staring at me like a fat kid looks at a hamburger. I'm starting to think of this as the "expat girl stare" and I get it everywhere I go that there are expat girls. Even the most drop dead beautiful women here blow open to the lamest openers you can imagine, because they're so thrilled to meet a man who's actually interested and is the kind of guy they could get together with. Women of a caliber of looks I used to have to sometimes take a little while to crack open in California, or who might at times be downright cold to me on my approach, open easily here.
The flipside of that, of course, is that the expat women you meet are all in desperation mode. And what happens when you yourself are a resource that's vanishingly scarce? Why, women want to cling to you for dear life. So most expat women here aren't looking for hook-ups; they're looking for committed relationships. They want to keep that attractive, wonderful man they've just met. A guy they might have a fling with in Europe or America is a guy they'll want a relationship with in China. I met a gal who'd been single and loving it for six years in America taking the dating scene by storm, Sex and the City style, but within six months of moving to Asia she wound up in a committed relationship with a guy who was just okay but whom she seemed to be constantly trying to convince herself was the best thing since sliced bread.
Your scarcity over here means you get a lot of neediness, and a lot of fear about sleeping with you too quickly. Expat girls tend to get very nervous and needy around eligible bachelors… it's not pretty. They try to slow game you (take it slow so as not to mess things up with me by moving too fast) more aggressively here than I've seen any women try to slow game anywhere else in the world. I've found myself dropping more girls for trying to slow game me into boyfriend-land than at any other point in my life – and I'm doing a better job disqualifying myself as a boyfriend than at any other point in my life.
So, expat girls here are a double-edged sword. They're thrilled to have anyone with a pair of balls come talk to them, but anyone with the balls to talk to them instantly gets slotted into "Oh God I hope he becomes my boyfriend" territory. Therefore, you have to be a lot more careful about setting the right expectations with them and not having them think you'll be boyfriend material for them.
Dating in China
Aside from what I've heard about India and Muslim countries, dating in China is in many ways the most different I know of from the West.
Most of the Chinese girls I've met lost their virginity between ages 22 and 25. Usually a girl loses it to her college boyfriend, and it's common for boyfriends and girlfriends to date for several years before having sex. In fact, I have girls tell me they have very good girlfriends who've been dating guys for three to five years and haven't had sex with them yet (then again, these same girls admit to me that they don't tell their girlfriends when they're having sex, so I'm of the mind that many of those girlfriends aren't telling them either).
Men in China are obsessed with virgins. My best friend is a Chinese-American guy I've known for a long time, and I always got a kick out of how much he loved taking girls' virginity. "Why do you want virgins, man?" I'd ask him. "They're completely inexperienced, many are quite clingy once you've bedded them, they're a pain-in-the-ass to break in, and if you end up dating one, at some point once you've gotten her comfortable enough with sex she's going to get curious and want to start seeing what other men are like." His response was always just that he liked girls who were "innocent."
Well, I came over here and found an entire country like my best friend. According to my latest girlfriend, men in China are really emotionally torn if they're in the situation of potentially marrying a girl who's not a virgin. They just can't deal with the emotional pain of knowing she's had another man inside her before – and worse, that maybe she liked it.
Similarly, a big reason my girlfriend got so upset last week (the Tuesday night where I mentioned breaking up with her and kicking her out in "Women and Drama") was because she started thinking about me enjoying sex with my past girlfriend and it bothered the hell out of her.
Another difference in the dating here: men in China are quite timid and passive. They'll usually be orbiters hovering around a woman for a long time, and the "moves" they make are more like suggestions, the women often not catching these advances because Chinese women are naïve enough that they don't realize when a man's making a play for them.
My girlfriend tells me a lot of stories about "friends" of hers who clearly from her description of what they're doing are trying to get with her. She maybe suspects, but doesn't really realize it outright until I point out to her the things that they're doing. Only then does she realize things like, "Oh, I knew I was uncomfortable when he took me to a bar and touched my hair, but I thought he just wanted to be my friend and maybe that's just how he shows his friendship." No, silly girl, that's not what that means.
Fortunately, most Chinese women have heard enough about foreigners that they know you're probably not going to be Mr. Right – especially if you bed them fast. I've had girls tell me, "I know you're not going to be a husband for me," which is refreshing to hear. My architect girlfriend prodded me about marriage from the day we got together, though she understood and accepted that I might very well not be in China all that long. My current girlfriend views marriage as an impossibility, though she's falling pretty hard for me (to be fair, I like her a lot too. Great gal).
The one real exception was the über naïve and crazy girl I slept with a little less than two months ago who told me she loved me the morning following us getting together, and began incessantly texting me every night thereafter, panicking if I didn't respond in time, calling me "honey" and telling me that we'd work it out, whatever the reason I hadn't responded in an hour was, and that she loved me, and took a motherly tone with me and told me almost every night to go to bed early (I never go to bed early!). I never even ended up seeing her again beyond that one night we spent together – and I was quite clear with her that I was not boyfriend material by any stretch of the imagination both before and after we were intimate. Didn't stop her from pulling out all the stops and dreaming that we were aisle-bound. This isn't common though, and other Chinese girls (including my current girlfriend) have called this behavior crazy and bizarre when I told them about it.
Do You Need to Know Chinese?
Chinese pick up lines anybody? Nah… not my style. I'm all for cultural sensitivity, but heck, I don't speak Chinese – what am I going to do if a girl speaks no English? Nope, I stick to English-only.
Some of the women I've been with here spoke very little English. I'd speak to them and they'd give me blank stares or repeatedly ask me, "Pardon?" and shake their heads and smile sadly and tell me they were sorry but they didn't understand. Didn't stop us from getting together though.
Here's the thing you ought to keep in mind, no matter where you go in the world: if a girl doesn't speak your language, but she's still spending time with you and following when you lead, there's really only one thing the two of you can do together. Because clearly, talking is out. So might as well get down to business.
Personally, I really enjoy meeting girls who speak little English but clearly still like me. They understand what the deal is – we're not going to have any deep conversations, and there's no chance of a relationships. So it's quite straightforward – you take these girls home as soon as possible, and bed them as soon as possible (which, really, you ought to be doing with every girl!).
I've seen a lot of guys in China stressing about what they should do about women who don't speak English. Me, I speak virtually no Chinese: I can say, "Thank you," and, "Hello," and, "Check please," but that's really about it. Doesn't slow me down, though. Just lead; if they follow, you're all set. If they don't, well, if they weren't won over enough to follow you in the first place, you weren't going to win them over with gestures anyway.
China as a Place to Visit
It's a little dirty here, but quite modern in most of the same ways as the West, and in some ways more modern (Beijing's transit system is a lot better than most places in the States, though the traffic here is tied with Mexico City for the worst in the world). So long as you stick to the major cities – Beijing, Shanghai – you'll be fine. Crime, too, is far lower than many other places in the world (like the US, for instance; one common question I get from Chinese girls is, "Why are Americans so violent?" which always gets a good chuckle from me).
According to my friends, the women in Shanghai are more beautiful on average than the women in Beijing, and there are far more internationals. As I recall, the city itself is much cleaner too, though it's been a little over four years since I've been there. I'll likely be checking it out in a few weeks though.
All in all, China's worth a look if you have the time and the finances and the inclination to get over here. Cool things to see culturally, a bit of a different society, and the women are quite lovely and feminine. Like anywhere, there are soft women and strong women, and dainty women and ambitious women – but, like anywhere, when you know what you're looking for, you find it fast. Should you so get the chance, I'd say stop on by – chances are, you won't be disappointed.