The Pros and Cons of Being a Western Woman in China
Even though there’s already many blog posts about this topic, I would also like to share my personal experience about being a Western women in China.
As Sara Jaaksola described in her blog post “Being a Western Woman in China”, there’s not a lot of foreign women living in China, or at least in our Chinese hometown of Guangzhou in Guangdong province.
During my time in Guangzhou I gained a lot of experience – positive and negative – about being a Western girl in China.
“You are so beautiful!”
In my opinion, there are a lot of “advantages” for Western women in China. The most obvious “pro” might be that as a Western woman you get a lot of compliments about your looks. People always told me what a beautiful white skin, nice big blue eyes, pretty nose and long eye lashes I have. Therefore, everywhere you go, you stand out. In the beginning it might feel great and you feel confident, but it can also be pretty annoying when people look at you all the time or try to talk to you all the time. But when living in China you have to be able to deal with that and don’t take it as rude. Chinese people are very curious and it’s always meant in a friendly way.
However, on the other hand I realized that the figure of a Western female might easily be considered “fat” in China. When in the West you want to get nice curves and a booty, in China they might see it as a negative. However, there’s plenty of Chinese guys who are just looking for that 😉
Another thing I noticed was when going out to clubs and bars where there’s more Chinese people than foreigners people might think you are pursuing “a special career”. Especially in Guangzhou, there is a lot of foreign women, a lot of them from Russian and east European countries, who are in Guangzhou for modeling but also provide “special services” for Chinese men – if you know what I mean. So sometimes, when clubbing Chinese people might think you are this kind of woman.
Finding New Friends
Being a Westerner in China, in general, makes it relatively easy to get to know new people and make new friends. A lot of Chinese people just randomly start talking to you and want to make friends or might ask you to help them with their English, etc. Especially for learning Chinese, this is definitely a plus!
However, this also has a big downside. Personally, I think it is very hard to find “true” Chinese friends, who like you for your personality and not because you are a foreigner. When going out on the weekends, it usually only took 10 minutes tops for me and my other German friend to get to know some people and party with them. But usually those connections you make are not “real” – they just invite you over to have a drink because you are a foreigner. This also goes for Chinese women. Actually, one of the worst experience in this context I made was with Chinese girls. Some Chinese girls invited us to their table to drink and party together. As soon as we started I felt like a barbie doll or puppy dog: The girls when totally crazy taking tons of “best friend” pictures with us. So far so good. But then, they started ordering lollipops, ice cream and other food and were feeding us. It was a horrible experience I could not stay with them for a long time and soon left.
Nevertheless, there also are true friends out there! I met a lot of Chinese guys and girls that don’t just like me because I am European. And even now that I am out of China for another 6 months, we still keep in touch.
Lots of Freebies – Lots of Haggling
Being a Westerner in China brings about an interesting mix of getting free stuff and being ripped off. I remember one time, I went to McDonalds to get a normal vanilla ice cream cone. The person in front of me, Chinese, also ordered a cone. When it was my turn, though, the lady at the counter gave me almost twice the portion than a regular ice cream cone. Further, again, when going out usually there will somebody show up within a couple of minutes buying you a drink or other stuff.
Another thing is paying for food/drinks in general. In China, it is still a “rule” that when eating out girls never have to pay. This sometimes, is a problem for me because I also like to pay the check from time to time, being a polite emancipated Western woman. However, this also leads male Chinese friends to “lose face”. Sometimes, when eating out with my ex-boyfriend, I would tell him before that I wanted to pay and just give him the money before going out so that it “looks like” he paid. It took me a while to get used to this tradition and it felt kind of ridiculous in the beginning but I always think like this: I am in a foreign country and it’s ME who has to adjust. In the end, I know I paid for the food and most Chinese men also adore this emancipated side of Western women.
On the other hand, being a Westerner in China in general, people think you are rich and have a lot of money. Therefore, when travelling or going to night markets, people try to rip you off in a way. Being a passionate traveler, I learned how to negotiate with stubborn vendors at an early age and usually, I can get the price I want. But if you are lacking this ability, or even if you are good at it, sometimes there will be situation where you just have to pay more because you are a foreigner. Just try to be stubborn and if the price is too high: walk away! There’s always gonna be another person selling the same thing. And usually when you pretend to walk away, to come after you and give you the lower price.
“Western Women Are So Open.”
This is a widely spread stereotype: Western women are easy and open to anything. This prejudice has been created by dozens of Hollywood movies promoting meaningless sex and strong, independent women doing what they want. Also a lot of foreigners coming to China for a short period of time think they can do whatever they want. This goes for men as well as women. This is a common thing for young adults or students going about. It’s all about a fun time and partying and going crazy. However, in a country like China, where this kind of behavior is not common or regarded as appropriate in their culture, foreigners like this build a stereotype.
I experienced a similiar thing one day going out to a club. There was a bunch of older Chinese men at a table and they wanted to invite us to drink with them but we politely refused. However, the men didn’t want to accept this and tried again and again to convince us to party with them. Soon, we were tired of their advances and tried to leave, when he grabbed my arm. I aggressively got away from him and told him to let go and so we left.
Being a foreigner or especially a Western woman in China does not only have advantages. However, I can tell you, if your dream is to go to China for work, study, travel, whatever, don’t be afraid but also be cautious.
Have you experienced similiar things when living or traveling in China? Have you made different experiences? Leave a comment and pin it if you like this topic!
it’s much easier to be white in East than Asian in West, I really wish most of the Asian people would get same treatment as we do when we go there 🙂 but I must agree that weight-thing in Asia makes me lose my mind, I weight myself everyday just to be sure I didn’t put a single kg, if I do – I go on a diet, I felt so fat in HK even thought my jeans size is american 1 (EU 32) but I feel like i’m having an ‘Armstrong-syndrome’ – no, it’s not drugs or musical skills, it’s arm-strong 😀 I love how they say it but it makes me feel shitty 😀 btw. tommorow gonna reply your email 🙂
yeah its such a weird thing – on the one hand you are considered a “beauty” and on the other hand just simply FAT!
and YES, I wished Asian people who come here would be treated well as well. I’m planning on having a guest post about this in the near future… 🙂
all right, waiting for your email then 🙂
You’re an EU 32?! I would be the equivalent or 38 or 40! Stop dieting!!!! Eat more mooncakes!!! 😀
Only my ass and legs are small, I’m typical apple so i look like one of mochi balls on the stick 😀 so i need to watch out not to gain weight 🙂 i wish i could be a panda – more i put on weight everyone would be like ‘aww’ 🙂
hahahaha 😀 you look like a mochi ball on a stick 😀 hahahaha don’t be silly! your man loves you for how and who you are 🙂
I enjoyed reading this despite I can’t even relate to it. I don’t get any of these advantages. Maybe because I am short, have dark hair, and wear a face mask so I don’t draw any special attention? I am fine with it. I feel more comfortable that way. I, however, a couple of times I got pointed at and have people scream, “法國人!” I would turn around and say, “不對。我是美國人.” I can’t say I blame them cause I’ve read that there are at least over 200,000 French people living in Shanghai.
(I had to use my phone for Chinese characters cause I still don’t know how to do pinyin). :O! I’m bad!
I don’t get called fat because to be frank, women in Shanghai are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I’ve seen many women bigger than me.
Wait a minute, they….fed you? Like stick a spoon in your mouth? Wow…I would have turned red.
You have great advice. I couldn’t agree more. If you ever in Shanghai, we can hang! I don’t have any friends still! They are all in Taiwan. :O! So sad.
oh wow, thats interesting! but yeah I guess as soon as you “blend in”, they treat you just the same. But for me, I have red hair and blue eyes and my nose is pretty “western”, i cannot do much about it.
yeah they FED me, exactly spoon in my mouth etc… VERY CRAZY!
Yes, let’s definitely meet up!
I think it’s because they only see foreigners on television and I don’t look like them, so I am not considered interesting. I’ve been told I can teach English but get last pay because I look like I’m from Southern Europe. In the summer time, I can get really dark.
Somebody asked if I could teach them French or Spanish, never English. I have green eyes. :)My nose is high but always covered up with a face mask. 🙂 I am not even 5”2. Haha.
Oh! My dad lived in Germany when it was East/West. He only had good things to say about the country. He misses it dearly and hopes to see the amazing changes with his own eyes. 🙂 He would watch movies that has Germany as the background. Haha.
Haha, i see! Yes, the same is for American-born Chinese for example. Even though their native language is English, they would get paid less when teaching because they don’t look foreign.
Oh nice, to hear that your Dad likes Germany! I like my country too 🙂
I didn’t notice myself as being overly bigger than people in Hong Kong…but maybe that’s because HK is full of foreigners or I wasn’t paying enough attention. I just noticed I was a lot taller!
It must be really scary to have guys think of you that way and even grab your arm. It’s a shame they have that impression. I think that might be a reason why a lot of Asian guys think they could never have a relationship with a western girl too, they think they might manage a one night stand and nothing else.
did you know that actually some of the guys want just a one night stand? my husband reads those AMWF chinese forums and actually many guys say they want either one night stand or not serious relationship with a white girl to show off and have some ‘nice experience’ but in the end want to marry a Chinese girl? i want to punch all of them in their faces 😀
PS Linda, please mail me again, I’ve noticed I cannot find that email >.< argh
I think some Western guys want this too. I have a friend who is REALLY pretty but guys don’t want her for a relationship, just for sex, and she has never had a boyfriend because of this!!! >_<
woooow thats crazy. I think some Chinese guys just want to get “the experience”. they feel like Western women dont have wife-qualities. its too sad 🙁
YES! i know that and it’s soooo SAD 🙁 yeah I’m gonna email you :))))
yes 🙁 it’s sad that we Western women have this “easy, open” stereotype 🙁
Maybe for Chinese guys it’s also because they want to date western girls, but their families would never accept it. So they just go and have some fun and get that experience, though they never dare to take them home and make the relationship go further because of what the parents might say!
yes! but is it really a negative? like for my bfs family they like me so much and are happy that i am foreign. they have no problem. and they’re not really big city folks.
It just depends I think. I guess some families are VERY strict about it. We are lucky our boyfriends families don’t mind. 🙂
yes!! verrrry lucky! i’m so happy they approve of our relationship! makes everything much easier 🙂
I probably was above the average weight of girls my age in Hong Kong but, like you, I never really noticed it. But when I got back to the UK it really stood out to me how large some people here are and how much bigger our average size I in comparison.
Linda, how do I reply to someone’s comment? I can’t seem to find any reply button.
And yes, some families are still strict about it. My ex’s family didn’t approve me because I wasn’t Chinese, and we were all living in Finland! In the end that was a good thing, as I’m much happier now, but Chinese families seem to have different kind of thoughts about this.
We all have to bee happy that we are accepted to our Chinese families 🙂
Now I started to see the reply button in some of the comments 😀
haha yeah, the reply button only shows up when you click on the comment or something! ha
Yeah, I am really happy that Fu’s parents approve of me. Makes things soooo much easier!!!
I had two particularly scary expeirences in nightclubs – new year’s eve, and I had men surrounding me, squeezing my breasts so that they hurt, lifting up my dress, pulling down my skirt and even fingering me through my underwear 🙁 And of course the security guy saw it and did nothing.
Another time, a few men started getting touchy feely and so we left the club. They then followed us, and grabbed my friend around the neck and chest and started dragging her towards their car! I was trying to pry them off her but each time I removed one arm, they’d just put the other on. They kept saying in English ‘come in, come in!’ but I said bu yao each time. My friend was choking slightly from the grip, and it was obvious we didn’t want it, but they still continued. I was thinking it could get aggressive if I fought back too much, but I ended up needing to slap one of them on the face (very lightly) and only then did they let go.
Absolutely disgusting. It’s something I noticed in China, hhow the word ‘no’ isn’t respected that much. We were both really shook up, of course xx
woooow you made some shocking experiences! that’s really extreme! i never saw anything like that and thank god it didnt happen to me! stay safe!
This is great! So insightful from a westerner’s perspective and balanced view too. As a Malaysian Chinese, I’m still considered a foreigner and get the other end of the spectrum! Ie lectured on not being China Chinese lol.
Funny, I had the opposite experiences. I never get called pretty, I am thinner than most Chinese woman mind you so they can’t call me fat or they would be insulting themselves. :p My Chinese landlord said to me, “I know she’s not German,” to my husband. I basically just blend in. The only time I got stares is when I was with my Taiwanese husband, but that’s about it. I lived in Shanghai. xD Great post, by the way and you make some great points.
Can totally relate to ALL these things! Also… WHERE are all the Western girls? So few.. and none of them seem to stick around for long. I bought my wedding dress in Hong Kong and the size was definitely a worry.. Please don’t call me fat while I’m looking for a wedding dress :/