“Everybody needs somebody” – so goes the song by the Blues Brothers.
It’s true that everyone needs a companion.
So if you’re going to be living in China for a while, read on to find out what dating and romance in China is like from a guy’s perspective.
Where can you find a girlfriend in China?
If you’re single and ready to mingle, bars and nightclubs are some of the most obvious places. But the challenge is the people whom you meet there probably won’t be able to speak English.
If you’re like most foreigners in China, you won’t have a good grasp of Mandarin. So think hard about starting something that you may not be able to continue.
At first, you may find the communication difficulty kind of cute. But trust me, it gets tiring after a while!
You could also consider dating a work colleague (either a fellow foreigner or a local). This is a fairly common way of meeting people in China.
A few years ago I tried to date my Chinese counterpart teacher. I was turned down though because she was looking for a local man and not a foreigner.
Some Chinese girls will be reluctant to get into a relationship with a foreigner. They know that at some point, you’ll leave the country and she’ll have to decide whether to follow you (if she’s able to) or break up with you.
Internet dating sites and apps
If you meet a girl you like online, you’ll likely have to travel a considerable distance to see her in person. China is a huge country.
Be wary of any girl who starts professing her love for you before you’ve met in person and then suddenly finds herself in trouble and starts asking you for money.
It’s also well-known that many girls in China want to marry a British or American man simply to get a visa.
My experience with Chinese dating websites
I’ve used a dating website in China that’s now defunct.
Like with most serious dating websites, I paid a fee to join up. I created my profile and started sending messages to the women I fancied.
Sometimes, I came across girls who couldn’t speak English. And not every girl who I sent a message to would reply.
If the attraction was mutual, and we could understand each other, we’d exchange WeChat IDs with a view to meeting up.
I actually met my first girlfriend in China this way. Her name was Angela and we first started chatting online in March 2014.
It’s safe to say she fell in love with me before meeting me in person.
It’s interesting how Chinese girls can fall in love online so that by the time you physically meet in person for the first time, you’re already a couple.
Internet dating can be a disaster too. In the autumn of 2018, I met a girl on a dating site and arranged to spend my entire winter vacation with her.
It turned out she had obsessive compulsive disorder, was always late and had a foul temper to boot.
We were constantly arguing and she was the only girl I had ever sworn at. She annoyed me so much that I ended up cutting my vacation short just to get away from her!
What can you expect from a relationship with a Chinese girl?
In China, there’s a misconception that all foreigners are rich.
It’s not uncommon for young Chinese women to put in a great deal of effort learning English in school so she can bag a foreign boyfriend.
A Chinese girl in her mid-twenties or older would also be looking for, not merely a boyfriend, but a potential future husband.
In fact, it would be extremely unlikely that such a woman would be willing to go out on a date with a man unless she has very strong feelings for him as a potential spouse.
This is exacerbated by society’s pressure of marriage. If you’re a single Chinese woman in your late 20s, sadly you’re referred to as a ‘leftover woman’ (‘sheng nu’ in Mandarin).
It can be quite scary for a foreigner to be put under this kind of pressure at an early stage in a relationship.
So be warned that this is something you may need to deal with.
What do Chinese women look for in a man?
Many Chinese women insist that any prospective suitors own a property in China and provide a ‘bride price’.
My ex-girlfriend wanted an apartment costing RMB 700,000 – this is almost US$100,000! This was in addition to the RMB 150,000 (US$21,000) bride price.
January and February are rather expensive months to be having a relationship in China. Both Valentine’s Day and the Chinese Spring Festival fall around this time.
Unlike many Western women, a Chinese woman won’t be satisfied with flowers or chocolates.
Oh no, she’ll be expecting something much more expensive – think iPhones, Chanel perfume or gold jewellery.
If you object on the grounds of expense, this is what she’ll say:
“If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t want your gifts. Some years ago, another man was chasing me. He was rich, he had an apartment and a car, but I didn’t love him so I didn’t want anything from him.”
She’ll make it sound as if lavishing money on her is a privilege that you should be grateful for.
In a nutshell – as harsh as it may sound – Chinese women want men who are rich and stable.
Other Chinese customs
When it comes to dating and romance in China, there are some other customs you need to be aware of.
- Men are expected to pay for everything when on a date in China.
- In a serious relationship, you’ll have to buy gifts not just for your girlfriend, but also for her parents.
- Many Chinese women expect to control all the money in a marriage.
- Meeting your girlfriend’s parents is tantamount to committing to marriage.
- Your girlfriend can’t go abroad with you to meet your parents until after marriage.
- A Chinese woman is closest to her mother so how well you get along with your girlfriend’s mother can determine the success or failure of the relationship.
Traits of a typical Chinese woman
- They can be stubborn and inflexible.
- They expect a life of luxury after marriage and to be provided for by their husbands.
- They may not be willing to marry for better or for worse. My ex-girlfriend wanted to leave me when she found out I had hypertension!
- It isn’t beneath them to lie to you to ‘save face’.
In addition, many Chinese women seem to follow the rules only when it suits them.
Let me explain: in return for the bride price, it’s customary for the woman’s side to buy a car or to furnish the apartment.
But if the woman doesn’t come from a rich family, she’ll insist that she’s exempt from following her own customs.
And they’re certainly not going to discard their customs in favour of those of their foreign husband’s, especially in their own country!
The advantages of having a local girlfriend in China
By now, I bet some of you are wondering if dating in China is worth the hassle!
Well, obviously having a Chinese girlfriend can provide you with companionship and emotional support.
But there are some other advantages:
- She can help you learn Mandarin.
- She can help you navigate many practical and cultural problems.
- She is easily pleased (just have a foreign face and passport, and a fat wallet).
Intimacy and sex in China
China is a very traditional country with old-fashioned values. Sex outside marriage is greatly frowned upon.
In the West, a woman might show her affections for you by holding your hand, hugging you and kissing you.
In China, some women may feel very uncomfortable with public displays of affection.
In private however, all bets are off! When a Chinese woman is turned on, her sex drive can rival that of any Western woman.
A final warning to teachers
This section won’t be relevant to you if you’re not a teacher in China like me.
English seems to be a very ‘feminine’ subject in China. So if you’re a man teaching English major students at a Chinese university, you’ll find yourself surrounded by young female students, some of whom will be very pretty!
I personally know of some foreign teachers who have tried to date their students. Although this is sorely tempting, don’t under any circumstances date a student.
A teacher is held in a position of trust and shouldn’t betray that trust. The last teacher I know of who tried to date one of his students got fired!
Dating and romance in China is a double-edged sword
It should be obvious by now that dating and romance in China is a doubled-edged sword.
Chinese girls can be fun and supportive but they can also be expensive and demanding.
Hopefully, after reading this blog you’ll be better prepared to navigate the potential minefield of dating and romance in China.
I hope you find the woman of your dreams soon!
Do you have any questions or comments? Please share below. If you’d like to keep reading, I’ve also written an article about massage and prostitution in China.