“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 in China for a while, read on to find out what dating and romance in China is like from a guy’s perspective.
Even though I was a typical noisy and inquisitive child, I found myself growing more and more shy and reserved as I got older.
By the time I reached high school in the UK, many of my classmates were in relationships. During break time, I saw many couples walking around hand-in-hand.
But I was alone, unhappily single.
At the ripe old age of 21, I finally decided that I’d had enough of the single life. I joined a dating agency and started receiving lists containing the contact details of various girls.
One of my most memorable experiences was meeting a Russian girl named Ludmilla whose journalist father had been posted to London. But she’s a stutterer, so whenever I rang her, I couldn’t understand a word she said!
I eventually gave up and promised to write to Ludmilla instead. When she replied, it was only to say that she’d met someone else. However, I found out that her twin sister, Maria, was interested in meeting me.
Maria and I soon became an item. What are the chances?
We dated for a while, and things were looking good. However, Maria was unable to find a job in the UK and, in a twist of fate, the medical condition she had started deteriorating. She would have severe mood swings and start crying for no reason.
Even the doctors weren’t able to accurately diagnose exactly what she was suffering from and she was eventually sent to a care home where she remains to this day.
I wasn’t able to support her financially or emotionally, so we broke up.
While I did have some positive dating experiences in the UK, you can see why I was looking forward to starting afresh in China when I came here to teach English.
What can you expect from a relationship with a Chinese girl?
Now that I’ve been in China for quite a few years, I’ve really learned the lay of the land.
For starters, there’s a misconception in China 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 jewelry.
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 customs when dating in China
When it comes to Chinese dating and romance, 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.
- Many 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. One of my ex-girlfriends 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 favor of those of their foreign husband’s, especially in their own country!
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.
My experience dating in China
Some of you may think I’ve generalized too much.
This may be true to an extent, but let me share some personal dating experiences in China with you. Then you can make up your mind.
Romance in the workplace
I once taught at a university where many students who chose to major in English were female.
The temptation to break the golden rule of teaching English in China – never get in to a romantic relationship with a student – was high.
However, after seeing one or two male teachers get fired for doing exactly that, I thought the better of it and decided to look elsewhere.
At one of the universities that I’ve taught at, I really fancied three of the Chinese teachers. After a lot of persuasion, I managed to get my counterpart teacher to agree to join me for dinner one night.
Unfortunately, I was ultimately rejected because she was looking for a local guy and not a foreigner.
I turned to the internet
I then turned to the internet.
On dating sites, I came across many 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 2014. Our conversations became more frequent until eventually, we were chatting every day.
We even fell in love online so that by the time we went on our first date seven months later, we were already a couple.
Then the demands started. She wanted expensive gifts, she asked for an apartment (only in her city, nowhere else) and a huge dowry.
But she wasn’t willing to move with me to where my job was. It seemed like she was taking a lot and giving very little back in return.
We eventually broke up when my contract came to an end. I wasn’t able to find a job in her city and she wasn’t prepared to wait a year for me to try again.
My second Chinese girlfriend
My second Chinese girlfriend was called Wang Xiao Ling. She was totally unlike Angela.
Xiao Ling generously paid my hotel bill when I traveled to Zhengzhou to see her on our first date. She was happy to live in rented accommodation and didn’t need a dowry.
Once she had me in her clutches though, the demands started coming thick and fast. She had a daughter and she wanted me to fund her education in the US.
Xiao Ling also wanted a new car for her birthday. Not just any old car, but one that costs RMB 300,000 (almost US$50,000). And, she wanted me to surrender all my wealth to her!
There was no way I could possibly afford or agree to all that, so we eventually broke up.
The date from hell
I re-joined the dating website and started chatting with a girl called Sophie from Chengdu. She was a qualified teacher of English, French and Chinese but was unemployed at the time.
She was always late for our dates, sometimes making me wait almost two hours for her.
Sophie had obsessive compulsive disorder and was forever checking and double-checking that she had not left anything behind.
She was extremely controlling and couldn’t ever take ‘no’ for an answer. She used me as a wallet, even making me buy her basic groceries. And worst of all, she only wanted a platonic relationship!
I had planned on spending my entire winter vacation with her but we were constantly quarreling.
She remains the only girl I have ever said “**** you” to and I cut my trip short and returned home after two weeks just to get away from her!
She upset me so much that I swore that I never wanted to get into a relationship with another woman again.
I have my present girlfriend to thank for changing my mind about that. But that’s a story for another time!
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.
My experience with Chinese dating websites
Like with most serious dating websites, you might need to pay a fee to join up.
On the (now defunct) dating website in China that I used, I created my profile and started sending messages to all the women I fancied.
It’s interesting how Chinese girls can fall in love online so that by the time you physically meet for the first time, you’re already a couple.
There are a number of current dating websites where you can find Chinese women who are looking for a foreigner. Some popular sites for Western men include:
Just keep in mind that China is a huge country. If you meet a girl you like online (and you’re already living in the country), you may have to travel a considerable distance to see her in person.
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.
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.
- Help you navigate many practical and cultural problems.
- Be 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 generally frowned upon.
In the West, a woman might show her affections for you by holding your hand, hugging you and kissing you. But 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.
I know this because, well, you get the picture!
Differences between Chinese women and Western women
It’s difficult to approach this topic without making generalizations.
However, please bear in mind that these observations are based on my own personal experiences in China and in the UK.
So, with that out of the way, here goes:
- Although gold-diggers can be found in any country, a British woman is more likely to be attracted to chemistry whilst a Chinese girl is more likely to be attracted to money.
- Chinese women tend to take relationships far more seriously than their British counterparts. They don’t date for fun, they date to marry.
- In the UK, living together before marriage isn’t a problem. But in China, it’s largely frowned upon.
- In many relationships in the UK, both partners work and contribute to the household expenses. In China, many women expect men to be providers.
- Renting a home isn’t a problem in the UK, but in China, home ownership is very important in a marriage.
- In the UK, many couples move away from their families for work, study and after marriage. In China, filial piety is strong and many Chinese people want to stay close to their families.
- It’s common for British couples to have separate or joint bank accounts. In China, there is a custom whereby a husband is expected to surrender all his money to his wife.
- Sex before marriage is highly frowned upon in China but isn’t a big deal in the UK.
- Chinese girls tend to be relatively simple compared to their British counterparts. They’ll be attracted to you if you have a good job and a high salary, and especially if you’re a foreigner.
Implications for visitors and expats in China
Before you decide to get a Chinese girlfriend, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Are you prepared to make China your permanent home? Chinese women generally want to stay close to their families.
- Are you prepared to (and can you afford) to buy an apartment in China? Bear in mind that foreigners can’t own property so you’ll have to put it in your wife’s name.
- How stable is your job? Chinese people have permanent jobs that are almost impossible to lose but a school or company can refuse to renew foreigners’ contracts.
- Are you prepared to make a long-term commitment to and marry your Chinese girlfriend?
- Are you prepared to let your wife have control of your wealth?
- Will you do whatever it takes (even taking two jobs) to earn enough money to send your future children to an American university?
A warning to foreign teachers in China
This final bit may be irrelevant to you if you’re not a teacher in China like me.
English seems to be a very feminine subject in Chinese higher education, meaning more girls than guys are studying it.
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. And you don’t want to get fired!
Dating in China has its rewards
I’ve done my fair share of dating in China.
In many ways, dating here is very much like dating elsewhere. But there are also some major differences as I’ve pointed out.
The bottom line is this: As a man, if you want to find a partner in China, you’ll need to be rich and stable. And you may need to be prepared to spend the rest of your life here too!
Hopefully, after reading this article you’ll be better prepared to navigate dating and romance in China.
I hope you find the woman of your dreams soon!
I hope you liked my article on dating in China. If you have any questions or comments, just let me know below. I’ve also written an article about massage and prostitution in China which you may enjoy.