Are you female, and going to China soon? Wondering what it’s like there?

Generally speaking, China is a pretty good choice for female travelers. I’ve lived and worked there, so I know firsthand.

However, traveling to any country can be a little more complicated and even a little more dangerous when you’re a woman.

So, if you’re a female traveler who’s planning to spend some time in China, here are five main things to consider.

1. Safety

Foreign woman in China holding map

It’s safe to travel around China as a woman. Image by Gemmy on Shutterstock.

It’s unfortunately a fact of life that women need to be more careful when they travel, particularly when they’re traveling solo.

This changes from country to country, because some places are naturally safer and more welcoming to women.

The good news is it’s very safe to travel in China as a woman. It’s probably safer than it is back home (I’m from Australia).

One reason for this is the fact that China has a low crime rate, especially major crimes like homicide and rape. In fact, China has one of the lowest murder rates per capita in the world.

You may have also heard that China is a surveillance state. While there are major drawbacks with this approach, a positive is that the security cameras deter would-be criminals.

You’re also kept safe by the Chinese government’s desire to keep the country a popular travel destination.

Crime against foreigners is bad publicity, which is why they punish the perpetrators harshly.

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As a result of this, violent crime against tourists or foreigners is almost unheard of and even non-violent crime is fairly rare.

This means that, as a foreign woman in China, you’ll be safe walking around the cities and towns no matter which province you’re in.

(You can check out some of the best places to visit in China here.)

You should still follow usual safety precautions and follow your intuition.

But generally, you’ll be perfectly safe walking home at night after dinner or taking public transport in China.

2. Practicalities

Hand cream being held in hands

Chinese beauty products may contain whitening agents. Image by Praiwan Wasanruk on Shutterstock.

You won’t have too many problems getting everything you need to stay happy and healthy in China. Just take note of the following:

Beauty products

Chinese women love their beauty products, so there definitely isn’t a shortage of creams and lotions for your skin.

Just be careful when you buy them, because a lot of products contain bleaching agents.

Hygiene products

You’ll find sanitary pads everywhere you go in China but you may struggle to find tampons as local women hardly use them.

So, make sure that you bring your own.


Chinese women have a smaller frame than most Western women.

So, if you’re going to China for the long term, and you’re plus size (or even have big feet), you’ll find shopping in physical stores quite hard.

I recommend shopping online using popular Chinese apps like Taobao for more size options, but you’ll need a Mandarin-speaking friend to help you.

If you’re wondering what to wear in China, then check out this page.

Birth control pills

There’s no problem getting birth control pills in China.

Because of the now-defunct one-child policy, people in China have an open attitude to birth control.

In fact, you’ll find condoms at the front counter of convenience stores, right next to the chewing gum and chocolate.

You’ll find non-prescription birth control in your local pharmacy, and one of the pharmacists can help you find the best choice for you.


If you need a doctor for female medical care, then you’ll need to find a hospital that specializes in it.

There aren’t many doctors in private practice in China – most of them work in hospitals and this is where the locals go whenever something’s wrong with them.

Depending on what city you’re in, you may also find international hospitals where the practitioners speak English. This can do a lot for your peace of mind when you’re sick and need help.

Just remember to get travel insurance before you arrive. Chinese medical care is not cheap.

3. Gender equality

foreign woman in China holding heart balloon

You’ll experience gender equality with Chinese characteristics. Image supplied by Olivia Seaton-Hill.

Gender discrimination is still a problem in China. You won’t experience it as a traveler, but you might if you live and work in China.

China’s constitution promises equal rights for women and this is making a real change, but things take time.

Literacy rates and life expectancy among women is rising and yet some jobs are still advertised as ‘men only’.

And jobs for women often require women to have certain physical attributes that aren’t relevant to the job itself such as grace, beauty, or a certain body shape.

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Also, it isn’t unheard of for jobs aimed at men to promise ‘beautiful women’ to work with.

This type of gender discrimination is deeply entrenched, and it will take time before it can be eliminated.

This attitude is less obvious when it comes to foreign women, but it’s still there and it’s something you should be aware of.

Western women are often seen as too assertive and too aggressive, and if you’re naturally blunt then you may find yourself running up against this stereotype.

4. Cultural differences

Married couple holding hands

Chinese people will ask if you’re married. Image by Burst on Pexels.

There are some major cultural differences related to gender that you will notice as a woman in China. The things that I found the strangest and hardest to get used to are:

Personal space

Personal space doesn’t exist in China.

In crowded spaces like train stations and tourist sites, you may be pushed or at least brushed past. This is normal in China, no matter your gender.

Similarly, you could be stuck under a man’s armpit on a packed subway train. Move away if you want to, but someone else will probably squeeze in right next to you.

Just don’t expect all the space around you like you might in your own country.

Comments about your appearance

As a foreign woman in China, you can expect to be stared and pointed at, particularly in the smaller cities and rural areas.

Some people will even comment on your looks in great detail. This is often done in an admiring way, but it’s still something of a shock.

The Chinese are particularly drawn to blonde, red or curly hair, and very pale skin.

If you’re a black woman, you’ll also draw a lot of attention. The Chinese are super curious about anyone who doesn’t look like them.

‘Rude’ questions

When you get to China, you’ll probably be asked questions that are considered very rude by Westerners.

“How old are you?” is often first, followed by “Why aren’t you married?” if you’re over 25.

I’ve also been asked by complete strangers how much money I make.

To most Chinese people, asking these kinds of questions are how they get to know someone and learn about their life.

This is a cultural difference that takes some getting used to, and you’ll just have to accept the questions and find a way of answering that’s comfortable for you.

Marriage concerns

One of the most common questions you’ll hear as a woman in China is about your marital status.

Complete strangers will want to know if you’re married, and if you say no then they’ll want to know why not.

They may even express concern for you and tell you that you’re running out of time.

This seems very rude, intrusive, and even insulting to a lot of foreign women, but it isn’t meant that way. Instead, they really are concerned about you.

In China, there’s a lot of pressure for women to be married by their late-twenties, and if they’re not then it’s a cause for major concern.

This concept is known as ‘sheng nu’ in Mandarin, which means ‘leftover women’. You can read more about that here.

There’s a growing trend against pressure in Chinese society, with more women staying single, not having children and pursuing their careers despite the strong social pressure they’re confronted with.

But particularly among older people, this remains a serious concern.

Body image

Most Western women are larger than Chinese women, or at least larger than the ideal of what Chinese women expect from themselves.

This can create problems when you’re shopping and with how the locals see you.

Back home, you might be thought of as ‘curvy’, but in China this might be described very differently.

So, make sure that you’re prepared for some unflattering reactions from people when it comes to your looks or size.

Chivalrous acts

I’ve never seen a Chinese man hold a door open for a woman, let alone give up his seat on a subway train.

Similarly, if you think the taxi driver will help you load your suitcase into the back of the cab, think again. It’s highly unlikely, certainly in my experience anyway.

Some women aren’t into chivalrous acts, and I get that, but for the women who do appreciate being treated a little bit special in public, China may disappoint you.

5. Dating and relationships

Chinese guy

It’s uncommon to see foreign women dating local guys in China. Image by Griffin Wooldridge on Shutterstock.

Do you plan on staying in China for a while, like for work or study?

Well, let me tell you that dating as a foreign woman in China is a controversial subject. You’ll find a lot of vitriol and anger on both sides of the argument.

Western men don’t seem to have any problems dating in China and make popular boyfriends because of their different view on life and relationships. But it’s a different story when it comes to foreign women dating in China.

It’s still very uncommon to see foreign women with Chinese men. There are several reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to stereotypes and prejudice on both sides.

With their different cultural beliefs and values, foreign women are often seen as lacking when it comes to wifely qualities.

They don’t share traditional family values and their openness to casual relationships, sex, and behaviors seen as unacceptable by traditional standards make them bad candidates as wives.

On the other hand, the restrictive social, physical, and societal rules surrounding relationships in China can scare foreign women away.

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It may also have something to do with stereotypes in the media about Chinese men. For decades, movies and television shows have portrayed Asian men as one-dimensional beings.

They’re often villains, martial arts heroes, or pure and lacking in any sexuality. They are rarely if ever the hero or the romantic lead.

These stereotypes may unconsciously affect how Western women see Chinese guys and whether they would consider a relationship with them.

These issues mean that you may struggle when it comes to dating in China.

I suggest trying out the local dating apps like Momo and Tantan (in addition to the other apps for foreigners in China) and seeing how you feel.

Follow travel dating tips as you should in your own country, like meeting guys in a public place and telling a friend where you will be.

A lot of foreign women end up only dating other expats, a solution which can present additional problems.

Whichever route you choose, it’s important that you’re aware of the problems and the potential pitfalls associated with dating overseas.

A final (and important) travel tip

If you’re traveling to China soon, don’t forget the internet is censored there.

So, when using Wi-Fi you won’t have access to your favorite sites like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Gmail, Google, and many more, unless you get a VPN before you go.

You can refer to this review for the best China VPN, or skip the review and tap on the button below for the one I recommend in the country.

Just make sure you download it before you arrive as the VPN website will be blocked in China.

The key to a great trip for foreign women in China

I can confidently say I’ve never had any issues in China as a female expat. However, being a woman in a foreign country always has its pros and cons.

The most important thing to remember is that other people’s attitudes to you aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re just different.

And if you’re strong and confident, you won’t let any negative or unusual reactions or attitudes prevent you from enjoying your time in China.

Did you enjoy my article about what it’s like as a foreign woman in China? If so, then you’ll enjoy the one I wrote about the things you should not bring to China. It’s pretty helpful!

FAQ about being a foreign woman in China

Is China safe for foreign female travelers?

Absolutely, it’s one of the safest travel destinations and crimes against foreign women are practically unheard of.

Is sexual harassment common in China?

If you’re traveling to China, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll experience sexual harassment. However, Chinese men may stare at you, particularly if you wear a low-cut top.

Is there gender equality in China?

By law, yes, but in reality there are still instances of gender inequality. For example, women are expected to be married by their late 20s or they’re deemed ‘leftovers’, and there’s an absence of women in leadership positions such as in politics.