Being a western woman in China

Being a Western woman in China is a topic I’ve thought a lot recently, I realized I don’t really know many other Western women living in Guangzhou. I have an American friend who is ethnically Chinese, having here roots in Guangdong. Then I have an American-German friend who have grown up in China. My friends are mostly male, coming from Australia, Albania, Japan and so on.

On my class at university we only have four students, including two Korean guys and one girl from Indonesia. On other fourth year classes they have a few Russian girls, but that’s it. Most of the students come from Asia and most of the European or North American students are men.

Yesterday I found an interesting blog post Where have all my sisters gone? where the author writes:

As I embark on a second year here in China, I often take a look around me and wonder why I as a Western woman am so underrepresented here.– Other foreign female teachers I have worked with have also left and returned to their home countries, usually due to unhappiness, loneliness and lack of fulfillment here. Meanwhile, many of my male counterparts have seemingly lived happily here for several years. True- I know it isn’t always a bed of roses for the Western men here but there are still more of them around here. This phenomenon has me and others often scratching our heads wondering why China is perceived as a haven for so many Western men but simultaneously is such a hardship for Western women.

So is it that not only fewer Western women come to China, but they also leave earlier than men? Could Chinese girlfriend and wife be keeping men here for longer or for good, but as a fewer Western women date Chinese men, they find it harder to make roots here?

While reading her blog post I remembered my older cousin who used to live in Guangzhou for a year before. As a single woman turning 40 she found it hard to date in China and was happy to move to Australia when her company decided to close their office in Guangzhou.

An excellent post about the issue is Jocelyn’s On the rarity of foreign women and Chinese boyfriends/husbands.

But besides dating, what are the reasons for having less Western women in China?

I too have my own reasons not to come to China earlier, even though I dreamed about it since I was a kid and planned to study Chinese major after high school. The biggest reason was that I was dating from high school to university. I didn’t want to have a long distance relationship, not even for a semester. I always thought that relationships should allow both to follow their dreams and stay strong even not being able to meet each other for a certain period of time.

I guess I already knew my relationship at the time wouldn’t have been and wasn’t strong enough. Could there be other women with the same reasons to put off their dream?

When I finally get out of the hurting relationship, it still wasn’t easy to make the decision. I even had to call my mother! If you know as Finns, we usually are really independent and only inform our parents afterwards. But that time I needed my mother to tell me I should go and it’s all going to be okay. Could fear of jumping to the unknown be one reason for the lack of Western girls around here? Are men usually braver to make these decisions?

So what are the hardships right now for me, when I’m already living in China? As an introvert it’s hard to form new relationships and new situations can make me uncomfortable. Career wise I should be stronger, more determined and ask for more.

Daily life isn’t a problem especially in the big cities where you can find everything you need. Before or in the country side it might be harder to find good deodorant or tampons, but in big cities there are Watson’s and Mannings on every district, also big supermarkets have all the products we usually need.

Being a Western woman in China is a challenge but also an opportunity. I would never have these experiences, job offers, projects that I’m able to have here in China.

If you are thinking of moving to China, why don’t give it a go?


How to use VPN and access Facebook in China

Accessing blocked sites in China, like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, might first seem problematic, but actually it’s really easy to do. In this blog post I’ll tell you how easy it can be, how much it costs and how to get started.

What is VPN

Wikipedia tells us that VPN is:

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables a computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network, while benefitting from the functionality, security and management policies of the private network.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand a word from the previous chapter, me either, for us VPN is something magical that lets us bypass the Great Firewall and continue surfing like we’re used to back home.

How to use VPN

Right now I’m using VPN from VPN Privacy and have been using it for many months without problems. With VPN Privacy, you don’t have to download anything, just change the settings and you are ready to go. You can use the same account on any computer or smart phone, but only one at the time.

Speaking of smart phones, I can use the VPN on my iPhone when I’m connected to the wi-fi. The connection isn’t as good as on the computer, but it is enough for me.

On the computer though VPN Privacy is great! It connects quickly, is fast to use and if you need to, fast to turn off too. I remember having problems with connecting once. I emailed the staff, they did something and I was able to connect again. Speak about good customer service!

After paying and getting your account details, just see this clear step by step guide with screenshots to change your VPN settings. After this, connecting to your VPN is as easy as connecting to a wi-fi!

How much does VPN cost?


Above you can see the current prices for VPN security. There is a 30% discount for the first payment and I recommend you to try it out for a month first. If you like the service, you can decide if you want to save and pay for a longer period of time. Here is the monthly cost for different plans (after the discount period):

  • 1 month: 15USD/month
  • 3 months: 13.33USD/month
  • 6 months: 12.50USD/month
  • 1 year: 11.67USD/month

You can pay with credit card, PayPal, Alipay or Webmoney. I’m using PayPal myself which is easy and safe way to pay online.

So if you want to use Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in China, check out VPN Privacy and see if you like the service as much as I do.


If you decide to buy VPN through my affiliate links, you will also support Living a Dream in China. Thank you!


3 Bad Habits I’ve Unfortunately Picked Up While Living In China


While living in China you will unconsciously pick up some of their habits and customs. Some of them might be really good, like giving your seat to the elderly and kids, but unfortunately you might acquire some bad habits as well. This is my top 3 sins while living in China.

Thank you Benny, I got the idea for this post after reading yours: The 23 strangest habits you’ll pick up after living in 23 different countries

1. Stop saying thank you

Chinese people often don’t say thank you to waiters, shop assistants or other people in customer service. Money is being thrown to the counter for you or the cashier to pick it up. When buying something the only thing that might come out of the cashiers mouth is the price.

In Finland we don’t say nearly as many thank yous as in America for example, but China seems to be lacking even more. On the other hand, if someone is being super nice and polite to you, you might be getting ripped off. When there is next to no words exchanged, then you are being treated like a local, with a local price.

2. Rush to the bus

Even though I keep on queuing for metros, but when it’s time to hop on to the minibus that takes me home from the metro station, it’s like a 100 metre running race out there! After a few times I quickly learned where the bus is approximately going to stop and wait there patiently while Chinese students are running back and forth.

When the bus stops then comes the elbows, I feel like being pushed left and right, just trying to balance my self and get into the bus. As no one is standing in the line, I’m not letting anyone to rush before me from my back.

3. Ignore others around you

In Finland anyone greeting you on the street is your relative, friend or a neighbour. Here in China total strangers might greet me, stare at me or even take photos of me.

If it’s a small kid, then I usually play along and greet back smiling. But if it’s a grownup shouting “halou, halou” or “missy, missy” at me, then I just ignore them.

Chinese people don’t often care about strangers, as they have nothing to do with them. One time I saw a guy with an open backpack in the metro and though about telling him about it for a few minutes before he vanished inside the metro. I hope nothing was stolen from him.

What bad habits have you (unfortunately) picked up when living in China?


China’s New Visa Rules

Starting last Monday the 1st of July, China has new visa rules for us foreigners. I found that cityweekend.com.cn has a really good article about the changes and new visas:

As you may have heard, there have been rumors floating around regarding the changes to China’s visa system that will take effect July 1st. These changes are apart of the new Exit and Entry Law which was adopted by the National’s People Congress last June. The new regulations are aimed to address the illegal stay and illegal employment of foreigners here in China. The most relevant alterations include…

Read the whole article here: A Breakdown of China’s New Visa Rules

There is also a handy chart for all the old and new visa types over at The World Of Chinese, you should check it out too.


Updated! Other useful news and posts about the new China visa laws:


Easy check list on which kind of visa you have to get: Which is the Most Appropriate Visa Category for your Application?

Check lawandborder.com’s new blog post about Q&A on China’s New Exit-Entry Administration Law and Regulations

China Briefing: China Releases Final Draft of New Visa and Residence Permit Regulations for Foreigners

Chinese-forums.com has a helpful topic about applying for China visa in Hong Kong


About my own visa situation

Currently I’m in China on a student X visa wich will expire in September, then I can have a new student visa for half a year, but that’s it. After graduation I have to start looking for another visa.

As it’s a bit unclear what I’m going to do after graduation, I might have to get a tourist visa from Hong Kong first. Although I learned from the visainchina.com website, that I might be able to get a zero entry tourist L visa without leaving China too.

But of course I can’t be on a tourist visa forever. If I find a job, then the company should help me with the visa, but what if I work as a freelance basis in several different projects? Am I able to get a new M business visa if I open a company? According to my knowledge freelancing isn’t really possible without a company in China, as everyone working needs to have a correct visa.

As you can see, visas are still bit of a foreign land for me, as until now I’ve been able to stay in China on student visas. If you have more information or links to great resources, please let me know in the comments!


Living with a Chinese family

Since Chinese New Year I’ve been living with my Chinese boyfriend and his parents. A decision that makes me seem a bit crazy in the eyes of my parents, siblings and friends. So how is it actually like to be part of a Chinese family and live with the parents?

 I call my boyfriend’s mother ayi (aunt) and father shushu (uncle).

From living alone to living with the parents

I can say I’m pretty independent person, I moved away from my mom’s home when I was 15 in order to attend high school. Since that I’ve lived in a boarding school, in a dorm, alone and with a boyfriend. I’m used to having my own space and doing things the way I like. Usually this means messy rooms and doing laundry the last possible day.

Living with parents of course means losing a part of  your freedom. Everyday I have to consider my boyfriends parents. I can’t keep on having my bohemian messy lifestyle and I have to call ayi every time I don’t come back home for dinner.

In a Chinese family you also have to get used to people commenting your way of life. Cleaning, sleeping, eating, everything is up for discussion and advice. Usually if the parents aren’t happy with my boyfriend, they will tell me and let me talk to him. That also goes the other way around. I will hear from my boyfriend if the parents don’t like me keeping the air con on all the time.

Often you also can feel a bit awkward. For example I can spend the whole day on the sofa surfing the net and watching tv series, but I sometimes feel guilty of not doing anything useful. I wouldn’t feel that way if I lived alone. Also there are those times when ayi asks me to go dancing with her to the local park and I try to find excuses not to go.

But it’s not all negative either.

Food, food and then some more food

One of the best things about living with Chinese parents must be the food! I guess we are seen as kids who would starve if we weren’t given two warm meals per day, breakfast buns and fresh fruit and snacks. Ayi is a stay at home mom and spends her days cleaning, making clothes for extra income and cooking. She knows what to eat in every season and makes basic healthy Cantonese meals. She often comes up the stairs with a plate of sliced fruit before I’m even hungry.

By living with the parents I have learned so much more about their family and about my boyfriend. I’ve heard stories of their life before, how my boyfriend and his sister were like when they were kids. How ayi married shushu, built this house and later made it even bigger. I’ve learned about festival customs and experienced them first hand.

Living with a Chinese family is a bag of mixed emotions. Sometimes you feel so loved when everyone around you cares about you, sometimes you feel super annoyed because of the lack of your own space.

Our plan is not to live with the parents forever. Our dream is to renovate their old house that is almost next to this one and move there. But that is another story.

Have you lived with your Chinese in-laws? Or perhaps visited a Chinese family? Or is moving in with your boyfriend’s parents something you would never even consider?