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?