Getting a Girlfriend in China

So you've arrived in your chosen city of China after having cemented an English teaching gig at some public or private institution and are now pondering the thought of entering the dating or relationship scene to get back into the swing of things to remain sane.

Chinese girls: a completely opposite sex
And this is a true story about what happened to me after arriving in China within the month of September in 2010, and I'm hoping that you'll gain some helpful insight on what to avoid and what to look out for during your interactions with the "completely" opposite sex over in this weird part of the globe.
After many trips to the legendary bath houses of China (which I don't recommend) which normally includes a shower, Q-tips, tooth paste with a brush, bath, massage and a romp on the top floor...
I remember sprouting goose bumps all over my body while hitting it off with a bar girl (little about whom did I know) in Huangdao, Shandong during a game of foosball; the same girl who, shortly after, traveled alone on a 5-hour bus trip to be by my side in Dongying City, Shandong!

She wanted one thing only 
Unfortunately - at that time - I had the noble thought locked into my mind that I was searching for an early relationship, and not a "one night fling" or "casual date" experience, which is what could only become of a rendezvous such as that.
Even though it was painfully obvious that this young woman was seeking short-term intimacy and had allowed me to kiss the top of her forehead, after practically begging to return back to my rented flat in the city, after having met some of my laowai friends at a local tavern, I never even asked her once to take her trench coat off, and devoted little attention to her in bed as I blindly listened to Western music (including the Red Hot Chili Peppers) as she snored away.
Come the following morning - to my surprise - she flew out the door in efforts not to miss the bus after taking orders from her unknown boyfriend from Saudi Arabia! To make a long story short, I blew my chance for a good time and kicked myself about taking this ultra-short relationship the wrong way for many months.

Meeting Chinese girls on QQ: a new hope
And this leads us to my next ‘romance’, which lasted a fair bit longer, but came with a far heavier emotional and financial price.
We met on QQ (a popular social networking application) during the most boring (at the time), and long, holiday that I ever experienced in my lifetime named The Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).
Since I was cat-sitting for a few buds that had gone on a pleasurable vacation and I was watching the entire series of the TV show Friends back-to-back, I welcomed Cai with open arms and soon fell in love with the thought of not only meeting her at a hotel in Changchung, Jilin, but landing a new job and moving to her city, since I had this "special" feeling about us.

A nightmare journey ending in the family shut-down!
After an unexpected 22 hour sleeper bus ride into the frigid Northern part of China and getting ripped off immediately after exiting the bus on the highway by a taxi driver, we finally kissed and made passionate love for several days.
Yet if I only knew then what I know now!

Being in a long-term relationship with a Chinese girl: you need the family's blessing
Having the parent’s approval in terms of the daughter’s personal relationship is extremely important in China. Even though Cai's mother knew that I was a laowai (a foreigner – not Chinese) who had quit his teaching job and left his friends to then start a new contract at a local school so he could be with her daughter in the same city to continue the romance, I was not accepted. Once the girl’s family doesn’t accept you, you are done; even if the girl really loves you. She just won’t have the guts to go against her family’s wishes and will be forced to call if off.
Who would ever think that a new foreigner in China can't speak fluent Chinese?!
All ends happily though

So far this true story in relation to my involvement with the opposite sex has been fairly grim, but there is a happy ending if you know what I mean! While I was teaching at a new school, this teaching assistant was giggling and amused by my performance in class (many relationships between foreign teachers and Chinese girls are with your teaching assistants as you spend so much time together in the classroom and natural friendships and attractions grow), so I invited her to the beach. Later, we sat on the boardwalk and gazed at the water. It just seemed right, we started seeing each other in a full-time relationship, and her entire family welcomed me with open arms.
We've gone through a lot of good and bad times since getting married but it's real and very heartfelt. Plus, we both have the same long-term goal! She's the complete opposite of whom I thought I'd eventually marry. You just never know what you're going to get when in China ;-)
Some things to keep in mind if you want to find a girlfriend in China
Even though it may be tempting to stretch the truth by telling a Chinese girl what she wants to hear in order to get her into the sack, I wouldn't recommend it. From my experience, the girl will ask you many questions in the beginning such as your relationship status, marriage intentions and future in China and honesty is the best policy here to avoid any needless problems.

Actually getting a Chinese girlfriend

If you like going out to bars and letting your hair down a little, then China is a good place to be as there are a ton of bars in every city and this is where most English teachers like to hang out. If you've always been quite comfortable in a bar or chatting to girls, then you will have no problem at all in finding a Chinese girlfriend.

Chinese guys can often be quite shy and don't always know what to say, whereas western guys have often been dating and around girls since high school or even earlier. Indeed, even if you aren't the most charming, handsome and funny guy, you'll probably still do OK. Chinese girls can often find western guys more worldly, better travelled and having more to say. Of course, that's not always the rule, but in general you shouldn't have a massive problem finding a Chinese girlfriend. Whether you want to make it super serious is another question for you both.

The Big 26: time to get married...anybody will do....
Realize that most women in China who aren't already married are seeking a husband, not only a lover. Especially if she's over 25 years in age, for then the family will be most likely pressuring her to find that ‘match made in heaven’. If she is 30, then the family pressure will be unbearable to get married, literally to anybody.... who meets the financial requirements in China anyway...

What happens if your Chinese girlfriend wants to take you to meet her parents?

If you are an English teacher in China and your Chinese girlfriend wants to take you to her family home to meet her parents, it means only one thing: she wants to show you off as being the one and would accept marrying you. Indeed, she now plans on it and is taking you back for acceptance. It's not like back home in the west, where we meet our partner's parents constantly, this has very deep meaning. So if you don't really plan on marrying the girl you are with or spending considerable time in China, then beware of going back to meet her parents.

If you do meet her parents, don't be shy of drinking baijiu with her dad (you'll be seen as not manly if he wants to drink with you and you say no - but don't get too drunk either!) Also be prepared to be asked some very personal questions: how much is your salary? Do you have a car? Are you going to buy a house? Answering in the wrong way will mean doom to your relationship in China.

If you ain't got the money, take your broke ass home

If you're thinking about taking that leap in faith within the future with a girl, then understand that it's traditional for you to pay a dowry to her parents (at least 20,000CNY and to purchase a home. Normally in China, the groom’s family will chip together to buy the home for the newly married couple, but I'm assuming you won't get a helping hand in this regard. Don't forget that you will still need to get her a ring and perhaps even a new car. Many Chinese girls wanting to get married will want (and her parents often expect) you to have a house as a minimum. 

You don't always need to be Bill Gates can have a 'naked wedding'
Some Chinese women are independent and their family often supports them in this. You may still be able to propose to, and marry, a Chinese girl in China without a house or car, known in China as ‘a naked wedding’, but she will need to see your potential of being a big earner in the future – a diamond in the rough. If you need to have a naked wedding but don’t have the sharpest tools in the kitchen, then you’ll struggle to find a decent long-term girlfriend in China. Both the girl, and importantly her family, will not see you as marriage material in China.

Relationships in China: communication problems
Lastly, communication with the opposite sex in China can really pose a problem at times, especially if you don't have a patient nature. The Chinese culture is far different from our own and they have their own way of doing things which works fine for them as much as things may seem crazy to us. I would recommend trying to find a girl who can compromise with you to some degree, instead of opting for a woman who is overly stubborn.

by Rich Tweten

Rich Tweten

Rich has been living and working in China since 2010. His hobby is personal fitness and you can check out his website here

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