Life as a Young Single Expat Woman in China

Life as a Young Single Expat Woman in China
Nov 22, 2019 By Brittany Ziobron ,

I’ve learned a lot over the past two years as a 24-year-old single expat woman in China. Chinese dating culture has some very unique qualities but also draws from some modern Western social norms. China is a country where hook up culture and pressure to marry coexist, so how can you navigate such confusing contradictions? I hope this article will shed some light on dating, relationships and safety for my fellow young single expat women in China.

cultural differences when living in China

Let’s break it down:

Are there many single people in China?

Being single in China is a completely different experience for men than it is for women. Thanks to the one child policy, which was strictly enforced from the early 80s to 2015 (and replaced with a two-child policy), men outnumber women thanks to a disturbing trend of selective abortion. There are about 34 million more Chinese men than women, which obviously gives single (straight) women, both expat and Chinese, plenty of men to choose from.

What’s it like being a young single expat woman in China?

Although you will find that there are many expats who come to China as a couple, there are just as many solo adventurers. A little exploration will show that you’re not alone as a single expat in China.

There are plenty of opportunities to go out and meet new people, and “ladies night” culture is prominent at bars and clubs in all major cities. If you’re nervous about going alone to a bar or restaurant, fear not. I find it’s a relaxing and liberating experience that allows me to enjoy all the flavors of my food or drink at my own pace, do some people watching and observe my surroundings.

If it’s your first time going out alone or you still feel nervous, bring something besides your phone to engage with while you eat/drink. You can bring your notebook, Kindle, study materials, Nintendo Switch, sketchpad, or whatever portable hobby you have. This will not only make you feel more comfortable, but also makes for an easy conversation starter with others who share your interests.

Professionally, you may find both advantages and disadvantages of being single in China. Young women working in China will find the reign of patriarchy is strong, as in the Western world, but that young single women actually enjoy more job opportunities than young married women without children. This is because employers assume the latter will get pregnant at any moment.

On the other hand, you’re likely to be subjected to many questions from your colleagues about your marital status and why you are single. Women in China are under a lot of pressure to marry early and your coworkers may be curious about your situation. Try to answer any questions honestly and without defensive hostility. A conversation about being single will give you a chance to understand the demanding expectations on Chinese women and to share a different perspective from your home country.

Are all single foreign men only interested in dating Chinese women? 

No, but it might seem like that. It’s certainly more common to see foreign men with Chinese women than it is to see a foreign woman with a Chinese man. If you decide to use dating apps in China, you may chuckle to yourself when you see how many foreign men have their bios written completely in Chinese.  Phrases like “I can speak Chinese” or “looking to improve my Chinese” are also common. Don’t let this discourage you! If you like the look of someone, try making contact anyway. What have you got to lose?

Will Chinese men want to date you? 

Definitely.  As you move from monolith cities like Beijing and Shanghai to smaller cities or villages, you’ll find that your “exotic” factor grows. If there are fewer expats living near you, you’ll immediately notice growing interest from Chinese men, which is great news if you’re that way inclined. A word of caution, though: if you do choose to date Chinese men, you may find some are more interested in practicing their English or simply experiencing being with a foreign woman than committing to a relationship. 

If you aren’t interested in Chinese men for whatever reason, consider opening yourself up to the possibility of dating someone with a nationality or background different to your own. It will give you a chance to learn about a new culture and grow in ways that might not be possible back home.

Will you feel safe on your own at night? 

Absolutely. Chinese cities are generally very safe for everyone, including young women. Parks come alive at night with elderly Chinese citizens dancing, playing badminton and socializing, and most city centers are well lit and, for better or worse, packed with CCTV cameras.

If you’re lost or feel threatened, you can feel comfortable asking pretty much anyone for help, and you’ll find police are extremely friendly towards foreigners, even if they can’t speak English. But, of course, use common sense. Keep your head up and off your phone when walking around at night, don’t go to private places with strangers and always drink responsibly.  

Do’s and Don’ts: A quick summary of single life navigation in China

Do: Get out there!  If you’re inclined to give online dating a try, Western apps like Tinder and Bumble are very popular here, as is Chinese app TanTan, although the latter tends to be more popular with foreign men looking to date Chinese women. If that’s not your scene, head out to a bar or restaurant and start a conversation with an attractive stranger.

Don’t: Be afraid to be forward! If you like someone, make it obvious. Similarly, if you’re not looking for a serious relationship, make that known. Some Chinese men may take a good first date as a strong sign that you’re looking for a long-term commitment, as this will likely be their experience with dating Chinese women. There’s nothing wrong with letting your date know that you’re not looking for a boyfriend.

Do: Broaden your horizons! Dating someone from your home country might feel comfortable, but dating a Chinese local or an expat from a different country will give you a whole different experience.

Don’t: Get discouraged. There are literally hundreds of millions of men in China coming from all ends of the Earth. If your date – casual or not – isn’t making you happy, there’s no reason to settle. Reflect on your time together and move on. Thank you, next!

Do: Remember that dating isn’t everything. There are tons of incredible experiences in China that can be enjoyed with friends or on your own. Meaningful connections, and not necessarily romance, are what will make you happy.

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Keywords: single expat woman in China


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I guess some foreign men like dating Chinese woman for practical reasons. There are simply more Chinese women than foreigners. Also, some like the allure of the 'exotic' Lastly, foreigners tend to move around. Why date someone who may move somewhere else within a year?

Feb 26, 2021 04:19 Report Abuse



thanks for sharing

Jul 06, 2020 13:54 Report Abuse



Avoid " Expert International Education" with jobs in Xiamen / Fuzhou.high schools and colleges. Innumerable problems my wife had with this company and I ended up having to spend a lot of time and money getting her out of there and back to UK. Avoid. China seems to be getting less and less hospitable but these guys are the worst offenders. If it wasn't months of waiting to go through the bureaucracy to file complaints we would have but it is never worth it. Lots of lost money, time and energy. Avoid.

Dec 29, 2019 18:25 Report Abuse



Thanks for the article, I like it for the mature attitude and open-mindedness towards learning and growing from the experience. Good luck!

Dec 29, 2019 00:21 Report Abuse



I have been living in China for three years, and I agree that foreign women can interest Chinese men, but mostly as experience or entertainment. It is scary to accept this attitude and accept yourself as a toy in their hands. Do not let them lie and give you false promises, do not decrease your values cause this is the worst

Nov 25, 2019 13:44 Report Abuse



You hit the nail on the head. They are only toys, better said, dolls, to show off around. That trait they can't resist to.

Nov 26, 2019 02:56 Report Abuse



Interesting!!!!, Why is that foreigne men like dating Chinese women ?

Nov 23, 2019 15:25 Report Abuse