Foreign women label Beijing a dating wasteland

By Erik Nilsson (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-11 08:46

As China's expatriate population grows, many foreign women looking for love are saying this is the wrong place to meet Mr Right.

Many single expat women quickly find that most foreign dreamboats have already sailed, and their chemistry with local men rarely stirs the right mix for a love potion.

"The dating scene in Beijing is sad," said 27-year-old Kate Minnikin, of Brisbane, Australia. "I know a lot of expat women who are single, but I don't know one foreign man who's single."

Minnikin, a research and development specialist for a human resource development company who has lived in China for two years, said the reason there aren't many available foreign men is simple: "There are a lot of Chinese women; they're available, and they have a lot to offer."

The dating problem of China's forlorn foreign females has become a hot topic on online forums for expatriate such as and Threads with titles such as "Why foreign women will NEVER have a dating scene" and "How can a woman find a man?" are becoming increasingly popular.

"I have lived in Asia for about four years now and know how tall blondes are treated by a lot of the men here," said MTGirl, who posted on a "Frustrated woman" thread on's Love and Dating forum. "Although that has not turned me into a man-hater, I find the situation frustrating."

Offline, MTGirl is Juanita Hartman, 33, who came to Beijing from Ellensburg, Washington, as a research fellow studying Chinese history at Peking University.

She says that even though foreign men in Beijing are available, she has seen that they are likelier to seek local women.

"It really doesn't bother me that they overlook expat women," Hartman said. "What bothers me are the looks of disdain I get when I'm out and about.

"Men look away when eye contact is made," she said. "I'm not drop-dead gorgeous, but I'm not butt-ugly, either.

"Living in China for about four years has given me great insight to who I am and what I want. Part of that self-discovery has been that I haven't had a steady boyfriend and had to struggle through comparing myself to these beautiful, petite Chinese girls.

"I am 176 centimetres tall and often felt like a bull in a china shop - no pun intended. I have come to terms with the way I look and the way I am built. I am more confident because of this experience."

For China's lonely "laowai" ladies, it seems the problem is a matter of not only the quantity of men, but also the quality.

Many foreign women complain that the fabric of the men who are attracted to the expatriate lifestyle is too often different from that of good dating material.

"Beijing seems to attract only certain types of guys: English-teacher types straight out of college who just want to have fun, ladder-climbing executive types and a bunch of weirdoes," said Emily Patterson, 23, of Cleveland, Ohio, who works as a reporter for a Chinese magazine in Beijing. "You don't want a college guy. Maybe the executive type is already married, busy or boring. And of course, you don't want to date a weirdo.

"At home, maybe you meet a hundred nice, normal, single, socially, capable guys, and you have feelings for one or two. Here you meet five normal guys, and there's such a small chance that one of them is the one you want."

Hartman agrees: "I think the main problem in Beijing is that most of the men here I wouldn't touch back home, so why would I here?"

Like many expatriate women in China, Hartman believes that while "a few" laowai guys in China are worthwhile men, capable of establishing solid relationships, many come here to get a badly needed ego boost.

"The majority of men come here because they have issues back home ... or they just can't get a woman back home for a number of reasons," she said. "They come here because they become a big fish in a little pond; they become very important and sought after."

For these reasons, these women see the pool of single, dateable foreign men more as a small puddle. And they don't consider dating locals a viable option.

"Women need to communicate more, so for women who don't speak Chinese, we don't have as many options as men," said Minnikin.

There are cultural barriers, as well.

"Most Chinese guys are really shy," Patterson said. "They work really long hours and don't come out to bars and parties, which is where you usually meet people."

Josh Bernstein, 21, of Phoenix, Arizona, has organized an informal singles group and has seen first-hand the difficulties faced by Western women interested in Chinese men.

The singles party he hosted a week ago attracted more than 20 Chinese women, four Western women, 10 foreign men and two Chinese men.

He said that while the foreign men ignored the Western girls, the Chinese men struck up conversation with them. But in the end, it was only talk.

"These foreign girls, even though they talk to the guys who they are interested in and think are interested in them, the Chinese guys seem to be too shy or too worried about saving face to make a move," Bernstein said. "They're afraid of making a mistake because of cultural differences. A lot of Chinese guys don't know about foreign girls and don't know how to approach them."

Hartman, for one, said she has given up on the dating scene, and believes it's for the best.

"I came to the conclusion that whatever happens will happen" she said. "I could find the love of my life here and have a great story to tell, but I could also return home alone.

"Either way, I am still learning about myself, and isn't living abroad all about the learning experience?"

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