Section II: Living in China continued—Dating, Sex, and Relationships
The truth is they will find you.
More often than not, the Chinese girlfriend of another foreign teacher at the same school will have already told her unattached girlfriends about you, well before you ever arrive in China and this becomes the greatest and easiest source of meeting girls. However, in our experience, most of these introductions are to girls who can only speak a minimal amount of English (if that) as the introduction was not made because her friend can necessarily speak any English at all but usually because this friend had previously expressed an interest in meeting a foreign man (based on what she has observed between her girlfriend and her Western boyfriend).
What then typically happens is that the mutual friend who made the introduction becomes that couple's designated interpreter until such time that the man acquires a little bit of Chinese language skills or until the new couple becomes comfortable enough with each other communicating with a combination of body language and the use of a pocket dictionary (and that can work over time if both parties are extremely patient and forgiving—but be forewarned that this is a very exhausting and frustrating way to try to have a relationship).
In addition to personal introductions (which are by far the easiest and most reliable way to meet girls in any culture), many foreigners have reported a great deal of luck by attending university and community English Corners (see Office Hours and Other Free Work for a detailed description). In fact, many English-speaking girls do attend these functions primarily for the purpose of meeting eligible foreign men.
Another possibility, especially if you are into this scene, is to frequent neighborhood bars that have acquired the reputation of being "foreign bars," i.e., bars where, for one reason or another, foreigners tend to congregate more so than at others. You will find a great many English-speaking Chinese girls at these establishments as well. Just be completely certain that the girl is unattached and is not just using you to make some boyfriend she is angry with jealous (we've heard some horrific stories about this). In addition, a good measure of pent-up frustration mixed with copious amounts of alcohol tends to make for one volatile combination: Be advised that there often seems to be some altercation or outbreak of fighting at these various watering holes, especially if the preponderance of patrons are young men (involving both foreigners and Chinese). As a final caveat, it is unlikely that foreign men will have much success finding suitable women at pubs unless they were particularly competitive for Western women back home. That is, the Chinese girls who tend to frequent these venues are not all that much different from their Western counterparts. Unless you are relatively young and handsome—and have money to spend—the bar scene should be avoided for the purpose of meeting Chinese women.
Actually, just about any place or business visited or staffed by Chinese girls who speak English can potentially be a meeting place if the girl is actively seeking a Western boyfriend. If a girl attempts to strike up a conversation with you in English, assuming she is not just looking for a free English language tutor (and that does happen often and is, initially, always a hidden agenda), this is usually a good sign. One foreign teacher we know is now married to a girl, a pharmacist, whom he met when he needed help in a particular drug store she happened to be working in at the time. She approached him to inquire if he needed help while he was walking around looking totally lost and the rest is history.
Finally, for those men who are Internet savvy, a few have reported having had good experiences with the online dating service AsiaFriendFinder.com (only available in China via a proxy server, effective 2008. See unit on Technology in China for information about proxy servers). However, if you do decide to use an online dating service, you should be forewarned that many, if not most, of the girls on these sites could accurately be described as gold diggers and visa hunters, and, in addition, it is not unusual for prostitutes to sell their wares on these sites as well (and, in many cases, it is not obvious that the girls are, in fact, "working girls"). In addition, wholesale lying about one's age and using photographs that are either 10-years' old or that even belong to someone else are commonplace among members of any Internet dating website (several use photos of Chinese actresses unknown to foreign men that were gleaned off the Internet).
One way to protect yourself against Internet dating fraud is to insist on the use of a webcam, especially if the girl is not local. If the girl tells you she is too poor to buy a webcam, then ask her to send you a plain recent photo in which she is holding up a copy of the daily newspaper (to verify the date). Do not accept professional photos that were shot in a studio by a professional photographer. These "glamour shots" are virtually worthless in determining what the girl really looks like. If the girl, for whatever reason, doesn't have a webcam and refuses to provide you with a current "plain" photograph of herself (e.g., "sorry, I don't have a camera"), she is most definitely misrepresenting herself to you with the hope that once you meet her, her less attractive or much older and heavier appearance won't matter as much in the context of her wonderful and charming personality.
We know of several cases where men have traveled to China from America and England to visit women on the strength of 10-year old photos (obviously, unbeknownst to them). One woman in particular (as related to me by one very frustrated and hurt Western man) was at least 12 years older than she was in the photos she had posted and a good 20lbs heavier. In reality, she was a 38-year old former KTV girl (a prostitute) who had grown too old to work in upscale KTV establishments. She reinvented herself as a 26-year old pious and innocent Christian girl in order to attract decent Western men with money. Be forewarned that this happens all the time on Asian dating websites (and not just on those dedicated to Chinese girls).
In closing—and on the other hand—as girls on these sites (especially AsiaFriendFinder.com) are relatively better educated and more Westernized and sophisticated than their off-line counterparts, many are there seeking casual dating relationships as well as "friends with benefits." Depending entirely on what you are looking you, this could prove to be an ideal situation or a total waste of your time and energy.