All the information below is provided by Pink Pangea community members based on their experiences abroad. Get involved and add your voice here!
Feminine Hygienic Products
Katie says: China is really big on beauty products. Many foreign brands are available for purchase such as Olay and Lancôme. I caution people against using the lotions, however, because they often contain a bleaching agent. In China pale skin is considered beautiful.
China has an array of sanitary pads available but few tampons. I encourage you to bring your own.
Rita says: OB and many brands of sanitary napkins are available. OBs are only in international grocery stores, but most grocery and convenience stores have sanitary napkins.
Katie says: Birth control pills and emergency contraception are available over the counter at the local pharmacy. Diane-55, Marvelon and Yasmin are found in nearly all pharmacies without a prescription. However, if you use a prescription birth control, bring enough for the time you are abroad.
The pharmacists won’t give you any judging looks while you’re picking up the pills and there aren’t any questions asked (except in the case of ‘Marvelon makes you fat. You should try Yasmin.’). If navigating the pharmacy seems intimidating, just bring a paper with bì yùn yào for the pill or shì hòu bì yùn yào for the plan B pill.
The friendly pharmacists will help you find what you’re looking for. Condoms are often found next to the chewing gum at registers.
Rita says: I believe you can get birth control anywhere due to China’s one child policy.
Recommended Gynecologists and Doctors
Katie says: It’s uncommon to find a doctor with a private practice. Most people go directly to the hospitals for everything. There are hospitals dedicated to female medical care. There are even a few international hospitals where the doctors speak English.
Rita says: None I would recommend in Qingdao. The hospitals are dirty. They often don’t change the sheets and doctors’ clothing is sometimes bloody. No toilet paper or soap are available in bathrooms. I have friends that have delivered babies here, but most have gone back to their home countries to deliver or go to Beijing or Shanghai.
Katie says: There are children and babies everywhere in China. Most of them are cared for by the grandparents – which leads me to believe they are not breastfed by their mothers. That being said, I’ve only ever seen a woman breastfeeding once and it was on a public bus.
Rita says: Children in China are treated with such reverence that they can do anything they want almost anywhere. I have not seen any public displays of nursing but I don’t believe it is frowned upon. My western friends are shy to nurse in public because Chinese people often want to hover and bear witness.
Katie says: Many times you will see foreign men dating Chinese women but seldom is it the other way around. To the Chinese, foreign women are viewed as ‘loose,’ so prepare yourself. Dating culture in China is very different from Western culture. Many times people go on dates to test the waters for future marriage matches. If you’re not interested in a long-term relationship, be kind and don’t lead a guy/girl on.
History Lesson: In traditional Chinese culture it was commonplace for men to keep concubines. This practice was outlawed when the Communist Party seized control in 1949. However, with the reintroduction of capitalism many traditional practices began to pop up as well. The practice of keeping mistresses is often found in the richer and more powerful men (i.e. government officials).
Rita says: Women and men do not hold hands or show affection. Men and men show affection and women hold hands.
Katie says: If I were to describe Chinese men in three (generalizing) words, they would be: assertive, entitled, and expectant. It’s no secret that males are valued in Chinese society. With the large population, many Chinese people are forced to become assertive or even aggressive when it comes to getting what they want. It’s how they get ahead in society. So, if you’re meeting a successful Chinese businessman he’ll probably come off as pushy or have a demanding presence.
Going along with that comes the sense of entitlement. This is a result of the single child policy – a government initiative that mandated families only have one child. Males born into a single child family are burdened with the expectations of caring for his two parents and his four grandparents. This means they are pressured to find a good job with a high income.
More on Men
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that being a single child, with the love and attention from six adults, often results in a sense of entitlement, spoiled attitudes, and selfish behavior. Chinese men expect others to behave in ways that please them – that includes you.
This, of course, does not apply to everyone in the society so don’t be discouraged from dating. The above information might be helpful to understand some of the more difficult elements.
Rita says: A majority of the prominent (government) men in Qingdao are loud, like to smoke, slurp their food and spit a lot. They would be happy to run you over with their car if you get in their way. Most have concubines and secret families.
The college students are very polite and helpful. Some study and work hard for their degrees and some are paid for by their fathers.
Katie says: China is a conservative society with traditional values – we’ll start with that. Mainstream culture frowns upon LGBTQ relationships. However, there are small pockets of LGBTQ friendly communities in the major cities. These groups meet regularly and act as a support network for each other. Depending on the city, their activities could range from raising public awareness to being ‘underground.’
Shanghai is known to have an active LGBTQ scene and you’ll often meet Chinese and foreigners alike who consider the city very open.
Rita says: China considers LGBTQ people a ‘problem’ and isn’t very friendly for queer people.
Katie says: Legally, women enjoy the same rights as men. Socially, however, there is a gap. This derives from the traditional Confucian values deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Women were, traditionally, subservient to their husbands, sons, and brothers. This mentality was challenged during the 1950’s and 60’s when women were encouraged to leave home and join the national work force. As a result, women are now in positions of power both politically and in the business sector.
The average woman, however, lacks mobility in society without an education to guarantee her gainful employment. If a woman cannot be financially independent, she falls into a centuries old trap of marriage for financial security. Sometimes businesses use a figurehead (male) to represent the business and ensure positive encounters. Don’t get your feathers ruffled by this obvious sexist display – it’s just part of a long standing, slow-to-change patriarchal culture.
Tips for Women Travelers in China
Rita says: In Shanghai and Beijing women are very independent and have strict requirements that must be met by potential marriage partners.
Katie says: I am honest in the bluntest way possible. I don’t like talking in circles – if there is a problem, I like to address it in the most direct means so as to solve it quickly. If you find yourself nodding and thinking “That sounds like me,” China is going to challenge you. The Chinese are very indirect when it comes to problem solving.
China isn’t like Japan where a direct approach would be seen as rude. My concerns were heard and my colleagues viewed me as demanding yet organized (a valued trait). I mention all of this because it goes against the typical expectations of Chinese females. Understandably, the Chinese women have a better understanding of how things work within their culture. They can address their personal and professional issues in a less stress-filled manner.
More on Local Women
Desired traits of Chinese women are what you would expect according to stereotypes: quiet, subservient, humble, etc. I have and probably will never be identified with any of those descriptors. This immediately sets me apart from my Chinese counterparts. I’ve noticed that my female students exhibit these traits when in the presence of their male classmates.
I think this behavior pattern ends once the women are married. I am pleased to report that most of the Chinese women I’ve interacted with, professionally, do not fit this stereotype.
Rita says: The women in Qingdao are very obedient to men and would never consider divorce even if the husband was abusive or unfaithful. They are shocked to learn that I am married for the third time.
Rita says: Chinese women typically don’t drink so you probably won’t see them in a nightclub.
Perception of Foreign Women
Katie says: China is a very homogeneous society. No matter what you do, if you’re not of Asian descent, you’re going to stand out. When visiting tourist areas, be wary of people who approach you speaking English – especially if they invite you to a business or a demonstration.
Many times vendors will hire local students to pull foreigners into their businesses. A friend of mine was invited to a tea ceremony and lost the equivalent of 100 USD. Most people who offer a service or help expect to be compensated in some way.
More on Perception of Foreign Women
I am from the United States and most people have an opinion about my country. Some of them (men) are more forthcoming with their criticisms than others. Most of the time Chinese people are curious and ask questions about my home culture.
Rita says: Low-income people really love the U.S. and tell me, “USA! Very good!” Higher income Chinese people would be happier to see me gone from the neighborhood.
Tips for Women Travelers in China
Katie says: Do not take the black taxis. Black taxis are privately owned cars and unregistered driver offers transportation for a fee. Not only are these black taxis unsafe, you will get ripped off as well. Better to just stick to registered taxis, public buses, and subways.
Rita says: Public transportation is very safe, and there are no guns here.
Shady Areas for Women
Katie says: China is an extremely safe place for women. Practice common sense, of course, but crime rates are quite low in China.
Rita says: None that I know of.
Katie says: The best thing about China is that, if you’re not Asian, everyone is staring at you. So, take that as an opportunity to wear what you’d like or try out a new style. When asked to describe Chinese fashion, I typically say: A woman decides to wear her favorite outfit.
This means she’s going to wear her favorite shoes, leggings, shorts, shirt, jacket, glasses, hat etc all at the same time. None of it matches and often times the individual pieces clash but it doesn’t matter because they are all her favorites.
More on Clothing
High heels are another big thing you’ll see in China. Many of the Chinese women in my area as short and, to compensate for their height, they wear obnoxiously high platforms and heels. It’s common to see a local girl showing legs for days and heels that are normally seen in a local nightclub because for Chinese culture.
However, they are usually quite conservative with low-cut tops; so keep that in mind.
Rita says: China is pretty fashion forward, but some ladies like to wear their pajamas during the day!
Tips for Women Travelers in China by Alexandra Ehrhardt
Four months have passed since I moved to China, and the initial culture shock has subsided. Now, I even prefer a Chinese squatter toilet to a Western one! Still, a few Chinese habits continue to stand out to me. Here’s what to expect when you visit:
While walking around my city, Changsha, I discovered a small market. People hustled and bustled all around to find the best prices. Among the throngs of people, I swerved and dodged the crowds, attempting to take a picture or two.
Then, I looked up at the sky and down to my feet. Drops of what appeared to be water encircled my shoes. Was it raining? Nope. It turned out that the people walking, driving, and flitting past had been spitting.
Spitting is a common practice in China and happens everywhere you go. I have found bodily functions to be less of a taboo in China than they are in America.
Now, my friends and I make funny faces at each other when we witness someone on the bus spit on the ground and attempt to wipe it away with the soles of her or his shoes. Rather than taking absolute disgust in it, I find it to be humorous. I am accustomed to the spitting sounds because I was in China. More often than not, they don’t even register in my mind.
However, when they do, I find myself making up some sense of a cheer: “Yeah! You go man! Clear those sinuses! Way to clear that throat!” I giggle to myself and avoid the area of the evidence.
Lack of Personal Space
Be prepared to lose any sense of personal space when in China because this is a norm in China. This seems to be due to the number of people living here and the social culture.
Public transportation is a popular option for many Chinese; however, a bus can only fit so many people. Nevertheless, the bus driver and all occupants will try to fit one more person in no matter how packed it already is. Waiting for another bus going in the same direction might take hours! One time, we stuffed a bus with so many people that it broke down.
At the same time, the words “excuse me” are not commonly used. If someone needs to get around you, they walk past you and hit anything you happen to be carrying. I carry around a backpack, and I can’t count the number of times someone has slammed into it without an “I’m sorry.”
In one particular instance, I sat at a bus stop reading a book. I was engulfed in the text when a Chinese man walked up to me, stood less than three inches away, and asked where something was located. In fact, I jumped in my seat and took a minute to register that the man was asking me a question though I was clearly engaged in reading.
I directed him to the proper location, and finished reading the chapter of my book. Ironically, the chapter was about etiquette as demonstrated through the Chinese language.
Screaming into the Phone
No matter what time of day, Chinese people will answer their phone as though they are trying to wake the dead. Whether it is seven in the morning, one in the afternoon, or ten in the evening, the Chinese always answer the phone with an extremely loud “WEI!?”
One afternoon, a friend and I grabbed some lunch outside of our work place. Less than five minutes after sitting, a local entered the restaurant screaming, “WEI!” into his phone. When he didn’t receive a response, he continued to scream “WEI! WEI! WEI!!!” After four attempts, he hung up the phone. By that time, my lunchtime calm had dissipated.
This occurs everywhere. It is hard to escape the thundering “WEI!” no matter where you go. Often, I feel included in the conversation (although I do not understand it) since every syllable echoes throughout the space that the screaming stranger and I both share.
These are just a few Chinese habits that have stood out to me. The most common have become regular occurrences in my daily life here. My foreign friends and I collect stories of such habits and share them over meals or during the late night hours. They serve as reminders that where we live is so fascinating because it is so different from where we came.
Tips for Women Travelers in China by Faye Zhang
When you think about Beijing, few images of this city might come to mind: dense population, high pollution, the Chinese capital and the Forbidden City. As one of China’s four ancient capitals, Beijing stands for both old and new. The city is constantly buzzing with noise, people, traffic and activities. Well, if you are looking for an adventurous trip (if you speak no Chinese), and actively looking for some culture shock (if you are not Chinese), this is your town.
Apart from the well known tourist places, Beijing offers a range of attractions, which might not be that famous, but will definitely win your heart with their unique charm.
1. Jinshang Park
This little charming park is right next to the Forbidden City, opposite to the exit of the Palace Museum. The
history of the Jingshan Park can be traced back to 1276, when the Yuan Dynasty was ruling the country and Beijing was first appointed as the capital of the middle kingdom.
History is present in every corner of the park. From the tree where the last Ming Dynasty emperor Ming Si Zong (1611 – 1644) hung himself for losing his country to the Manchus, to the memory of foreign troops invading Beijing city during Qing Dynasty period (1644-1912).
The most exciting part of the park is the spectacular 360 degree view that it offers of Beijing. On any given day, the view is always breathtaking. The central point of Beijing is also located in this park, right under the temple on the top of the hill.
*Bonus: the entrance fee of the park only costs RMB 2.
2. Summer Palace
Branded as a “masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design” by UNESCO, the Summer Palace will take your breath away. Dominated by the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, the Summer Palace is covered by picturesque hilly landscapes and a serene lakeside.
Originally built during the Qing Dynasty in 1752, the “old” Summer Palace was burned down by the British and French armies during the Second Opium War. The restoration work began in 1900, and what you can see today is mostly the reconstructed palace.
*Bonus: the Summer Palace and the Botanic Garden are near the Fragrant Hill, located north-west of Beijing. You can visit all of these places in one day.
3. The Hutongs
Some call it the slum, some call it the actual Beijing. However you see this area, you must visit. Hutong is the
name for the traditional architecture type native to Beijing. It is now a combination of old and new, as many original buildings have been demolished.
The houses in Hutongs are called Si He Yuan (literally means four-walled compounds), where each Si He Yuan used to be occupied by one family. However, most of the Si He Yuan have more than one family living in there, and some of them have been refurnished, which have caused the prices to rise.
Nevertheless, you can experience the peacefulness of the traditional Chinese life the minute you step into the Hutong area. Nowadays, there are many cafes, bars and restaurants there, and their uniqueness and quality services will surprise you. Some will be overpriced.
*Bonus: You can rent a bicycle to explore the small alleyways without the disruptions of heavy traffic that you’ll experience on normal roads.
4. Provincial Cuisines of China
This might sound like a strange idea, if someone is in Beijing, why would they look for food from other provinces? Strangely enough, you can easily find other provinces’ best food in this city. As the capital of China for the past eight centuries, Beijing set up provincial representative offices’ restaurants to present their best delicacies to the people of the capital.
Nowadays, you can visit these restaurants to taste the fine cuisines prepared by the finest chefs from all around the country.
*Bonus: there are 23 provinces in China!
Very few people have heard of the Caochangdi Art District. It is the home of many modern Chinese art galleries but still has the old village area surrounding it. Step inside the district, and you will find both contemporary architectures that will capture your artistic heart.
The gallery area is quiet and peaceful, and you can enjoy a
coffee near any galleries. Outside the gallery area, the district is jammed with local village shops, restaurants and residential apartments.
*Bonus: most galleries offer free entry.
6. Non-Tourist Areas of The Great Wall
It is no secret that the Great Wall is a must visit when you come to Beijing. However, most travelers tend to go to the sections that are well-maintained and easy to hike around. The true hidden gems of the Great Wall are the sections that are not well-maintained and broken. The view of the mountains will definitely make you appreciate the natural beauty.
*Bonus: you can stay in one of the villages near the wall to experience the local village life. The villagers will serve you food for a fee.
Tips for Women Travelers in China
China Travel Tips: Amanda’s Take on Health, Safety and Romance Three Things that Chinese People Find Funny about Foreigners
Why Marriage in China is a Failing Prospect
Menstruation in China: Your Guide for Eating, Drinking and Buying Tampons
Questioning the East vs. West Divide in China
12 Tips for the First-Time Traveller to China
How to Avoid China’s Crowds and Chaos
Your Guide to Travel Scams in China
Have you traveled to China? What were your impressions? We’d love to know if there’s any important information you recommend adding to this list. Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Tips for Women Travelers in China photo credit: Jessica Shen