Over the course of my interviews with prospective teachers, I am asked a lot of questions about what it’s like to live in China. Here are some bits of advice that you may need if you are a woman thinking about working in China:
In my experience, Westerners are held accountable to the dress code of their home country, so business casual for me is different than for Chinese women in my office. In a professional or school setting, it’s best to keep clothing business casual- slacks are fine, and tops shouldn’t be cut too low. Chinese women tend to wear much shorter shorts and skirts than western women, but cover up more on top.
Stockings or hose vary by the age of the person wearing them, just like in the U.S. However during the winter Chinese women opt for thicker, more insulated leggings instead of tights, with a knee length boot. In the summer, open toed shoes and sandals are fine.
Something to keep in mind- clothes (and shoes) for men and women come in small and tiny. If you wear size 10-16 in the States, it’s unlikely you will be able to find a lot of options for shoes and apparel. A size 8 shoe, while average in the U.S., is rarely stocked in physical stores in China.
There are hair dressers all over the place- you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to get your hair cut. Many Chinese women dye their hair, so finding a place with those services isn’t too complicated. However in smaller cities, cut and dye with caution, as hairdressers may not be used to working with Western hair.
If you use “at home” coloring, such as Clariol or Loreal, these products are available here in darker shades (Black, Brown, Auburn) – if you use blonde or any light shade you should bring it with you.
Nail salons abound. They vary in quality, and if you want to save some money you can go for cheaper brands of polish. Many nail salons also offer a range of other spa treatments.
Dry cleaners are very common and reasonably priced. Some people may try to overcharge you because you are a foreigner, but you can just bargain with them. Otherwise, there are also chain stores that have set prices for their services.
During your time in China, you will build relationships with your neighborhood dry cleaner, favorite nail place, hairdresser, fruit store, noodle guy, etc. Once they get to know you they won’t give you the foreigner surcharge. (that said, sometimes when I suspect I’m being over charged for something by just a little bit, I don’t worry about it too because I know my income is significantly higher than the guy selling fruit on the street.)
If you are picky about the types of products you put on your skin, you will notice the prevalence of lotions and makeup with whitening chemicals in them. I’m pretty wary of that so I bring products from the U.S. You can always find Western makeup brands in China, but they may not have the shade you need, and they will be much more expensive than in the States. I would also bring an ample supply of deodorant with you- Chinese people rarely wear it so it’s quite hard to find.
Lastly- Chinese women use sanitary pads. The only tampons I’ve seen are the OB brand- if you are picky about your sanitary products, I highly recommend a trip to Costco to stock up on your favorite fem care before coming to China.