Over 20 years ago, the TV series “Foreign Babes in Beijing” (洋妞在北京) became a sensation across China. Say what you want about the show – which Rachel DeWoskin, one of the show’s stars, described as “an apt, if tacky, example of China’s very conflicted feelings about the West“ – I couldn’t help thinking about it recently after moving to China’s great capital city. That’s because there’s one thing I’ve noticed about this city: there are a LOT of AMWF (Asian male, Western female) couples who call Beijing home.
Among the online groups of Western women with Chinese husbands I belong to, the Beijing group stands out for a very simple reason – sheer numbers. It has over 100 ladies! This blows my mind. Back in Hangzhou, I felt lucky to find one or two in the city (even though Hangzhou is pretty large, expats tend to come and go pretty quickly, making it difficult to connect to new folks). But here, there are so many women it could take me months, if not nearly a year, to meet all of them.
In my opinion, this is a good problem to have. A very good problem.
So I’ve been thinking about Beijing and its status as the unofficial epicenter of the AMWF community in China. What makes Beijing the number one city for couples of Western women and Chinese men? It’s even more intriguing to me because Shanghai appears to have a slight advantage over Beijing among foreigners as a whole (see this BBC report and this story from the China Daily).
So why Beijing over, say, Shanghai?
Is it a matter of job opportunities? (One foreign woman with a Chinese husband, who happens to live in Shanghai, once privately shared her frustrations over the city’s job market, which she considered stagnant compared to Beijing). Do more of us come as university students, landing in the one city that attracts the most foreigners to study abroad? Is it the wealth of resources in town, from great schools and hospitals to an airport connected to every major city across the globe? Or are we simply more enamored with Beijing’s rich cultural and historical traditions reflected in the many superlative sightseeing attractions here, from the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven to the Great Wall?
Whatever the reason, I’m loving this city just for the opportunity to have some good company with fellow yangxifu (the foreign wives of Chinese men) on a regular basis.
And if China’s entertainment industry ever finds out about Beijing’s pre-eminence among AMWF couples, maybe they’ll decide it’s high time for a proper “Foreign Babes in Beijing” sequel. But this time, it’ll be “Foreign Wives in Beijing.” 😉
Do you think Beijing is China’s best city to live in? Why or why not?