(note, I'll probably augment this from time to time if it seems beneficial, if there is a good and notable way to make it clear what's been added - please let me know).
Shenzhen is described in some literature as being the Chinese answer to Las Vegas. Having been based in Las Vegas for the past three years or so (at least while I am in the US, maybe half the time or less over the last year and a half), I would say that this description is apt for some purposes and misleading for others. In any event, a city of almost ten million people, it deserves its own explanation.
Thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a fishing village, just across the border from Hong Kong (a 50 minute train ride to Central HK) of perhaps 300,000 mostly Cantonese people (a sub-ethnicity of China speaking a different form of Chinese, inhabiting Guangdong province (which the British named Canton, hence Cantonese) and Hong Kong. After governmental initiatives to develop Shenzhen as an electronics manufacturing and trade center, to supplant Hong Kong, the city swelled to its current size, with people coming from all over China to Shenzhen for work and economic opportunity. Many of these people came without official “leave” to move, which means they are migrant workers and may be here without family, or without access to schools, hospitals, social services, etc. unless they return to their home province.
As a result of the massive influx of people, mostly young, from Hunan (just north), Szechuan (far west), Hubei (north), Jiangxi (east) and other provinces, the most common question upon meeting someone new in Shenzhen is “Ni shi nali ren” - basically, where are you from (you are where person?).
Its an easy enough thing to learn to ask and is a very satisfactory opener. Chinese are not private people about certain things, and its flattering for many girls to have a foreigner (lao-wai or wai-go-ren, or pejoratively, gwai-lo) ask them and take an interest in where their “hometown” is.
Shenzhen is very metropolitan now, but because of all the “villagers” from small towns all over China that occupy almost every area of the city, even in low-rise tenements adjacent to modern hi-rises like where I live in Gangxia, Futian CBD, there is a dichotomy. You can go to a mall or a restaurant where the prices are as high as any in Hong Kong or London, and then blocks away, you can go to a Xinzang style noodle house and have a filling meal for less than US$2, with free tea to boot. If you live as a foreigner, and only frequent places that tourists do, Shenzhen can be quite expensive. But if you can figure out a way to take advantage of the low cost of things the way the Chinese do, other than perhaps housing, living in Shenzhen is remarkably inexpensive (though more than say, Hanoi, which is like living for free).
As mentioned before, Shenzhen has girls from all over China. China is massive, the size of the USA, geographically (almost exactly) and has enormous ethnic diversity. People come in all shapes and sizes, but with far fewer overweight people. But eye shape, skin tone and heigh very greatly.
As a result, whatever you like, you’re likely to find at least some of it. Some provincial notes:
- tend to be less feminine to me, which is a significant turnoff. Thin, and usually on the conservative side, though many Chinese girls are very conservative (I’ll refer to these as Closed for the sake of expediency) or the polar opposite, and are completely dtf (I’ll refer to these as Open). This also is true of Chouzhou people, who are from Guangdong, speak a different language, but the girls tend to be better looking than Cantonese girls, and more feminine (and usually have family money if they’re in Shenzhen). You’ll find a lot of both of these groups in SZ.
- the very populous province directly north of Guangdong, a lot of very delicately beautiful girls come from Hunan. They also tend to be less conservative than say Cantonese girls, but that varies based on the girl. A lot of Shezhenites grew up in Hunan in either Changsha or a smaller city or village.
- Known by other Chinese as the wildest girls in China, the ones most likely to work in KTV’s or massage places, this probably results from the poorness of their home province, its huge population, and that its beliefs as a western area were more influenced by Tibetan buddhism rather than Confucianism. These girls tend to be thicker, have bigger racks, like to drink more, etc. They’re known for being a bit craft as well. Chinese are big on stereotypes though, so don’t assume too much.
- The danger zone. A province in central china known for good looking but crazy girls. I can confirm this, twofold. Be careful.
There are of course girls from many other places, but in SZ, this probably makes up a good 75 percent of the population. The vast majority of girls you’ll encounter, unmarried, out and about, will be between 19 and 26. They won’t care if your 30 or 40, but they may prefer that you’re not too young. Chinese girls date “up”, in height, age, income, and intelligence (that’s the proverb). Doesn’t always work out that way, but thats the preference.
Physical Interaction and Dating
Chinese girls don’t like for strangers to touch them. They don’t hug guys or kiss them on their cheeks (other than their boyfriends, with whom they do all of these things, and all the time). Breaking the physical barrier without objection from the girl can mean one of several things: for a girl educated abroad, it means very little; otherwise it can mean she’s very interested in you, or that she’s very Open (the Chinese description of easy). You’ll have to figure out which, if the distinction matters to you.
When you first meet a girl in SZ, they’ll likely be conflicted. Chinese girls mostly find light skinned foreigners attractive and they are enticed by the possibility of a foreign boyfriend/husband taking them out of China on a trip or for longer, but the rep of foreign men in SZ is not that much better in some circles than among “good girls” in Thailand. They think you’re there to get laid, especially if your travelling around without a real job. Teaching English is often considered to be a way that sex tourists subsist in China, despite the fact that these positions pay more than most Chinese make at their jobs. There are a tremendous number of English teaching foreigners in China, so the job reduces your foreign cache or ISV. Being a lawyer has a sizable advantage, even though its generally assumed that young or youngish foreigners are English teachers.
With respect to girls, another thing, in China, people don't visit the homes of non-family very often. If a girl is in your apartment, she likely (not definitely) came to get down, unless she lived overseas before in which case she may have gotten used to the foreign custom. Each time I had a girl back to my place, the evening ended the same way. Sometimes it didn't take til the evening.
Personally, SZ is so dense I don’t think you need to do anything in advance. Just turn up. If you’re light skinned, foreign, with a big nose (as opposed to a flat one), tall or at least tallish, beardless (not a deal breaker but preferred), you wont have any problem attracting immediate attention and making friends. Internet dating is popular on many different engines in China. Badoo seems newly popular, but there are multiple avenues. Some wont have many english speakers, though many people can write some english but are uncomfortable speaking english. I’ve gone on many dates with girls with little to no english speaking skills. Google translate sucks, but hey, its a reason to huddle together over a smart phone when meeting someone for the first time.
Just a brief note, as I imagine most of you know how to date. Its often very helpful to invite a girl to bring a friend on a date if she seems reluctant and is Closed. If she’s Closed, you can get there, but its gonna take some work, and its not a first date thing anyway, so you’re not losing anything by asking her if she wants a girlfriend (not a guy) to come with you. It may be the only way she feels comfortable with the date. If the girl isn’t totally your type, you may like the friend better anyway and trade up.
For Open girls, this need not apply. Just add beer/liquor and stir. A note- some Open girls specialize in foreigners. They’ll likely speak english, could be quite good looking, or mediocre, and maybe have fucked 20 plus guys or more over a 12 month period. They may have on-going friends with benefits situations. These girls just like the advantages and prestige of dating foreigners, and if the Chinese guys know they’re like this, they may not have the option of dating Chinese guys unless they change social circles. Again, you may care, or you may not. I do have a friend who ended up in a committed relationship before realizing his girlfriend was such a girl who decided to settle down, and he’s insecure about her as a result.
SZ is geographically big. There are four major districts where you’d considering setting up camp short term or even long term, Shekou, Nanshan, Futian and Luohu. Shekou has the most foreigners by far, and Luohu probably has the fewest. All provide easy access to the border crossing into Hong Kong Northern Territories. I prefer areas without so many foreigners as I speak enough Chinese to get by, and its a hell of a lot cheaper than living in an area thats all foreign. The cache thing obviously has more weight as well. Just get used to be being stared at.
Hotels are very much all across the board pricing wise. The nicest hotel in Shenzhen is the Grand Hyatt, where I stayed for two months last year because our partner had a special rate on rooms there. THe normal rate is over 300USD per night though. A decent Chinese hotel, complete with some language barrier issues, can be around 50USD per night, and a more international one might be 100USD per night. A budget option, of questionable cleanliness will be significantly less money. These prices are for the areas I mention above. As one heads further from areas frequented by foreigners, then prices drop considerably. I often stay in Baoan, a manufacturing district, in a very clean and pleasant hotel, for around 34USD per night (no taxes added, including a decent breakfast).
On the apartment side, short term sublets are fairly available and you can look on the internet. Prices for shared situations can go between budget USD 170 per month) to more extravagant (USD500 per month for a nice shared apt in a cleaner building closer to a subway stop and in a nicer area). Solo apartments are a bit of a hassle, though there are many realtors. Its a bit of a bait and switch game, and the leases are a year and housing can be very competitive. Also, expect to haggle for about a 10-15 percent reducing on the list price. Get a chinese friend to help with the finding and the haggling. If you need a person to help for perhaps 10USD per hour, I know a few good ones.
Easy. Great clean subways til 11 PM and cheap taxis are plentiful in most neighborhoods, though at change over times can be competitive to get them, and some dont want to deal with non-Chinese speakers. All hotels have business cards with their addresses to show to taxi drivers. If you rent an apartment, its suggested you get the same for your new home address.
Since SZ is a manufactured city, it doesnt have much to offer culturally and historically that stands out in the city itself, which is mostly newer construction. Destinations tend to be based around shopping or nightlife. As I dont frequent Shekou, I have limited suggested outside Futian, Nanshan and Luohu.
- Futian - a bastion of nightlife, foreigners and Chinese intermingling, with some expat oriented places and some more solely Chinese night spots. Combined with a mall and a starbucks, its one of the more common nighttime destinations in SZ. The mall side has a large outdoor plaza with many foreign restaurants and coffee/desert places so there is a lot of daytime traffic and daygame opportunity here as well.
- Luohu - A nicer shopping area with a very popular Starbucks (Starbucks are big pickup spots in SZ, and coffee is definitely considered a “Date” for girls, so if you have a girlfriend dont tell her you’re taking another girl alone for coffee unless you want fireworks).
DongMen Commercial Plaza/Laojie
- Luohu- a huge shopping area for inexpensive goods made in China. Clothing, cosmetics, electronics (consumer) shoes, and a zillion people on the weekends, mostly young. Also a ton of inexpensive restaurants and strangely my favorite vegetarian buddhist restaurant in SZ is here.
OCT/Windows of the World
- Nanshan - Another big but higher end shopping area. Lots of opportunity for day game. OCT Bay, not far away, has a lot of night spots/bars, night clubs, but I prefer bars with fewer foreigners, I tended not to go here except for a specific purpose or invite.
- Luohu The highest end mall perhaps in China (outside Shanghai). Tons of daygame opportunity, but you may not be able to afford much outside the food courts. Beautiful (some model quality) girls with their older married Chinese boyfriends are everywhere.
- Beach area about 20 miles from SZ proper. A big spot to visit for weekends during the warmer weather including mixed groups of foreigners and Chinese camping on the beach. Traffic can be ridiculous. Some high end hotels like a beautiful Sheraton out here. Near...
A weird (to me) , fake Swiss spa hotel and village. To me it felt like being at Epcot Center in Disney. Atop a low mountain, the spa wasnt that relaxing as young Chinese people chattered in every hot tub, moved around incessantly, and smoked like Chimneys. For spas, there are much better choices.
Nightclubs in General
Nightclubs in SZ and many other cities in China are table oriented, often lack any kind of considerable room to dance, and can be grossly overcrowded. Its not unusual for a girl to be assigned to your table to refill drinks instantly they are diminshed, generally for the purpose of increasing sales of bottles. You’ll have ample opportunity where there are dancing floors to do dance approaches, and the girls will often be in sets without guys. Either way, its hit or miss but there is generally a big crowd at any popular place and many sets of varying quality, and bunches of girls may be wasted or at least quite tipsy and thus easier to open. Don’t be alarmed if a Chinese guy at a club with few or no foreigners regularly visiting invites you to his table to drink with him, he’s just using you to have more cache by having a foreigner drink with him, and he may be the son of someone richer than you can possibly imagine. Never try to split a bill or such, as its an insult and won’t be accepted nonetheless. In China, the inviter (as well as the person whose hometown it is) pays every time. Every time.
China isn’t necessarily thought of as a sex tourist destination, but to those in the know, the scale of its sex industry is huge. The nearby city of Dong Guan, which is about 6 million people, and is a 30 minute train ride north from SZ, is estimated to have 800,000 workers in the “hospitality industry” 300,000 of whom are pros. Around SZ and Dong Guan and many other Chinese cities, business men together frequent KTV’s that have concubine type young women to serve beer, wine, and on their prerogative, more. The quality of the KTV girls can vary greatly, as can the pricing. The ages, 23 and below, are pretty standard. Expect to spend a good amount of money for the room and booze at a higher end KTV, and an additional 1000 RMB (166 USD) for the night, not including the price of the hotel (usually not that much depending on the city and location for the room). There are also massage houses, shower places, and a million other variations on service though I’ve never seen a strip club in China. Accessing many of these places may be difficult or impossible for non-Chinese speakers, and if you go alone, you may also be very overcharged as well (although if you know the proper costs of the girls, they won’t argue with you and tipping is uncustomary in China). At the KTVs’ the girls, who many business men may see regularly over years and years, sometimes exclusively, usually don’t do bjs or any other extras with casual partners (they may do much more with their regular businessman “boyfriend” if they have one), though you’re experience certainly may vary depending on the girl.
Some Other Thoughts.
I’ve been in Shenzhen in total for about 10 months now, and like it very much. Its pretty clean (by Chinese standards) and while its expensive compared to some Chinese cities, its not expensive at all by western standards. Its also really easy to travel to HK or Guangzhou (a monstrously large Chinese city an hour by train to the north) and catch an international flight to almost anywhere, direct. In fact Shenzhen’s own airport’s international airport just opened and now has its first international flights (to Kuala Lumpur). Within China, Shenzhen is two hours by plane to Shanghai, and three and a bit to Beijing.
China is a strange place, and there are some perils like food contamination. This site isn’t about food safety so I won’t say much more than avoid cheap restaurants using a lot of oil in their cooking (i.e. fried food places and cheap Sichuan joints). Overall, for foreigners, because its a major gateway for China, criminals don’t mess with you because the police will damage them badly and permanently if they’re caught. China doesn’t want foreigners relying on HK, it really wants them in SZ spending money directly within mainland China.
Visas in China are increasing complicated, and there is a de facto requirement for long term visa that you get them in your home country. You can get a shorter term visa (two entries, two months) in Hong Kong, typically.
Hope its been helpful for starters, and feel free to ask questions.