The Brutal Truth: What’s It’s Really Like Living in Asia As A Solo Female

Deciding to move to another country can be overwhelming for many, especially being a solo female. Moving in general is one of the most stressful things a human being can ever do in their life, let alone moving to a country on the other side of the world with a polar opposite culture to the one you were raised in. I have to admit, my decision to pack up and move my whole life to Vietnam in two suitcases to teach English for several months was a bit impulsive, but at the time I had a lot going on and a lot of overwhelming stressors and had the desire to run from them, which lit the fire for me to make a rash decision.

I also moved there with absolutely no plan, other than to use my TEFL certificate and teach English. The experience was one of a lifetime that I’ll never forget, and I am definitely grateful for having had the option to try something like this out. But if I could go back and do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have stayed out there as long as I did. It can seriously royally suck living in Asia as a solo female, and as much as I try to not have any regrets in life, it was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, so kudos to all you brave ladies out there willing to rough it and hope for the best! So without further hesitation, let’s take a look at the downsides to living in Asia a solo girl..

 

 

The Isolation

 

It can be scary as hell traveling by yourself as a solo woman anywhere in the world, let alone all the way to the opposite side of the world! It takes a lot of bravery and self determination for a girl to just pick up and decide to go teach English in Asia for 8 months. Now, I will say the majority of women who venture out to places like Vietnam and Thailand to teach English usually travel there with a male partner, either a boyfriend or some kind of other male companion, just to feel safe and protected. Now generally this is actually a pretty good idea, since as a solo female out in Vietnam you will be ridiculed, pounced on and attacked from all angles.

 

Posing with a monk in Siem Riep, Cambodia

 

The unfairness and unjustice solo females suffer living in Asia is incredible! First of all, everyone automatically thinks something is wrong with us for just wanting to explore another culture on our own. I was especially ridiculed by local Vietnamese people for going out to Vietnam on my own, and was usually ignored most of the time and treated like crap by the female Vietnamese teaching assistants I worked with in the public schools, whereas my Western male counterparts were treated with the upmost respect and admiration.  To make matters even worse, the guys would never stand up for me, even being out there all on my lone.

Most of the accomodations I was put in as a teacher were all male, and sometimes I ended up being the only female teacher living there, which always made things super uncomfortable and awkward. Not to mention the shared showers with the dudes..sorry guys but some of ya’ll are just seriously NAST when you share a bathroom.

 

The ratio of men to women in India is horrifying and very uncomfortable – If I ever lived here I’d need a damn protective Indian husband

 

My Western male colleagues would often be totally unsupportive of me whenever I would be dealing with horrendous situations with the Vietnamese management at our English center, and would never come together with each other to unite. Most of them were pretty much deplorable, bottom feeders who came out to Vietnam because they were running away from something back home. What’s the point of going all the way to a foreign country on the other side of the world, if you’re not even going to come together with and stand by each other? There was no sense of cohesion or comradery, instead everyone was out to compete with each other and stab each other in the back. Disgusting.

 

Male Dominance

 

It’s true that a lot of Asia is very much patriarchal and male dominated, and Vietnam is no exception to this. Compared to countries like India, however Vietnam doesn’t seem so conservative. On the darker side of things, if you can see past the girls walking around in shorts and wearing swimsuits at the beach, let’s look at the working environment in Vietnam.

 

 

 

Having worked as an English teacher there for several months, I learned first hand that it’s never acceptable to challenge a male in any capacity, especially a manager. If I ever questioned any of my male supervisors, I was always shot down. Not only that, I was demonized and attacked on a PERSONAL level. It felt like whenever I tried voicing my opinion, I was treated like a painting on the wall. It was as if nothing I ever said ever mattered, even if I was just standing up for myself. The same people in my situation, had they been male, would have been treated with the utmost respect. Not only was this devaluing, but it was humiliating on just about every level imaginable.

To make matters worse, a lot of Western guys who are living and working in Vietnam I met were also deplorable in their behavior and attitude towards women. A lot of them most likely hadn’t had any success with women in their home country, so lots of them were out on tirades to demonize Western women and soley were going after Vietnamese women, only to learn to their disappointment that Vietnamese parents certainly don’t like the idea of their daughters perusing around with a shady Western guy at odd hours of the night who tells her he just wants her to come over for a “cuddle.” Women in Vietnam just don’t date like women do in the West, and this often leads to disappointment for the sex mongering Western sexpats who come to Vietnam to work as an English teacher for the sole purpose of thinking they can somehow score with Vietnamese women, only to end up sorely disappointed with the cultural differences and expectation of real commitment by the Vietnamese woman.

 

Age 30 +

 

Expect to always be asked these three questions every day when living in Asia:

 

*How old are you?

*Are you married?

*Do you have a boyfriend?

 

 

It’s as if you can’t just be a whole human on your own, hell no. You need to have a male counterpart to complete you. And if you happen to be 30 and over, and still single, forget about finding a hubby in Asia! ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

The Shoe Just Doesn’t Fit

 

Actually, for that matter, none of the clothes seem to ever fit in Asia. For myself and many other Western girls, I could never fit into the clothes over there, as they seemed specifically designed for petite Asian women, especially the damn shoes. When I was living in Vietnam, I was always struggling to find clothes that fit me, and shopping became next to impossible.

 

 

I didn’t have this problem as much in India

 

I would often get called things like “Elephant feet” (Yes, I have big feet, but still) and snickered at by the women working in the shops. The Vietnamese are definitely not keen to hold anything back ever, and if they thought anyone was fat – Well, they just call you fat to your face. It felt like most of the clothes I tried on were designed for little girls, and even the biggest bras couldn’t fit my bust. I’m pretty curvy, and about the only pants that fit around my hips were the stretchy pants.

 

 

Deplorable Treatment

 

Not only was I treated with a general lack of respect when living Vietnam, but I was deemed not even worthy any of the companies I worked for letting me know what was going on. For example, my manager would randomly cut my hours, and not even tell me they were planning on doing that. Instead, they would just give my hours to one of my male colleagues, and ignore the situation entirely. It’s a very Hush Don’t Tell culture, especially for women. If I ever protested or brought anything up, I was always met with pervasive gaslighting, and told that what I brought up simply wasn’t happening, and nothing I ever did or said changed anything. There was no truth or justice in the workplace there, and every day it was driving me crazy.

 

 

I also found out that not only myself, but other female teachers were constantly being hit hard with unreal criticisms about their teaching style, whereas the male teachers were always favored (Worshipped, almost). I felt a deep all pervasive disrespect from not only the students, but the management, and even my Western male colleagues.

Most of the times, my male colleagues would side with the corrupt actions of the Vietnamese management, and go along with it all, especially if they could make some money out of it. All to the most selfish and inconsiderate degree. Rather than actually learning about the idea of sharing and thinking more about others, my Western colleagues acted like money mongering sleazeballs rather than being fair with each other and coming together, even when we were all experiencing being ripped off out of our salaries and treated poorly by the management and schools.

 

Creepy sexpats in Thailand

 

As far as the way local women were treated in Vietnam, it seemed like they were always the ones doing the brunt of all the hard labor, carrying around heavy loads and doing all the back breaking work, while the men sat around in the background drinking beer at the local Bia Hoi.

The Vietnamese women seemed to be the ones out on the forefront, while the men stole all the credit for their hard work. Now, this isn’t the way it is across all of Asia. For example, I noticed in India it seems mostly men do the hard labor, and it varies across the region.

 

 

The Sad Expat Scene

 

I met some of the most low life, shitty people when I was living in Vietnam. The lowest of the low, who would have been considered pitiful losers back in their home country, but were somehow magically transformed into a White God and placed on a pedestal for being a white and living in Asia.

 

‘Nuff said

 

Most of the expats I met living in Vietnam were male, running away from something or someone, were terrible and insecure with women in general, and seemed to even have a general hatred towards women, were liars, cheats, criminals, backpackers just passing through, or were alcoholics who would do nothing but binge on cheap booze every single night then run around the streets being loud, saying disrespectful things about country and pissing off the locals.

 

 

Some of the creepy looks you’ll get wandering around alone in Asia as a female – This entire group of dudes followed me up and down Digha beach in Kolkata – Solid evidence that no, I am NOT batshit crazy, this stuff happens all the time and shit is real

 

I met a lot of shady sexpats who were just there to try and score with Vietnamese women, and always took advantage of their status of being a male in Asia, trying to exert that false sense of power over both Vietnamese and Western women alike.

It was absolutely pathetic. Typical work day scenario: I walk into the English center ready to hop on my motorbike and go to school to teach, and there sits one of my loud mouth, arrogant male colleagues, strutting into the office at the same time, and saying in an almost announcement like way, “So who wants to marry me?” Which followed with all the Vietnamese women working in the office giggling like 10 year old girls. *Puke*

The arrogance and entitlement of your typical male expat living in Asia is deplorable and sets a bad rep for expats living over there in general.

 

 

 

The Harrassment

 

It’s bad enough you already look different from everyone else when living in an Asian city, but it’s even worse when you’re a female on your own. This more than triples your chance for harassment of all kinds. I would often find myself just trying to take a quiet peaceful stroll down the beach, only to be met with words such as “Hey Bitch, you want Fuck?!?”

 

I had to bitch slap some guys who stared at me the wrong way on the beach in India

 

Unfortunately in lots of Asia (I found this especially in India), one of the only conceptions your average male has of white, Western women is from the *dirty* movies. So yeah, when they actually see you in real life, somehow they think by flashing a porn video at you from their phone, that will make you want to come up and talk to them. Sad, I know. But it’s a very ugly reality you have to deal with if you live in Asia. Not to mention white women in general are deemed “easy” by Asians, and guys think you will hop into bed with them on the spot simply because you’re white and blonde. *Puke* I couldn’t have possibly been out there just to experience a whole different culture, hell no. I was out there whore mongering and chasing penis, in the eyes of many Asian males. There were times the whole porn flashing thing happened to me when I was driving alone on my motorbike, to which I threw my hot chai tea at the guy, often a middle aged balding pedophile, to which I would then promptly lift both middle fingers, tell him to go f*ck himself, then drive off into the crazy traffic. When this deplorable stuff happened, I didn’t just make a scene like some Indian girls do – I got ANGRY.

There were times when I would step out of the bus after a long and tiresome journey, only to be pounced on by taxi and Grab motorbike drivers, yelling in my face in Vietnamese. They would even grab at my me, to which they received a prompt slap in the face.

 

Nothin better than riding around in sandals

 

And unfortunately, even though many of us would like to think that women and men are equals and that we live in a fair world, we simply do not. Hence going back to what I mentioned earlier about how it is definitely best to move to Asia with a significant other or companion. Females moving to Asia have a lot more to worry about than their male counterparts. We have to worry about the very real possibility of being raped, abducted, sexually harassed, and the list goes on.

You can also expect many critical, suspicious stares wherever you go, when you’re just trying to go about your daily business, like shopping at the supermarket, or jogging around the block, or going to the bank.

 

 

For all the reasons listed above, and many, many more which I can’t fit in just one article, I left Vietnam and decided I would never live there again. Would I be open to living in Asia again in the future? Absolutely! But only if I were with a good partner in crime! Keep a look out for my upcoming article on the pros of living Asia as a solo female. Your thoughts? I’d love to hear what your experiences were like living solo in Asia in the comments! Don’t forget to you can like and share my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you travel tips and advice, so feel free to Follow Me by entering your email in the Follow Box below. And don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube!

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Comments

  1. Raj says:

    This was really interesting to read your blog. From where I can see, you seem highly irritated visiting this part of the world. No wonder we are not Western and can not imagine the world you have created to make you comfortable everywhere. I just wonder if you knew before hand what you were getting into. That made me almost forgot how the Whites treated the Blacks in America or in UK. How the Brits treated Indians in their own Mother Land or how Americans had their Vietnam.

    Indian women were Raped and punished to be naked in-front of white males and not to mention torched by the Brits who came here in the name of Trade and to be friends yet looted everything and now you call us the 3rd World. If the Indian Army would not have supported British they would have lost the world war and that was for sure. Food Supplies and Ammunition was taken from India during the World War , which in return made India Literally Starve till Death.

    I just wonder if you ever read that or wrote about it. There is a lot one can write about how Americans or Britishers changed Indian or Asian Culture as per their comfort.
    YET WE DO NOT COMPLAIN
    WE LOVE OUR CULTURE AND PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD ADMIRE AND GET INSPIRED AS WELL.
    When 9/11 Happened, it was a sad day for entire world and not only for the Americans, yet Indians were torture because of their looks. Sardars the most happy and helping people of India who helped Britishers in World War I and even other countries during bad times, even now they providing helping hand to Rohingya Muslims, were beaten brutally and Tortured just because of their Turbans and beard.

    Do you think that was fair.

    I LEAVE IT UPTO YOU TO DECIDE.
    Well, in then end I just like to say, YES we have issues, YES we are not perfect, YES Females are not given equal rights, YES we are not perfect and YES WE ARE NOT THAT BAD THE WAY YOU HAVE MADE IT SOUND LIKE.
    You see we all have issues and we are not perfect Neither Americans, Britishers, Germans or any country in the entire world including India. YET we respect others.

    IT is really easy to belittle someone just because you had a bad experience but do you think that is all INDIA or ASIA is about. AGAIN I LEAVE IT UPTO YOU TO DECIDE.

    Writing has a lot of power and i must say you are a good writer. I would just suggest you to use it in a good way and not to criticize someone. They say if you can’t see the brighter side, please polish the darker one.

    There is old saying in INDIA I would say the way it is said “BURA JO DEKHAN MAI GAYA BURA NA MILYA KOI, JO DIL DEKHA AAPNA MUJHSA BURA NA KOI” Saint Kabir

    I hope you google the meaning and interprete it as per your understanding.

    Cheers

    1. Hi Raj!

      No I am absolutely not irritated, and please note I have written many a positive article about visiting Asia. I do realize the horrors of European colonization and the American Empire, I am certainly not denying these brutal facts of history. I agree what they did was inexcusable, and they should not expect to be so easily forgiven after how they robbed India and turned it into what it is today. Trust me, I too am disgusted by this history. All I am saying is that there is a general stigma in India associated with white foreign women, and that is why we are targeted and treated as such. The only way to break this view is through exposure and education, which unfortunately isn’t available to many in India right now.

      And women all across the globe have to battle oppression, not just in India. Women also get abused and harrassed simply for being viewed as inferior everywhere, in the UK, US, all over the globe. I am sure more gang rapes happen in the US than in India by a long shot. And thanks for the compliment, I do try to write a counter article for every article I write, so as to balance things out with both viewpoints. I just wrote an article recently on the endearing qualities of Indians, please check it out when you get a chance. I have been in a relationship before with an Indian man, so in no ways am I discriminating against the entire Indian male species. Thanks for taking the time to read my work, hope to see you back!

      Xx Blossom

      1. Namaste Blossom,
        As an Indian woman who is extremely Independent and comes from a mixed marriage parentage….you have alot of truth in your article … women by and large no given little respect – and in turn propogate that thought process in India – i cannot speak for Vietnam.
        It is definitly changing – and women are asserting their rights for sure – you get more harrasement for sure due to the color of your skin and hair – my mum did too… she still gets stared at and retarded comments when she is out – but she ignores it..plus she like you backpacked around india – probably was one of the first original expat back in the 60s and well lives a very privileged life here – that is the only way to live in india. with extreme privilege minus the in-laws – so i have grown up with feet in both worlds…
        our problems definilty started when we were colonised for the women were free – er and usually never wore blouses with their sarees – this you can see in some parts of the country like andaman islands (you must go there)…anyways i support your comments about the way men are shit towards women here – they are also really fantastically helpful ..enough – be safe – and if ure in delhi – drop me a line 🙂 enjoy your travels

        1. Hey girl!

          Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article! 🙂 I can see where you are coming from regarding the mixed marriage, I can only imagine what it was like. And yeah in some ways I felt kind of invisible in a lot of parts of India, I guess in any big city you can feel lost and unnoticed, but for example even in line to get a train ticket or something men would always shove past and push me and all, pretty disrespectful. And yes the stares and harrassment, in a very real and very creepy way, I mean even in my living in Miami and traveling to South America where men are notorious for being forward and cat calling, they never gang stalked me while staring unblinkingly.

          And wow kudos to her for being brave to go out there and venture around India by backpack! It takes a lot of courage for women to go against the grain and do these types of things. Our society, even modern society seems less accepting of women doing these things. I do notice a lot on IG that women post photos saying they are so called alone and backpacking, but you come to find out they are actually with their bf or someone who is taking all the photos, haha. In my case I’ve gone it alone and only had a man traveling with me for a short time, it actually made the trip less exciting to have that anchor pulling me down 🙂

          And yes the horrendous colonization by the Brits definitely sent India in a backwards and downwards spiral, I am sure they were in a much better place socially before the British came and f*cked their world up. I am even seeing this living in the UK at the moment, being half American and half Brit I’ve lived here just several months and am seeing the overly reserved ways, the stuck upishness, the class system in my face as an American every day, and it sucks. I can see what they passed on to India and it isn’t good, and it is one of the reasons I am relocating back to Miami soon.

          I would absolutely love to visit Andaman islands, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the place. And thank you for all your support, it really means a lot! I have gotten a lot of criticism from the Indian men to which I’ve shown this article so far, but I can only call a spade a spade and it is what it is sometimes. I just wish all societies, modern and developing, would learn to see women through the eyes of other women rather than always seeing them through the eyes of men, and judging them based on what they can or cannot give men. What about what they can or cannot give the world? I believe in the women of India and the numbers growing restless of the double standards is growing, let’s up this helps spark a revolution where there’s no turning back to the old ways of calling women’s repression “tradition” and oppression of men “tragedy”. Xxx

  2. I just read your article and your time over in Vietnam and I 100per cent agree with you I have been married to a Vietnamese man and me being a westerner you are degraded by them you feel humiliated and disgusted by the way they treat you but as I have been told by my husband this is the way they talk. Women in there country are second class citizens and its pretty sad the way they treat them.

    1. Hi Joanne!

      That sounds horrific, I am sorry you had to deal with this kind of situation..Well I hope you are making progress to get free if you haven’t already! Yes it is sickening how I think especially in a place like Vietnam I noticed women can be treated like absolute slaves, I noticed a lot more exploitation of women there than even in a lot of places in India I traveled, since at least in India it seems more respect is shown to women as far as not allowing them to do the heavy labor, and most of the men over there are doing the hard labor, mostly in India I see women being carried around in chariots, haha. But yes I do find it sickening the way women are treated in Vietnam and just thought I’d speak out about it. Yes they may be able to wear shorts and skirts and things maybe a lot of women can’t get away with in a lot of India, but at the same time they are so restricted in other freedoms like work wise and any other areas..Whereas in India it is common to see women, even younger women advance and get into high places in their fields.

      Take Care

      Xx Blossom

  3. Sumitra Das says:

    Hi Blossom,

    I just read your article and the things you’ve stated are correct to a large extent. I have lived in the UK for a while and I am crrently living in Hanoi Vietnam as an EFL teacher. I am married and a mother too! And yes whenever I take up a short term assignment luke this to live abroad the people from my own family raise their brows and my husband gets asked – WHAT IS THE NEED OF ALLOWING HER TO LIVE ON HER OWN IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, well ALLOWED, yes my husband aparently gives me the luxury of travelling solo and experiencing different cultures. And yes you will find plenty of nen like this in India ( I am sure in other Asian countries also) who are so liberal that they are ready to take care of the household things and even babysit beibg househusbands as well managing their own wirk. But you will find these kind of Asian men only if they are educatef or I should say illuminated. But its sad the way I myself get treated in my home country and when people think weired things about me and they discuss at back of me. So I am Judged just as a female and nobody really cares about my human feelings except for my parents and my belived husband and my child.
    But this is also true that women should not travel solo in any part of the world specially Asia to find their feet, as it can be fatal at times in some parts of Asia! But you should also be aware of pathetic situation of women in quite a few European countries like Russia, Ukrain, Poland and in some places in tbe US! But yeah that is something very hush hush because Europe doesn’t want to reveal their dark side to the world!

    1. Hi Sumitra!

      Wow that sounds like an incredible experience, sounds similar to my story having lived in the UK then went to Hanoi to teach ESL 🙂 How do you find life in Hanoi? Yes I agree it is sad that women are not seen as whole persons on their own without fitting into some sort of role for a man, especially from the eyes of a patriarchy like India, but I am not saying that partiarchy doesn’t exist in the West since it certainly does, but women in general have more freedoms out here. It is sad and tbh not just because of my own tragic personal experiences with men, and statistically women are more likely to be raped, battered and tortured by their own partners (Not some stranger in the streets) I have a personal mantra not to be with anyone who restricts my freedoms esp to travel! But in any case I have a deep distrust of men and partiarchal culture. kudos to you for spreading your wings and going out into the unknown, it takes a strong woman to do so! And it is not easy to do unless you stop caring what others think, which I know coming from India that is a more collective society, it is harder to do even than someone like myself who comes from the US. Yes I did find the treatment rough in India too, I mean men cutting in front of me in line, it was like many times I was just…invisible because I’m a woman! I feel one of the reasons women traveling to India have to almost beat respect into the males there is due to many times how they were raised by their Indian mothers, who raised them to feel like Gods and super entitled and that can get dangerous as you may know. And yes women can be abused and objectified in other parts such as in Europe and the US even, it is kind of the same abuse and objectification but a different culture.. So happy to see a fellow female traveler taking off solo to the unknown! Hope you are having some incredible experiences out there in Vietnam! Hope to see you back on my blog page again 🙂 Xxx Blossom

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