To Shave or Not to Shave

May 04, 2010
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Why Chinese girls don’t – and beware the stares, if you are a hairy foreigner in China. Our blogger, Crystal Tao, tells it all.


I am a bit embarrassed to talk about it, but writing a blog sometimes requires me to make little confessions. Until recently I did not realise how widespread the practice of shaving legs is.

Most Chinese girls don’t have hair on their legs and we don’t need to do anything to keep them smooth. Until a few months ago I never thought that somewhere else it could be different.

Last year I went to Israel and studied Hebrew in a special course for foreigners. There we had students from many different countries: Argentina, Germany, India, Japan, Romania, Russia, Sweden, USA… just to name some of them.

One of the students I befriended was a girl from Romania. During a break we had a chat about our plans for the upcoming weekend. She said her husband was planning to go to the Dead Sea, and complained about how much she was going to suffer from waxing her legs.

“So why do it?” I asked her. “Don’t torture yourself.”

Now it was her turn to be surprised: “Are you kidding? How can one wear a swimsuit without first removing the hair from one’s legs?”

At that moment, another classmate – a woman from Hong Kong – joined the chat, and we both demonstrated our legs to her :-) (saying neither of us used wax).

She could only sadly comment: “It’s so unfair! We are all women, but you don’t have hair at all! Why don’t you have this kind of problem?”

And it is true. Chinese girls can wear short skirts without ever needing to shave or wax their legs. Generally speaking, Asians have less body hair than other races – both females and males. You can sometimes see that even Chinese guys have smooth arms and legs and no hair on their chest.

A few years ago, my friends and I went to Tongjing Hot Spring, one of the many great hot springs surrounding Chongqing. This is a very popular place amongst both Chongqing residents and the city’s guests who come here to relax. That day wasn’t an exception and the pools were full of people.

In one of the pools I saw two foreign guys. They were ordinary men and I could not understand why other people wouldn’t stop looking at them (even though trying not to stare in an obvious way). After all, there are many foreigners in Chongqing and they can hardly be a source of prolonged curiosity.

But once I got a chance to go near them and take a quick peek, I understood the reason. Both guys had extremely hairy chests, drawing curious glances from everyone around.

But fortunately, people do get used to differences. Recently I could feel it myself during a video chat with one of my friends. She asked me to show her the photographs that I had taken abroad. I began sharing the pictures while continuing to chat with her. Suddenly she stumbled and her eyes opened wide as she stared at one of the pictures.


Hairy men can be a source of prolonged curiosity.

Hairy men can be a source of prolonged curiosity.

Photo  credit: Karl Scullin


“What’s wrong?” I asked her worryingly. “Did I miss anything? Tell me!”

“Oh my God!” she almost shouted. “The guy in the picture has such long, thick and black hair on his arms!” I couldn’t help laughing at her astonishment.

But who knows – maybe in the past I would have reacted in the same way.


Crystal Tao also blogs at LoveLoveChina