One of the things that struck me my first week in Changchun was how many people were holding hands. It’s one of the most visible cultural differences I see in daily life here, but is almost exclusively done by females. In America you will see parents holding a child’s hand, for combined purposes of comfort and control. And you will see romantic couples (particularly at the beginning of relationships) holding hands. It’s also somewhat common to see elderly couples doing so, which invariably evokes a stream of “awwwww”s from nearby hopeless romantics.
But in China, hand-holding, and arm interlocking is extremely common among females of all ages. School age friends. Mothers and daughters. Adult friends. Little old ladies. A casual Western observer might leap to the conclusion that China is overrun with lesbians, but it’s just platonic sisterhood.
I admit, it makes Chinese women seem less catty, less competitive, and more friendly, to see it. Whether that is actually the case or merely perception, it’s still harder to view women as competing with each other when they are arm in arm against the world.