I just saw a comment on an earlier post from a new reader named Cheryl. (First of all, thanks for finding the blog and reading!) I thought about responding directly to the comment, but since it was an old post, the information probably wouldn't have been seen by most, and it's worthwhile information.
Cheryl mentioned that she'd been a little apprehensive about coming to China as a woman on her own. To put it simply, Cheryl, you have nothing to worry about.
When she was showing me around town, my colleague Roni mentioned that, as a woman, she feels much, much safer walking the streets of Zhangjiagang than she does in America. She said that, if you feel like going jogging at night, you can do it without fear. She even took it to the extreme, saying you could walk down any alley here late at night without feeling threatened.
Crime is virtually nonexistent here. People are respectful of others and their property. As a foreigner, you may get some odd looks (we're definitely a novelty here, and the natives do enjoy looking at us, particularly when we look confused in stores or restaurants!), but you are also "protected." China is very concerned about its image in the international travel community, since there is so much tourism now, and crimes against foreigners are prosecuted much more harshly as a deterrent. So take that virtually nonexistent crime and break it down into a small fraction... that's your chance of becoming a crime victim in China. That's pretty amazing.
Unlike the United States, the Chinese government also takes the security of its schoolchildren very, very seriously. Every school here in town is gated, with limited, guard-protected access. So, as a teacher, you will also feel secure. (Especially if you're living on a school campus, as I am.)
If you're worried about feeling alone as a foreigner in China, you shouldn't be too concerned. Just like any other workplace, there are co-workers who will become friends. At the school where I'm living, I'm housed with a great group of English-speaking teachers. And at the school where I'm teaching, I've been playing volleyball with other faculty three or four times a week, and I've been made to feel very welcome.
Also, thanks to WeChat, most expats get connected through groups.
Even in Zhangjiagang, which is a smaller Chinese city, there are more than 150 expats, and most (if not all) of us are in a WeChat group. People ask each other for advice, plan get-togethers, and as I will soon be posting, meet up atrestaurants and bars around town that embrace and cater to the expat community. So there's no need to be concerned about social activities -- you will not be forced into a hermit's life!
Thanks for the comment, Cheryl... and maybe I'll see you here in China someday soon. 😊