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Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  945 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
Determined to broaden her cultural horizons and live a “fiery” life, twenty-one-year-old Rachel DeWoskin hops on a plane to Beijing to work for an American PR firm based in the busy capital. Before she knows it, she is not just exploring Chinese culture but also creating it as the sexy, aggressive, fearless Jiexi, the starring femme fatale in a wildly successful Chinese so ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published May 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,948)
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Aug 22, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't let the title and the cover fool you, because this book is not as salacious as it sounds. (Aside: This was the first book I put on hold at my library, and when the librarian handed it to me, she was all, "Woohoo, look at those fishnets! I thought it said 'Foreign Babies' but I guess not." She thought I was some kind of pervert. While that may be true, she did not have evidence of it in her hand at the time.) This is the true story of the author, who went to Beijing in 1995 to work for a PR ...more
Jul 26, 2007 Lena rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
As memoirs go, this story of a recent Columbia grad who ends up starring as a Western hussy in China's most popular soap opera is a fascinating one. I learned a lot about what modern day life in China is like from this book. It was particlarly shocking for me to read that some people there don't keep journals out of fear what they write might be used against them by the government. Still, the tone did get a little academic for me at times and I wish the author had included more of her own person ...more
Matt Holloway
Jul 22, 2008 Matt Holloway rated it really liked it
So this girl graduates college and goes to China to work for an American PR firm, but also gets cast in a cheezy Chinese sitcom (same title as the book) about slutty American chicks and how badly they long for Chinese guys. It's watched by like 40 million people. I'd give the book 5 stars but she doesn't string out the sitcom storyline long enough. Her cultural reflections and stories about Chinese friends are great and illuminating, but they can't compare (in my eyes) to the stories about the s ...more
Eric Klee
Oct 07, 2010 Eric Klee rated it it was ok
When I travel, I like to bring a book with me that would be considered "light reading." I picked up FOREIGN BABES IN BEIJING because it was described as a "Sex and the City" set in China on the dust jacket. The author moves to Beijing to work in PR and suddenly finds herself on a Chinese soap opera called "Foreign Babes in Beijing." Sounds fun, right?

As I started to read it on the airplane, I was suddenly transported back to my freshman foreign governments class in college. I wasn't expecting a
Jessica Larson-Wang
Feb 18, 2009 Jessica Larson-Wang rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot. China in the 1990s was a special place and Rachel DeWoskin had the good luck to be involved with a very interesting group of people. I'm married to a Chinese musician, and many of his tales of that period of time are similar to what DeWoskin talks about in her book. For that alone, and the fact that I somewhat know the feeling of being a "foreign babe" in China, I found it easy to relate to her book. China memoirs aren't that uncommon, but I was excited to come across on ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Sigrid-marianella rated it it was amazing
It looks like chick-lit but don't judge a book by it's cover.

I'm absolutely loving this book, but I suspect it might be because I myself lived in Beijing for some years and can relate to a lot of what she is writing. I'm not sure someone who hasn't lived there would be as captured as I was so for that I give it four stars.

Having arrived in China 10 years after Rachel I enjoyed reading her descriptions of the city as it was and getting an image of how it has transformed (and in many ways remaine
Jun 23, 2009 Louise rated it liked it
When I first saw the title of the book, Foreign Babes in Beijing, I didn’t know what to expect. Its cover was racy but facetious. I was confused about the title. Was it implying local Chinese women weren’t babes?

The first few chapters cleared up the confusion. This non fiction book is about the author, Rachel, and her first few years as an expatriate in China. Foreign Babes in Beijing is actually the title of a Chinese soap opera she acted in.

I had read and grown tired of the usual books I read
Jun 14, 2016 Lizzy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I loved this book. It was the perfect cure for the book hangover I had when I begged a group of friends for recommendations.

Even though the author's experience takes place about 20 years prior to my own, her descriptions are SO relatable - even though she was in China and I'm in South Korea. Of course the political scene is quite different, but that's only touched on a few times in the book (mostly over the bombing of the Chinese embassy). She's honest and entertaining.

"The meeting reminded me
Mar 29, 2014 Corine rated it liked it
This is an interesting snapshot of China through the eyes of the author when she lived in Beijing, working for a PR firm on one hand, and starring in a Chinese soap opera on the side. It is an interesting combination of memoir with a somewhat academic twist, for lack of a better word. It has much more substance than the title of the book implies. Using the Chinese soap opera as a backdrop to shed light on her experiences, perceptions and attempt to understand the historical and changing Chinese ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Dennis rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
I'm glad that I didn't judge this book by its cover, although I cannot deny that the shapely pair of fish-netted legs did catch my attention. Truth is this book is far less sensually provocative than it is evocative of expatriate life in the heart of an awakening economic powerhouse. Rachel DeWoskin's memoir about her adventures as a 20-something college grad working in Beijing for an American PR firm paints a vivid portrait of life as a foreigner in China during the 1990s.

Rachel is not just yo
May 11, 2013 Katie rated it it was ok
**Edited to say that I totally dropped this down to two stars. I've read/been reading solid three-star books since then, and realized how much more I disliked this one compared to them, so two stars is a truer reflection of how I felt about it.**

This is purely in the "meh" category. I never really got who DeWoskin was throughout the thing, and found myself super bored - especially considering that the story should have been really interesting. I'm not sure how long after the events it was that s
Karen Germain
Dec 14, 2012 Karen Germain rated it it was amazing
I first heard of Rachel DeWoskin a few weeks ago, when I picked up her one of her works of fiction, "Big Girl Small", which I loved. I immediately looked up other books by DeWoskin and discovered that she had written a memoir about her time living in China in the mid-90's. The title of her memoir "Foreign Babes In Beijing" refers to the title of the very popular Chinese soap opera that DeWoskin found herself cast in as Jiexi, an all American girl and temptress to one of the married Chinese male ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Kathy rated it liked it
This was our book club selection this month and the it came highly touted. It was a very interesting story.

Rachel DeWoskin moves to Beijing after graduating college in the mid=90s and lands a job at a PR company. She also wins a role on a Chinese TV show as one of two foreign girls who steal the hearts of two Chinese brothers. The show is ultimately watched by 600 million people. We saw some of it online and it's pretty much the cheesiest thing ever.

DeWoskin also talks about two other critical e
Sep 11, 2007 Shanti rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone moving or having just moved to China
Shelves: non-fiction
So far, I think this book is interesting because I relate to many of the heroine's experiences; I've been living in Beijing for the past 5 months. However... I'm not terribly swept away by the story; that may be because the book is more of an observation or diary, in my opinion.

I am learning some new vocabulary from her - Chinese vocabulary.

The night I met Cui Jian, I came home, took a shower, and opened up this book to read the section where she describes a character, Kate's infatuation for t
Sep 01, 2015 Maria rated it liked it
I found this book a tad difficult to finish. There were a few 'intriguing' parts however, most of it was similar to a history book, delving into historical aspects of China's history. I found these parts difficult to read, and tended to read through them quickly. I wasn't too keen on the biography chapters, which focused on specific individuals from Rachel's life whom she found interesting enough to write a whole chapter on. Needless to say, these chapters were a bit boring to read. I would have ...more
Joe Frankie
Mar 03, 2016 Joe Frankie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an impression of China told by a young lady who takes on a job in China after a graduating from a college. It is a story of culture and communication. It is easy to read, and well told. She ends up in a move television miniseries in China as a part time effort. It will give a reader a good view into another world and culture.
Alana Cash
Sep 14, 2015 Alana Cash rated it it was ok
There's is a lot of interesting information about China in this book, but it's not well structured and it's not clear what it's about. It advertises that it's about a young American woman who works in PR in Beijing and gets invited to star in a Chinese soap opera-style TV program, and the book begins with that theme. But it moves into other themes - politics, dating, etc. and loses steam.

It would have been better if the author had written her entire book about one theme with the other interwoven
Feb 22, 2013 Pia rated it liked it
An entertaining book about a young American woman's everyday life in China. It's interesting to read about Rachel's relations to people in her surroundings, for example her work colleagues (what's accepted to do, to say and what is not). She describes communication differences and difficulties, and often it's a funny read. The author also takes China's politics and history into account, and places situations in relation to certain events. In that way the book is a part, and a result, of a life s ...more
Chris Aylott
There are so many expat experiences that it's hard to say whether any given person's experience is accurate. However, DeWoskin's account of life in China in the mid-nineties rings true, at least from my own limited perspective as an expat in a different time and place. What's clear was that this was an exciting moment in Chinese history, and DeWoskin was in a good position to observe it. GIven the seismic changes in China over the last twenty years, I'd be very interested in a follow-up book exp ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Donna rated it liked it
Although I usually read Chinese history, I wanted to read this book, published in 2005, to learn more about the changes in modern China. Written by a woman young woman who spent five years working in China, Rachel DeWoskin, brings to life just how different the culture is now. An engaging account of her involvement with the local people, the Chinese TV world and a quickly changing China.
Jul 21, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing
I found this book on the shelves of the One World Library Project and wasn't quite sure what to expect from the title. What a happy surprise! Turns out "Foreign Babes in Beijing" is the title of a popular sexy TV soap opera in China in which the author becomes an unexpected star, a "foreign babe", in the series.

DeWoskin went to China for an adventure with only two years of college Mandarin under her belt and a job lined up working for an American PR firm. Her five years in Beijing in the 90s ca
Jul 22, 2012 Maura rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
On the Lonely Planet China recommended reading list

The upside was that the author's experience in China comes across as quite believable. Also, her writing was reasonably free of superlatives for a 20-something.

The downside was that the plot wasn't very interesting aside from the cultural experiences.

The best line of the book is during an argument between Rachael and some Chinese friends one day after the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, about whether the bombing was intentional
Mar 25, 2011 Meri rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating true story. Rachel DeWoskin moved to Beijing in 1994 and was cast in a Chinese TV drama shortly afterwards. She writes about her increasing understanding of China and what it means to be an American there during a period of rapid change, which is interesting enough. On top of this, she becomes a celebrity as the show airs, and finds herself surrounded by intrigued Beijingers. She deals with the "fish in a bowl" feeling of having the Chinese scrutinize her every move and ass ...more
Aug 11, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it
Very interesting and informative. This book gives an outsiders take on living in Beijing in the mid 1990's. You get to travel with the author as she learns more about China and her place in China as a foreigner. It did further fuel my desire to travel!

While I liked the book and owned it, I do not think it is one I will ever re-read, so it will not be kept.
Margaret Sankey
Jun 29, 2013 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
DeWoskin is a thoroughly American college student with two years of college-level Mandarin and looking for a post-graduation PR job in the mid 1990s. Family friends arrange a job with a Chinese firm anxious to nab Americans, launching her into five years of living in a rapidly-transforming China, including being recruited to play an American-Chinese vixen (seducer of good filial character son) on one of china's first modern-style soap operas. Since the events of this book took place nearly 20 ye ...more
Oct 18, 2011 Mariefitriani rated it liked it
It was in interesting story of how China changed in the final decade of the twentieth century, especially coming from woman too. The way DeWoskin wrote somewhat reflected how I felt when living abroad (less problem with the language though!) Her style of writing humorous and full of trying to look on the bright side of things, despite being frustrated by many things that were so foreign to her. Of course in the end she had to just laugh them off.

When she finally left, it was kind of a sad thing
This was a good book, except that at points it got away from the Story by adding too many historical facts. That being said, if anyone wants to know what it's like to live in Bejing, they will be able to understand after reading this book.

Just so you know, the name of the book is the name of a soap opera the author acted in, kind of as a fluke. She was in China working in marketing, and stumbled upon the opportunity to act. She is really good at being real and explaining the faults she had as an
May 10, 2016 Humbledaisy rated it liked it
A fast, funny read about life as an American expatriate in China during the 1990s. Yes, she was indeed a tv star in China.
Jun 08, 2011 Merredith rated it liked it
This is a memoir about an american girl who goes to live in beijing for five years after college. she works for a PR firm and also ends up acting in a chinese miniseries called foreign babes in beijing. this book starts out boring, then gets more interesting, and then boring again. i liked learning about the differences in culture, and all the expatriots that live over there...i thought it would give me some more insight into the chinese culture than it has. overall a good, not great, book. Oh, ...more
Barrie Mason
Mar 06, 2016 Barrie Mason rated it liked it
Interesting insights, especially as you look below the language to the culture and how hard it is to truly understand.
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Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, a memoir about her inadvertent notoriety as the star of a Chinese soap opera, and a novel, Repeat After Me. She lives in New York City and Beijing and is at work on her fourth book, Statutory.
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