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These girls are already aware that if you want to be the number one woman in a man’s life, you’ll just have to wait until you have a son of your own.But it wasn’t the problem of my boyfriend’s mother that ultimately destroyed our dreams of a future together.

It has given rise to a cultural phenomenon dubbed the ‘Little Emperors’ – spoiled boys who expect to get everything they want, and whose parents break their backs trying to make their precious heirs happy.

Although I admire the strong bond people here have with their parents, being with a man whose mother plays such a fundamental part of his life undermines any sense of a mature relationship.

Although exciting and unpredictable, from its fascinating culture to its mind-bending language, it’s certainly not an ideal place to find long-term love, no matter how beautiful, smart, successful and hilarious you may be.

So at the ripe age of 30, I have given up on trying to find my Mr Right. In Beijing, even the most average Western men are able to attract pretty Chinese girls, who seem to be under the impression that they have all the style and sophistication of Daniel Craig.

Thanks to that relationship, I can speak colloquial Mandarin (including the kind of swear words that one should never, ever use) and prepare traditional Chinese dumplings with the speed and skill of Ken Hom.

I also understand what really makes Chinese people tick.

It was an accumulation of things I found increasingly hard to ignore, such as his criticism of Western women (who he would condemn for being overweight, aggressive and too easy) and my deteriorating patience with his personal habits (the stomach-churning sound he made as he spat in the bathroom sink – a daily habit of most locals – or his insistence on wearing the same unwashed clothes for several days in a row).

We Brits have been brought up to consider personal hygiene and table manners as second nature.

Even as a teen, instead of practising my snogging technique on a poster of Nick from the Backstreet Boys, I would be daydreaming of Lister (Craig Charles) from Red Dwarf.

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