sajiao (撒娇) is when the chinese girl acts like a helpless little girl who can’t do anything for herself and expects her boyfriend to do everything, from buying her a new handbag, to carrying it for her when they are out. It also includes throwing tantrums at a whim (e.g. when her boyfriend hesitates to buy her that cute pair of high heels), and her boyfriend having to “prove his love” for her on a regular basis through buying her gifts. From a western perspective, the girl acts like a “spoiled little princess”.
Most Chinese men like sajiao because it makes them feel strong, as though they are able to take care of their girlfriend. The reasons girls engage in this behaviour are a little more complicated… Obviously every girl dreams of being a princess, but on a more pragmatic level it forces the man to INVEST heavily in the relationship, both in terms of his time (tending to her every need) and financially (those countless meals he pays for and gifts he buys). This gives the girl security, because most men literally cannot afford to go through this process more than once or twice, and here in China a man MUST marry, so he is stuck with that particular girl and marries her.
sajiao is one of the biggest barriers in cross-cultural relationships. Most western men have no idea where this behaviour comes from and interpret these girls as being immature, needy, and highly materialistic. Little do they know that it’s part of the mating dance here in China and girls are basically programmed to behave this way. Different girls do this to varying degrees, but it’s important to understand this behaviour before entering a relationship with a Chinese girl.
NOTE: I have been asked many times by Chinese how to define SAJIAO in English. There is no word in English which truly captures the meaning of sajiao. It can only be described as when a girl intentional acts like a spoiled little child towards her boyfriend.