Shanghai: Finding love the Chinese way

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Barely two weeks into my China visit and I had already uncovered a plethora of cultural differences; some expected and some utterly foreign. Dating was one of these.

If you ever watched the cracker of a dead-pan humour documentary Paul Merton in China back in 2007, you’ll be wise to the Chinese take on dating. (I can’t lie, watching Paul Merton gallivanting around China experiencing the weird and wonderful was what first made me want to go to China).

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Basically, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, parents (and sometimes grandparents) of adult singletons gather in the People’s Park with all the details of their beloved offspring and swap details with other parents in the hopes of pairing them with appropriate suitors. Rumour has it there are a large number of these singletons who have no idea their relatives do this…

The information swapped includes their child’s age, height, job, income and education level, amongst other things. Parents may also advertise what they are searching for in a successful match – perhaps someone who earns a lot of money, a man who is of a particular height or perhaps just has strong family values. Basically, it’s like real-life internet dating… but with your parents involved.

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The most novel thing about it is the fact they attach these written details on open umbrellas and so all the park’s pathways are laden with a sea of patterned plastic. Quite a sight. Unfortunately my Chinese reading ability is pretty basic so I couldn’t understand much but a young local man who spoke good English approached me and he told me a little more about the process.

I think the thing I found most risky was no one displayed photos of their children!! It’s like the complete opposite of Tinder… Perhaps you have to pass a certain quality-control test before they let you have a peep of a photo?

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I think I had one lady potentially eyeing me up for her son! Initially I thought she was angry I’d taken a photo with her in the frame as she’d come over to me so impassioned about something! She was then asking why I was in the park and in Shanghai, where I come from, how old I was and what I did for a living! This was one of those moment when I wished my Chinese was so much better!! She had to write some of the questions on her hand (my reading is a bit better than my listening skills) and attempted to translate them through my phone but we got there in the end. I managed to tell her the necessary and the fact I worked for the English government went down very well! No date for me this time though, despite her complimenting my hair colour. I suppose long-distance marriage wasn’t going to work.

What weird and wonderful stories do you have about dating in different cultures? Tell me in the comments below!   

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