There’s a phenomenon in China, similar to some other Asian societies, that values marriage very highly. People simply have to get married. But in a time when everyone is busy working overtime, making the commute to and from work, a lot of white collar workers especially, don’t have time for dating and meeting potential partners. So how do these Chinese people find their life partner?
You might have heard of the Shanghai Marriage Market where grandparents in one of Shanghai’s parks hold posters and pin up all the information about their single grandchildren. Well I didn’t go to that one, but I did stumble across something similar when I was in Hangzhou.
It was close to where I was staying, so just went to have a look around. It was absolutely packed with parents and grandparents holding sticky note pads for writing potential date’s phone numbers on (nice to see a large group of Chinese people not scanning each other’s QR codes for a change).
I read some of the signs, which contained a lot of personal information about the ‘candidates’ – age, Chinese zodiac animal, university graduated from, annual salary, if they have a car/house, height, weight, body type and where their hukou is from. But I can’t remember seeing any names on any of the posters. They would also write down what they looked for in a partner, similar to those categories above. It all seemed quite superficial and materialistic, the parents were simply looking for people of a certain age, who earned X money and had X, Y and Z. There were rarely any required values that involved personality – no “dog lover, likes to play footy on a Sunday, looking for a kind, sporty person with GSOH” kind of thing, which I think is more important than social status, income and height when it comes to marriage.
Being a foreigner (with big curly hair that was down that day), within a few minutes, I had a crowd surrounding me, and the questions began:
- Did you come by yourself?
- What year were you born in?
- Oh, ’91, you’re a bit too young to get married
- No, no, it’s ok…’91 makes her 26
- Are you taller than 160cm?
- How many brothers and sisters do you have?
- Where are you from?
- England! Wow, you’re children will be so tall and intelligent
- Are you looking to relocate to China?
- Because my son’s English isn’t good, he can’t follow you to the UK
- What did you study at university?
- Is your hair natural?
- Are your eyelashes natural? (And your eyebrows, nose, mouth, etc)
- But why is your hair so curly? Are you sure you haven’t curled it?
- What are your requirements?
Sorry, what are my requirements?….
They were asking me how tall and heavy I wanted my potential partner to be, where he should have a house, how much money he should earn and have in the bank. Of course, I’m not actually looking for anyone, but I told them how in my country, we meet people and if there’s a connection, we’ll get to know each other better before making any decisions. Although we might have some preferences about religion, age, body type etc, I wouldn’t say they are requirements before you start dating someone.
Suddenly, one brave man whipped his pen out of his jacket pocket and shouted
留一个号码，可以吗？ Give me your number, is that ok?
I said no, and then he started telling me all about his son, which prompted the rest of them to get out their memo pads and ask me for my phone number, saying how great their son was, how much he earned and how beautiful our children would be, because mixed race children are always more intelligent and beautiful.
One woman grabbed me by the arm and said ‘just call me 婆婆 (mother-in-law) already, go on, call me 婆婆, call me 婆婆’. I felt like I was being hounded and it reminded me of Lina’s Momzilla, so I quickly left the area, after giving a fake phone number.
It was a bit of an intense experience, but I learnt a lot about the marriage market in China and how parents try to set their children up.