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Single Shanghai

Due to having a girlfriend, this isn’t a subject I have firsthand experience of. But I’ve heard enough stories, and witnessed enough things, to make me think dating here is different to where I’m from, and below are the reasons.

Also, this is the view of a male. A female’s view might be completely different. This is particularly relevant actually. We have discussed on numerous occasions, that the ratio of attractive males and females here seems to weigh strongly toward the former. To put it another way, I’ve seen far more girls doing particularly well for themselves, than guys. You might wonder why this is relevant… Well, I was expecting, and am used to seeing this, the other way!

A fascination with romance

Where do I start? I know, bread. Note: brands from the UK, and their slogans; ‘From our family to yours’ (Warburton); ‘As good today as it’s always been’ (Hovis). Admittedly, these aren’t great. At least they are in context. Chinese bread? ‘One touch, hold me, and I’m forever yours’. Yuck. I fancy a croissant instead. ‘A moment shared with you is an eternity in paradise’… Perhaps not. Don’t be fooled, this sickening script isn’t exclusive to baked goods. Milkshakes, handbags, phone covers, backpacks and pencil cases, pretty much anything, it seems. Half of me wants to learn to read Mandarin, as a I feel there is a wealth of this jargon spread everywhere I walk. The other half is greatly relieved that I can’t read a word.

This fascination is backed up by a handful of other things I have noticed. Where, other than France, would it be acceptable to have Eiffel Tower souvenirs? China, apparently. Why? I’ve thrown this to a few people. It appears the appreciation of French culture is due to France being  the epitome of romance. Second to English, French is a popular language to learn here. Other common French customs in China include French bakeries, poodles, eating frogs, and a total disregard for queuing.

KTV One last thing, and I’ll use my Chinese karaoke experience. Indulging in embarassing sing-alongs, often solo, sober, is pretty foreign to most of us English. Having plucked up enough courage to pick up that microphone, it’s usually a light-hearted affair. Either a comical, tone-deaf attempt at a classic, a cheery rendition of a personal favourite, or crowd-pleaser. Not in China. With limited Chinese, I couldn’t tell you the lyrics, but the accompanying videos, music, and general mood of the act would suggest that, more often than not, they are pouring out their hearts. Often the performances are good. Often they or not. Either way, there is no British slapstick, or sarcasm. The Chinese only know of earnest when it comes to singing. And why not, you might as well sing something meaningful, right? I sung P.I.M.P by Fifty Cent. Each to their own.

What’s a nice word for needy?

Reliant? High-maintenance? Clingy? Pampered? There isn’t one. Maybe there is in Chinese, making it desirable out here. Maybe that explains it. Either way, it seems perfectly acceptable to be needy. This comes in various forms, the most common being the PDA (public display of affection). There are various degrees of PDA, from holding hands, to far more explicit acts. In general, it all seems more enthusiastic, rigorous even, than what, in my opinion, is necessary.  I won’t detail the more adult end of the scale, but I’ve been scarred by some, quite frankly, repulsive performances.

Holding hands, fine, perhaps an arm round the shoulder now and again. You do not, though, need to have an arm around one shoulder, your spare hand on her other, whilst carrying her handbag. I’d question, if she feels this is necessary, whether or not she is a suitable partner. I find it embarassing, and far too common, to see guys blurring the line between boyfriend and full-time carer, for their highly-strung partners.

Don’t think this yearning for attention is exclusive to long-term relationships. A popular ‘dating the Chinese girl’ story with my friends out here is a fairly short one, which ends in the police being called, after a girl reported one of our friends missing. The reason? He hadn’t text her back that afternoon.

The long haul

tshirt‘A pet is for a lifetime, not just for Christmas’. A similar phrase would be apt for dating in China. I severely doubt they even have ‘fling’, ‘bit of fun’ or (god forbid) ‘drunken mistake’ in their vocabulary. I’m not saying they don’t have fun. But, once you’ve taken the plunge into dating someone, you’ve also, knowingly or not, (so long as you’re relatively compatible), dropped yourself into an oath of loyalty. And breaking that oath is probably not as common or brushed off as easily as what you might hope. Some Chinese only ever have one partner. Obviously, the streetwise Chinese person is probably not completely naive to the fact we have come from a different culture when it comes to this. But ‘proceed with caution’ seems to be the general feeling here. I remember someone talking of a girl he was seeing, who bought matching sweaters, with the words ‘marry me’ on the front. Needless to say, he refused to wear his. I’m not sure they spoke again.

Don’t be put off the dating game though, by any means. At the very least, if all goes pear-shaped, it’s a story to tell. Also, despite my ramblings, you may come across some of the most warm-hearted, interesting, moral people you could possibly hope to meet. Just expect few cultural differences. Possibly because of their desire for the long haul, you may need to up your game a little. So hello to fancy restaurants, ice skating, karaoke and VIP bars (to name a few first dates I have heard of). The ‘drink and then back to yours?’ or ‘come round for a DVD?’ may not be the trump card it once was at Uni.

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Shane English - Shanghai China

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About the Author:

Darren Ralphs
Darren Ralphs is an English Teacher at Shane English in Shanghai.
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