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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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The Holodeck - Chinese Dating Customs. Part 2    

By Paul Fox
1064 Views | 10 Comments | 4/10/2017 2:24:35 PM

Spring Festival in China is a tradition that involves the biggest human migration in the world. People from all over China head home to visit their family. Many of those young people who are still single are filled with dread, instead of excitement, at seeing their family again. They must face the wrath of their parents and grandparents for not being married.



This has become so bad over the last few years that Chinese singles can 'rent' a 'partner'. Yep, it's true!



In order to 'convince' their parents to leave them alone and stop complaining that they are still single, they hire a partner who plays the role of the boyfriend/girlfriend in front of the family. This has given a whole new twist to what are generally conservative Chinese dating customs.



This year, the Chinese Internet and Chinese social media is awash with warnings about the dangers of adopting this practice. One young fella hired a 'girlfriend' and took her back to his hometown. The boy's mother ended up handing over a family heirloom worth USD$27,000 to the 'girlfriend'. Later, when the boy asked for it back......well, you can imagine her reply, right?



Hundreds of gifts and money get exchanged during the Spring Festival, much of it now going into the hands of the rented Chinese date..



What's this guy supposed to tell his Mother? She'll blame him for duping her and lying, yet he'll blame her for putting so much pressure on him to find a wife in the first place.



I once met a Chinese woman who is married to a Western man. She lives in China, he lives in Europe. That living situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. However, she's (technically) married, although she doesn't have a 'marriage' in the true sense of the word, but the bit of paper is enough to keep her friends and family at bay.



I once wrote a blog on CLM called 'Hello, will you marry me?' This was not meant to frighten away potential members, nor are these blogs, but it's important to know that this mentality exists in China, especially in the minds of the parents of women in their 20's and 30's.



Women who have been married, and are now divorced, still face a certain pressure to get married again, but that pressure is far, far less than the pressure put on single Chinese women. This is also evident because most of the divorcees already have a child. It's the pressure to have a child that is inextricably linked to the pressure to marry for the first time.



Now let's add the fact that many Chinese women come to CLM in the hope of finding true love. This true love, in many cases, is something they never experienced in their first marriage simply because it was a marriage of convenience rather than a marriage of love.



Therefore, don't let this tradition frighten you - just be aware that it exists and exercise caution when you feel it's necessary.



I was having dinner with a female friend, when suddenly, out of nowhere, she said, 'You don't have a girlfriend, do you?'



'No!' was my reply.



'Would you like me to introduce you to some Chinese women?'



When I said 'No', she was visibly taken aback and immediately asked me why?



It's almost as if you have 2 heads or something. Single? At YOUR AGE? OMG, there's something wrong with you!



On my way home from work I pass this little shop that sells the most amazing 'Beijing Duck'. When I say 'amazing' it is not hyperbole - this stuff comes directly from heaven and is made by the hand of God.



However, Beijing Duck is dripping with fat, and although delicious, it's not exactly on Barry Pitbull's list of nutritional seeds and nuts.



For me it's a once-a-week 'treat', and I always buy half a duck.



When I stopped there last week, I was served by a young woman who I had not seen before. As she was delicately carving this divine masterpiece of culinery delight, she started asking me some small-talk type questions...



'How long have you been in China? - Are you married? Do you have a girlfriend?' - just the usual Chinese style questions. (How much do you earn each month? is another one to be wary of, by the way)



She spoke no English but said she regretted not learning it when she was at school once she found out I was an English teacher.



Anyway, I'll paraphrase the conversation, but she essentially asked me if I liked Chinese women. This question came after finding out how long I have lived and worked in China and the fact that I am single.



When I replied 'Yes, I like Chinese women', she basically called me a 'liar'!



To her mind, living and working in China for a period of 2 years and still being single meant that I mustn't like Chinese women - go figure!



As I handed over the extortionate fee of $3 for what was about to ravage my taste-buds in the same way as an angel crying on my tongue, she looked at me and said 'It's a shame I'm married!"



I think that as I get older, it's easier for me to adopt the attitude that the best things often happen in life when we are not hard-and-fast looking for them. I was married for over 25 years and I'm now an active member of CLM. I told my friend that if I meet someone, then I meet someone, but I am not in a desperate hurry.



But hey, that's just me....


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(Showing 1 to 10 of 10) 1
#2017-04-10 14:24:14 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Nice article Paul. There are some valuable lessons for our guys to learn here. I have a couple of personal observations that popped into my head.



You wrote: "One young fella hired a 'girlfriend' and took her back to his hometown. The boy's mother ended up handing over a family heirloom worth USD$27,000 to the 'girlfriend'. Later, when the boy asked for it back......well, you can imagine her reply, right?" 



I strongly suspect that if the parents took the 'fake girlfriend' to court over this gift, the court would force the girl to return the family heirloom, but many parents would be adverse to making such a claim because of the loss of face to the family. However, in China, as in most Western countries, I believe this act of accepting such a gift under the false representation that she was the son's serious girlfriend would be treated as a civil fraud, if not a criminal one.



"What's this guy supposed to tell his Mother? She'll blame him for duping her and lying, yet he'll blame her for putting so much pressure on him to find a wife in the first place."



You can almost safely bet that this young man is not going to report to anyone that the girlfriend was a rental. I suggest that 9 times out of 10 the boy is going to allow his "rented girlfriend" to keep the valuable gift rather than him facing the wrath of Mom. To Mom he will sadly report that his beloved fiance was hit by a bus, and is no longer available to love, marry nor impregnate. Mom will grieve for several years, while son happily enjoys a few years off the hook.


#2017-04-10 22:00:22 by anonymous15959 @anonymous15959

Being ionvolved with a Chinese woman for the last 3 years or so I have found it so amazing in many ways that I never would have thought possible...but...the amount of lies and deception that goes on all in the name of "saving face" for me as a westerner is shocking. 

The pressure from her mother for her to "produce" a grandchild is excruitiating to listen to especially as she is well past 40! Personally if I were her I would tell the mother to back the f##k off but in Chinese culture children cannot express their opinions like that to their parents. 

The pressure for younger chinese people is like Paul mentions it is unbelievable, but I will say I have seen more and more younger people there showing genuine affection and love for their partners in public not the full makeout styles of western kids mind you but a kiss here and there, walking arm in arm, sitting on a bench snuggled together type stuff. 

I rest assured tell you that I have never recieved a gift from my partners parents except a home cooked meal and being welcomed into their home which to me is just fine.

 

Hmmm Rental Partners...maybe I should open a business renting out fake bf's and gf's in China.....probably make alot of money (cash)(d)

#2017-04-11 06:47:30 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@JohnAbbot

You are correct - however, it's never going to happen. Son will just regard it as being a 'hazard-of-the-job', and both he and Mom will just have to get over it.

Although certainly not an isolated example, it does highlight the fact that many people are ready to abuse any given situation, providing they have the chance.

This 'arranged marriage' subject is something that I have been researching for some time now, and I'm happy to say that its time is nearly up.

Young Chinese people are fighting it as hard as they can, and of all the people I've asked about it, a whopping 100% have said that they would NEVER put pressure on THEIR child to get married. If they keep their word, then in one more generation the culture/tradition of arranged marriages will be over in China. No doubt some will see this as a 'bad day', yet most, so it seems, will welcome it with open arms.

 

Only last night, I was introduced to a newly arrived mature student. She has been living in my QLV for less than a year, and she hates it! She told me that she really misses her family and friends, and she's bored!

She came here because it's her husband's hometown, so when I asked how she met her husband, when her hometown is 1300km away, not surprisingly she said, 'I was introduced to him by my family'. In other words, 'arranged marriage'.

 

Tradition/Culture or not, my question is this: If young Chinese people admit that they are only agreeing to an arranged marriage in order to 'keep their parents happy', what kind of parents show their 'love' by forcing their child to do something that's against their will and makes them feel UNhappy?

 

To my mind at least, the only word I can think of to describe them, (without insult), is........... 'Selfish' !

#2017-04-11 14:45:07 by Barry1 @Barry1


@paulfox1

 

"Young Chinese people are fighting it as hard as they can, and of all the people I've asked about it, a whopping 100% have said that they would NEVER put pressure on THEIR child to get married"

 

I agree with you, Paul.  During my time as an English teacher at a Chinese university, I came to the conclusion that young Chinese are now far more independent and free-thinking than their predecessors.

 

Reasons for this must importantly include the mushrooming effect of the internet, where many students use VPN services to access sites such as Youtube and Facebook.  They quite clearly can see what's happening in the rest of the world. The students are smart, they know what's going on elsewhere.

 

China once prided itself on being a highly independent country full of mystery and tradition, divorced from the rest of the world.  But the Earth now is growing figuratively smaller year by year, due to extraordinary advances in telecommunications and internet.  The government there over the next one or two decades will have an ever increasing problem to maintain its rigorous control of the population, in my view.  Interesting times are ahead in China.  :^)

#2017-04-12 13:38:08 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@Barry1

Barry, you are totally correct when you say "I came to the conclusion that young Chinese are now far more independent and free-thinking than their predecessors."

However, I think this remark demonstrates that you are missing the underlying point of this blog.

Sure, these kids are free-thinking, but that doesn't stop them from continuing to carry out the somewhat draconian will of their parents/grandparents. It doesn't matter how 'free-thinking' a person is if they continue to abide by the wishes of their oppressors - and I don't care HOW people 'dress-it-up' in words such as 'tradition' or 'culture' -  this IS 'oppression'!

 

They hate the fact that they must do it, yet they do it anyway. What I am essentially saying is that in another 20-30 years most of these 'oppressors' will be long-gone, and for the younger Chinese, hopefully their draconian belief-system will be long-gone too!

#2017-04-13 14:29:25 by melcyan @melcyan

Just thought I would stick my head inside a non-judgemental blog and make a non-judgemental comment, LOL. Success and failure are common to both arranged marriages and love/infatuation/fantasy/free choice marriages.

 

All marriages that are successful have the common features of mutual respect, healthy communication and a willingness to continually work at making the marriage better. Love eventually grows and builds regardless of how a successful marriage starts.

 

The simple assumption that arranged marriages are automatically bad and free choice marriages are good does not stand up to scrutiny. I haven’t met any Chinese parents who did not want the best for their children.

 

It is not common for a Western man to be involved in a match-making selection process to form a Chinese couple. Nearly four years ago I found myself in that unique position. Everyone involved in the selection process was a little scared, very cautious and very diligent.

 

You find yourself assessing two whole families and not just the potential couple.

 

Nearly fours years on, the marriage is successful and loving. I have seen a free choice marriage form and fail within the same time span. Who is right and who is wrong?

#2017-04-13 22:27:24 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

It gets worse!!!!!

 

This subject has become a bit of a fascination for me of late, and it keeps on coming up with even more surprises !

Tonight, during class, one of my mature students, who hasn't been to class for a few weeks, was quick to join in with this topic of conversation.

What she told me completely blew me away.

She was telling me about the Chinese (Asian) tradition of a 'dowry'. I thought these were restricted to places such as Thailand and India etc, but apparantly not.

We were talking about the differences between traditional Chinese weddings and those in the West, notably the U.K.

I happened to mention the fact that Chinese weddings are often excruciatingly expensive, especially when related to a typical Chinese annual salary.

She told me that it's 'traditional' for the groom to pay the bride's parents for their daughters 'hand-in-marriage'.

So I asked her - 'So the man is literally BUYING their daughter?'

Her reply, 'Well, no.....it's not LIKE that'

'Really? If I want to marry you I must give your parents money so they will allow me to marry you, but I'm not BUYING you?'

'No, you're not!'

'OK, well what happens when you are 'broken' and I need to replace you with another......do I just go and find some parents with a daughter and buy her off them?'

'Now you are being silly'

It was at this point in the conversation that two Chinese guys stated, quite loudly, that they totally agreed with me and that they would NEVER agree to 'buy' a woman from her parents.

What made matters worse is that, in my opinion, this young girl (of about 26), is stunningly beautiful.

When I said that perhaps she was destined to become another 'sheng nv', (leftover woman), the other 2 guys laughed in agreement.

 

What a shame!

 

 

 

 

 

#2017-04-14 13:23:09 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@melcyan

I enjoyed your flippancy, thank you!

Sure, I am judgemental on this subject, and you have highlighted that just as many non-arranged marriages fail as arranged ones. Whilst I agree with what you say in this regard, it's not 'success' or 'failure' that I am being judgemental about.

It's simply FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Freedom-of-choice is a basic human right that nobody, in my opinion, should be deprived of.

It's not JUST that women in China are forced to marry someone they don't love, in order to have a baby they don't want, but they are also often forced to marry against their will. I know one particular 38-year old Chinese woman who definitely does NOT want to get married, yet her parents are constantly putting pressure on her to 'find a husband'.

All over the Chinese social media today is a story about a Chinese couple that 'forgot' their 10-year old daughter when they returned from holiday. They left her sleeping on the plane. By the time the airline staff caught up with them, they were already on the shuttle-bus that had left the airport 20 minutes earlier.

No doubt a loving marriage, resulting in a loved and wanted child, lol.

 

Judgemental? Yes, I most certainly am! I am fully aware that I can be an opinionated asshole at times, but I will defend with my dying breath a person's right to freedom-of-choice - especially when it comes to marriage and what is SUPPOSED to be a 'lifelong commitment'.

#2017-04-15 01:23:11 by anonymous15983 @anonymous15983

Paul I find it interesting that you have been in China for over 2 years and you did not know about the "dowry" system in place. One thing the woman failed to mention it is that the groom almost always has to have purchased an apartment for the "newlyweds" to live in and quite often it has to have a second bedroom for his or her parents to live in as well. In India it is the womans parents who pay the dowry to the mans parents for permission to marry.

Imagine how broke the groom will be in China by the time the wedding and the bribes have been paid! What a great way to start off in a new life together.

The boys in your class may say they wont pay but we both know they will if they want to marry a Chinese girl.

 

Cheers...

#2017-04-16 12:27:08 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@anonymous15983

I'm well aware that the woman requires a house, car, jewelry, bank account, etc, and I have often mused about it in both serious as well as sarcastic ways. However, what this previous young girl was talking about was on TOP of all that! She was talking about a CASH payment made directly to her parents in exchange for permission to marry their daughter.

Hence the resounding NO!

 

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