Controversial but common, blind dates are helping solve China’s singles crisis

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/13 19:03:39

Matchmaking merriment

In the summer of 2015, 32-year-old Yang Ling (pseudonym) finally met her future husband at a blind date after attending over 20 similar matchmaking events. A product of a feudal society, blind dating is still quite common among young people in modern China. According to a 2017 online survey among over 2,000 people in first-tier cities, 82 percent said that they had experienced, or were experiencing, blind dating, reported.

Love at first sight

Yang started going on blind dates in 2011, when she was 28 years old. Her parents sought suitable single men for her to meet with after work and on weekends.

"They'd even tried to post at the 'matchmaking corner' in People's Park, but that didn't work," Yang laughed. "Almost all of my blind dates later proved unproductive."

Over and over, Yang met with various "blind-date boys" at different venues such as cafes or restaurants. She was fine with this traditional, old-fashioned method of finding a spouse.

"I once wished for a fairy-tale romance, but now I'm more realistic and acceptable to less romantic blind dates," she told the Global Times. "The experience of just talking to the opposite sex itself is interesting enough."

In July of 2015, Yang's mother introduced her to a local man after learning about his career, income and family background. The man, then 42, was attracted to Yang upon meeting.

"He wore glasses, a white t-shirt and jeans that day," Yang recalled. "His appearance was my cup of tea. I'd been blind-dating for so long but had never met a man like him."

The two soon fell in love and decided to get married mere five months later. "I believed he was the right person for me."

In Yang's eyes, her new husband is thoughtful and considerate. "I like accessories, so he often buys me necklaces and earrings when he's away on business trips," she said, adding that she is now the mother of a 1-year-old baby.

It's a pity

Once a 30-something shengnü (literally "leftover women," a negative term meant to mock older unmarried females), Yang considers herself lucky to have found love and marriage at her age.

Li Tai, however, is perhaps less fortunate. Growing up in a small county in Central China's Hunan Province, the man was forced by his parents to attend blind dates at the young age of 24.

In general, people in small cities and towns marry and give birth earlier than their first-tier peers. Li was working in Hunan's capital city Changsha instead of his hometown, but still faced pressure from his family to find a spouse.

"My parents rushed me to give them grandchildren," he told the Global Times. "I had to get married and have babies as soon as possible, they said."

Li never said no to his parents' arrangement, although he hated blind dates."I had no choice," he sighed. "I brought some girlfriends to meet my parents, but they liked none of them."

In October of 2014, Li met a nurse in Changsha through a professional matchmaker. The 19-year-old woman was shy, introverted and timid, failing to impress Li. "I felt that we didn't have any chemistry," Li recalled. "Meeting her was just like finishing a task for me."

Nonetheless, the young woman seemed interested in Li and constantly texted him. They stayed in touch until finally becoming romantically involved. Li now admits that his parents cared more about this girl far more than he did.

During the 2015 Chinese New Year holiday, Li's parents prepared gifts for the woman's family and forced Li to bring them to her family himself.

"There was a live chicken, a live duck, vegetables, cigarettes and liquor," he told the Global Times. "When I stood in front of her house with so many stuffs, her parents looked laughably astonished."

Li and the woman finally registered for marriage at the end of 2015, and had a baby in 2016. To please his wife and in-laws, Li purchased a house in Changsha and quit his entrepreneurial job for a more stable position with State media.

Their marriage life is "a pity, but fine" to Li. Sensing this, his wife once asked him whether he regrets not marrying a woman he truly loves. "My answer was, 'I'm not sure,'" he recalled. "But I do feel like something's missing if she is not here with me."

Young matchmakers

Li now sees matchmaking among his single and marriageable friends, colleagues and relatives as a plus rather than a minus. "It's a very common way for young people to meet the opposite sex," he told the Global Times.

Social worker Zhao Yang, 30, agrees, sharing one of her successful matchmaking experiences. In 2015, she introduced her close friend, surnamed Zhou, to one of her colleagues, surnamed Ma. The couple recently became engaged.

Being quite familiar with both Ma and Zhou, Zhao said she was sure that they were perfectly matched as far as personality, education background, financial condition, hobbies and family.

"More importantly, Ma is a very nice and kind guy, not at all an annoying male chauvinist or mama's boys that we often see in the local matchmaking market," she added.

Ma and Zhou started a relationship two months later. Their kindhearted matchmaker continued giving suggestions for their possible marriage life. "My advice included when and how to buy a house and a car, how to look after their children and how to get along with each other's relatives," Zhao said.

"I really made a lot of effort for their relationship. There is nothing more I can do if they can't get married in the end."

Designer Fu Yaping, 28, likewise likes to match-make her single peers. "I once successfully introduced one of my female college classmates to my cousin's co-worker, and now they are married and have a baby," she told the Global Times.

Fu's cousin works for a leading domestic technology company Huawei, where the male employees are known to be hardworking, honest and well-paid. "They are ideal marriage partners for single women," Fu explained.

She used a different tactic to promote her classmate. Instead of asking her cousin for a recommendation, she directly posted her classmate's photo and basic information on Huawei's online forum to attract potential candidates.

The post helped hook several interested men, and Fu helped her make a selection. "She's inexperienced in relationships, so I could provide references for her."

Fu said that more and more young singletons today are willing to find potential spouses through blind dates. "I have many unmarried female friends asking me to introduce suitable single men for them," she said.

Popular phenomenon

"We are not their family, nor do we ask for money," Zhao told the Global Times. "We just believe that helping others is meaningful and interesting."

"Also," Fu added, "I will have a strong sense of fulfillment if they eventually get married and build a family."

The both believe that young people are more suitable to act as matchmakers than old-timers. "It is us, rather than our parents or grandparents, who know what single people of our age care most about," Zhao said.

"The elders always attach great importance to one's age, career and financial conditions, while we focus more on personality, hobbies and life views."

Today's single Chinese seem to depend on blind dating to find partners, even though many are reluctant to admit it. A 2015 survey showed that, in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, 65 percent of all locals there had met their spouse through blind dates, local media West China Metropolis Daily reported in 2015.

The figure was respectively 58 percent and 57 percent in more economically developed Beijing and Shanghai.

"I don't think there are many differences between matchmaking and the so-called 'free love,'" Yang said. "The only thing is that, we meet our husbands or wives through different ways."




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