For young people in China the pressure to get married (and subsequently have a baby) is often strongly exerted by parents who take every opportunity to nag their children about finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. Men are generally expected to get married by 30 and women by their mid 20’s (25 is considered “old”). The older the child gets the stronger the nagging becomes to the point that going home for spring festival and other occasions becomes a source of dread and anxiety for those still single.

Looking for Love

The situation is exasperated by the fact that young Chinese adults are expected to work harder than ever to support their parents and themselves so have little time for socializing. In cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong the number of singles living alone has skyrocketed in recent years, with the average marriage age also increasing sharply (now around 29 as opposed to 22 just two decades ago for men).

Parental Speed Dating

Some parents have begun to take matters in their own hands and can often be found hanging around public parks in groups exchanging their children’s vital statistics with other parents in the hope of finding a “good match” which can then be introduced (with or without their child’s knowledge!). I came across this bunch in People’s Square (Shanghai) and was even approached by a mother who was keen to marry off her 30 year-old daughter to me! She may have been a doctor but I politely declined 😉

Craigs List Shanghai (People's Square)

Job, age, height, education and salary are the key factors under consideration with adverts hung on washing lines, bushes and trees laying out the facts for anyone to browse. Professional matchmakers also loiter around with hand-written lists of potential candidates who have employed them to do the searching. In the 21st century world of online dating it was a bizarre sight.

Matchmaker

You would be forgiving for making parallels with the traditional concept of arranged marriages although in this case nobody is being forced into anything – the parents merely find potential “candidates” which the children can then choose whether to pursue – some call it “parental screening”. For the cynically inclined it’s a far cry from the romantic notion of “true love” but in this 24/7 society practicalities and the pressures of tradition often outweigh such dreams.

If you’re Chinese I’d love to hear what you think about parental screening.

Comments

  1. Rol says:

    Nice post~
    As a Chinese girl who work hard and not married, I just provide some “real factors” here.
    In China, usually parents are more eager to see daughter/son get married before 30. They’re self organized to attend this kind of event 😛 Not too many young people really want to go for the date arranged by the parents.
    Another fact, we don’t need to work hard to support parents. definately no in big city such as Shanghai. Most of our parents have their own retirement pension. We need to work hard because 1)hard working is part of Chinese culture. we value it a lot. 2)This generation knows how big the outside world is. We want to achieve something big and we need to work hard. 3) Take a look of the population sie in China, you’ll know this job market is much more competitive than a lot of other countries.

    • David says:

      Thanks for your comment Rolande. Do most Chinese parents really have a pension or just in Shanghai? I thought hardly anyone in China had that.

      I definitely don’t want to downplay the Chinese people’s motivation but like you said the market it so competitive so people don’t have much choice if they want to get ahead. Sometimes I feel like people forget that to be happy is not about having lots of money / power…

  2. Si says:

    Does anything like this exist in the UK? I would welcome any help in finding someone, even if that help comes from my parents (which, considering their career help, would possibly not be the best). Maybe I need to venture the little bit of extra distance to Lisdoonvarna.

  3. R says:

    Hey D,does that woman who wants her daughter to marry with you speak English?hhahaha,that is so funny,their parents also becoming international for their children .

    nice topic,I think we exchanged a lot of opinions about this.it is really like finding a job or buying some things in this match market,can I say it market?hahaha.thanks god,my parents are not living in shenzhen,or maybe my resume will appear in the park,hahahah.

    Well,not only the parents worry,but also the government.I heard the government also tring to make more activities for matching.the government also takes the workers’ sex problem seriously now,or there will have more social problems.the whole society is concerning this problem.

    Too complicated,I think most of the young Chinese is really stressful. educational system and our reality,our financl problems and age problems,all are the pain for this problem.just hope when we are chasing for money,we also need to stop and enjoy the beautiful blue sky:)

    • David says:

      Hi R, the old woman only spoke Chinese – she asked my Chinese friend, must have been desperate 😉

      You’re right – it’s like a meat market of sorts! You can post your resume and let’s see what the result is!

  4. Shuo says:

    It’s very common actually. The same thing happens in Shenzhen, not far from my home. Not just parents, many children went there for their single parents. As far as I know, you have to pay 20 RMB to get your or your parent’s profile showed.

    • David says:

      Wow, that is surprising! Wouldn’t that be a bit taboo in Chinese culture for the Children to do that for their parents? What’s the attitude towards divorced people these days?

  5. alphebetical sam says:

    well from the single mind constant anomities form, you cannot class all peoples into one group. Families say their child must be married off by…
    and here are the reasons…

    1 – this world tells us that after the age of 32 we are old and past any potential…

    more to follow im bored

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