Single In The City

Christmas has been and gone, and Chinese New Year is upon us. For most expats this may signal a long awaited journey home to see the family. However, for some, this visit could include some uncomfortable questions about the stagnated love life. This month, we talk dating in Shanghai and the modern technology that many are turning to in order to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, or if not, at least Mr. or Mrs. Right Now… 

There are over 20 million people living in Shanghai so you would think that it would be easy to get a date in the city. Wrong, say a lot of our single girlfriends, and the phrase “there are no good guys in this city” gets thrown around on more than a few occasions. Added to this, there is also the social pressure from living in China as local friends, work colleagues or even your ayi relentlessly ask about your love life. In fact, it seems that every new person you meet seems to follow the same line of questioning. Where are you from? What year were you born? And, do you have a boyfriend? The responses one gets from saying that you do not have a partner ranges from knowing nods to confusion and even pity, with the reason being put down to some character flaw or sub-standard looks, including an inadequate breast size or a large bottom, perhaps.

Women in China have it bad by being labelled as shengnu (leftover women) if they are single and in their twenties. Apparently, we are too old and ugly, like ‘yellow pearls’, to find a love match at this point, and it is down the dating drain we go. Men don't have it easy either, in China, if they have not become successful enough to afford material items then it is out of the marriage market for them too. The phrase “no car, no house, no wife” has become synonymous with young single women. 
When it comes to the dating scene for expats, things get a little bit more complicated. First of all, there is such a wide range of international men and women bringing to the table their different cultures, languages, religions and expectations. Cross-cultural dating is a minefield in itself, but added to the fast paced and interconnected expat bubble that many people find themselves in, it can be a recipe for disaster. Everybody seems to have baggage, and dates get recycled. The dating pool is quite possibly the most efficient recycling process in the country. Furthermore, if you do find a partner from a foreign country to your native home then there is the uncomfortable discussion about what happens when your Shanghai bubble bursts, and it is time to return home. Who is expected to give up their family, friends and dreams to move to a foreign city? Inevitably, many relationships cannot stand this strain and may breakup.
An American friend recently went to a speed-dating event organised by Japanese colleagues but, however, was mortified by the selection process. Before the speed dating began, females were invited to stand in a row in front of their male counterparts. The men then proceeded to go up to each girl in turn and decided whether or not to give them a precious sticker which indicated if they were interested in them. This was all, of course, based on their looks alone. Naturally, the most traditionally beautiful women ended up with the most stickers - obviously a confidence boost for some participants, but left many feeling downtrodden and defeated before the speed dating section had even begun. This process was then repeated once again with a men’s line to much the same outcome. When the speed dating started, there was the awkward, you didn't give me a sticker stare. Not the best conversation starter. Some would say that this is the most efficient way to single out a potential love match, but for the more reserved and possibly Western daters out there, it goes against the grain. 
The traditional ways in which our parents met each other in a less interconnected and geographically smaller community are coming to an end as society speeds into the modern, technologically advanced world. As a result, our dating lives and social norms have adapted to this change. It is now much more commonly acceptable to meet your partner online.
If you are single this month, and don’t have a parent in town who is willing to pimp you out at the People’s Square marriage market this Sunday, then we have rounded up a few online dating options that you might want to  try out for yourself...
Tinder is one of the world’s fastest growing dating apps and has hit Shanghai full throttle. You can download it to you phone, sync it to your Facebook and you are away in a couple of minutes. You can upload a selection of photos from your Facebook account before picking your preference of partner. You then, based on your location and age preferences, are given a list of potential matches in the area that you either slide to ‘like’ or ‘dismiss’. Once both members have ‘liked’ each other, a match is made and you are able to chat from there. It will also tell you whether you have any mutual friends in common therefore giving users a bit more information and creditability to work with - much like an introduction back in the good old days would have done. As the dating scene in Shanghai is relatively small, expect to see faces you know from around town… regularly. Females are, unsurprisingly, a lot more picky than males on this application.
OkCupid aims to match you to a potential date by doing the ‘maths’. By this we mean working out a match percentage based upon your answers to a few simple questions at the beginning, how you would like someone else to answer those questions and the importance you place on each question. This is a dating service for those who are serious about finding a true love match based upon personality and looks rather than just having a bit of fun with someone they find instantly attractive (or not as the case may be). A little bit more complicated to use than other apps without the instant gratification of ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ someone immediately. 
Momo, a Chinese social networking app for flirting with nearby strangers, has become synonymous with hook- ups and encounters of a sexual nature. There is a Chinese language app and an English one for ease of use. You get to see the real-time distance of other users, handy for a quickie, however, quite daunting when you calculate that their distance means they must be in the same room as you. This is an aggressive app for serious singletons.
‘People Nearby’ This is a tool whereby WeChat users can turn on their ‘People Nearby’ function to search for others in the nearby vicinity who also have the function turned on for their account. Although many will use the tool merely to find friends nearby, possibly at a social event where they don't know many people, and therefore search online to officially make WeChat friends without any awkward face to face introductions (what a scary world we live in), there is a filter option whereby you can select only male or female users. Voila, behold a dating app. Expect to get lots of messages from random strangers.