Online dating in China goes old school, with parents hawking personal ads for their adult children.
I stumble upon this at People’s Park in Shanghai, a massive space where people congregate for a host of activities. This central space in downtown Shanghai is where people work out, dance, gamble, hawk musical instruments and shoot the breeze. It is also where hundreds of parents converge each weekend, touting personal ads for their children, hoping to pimp them out for marriage.
They type these ads out on pieces of white A4 paper, the more ambitious ones adorning the ad with a photo of said child. The ads flank footpaths, line steps and benches and bushes. Most list financial assets (house, car) and achievements (career, university degree) before personal qualities. Most also detail the age and height of the kids, who range from 24-35.
It is tinder meets the classifieds. After they place their ads on display the parents, usually aged between 50 to 70, go on the prowl for prospective partners. They take down names and contact details on tiny notebooks, giving cursory glances at a field of ads before settling on one or two.
I do not ask what they look for but it seems apparent love is not a top priority. It is a refrain I have heard often from Chinese ex-colleagues, and Chinese youth I spoke to while traveling.
The odds of finding a partner this way are not great, according to these two fathers I ran into. They have been coming to People’s Park every weekend for the past three years, with no success. The one on the left, who has a son and daughter in their twenties and thirties, says his children never accompany him.
I ask why his children do not try to find partners of their own – is it for lack of interest or ability? His reply is candid – “男生没有肌肉，女生没有胸部。” (My son is not muscular, and my daughter has no boobs.)
But he laments that they do not care for romance, and that the younger generation of Chinese men, at least in the big cities, are more concerned with their careers than their social lives. Reclusiveness breeds a lack of self-confidence, and eventually they retreat behind the assurance that virtual reality and computer games provide.
Don’t end up like them, he tells me by way of a parting shot. But at least here I have Paktor.