Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Celebrating the Singleton Life

November 11 is Remembrance Day or Veteran's Day in most of the western world. Wearing red poppies on their left breasts, people stand for a minute of silence at 11 minutes past 11 in the morning to remember those who died for peace.

But in China, today is hardly solemn. It's Singles' Day, which some find is a drag to celebrate, while others look at it as an opportunity to hang out with friends, and companies see it as a chance to earn extra dollars.

In Chinese the day is known as 光棍节 (guanggun jie), and some dance clubs are going to put on a special event tonight. Match-making companies are setting up blind-date parties, and stores are selling chocolates and cards to mark today.

Singles' Day apparently started in the early 1990s by university students. "The day was very popular when I was at college. It was said some of my alumni invented the day as a way to banish loneliness," Song Bufu, a 2001 graduate of Nanjing University said. After, the university's graduates worked in different places, spreading the word across the country, he said.

However, some young people are not giving into their parents' constant nagging to find their significant other, and instead staunchly believe they are happier single.

"Single is simple; double is trouble," said Zhang Haiyan, a 28-year-old single female Beijinger. "Being single means more independence, freedom and unrestricted planning of my own life."

While there is pressure on young women to get married to have children, men are also in a bind because there are less women to choose from due to the massive gender imbalance. According to the State Population and Family Planning Commission's 2007 report, an estimated 30 million men will have problems finding a wife by 2020.

There is also the added problem of young people becoming more mobile and their changing social values, according to Wang Yuesheng, director of the Population and Social Development Office at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Many well-educated women are trying to move up socially and that pool of men is even smaller. They expect their boyfriends to be able to afford an apartment in the city as a precondition to getting hitched. While most western countries consider buying a house a burden for two to handle these days, Chinese women still expect the man to find her shelter -- and one in a good location and decent decor at that too.

Nevertheless, some men and women are willing to do just about whatever it takes to find their soul mate, including putting themselves on the meat market -- almost literally.

In Beijing's Xicheng district is an 爱情超市 (aiqingchaoshi), or Dating Supermarket, where the pictures and brief introductions of men and women are put in picture frames and are placed on the shelves that prospective people can pick out and put in their basket. Then the consultant will contact the other party and arrange for a date for a fee of 100 RMB ($14.60).

Then the consultant calls back three days after the intended date to see if they hit it off or not.

This Dating Supermarket started last month and so far has had 500 candidates willing to put themselves on the shelf, resulting in 30 couples who have apparently fallen in love.

A few months ago there were commercials on the bus for Pocky Sticks, with amateurish clips of people professing their love for the Japanese pretzel stick covered in a variety of flavours. The ad mentioned something about celebrating Pocky Day on November 11, but since then I haven't seen anything.

Maybe Pocky has found its love and neglected to tell us?

4 comments:

gung said...

is this dating service defeating the cause of singletons?

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Anonymous said...

well, if you're disabled u have it pretty tough in the dating game but there are specialist dating sites for disabled people



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