Offline Dating

If you feel sad spending the winter evenings alone, but online dating is not your thing, maybe it is time for you to send your parents to the Shanghai Dating Market in order to hook you up.

Actually this is much more innocent than it looks at first glance. Every Saturday at Peoples Square in Shanghai hundreds of people gather for something that most of all reminds of a used car market coupled with a social event for retirees. The crowd of elderly is eager to exchange information of their heir. Armed with phone numbers, paper notebooks, and flyers, describing their children in numbers; height, weight, age, education, job, even salary, they are ready to take on the big trade and exchange show. The flyers are posted on designated listing boards, which tend to become full, and further encroaching the surroundings in the park on fences and hung on bushes and trees.

This whole thing is not to be seen as arranged marriage, but has a more differentiated purpose. It is very common for Chinese parents to feel obliged to assist and provide as much as possible for their kids. And as many families struggle to give their child the best possible education, the expectations to Chinese children are usually very high. Therefore as these children are busy at work, pursuing a career, and have not married straight after finishing university, the parents get worried and try to assist them in finding their soul mate.

This said the atmosphere at the market is very relaxed, and occasionally also visited by the youngsters themselves. Even though having your parents finding a partner for you seem a bit weird in the view of western bar brawlers, it actually might make some sense. As much of Chinese going out culture is confined in small karaoke rooms, it doesn’t create many possibilities to meet new people. And how many weird relationships do we have to our ‘in laws’ in the western world? Therefore letting your parents getting you some phone numbers might not be a bad idea, as they cannot complain about your choice later, as it was themselves who hooked you up in the first place.

Finally the whole thing looks like a great excuse for the retirees to meet in the park and mingle, using the profiles of their kids as icebreaker. An interesting phenomenon in a world where social relations are becoming increasingly digitalized and occurring over the Internet. In this place on Saturdays the whole dating network is brought into the public space, transforming it to a space of direct human interaction.