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Lonely hearts get lessons in love

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

08:18, August 01, 2013

Ruan Qi (third from right) gives instructions to one of his students on how to chat with girls at a Shanghai subway station. (China Daily/Gao Erqiang)

Ruan Qi, 43, is a professional dating consultant who makes a living teaching men how to woo women.

"That pair of pants is much better. Remember, never show up with shorts if it's your first date," says the life coach to his 20-something student Zhang Weidong.

Zhang paid 4,980 yuan ($811) for Ruan's three-day course including theory and practical classes to learn how to pick up, and chat up, girls.

Zhang, a factory worker from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, came to Shanghai on the weekend especially for the costly training. "The tuition is as much as one month's salary," says Zhang. "It was painful to spend so much money on this but I think it's worth the money as I'm learning lifelong skills."

With only a primary school education, Zhang refers to himself as "diaosi" which refers to a specific group of young men from humble backgrounds who do not have well-paid jobs or good looks.

Zhang says he's not good at "dealing with girls". "I'm too shy to talk to any of them and the tricks I learned from the Internet aren't working in reality, things such as telling the girl I can read palms to tell her fortune in order to hold her hands," he says.

Ruan says Zhang is typical of his students.

"They call themselves ‘diaosi' in a self-deprecating manner to distinguish themselves from young men who are born into decent families — the ‘tall, rich, handsome' wouldn't come to me for help in the first place," says Ruan, a Beijing native who graduated with a degree in psychology from China's top college, Peking University.

Ruan says about 95 percent of his students are male and the majority of them are "otaku" (indoors men) with jobs in the IT industry and an average age of 27.

Zhang Sanqiang, 27, falls into this category. He was Ruan's student three months ago. Even though Zhang is currently single, he says he got a girlfriend immediately after taking the "pick up girls" class.

"There's no course called ‘how to communicate with girls' at school and for those of us whose working environment is packed with men we have no chances to get to know women. Ruan's class is extremely practical. He helped me avoid some silly mistakes like, never buddy up with the girl you like too much and don't invade her private space," says Zhang Sanqiang, who works at an information technology company in Shanghai.

Spending his weekdays teaching classes via Internet and weekends traveling between China's biggest cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou, for private classes, Ruan's business is booming. He started teaching his pick-up techniques in Beijing in 2008, after his post on "how to pick up girls" received thousands of replies online.

"Guys that couldn't find a girlfriend think what I said works. They tried to approach me via the Internet and they tried to call me — it was only natural to start the private consulting business," says Ruan, adding he works on his own, and has no desire to grow the business.

His class has been divided into two parts — theoretical and practical. "I'd bring students to places such as a popular shopping mall or university campus to practice ‘gut'," he says.

The idea of "gut practicing" is simple — to get as many numbers as possible from women in the mall or campus. But before that, get some basic knowledge of a woman's way of thinking. Advice from a personal stylist is also necessary.

A retired male model from South Korea is working with Ruan as the image consultant in Beijing to help his students. For an extra 1,000 yuan, he can design your hairstyle and take you shopping for two sets of clothes including shoes. Of course, the client has to pay the bill for the clothes.

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