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Family pressure forces marriage with laowai

By Yao Min-G (Shanghai Daily)

08:30, May 30, 2013

Illustration by Zhou Tao

Recently I attended the wedding of a 38-year-old friend who is a senior executive at a multinational company's Shanghai branch. For years, her parents had made it their goal in life to see her married.

Seven years ago, she had a Chinese boyfriend from a different company in the same industry, but he earned less than she and his career prospects were not as bright. They dated for two and a half years and they were in love. Her parents vigorously opposed the match. They considered it a disgrace for her to "marry down."

Most of her friends also tried to persuade her to end the relationship, convinced that it could not last. She and I became close, partly because I never made any suggestions to her about marriage and never suggested what kind of man she should marry - if she felt like marrying at all.

For a year the couple quarreled and the man finally broke it off. He said he couldn't stand the constant pressure, inquiries and jokes from both families' friends, acquaintances, and people they hardly knew.

After that, she was single for seven years. Then a month ago, she suddenly announced the wedding.

Like all weddings, it was surrounded by gossip.

"She finally got herself married!"

"I always thought a foreign husband would be a better fit, you know."

"Is she pregnant?"

"Who is this lao wai?"

The bride's cousin told us he is a successful, 36-year-old entrepreneur who arrived in the city around five years ago. The consensus was he would probably be of great assistance in his bride's career, because of his presumed connections.

When the ceremony started and the bridegroom walked from the darkened wings to the stage, I practically gasped aloud - I met this fellow at a friend's party just a week before the wedding. He was introduced as a freelance artist and he definitely didn't act like someone on his way to the altar in a week.

A few days later, I chatted with the bride, and she admitted knowing about her husband's lifestyle and what he's really like. "I needed someone to marry. My parents, aunties and uncles are driving me crazy," she said.

Marrying a foreigner appears good to her family, since many people still believe the stereotype that foreigners in China are senior rich executives. It's harder for Chinese relatives and friends to dig out a foreigner's background and gossip about it.

"Is this really a good thing?" I asked her, but I never got an answer.

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