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Marriages are made in heaven not in fairs

By Rebecca Flood (Global Times)

10:41, June 28, 2013

Last month the match-making event, Shanghai's 3rd Annual Love and Marriage Expo, attracted more than 18,000 people. These events are every popular in China with men and women searching for suitable partners. It is traditional for Chinese men and women to settle down and have a family - having a child out of wedlock is frowned upon. There is social pressure, especially for women, to be married.

However, it is not just single people who participate - parents also attend to try to find suitable partners for their children, and some pushy parents have had to be barred from the face-to-face meetings at the events.

Regularly in parks across the city, including Shanghai People's Park, parents gather in their thousands to find dates for their children. They display their homemade laminated signs with the important details of their available children, like income and education, and search for a suitable match.

What do expats think of parents finding partners for them? Would they like their own parents to find them a partner?

Shaiyan Shaikh, from Pakistan, marketing manager

"This is not surprising at all. Combine the one-child policy with the fact that families have one of the most important cultural bearings on Chinese lives, and it can only be expected that parents will become fussy and aggressively try to match their kids into secure marriages.

I don't think my parents would try to find me a partner, and if they did try, I would not like it. In the end it's my own decision and my own problem. I think the traditional and cultural side of this matter is fading with every new generation. It feels like today the main source of concern is on economic grounds. People want a happy and relatively wealthy marriage to take place so that everyone can benefit and also the potentially one resultant kid will have sufficient opportunities in his or her own life.

If your parents find you a partner, then unless you are a robot programmed to stay married, chances are you will be unhappy and it will break apart because you did not make the decision yourself, and the marriage was not 'organic'."

Alexandra Ncube, from Zimbabwe, student

"Matchmaking is not necessarily a bad thing if the individual wants to be matched. However, when it is done because of family or societal pressure and in a forced manner, I believe it can be very damaging to a person.

I would not like my parents to find me a partner, although I am always open to any suggestions they may have regarding a match, as long as the final decision on who I date or marry is ultimately my own.

I think China places too much pressure on people to get married - it's an old-fashioned, sexist society conditioned by biased social norms. If a marriage doesn't work out, you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Parental assistance could be beneficial if you feel they know you and your likes well enough."

Diederik Sanders, from the Netherlands, management trainee

"One of my Chinese male colleagues was in a similar situation. His parents chose his partner, whether he liked it or not. So at the age of 22 he married a woman who was the daughter of a business partner of his father's. 'Good for business,' said his dad. I had the burning question: 'Why do you not just simply refuse to marry someone even if your father wants you to?' He answered: 'If I refuse, my family will reject me and I will be cut off from financial support and have no place to sleep.'

I understood his decision, but do I agree with the whole 'parents choose the partner for their children' idea? Absolutely not. The fact that at these 'marriage expos and markets,' parents walk around and make the decision for their child based on information like: 'Does this person come from a wealthy family?' or 'How well-educated is this person?' makes my stomach churn.

Love should not be based on money and educational levels. Younger generations in China are more influenced by Western media, and are coming to realize that they should make their own path."

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