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An Unexpected Marriage Mart

Everyone should travel to China. Yup, it’s a great experience. My husband and I spent 3 weeks there in September and traveled a big circle around the country, even spending a few days in Lhasa, Tibet. I have to admit that I went with few pre-conceived notions of what to expect. Sure, I’ve seen the great movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Last Emperor, and I could sing you songs from Mulan, but as for modern China? I had no idea.

Well, it turns out life is much like it is in this country minus the diversity and plus the density. The cities are positively packed with more high rises than you can imagine. Double the density of Manhattan and you still might not get there considering places like Beijing and Chongqing have 30 and 35 million people living in them. NYC has only, yes only, about 8 ½ million people. It’s hard to imagine what that looks like until you see it.

None-the-less, the streets are crowded with cars and every type of vehicle on two and three wheels imaginable as people scurry to work. The cityscape is dotted with KFC’s and McDonald’s restaurants. All the major labels in fashion from around the world are present in the city centers. If you didn’t look closely at the signage, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine you were anywhere in America or Europe. English-speaking is not as common as it is in Europe, but folks were very nice about communicating any way possible, including hand gestures and smart phones, and always with a big smile! We saw few Caucasians wherever we went that were not part of a tour like ours, but people were very friendly and showed real curiosity about us.

We had two young women for city tour guides who gave us a look at how young people date and marry that we found most interesting. Times have certainly changed. Their parents had very different dating circumstances than their children have today. To illustrate, our guide Ivy told us about her parents who followed the rules of their day that said you were ready to marry when you could provide your wife a TV, a washing machine and a bike. No one had cars. These luxuries said you could be successful in supporting a wife. Today, women like Ivy look for the “6 C’s” before choosing a husband: Cash, Car, Condo, Career, Cook, Cute! They want none of the old ways and will choose their own husbands and have a career of their own choosing. We liked their style!

Perhaps the most interesting visit was to a city park in Chengdu. People use the parks far more than we do in this country because green space is so valuable and almost everyone lives in a high rise without any kind of yard space. You can change the times all you like, but parents are still parents and it seems they are still concerned if their children have not married by the age of 25. So, even though smart phones are in every hand and technology is not new, parents have resorted to a marriage market on the sidewalks of the park. Without pictures attached, parents write out a resume for their son or daughter and place it on the ground beside the sidewalk in a special area of the park. Other parents and grandparents stroll by and take note of interesting matches for their child. (Remember they have just one child since the government did not allow more than one until recently, and then two is the limit.) From all reports it is quite successful! Apparently, this service started in Shanghai and has been adopted in other city parks around the country. So, in the age of technology, paper resumes in the park serviced by parents are the latest thing!

It looks like love and romance are front and center in every part of the globe.

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