Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lookin' for Love in Shanghai

Shanghai is everything I thought it would be and nothing what I thought it would be. If that statement made you say “huh?!” please allow me to explain.

Shanghai is full of contradictions, and everyday I learn something new about the city, the culture, and the people. Apparently Shanghai is very different from the rest of China – it’s cosmopolitan and modern, which is reflected not only the city’s high-rise buildings but in its attitude as well. I’ve been told that most of China is very rural and simple, and finding someone who speaks English is highly unlikely (but not impossible).

I’ve been visiting warehouses and distribution facilities located an hour out of the city for the past three days (hence the lack of posts), and it is during these excursions that I’ve learned the most about Shanghainese culture. I met a girl named Jessica who had the task of translating my conversations with the warehouse staff. The warehouse staff had lunch brought in for us during both days, and while we ate lunch we had some time to chat about cultural differences between the US and China. Did I mention we ate KFC on Wednesday and Pizza Hut on Thursday? If the Chinese keep eating like this they might beat us as the fattest nation on earth soon.

I learned from Jessica that Shanghainese women are determined to make good use of their education and excel in their career but also have a strong desire to find a suitable husband. For Shanghainese women in particular, it is hard to find a husband who is as successful in their career and have the same family and educational background as the women. It’s very important to have an equal partnership so that family, education, career, and salary are carefully matched for an ideal marriage. For Jessica, good men are hard to find, especially with such vivacious females here in Shanghai.

I asked Jessica how one would find a husband, and she said that the most common method was to have blind dates set up by the man and woman’s parents. The parents would meet and discuss their offspring: where they graduated, their salaries, their interests, their goals, etc. If they found a good match, two would meet at a local tea house and get to know one another. If the date went well, they’d see each other again; if not, it was up to the parents to set up another blind date. To me, this sounds like an episode of the show Parental Control in MTV without the sound bites. Anyway, Jessica just had a blind date recently, and she said that it did not go well. Her date was too quiet for her and she wanted to find someone who could equal her conversation skills (which is a tall order because this girl talks A LOT). Jessica’s goal this year is to find a husband, and since she was born in the year of the Rat (which is the animal for this year’s Chinese New Year) she might get lucky this year.

Jessica also told me that ladies here in Shanghai love Starbucks coffee, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and Louis Vuitton purses. She said that if men want to cheer up their girlfriends or wives, they take them to Haagen-Dazs for an ice cream treat. She also said that an appropriate gift for a 30-year wedding anniversary was a Louis Vuitton bag – sure, you can tell your wife that you love her, but giving her a Louis Vuitton bag proves it. I cannot make this up!

Louis Vuitton must be dancing in his grave.

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