Behind the Hype of Singles’ Day: The Truth of Being Single in China

What used to be a self-pampering day by single university students in Nanjing, China, has become the biggest shopping spree around the world. This year, Alibaba broke its own Singles’ Day sales record by racking up $30.8 billion in one day. That means $5.5 billion more than last year!

Looking at the number of one day sale in one country, the Chinese sure are super excited with the deals and try to grab as much as they can with lower prices.

To the world, the mega-success of Singles’ Day may represent not only the effect of a brilliant business strategy but may also paint a rainbow image of how Chinese singles truly embrace their singledom.

But have you ever wondered how the Chinese singles truly feel about their relationship status? Out of curiosity, I dug information about their dating life and found not a rosy truth.

What Being Single in China Means

For the Chinese, marriage is very important. To get married and have children is seen as a filial obligation, therefore single adults feel pressured, especially during Lunar New Year.

When are you getting married? Why don’t you find a boyfriend/girlfriend? Those are typical questions asked by parents and family. It seems like a normal thing in Asia but dating in China is seriously brutal.

Imagine being judged by your single status and labelled as “leftover woman or man” – as if nobody wants you, you’re not good enough and failed to make your parents happy. All your accomplishments in education, career, and life are nothing if you haven’t tied the knot after 25.

singles' day china fact
Source: SupChina

If you happen to be in Beijing or Shanghai on weekend, you may stumble upon a marriage market where parents of single adult trade information of their children in hope to find good candidates.

Adding the pressure, not only your parents skeptical about it but the majority of the old generation will judge you.

The Marriage Market for Chinese Singles

An article published by New York Post in March 2018 revealed the astonishing experience of a 34-year-old photographer, Guo Yingguang, who secretly put a hidden camera when attended the marriage market in Shanghai.

Yingguang is a well-educated woman, she had a master’s degree from London, speaks English well and working as a photographer.

“You can actually see on their faces. They don’t really care at all about why you think you’re a good person.”

When she revealed her age, one woman told her that she’s very brave (too old for marriage yet still attending the market).

A man even commented, “what’s the use of her getting a master’s degree? A bachelor is more than enough. Just like the old saying goes, ‘a woman’s virtue lies in her lack of talent’” when he saw her advertisement.

“After I told them how old I was, there would be an extremely awkward moment,” said Yingguang. “You can actually see on their faces. They don’t really care at all about why you think you’re a good person.”

It’s not easier for Chinese men. According to What’s On Weibo, ‘leftover men’ are the real problem. Because of the country’s one-child policy in the period of 1979-2015, a baby boy was favoured over a baby girl.

The birth ratio was almost 120 boys for every 100 girls. By 2030, more than 25% of Chinese men in their late 30s will never have married!

singles day
Source: Reader’s Digest

So much pressure to find love, some people find opportunities to make money from this sad truth. iResearch Consulting Group reported that matchmaking is a billion-dollar business in China, US$1.6 billion to be exact.

Although there are dating apps like Momo and Tantan, generally casual dating is frowned upon there.

In addition, Lunar New Year is the most dreadful season for some Chinese singles.

The country has more reserved dating culture compared to Western countries – people don’t do bar-hopping or find it easy to start a conversation with a stranger.

Therefore, singles are engaging in dating sites and pay some amount of money to find the best match.

In addition, Lunar New Year is the most dreadful season for some Chinese singles. When it’s approaching and they’re still single, they’ll resort to renting fake girlfriend or boyfriend to make their parents happy or ‘save their faces’.

South China Morning Post stated that millennials are willing to spend around 500 to 2,000 yuan (1,2-4,4 million rupiahs) a night, plus other expenses for it.

singles day china true story
To me, success can’t be measured from just one aspect. What motivates me to be successful is to tap into my full potential and lead a contented life so I’ll have no regret.

A desperate bachelor even posted on Weibo that he would pay up to 6,000 yuan (more than 13 million rupiahs) for a fake girlfriend. She just had to come for a meal and spend a night with his family during Lunar New Year.

A brainchild of Daniel Zhang (Jack Ma’s successor), 11/11 Singles’ Day Shopping Festival is indeed a brilliant idea. It gives adrenaline rush and excitement to fill the shopping cart.

But when the sale ends, Chinese singles who resent their relationship status will have to prepare themselves for the dreadful Lunar New Year in the coming three months.

I went to Beijing last month and arrived at the weekend, but unfortunately, I didn’t find a marriage market. Even when I asked my local tour guide about it, she didn’t even know about it.

I feel happy for her that she doesn’t have to go through the pressure of Singles’ Day.

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