Recently, I’ve finally started watching the TV series, Girls. I know, I am 3 years late to the game. I gave it my first attempt in 2012 when I was finishing grad school in New York, and it was simply too real, and too painful to watch (Lena Dunham and I happen to be the same age!). Now that I am a few years past that early/mid-20s stage, and inching closer to the end of my twenties, I can appreciate it with newfound nostalgia. I’ve been in living in Shanghai for nearly three years now, and dating remains a hot topic among the young professional expats in this vibrant city. My perspective comes from the female side, and the common complaint usually surrounds just how impossibly difficult it is to find an eligible bachelor who is actually seeking a committed relationship.
The theme goes loosely as follows:
Guys Just Wanna Have Fun: it’s a transient city; many are here for a year or less, and they aren’t interested in investing in anything serious. It’s impossible.
Yellow Fever: Non-Chinese men in Shanghai have yellow fever and love Asians women; the non-Asian women have no chance. It’s impossible.
Biggest Loser: Foreign guys in Shanghai can get away with murder (obviously not literally) with local girls, and so even when they are the biggest losers back in their home countries, they feel like a rock star in Shanghai. It’s impossible.
Supply Constraint: If for one reason or another, you aren’t into Chinese guys, the supply of foreign men is limited. At least it appears that way on the popular dating apps OkCupid or Tinder. In the U.S., even in a not-so-happening suburban town (i.e. suburb of St. Louis), you’d need to be swiping on Tinder left and right all the damn day long before you have a chance of running out of anyone to peruse. And in a big city like New York? You’d seriously need to be addicted before you run out.
In Shanghai, after the initial screening of men, you would be out of options after 10 swipes max on any given day. For a city of 15 million individuals, it’s a sad, sad world (or so it seems).
Okay, so after the above broad generalization, it may appear that my female comrades do have some valid points on why dating in Shanghai is difficult. Yet, I also notice most of my conversation with single female friends around the world also surround the same topic. The New Yorkers stereotype men as banker-consultant-douchebags; the San Franciscans complain there are too many Silicon Valley geeks-turned-millionaires that lack social skills; the D.C.ers can’t stand dorky policy wonks or sleazy politician types.
It would appear that dating is hard everywhere. Just as every family has its own set of issues, each city has its own set of pain points on dating. As with all things in life, I believe positive energy eventually manifests itself. And thus, hard as it might, I remained hopeful and gave individuals the benefit of doubt. Just as the U.S. justice system: every guy is a great match until proven otherwise.
And unfortunately, many have proven otherwise. Sure, you could say those countless hours of time spent interacting with men, some of whose names I can no longer recall, were a significant waste of time, but I would like to think they were invaluable lessons to better gain clarity on life, and the intricacy of human relationships. If nothing else, it always provided me with the best happy hour stories for my girls. (Side note: I really recommend a Tinder Support Group with your girls on whatever chat app. you use, it makes dating a lot more entertaining.)
With that, to single girls in Shanghai and everywhere, remain hopeful and keep swiping right. You might not find Mr. Right right now, but you’ll be armed with a cookie jar full of stories and more to share not just at happy hours, but to your future grandchildren, not to mention the many lessons learned! There’s no destination to dating (or broadly speaking romantic relationsihps); it’s all about the journey. Enjoy the trip!