Training camps teaching young Chinese men how to date women have become a thriving business in China. During their course, trainees learn how to dress attractively, act courteous and civilized and make small talk with women they want to meet. Zhou Lei (pseudonym), a 24-year-old man who has already spent 3,000 yuan ($472) on such dating courses in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, said that the most important thing he has learned thus far is how to properly communicate with women, Chengdu Business Daily reported in April 2017. “I used to be dumb at talking to women. I didn’t dare speak with them, and whenever I did I’d somehow piss them off,” said Zhou.
Zhou’s experience, and the rise of such dating classes, begs the question if Chinese men lag behind their Western counterparts in terms of chasing women? And if so, why? In an attempt to answer this question, the Global Times asked various men and women, both Chinese and foreigners, about their dating rituals and experiences.
Most of our interviewees agreed that, because Chinese people in general pay more attention to materialism when dating than Westerners, who generally rely more on physical or spiritual attraction, dating is an entirely different ballgame in China.
Whereas in Western culture splitting the bill is more popular, in China men are expected to pay for meals, drinks and the entire cost of a date. This places more emphasis on money and materialism and less on personality and charm.
Christina Zhao spent three years studying and working in Australia. Having dated both Chinese and Western men, Zhao now believes foreign men are not necessarily better at chasing women, they just take a different approach.
“Chinese guys will bring you to a luxurious restaurant for your first date, order you expensive wine, take you to a French dinner, and may even gave you expensive gifts,” she explained.
This experience was echoed by Angel, a Spanish man who attends university in Shanghai. Observing his Chinese classmates, he believes that Chinese men are more considerate and spend more money on dates. “They invite them out to dinners, and buy more gifts,” said Angel.
But does this method work on women? Zhao admitted she used to love receiving expensive gifts from Chinese men but now she more appreciates the wholehearted care offered by Westerners. “Their care extends to small things, like what you have for a meal, whether you have dressed warmly in cold weather and whether you are caught up in traffic jams,” said Zhao.
Compared with Westerners, who are generally are more straight forward about chasing women, Chinese men often beat around the bush, for lack of a better idiom, and lack the courage to directly ask a woman out on a date.
“One time I was walking on a road and a lovely foreign man approached me. He said to me, ‘Hi, you look beautiful. May I have your number and take you out?'” Zhao said. “Few Chinese men would do that. They are too shy.”
Eka Valyavskaya (pseudonym) from Russia has the same opinion about Chinese men. When she arrived in China three years ago, a Chinese man said he wanted to become her friend. They stayed friends, but nothing more, because Valyavskaya felt “he was so Chinese.”
“He would force me to drink more water, he would send me stickers, he would look at me with enormous curiosity but he would never dare to reveal his intentions,” Valyavskaya admitted to the Global Times. When the man started bringing her flowers and cosmetics, she realized that it was the time to end this Chinese style of “friendship.”
“I do like receiving presents, but probably with some explanation,” Valyavskaya added. “Otherwise its as if he’s waiting until I hang on his shoulders grateful for these beautiful gifts.”
As a Western woman growing up hearing fairy tales about knights in shining armor, Valyavskaya expects more initiative from a man. “I’m not saying he should kiss me the first time I see him. But a man should show what he wants,” she said. “I doubt I would ever meet a Western man who stuck around for a whole month without a single touch.”
Casual hookup culture
So why are Chinese men unwilling to express their desires? A very different cultural background may contribute to that.
Dylan Ley, 20, is an American-born Chinese. Having lived in both the US and China, Ley believes that Western men are more skilled and bolder about approaching women than Chinese men due to the society they are raised in.
Ley explained that, in modern American society, men are bolstered with confidence since their youth, which applies to approaching women.
“As most students tend to stay in flocks of their own ethnicity, there can be hesitancy to reach out to [girls]outside their group. American men, however, tend to make the first move to talk to girls outside their circle,” Ley said.
Another difference he believes lies in the Western acceptance of hookup culture. In the US, teenagers and young adults use hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, or websites like Craigslist and OkCupid.
“American society has a very prevalent and widely accepted casual hookup culture. This is quite opposite from China, where hooking up is frowned upon and condemned,” Ley said. “With the combination of confidence and an open dating scene, it’s no wonder why American men tend to be so outgoing and frivolous with their dating mannerisms.”
Young and dumb
Some interviewees mentioned that having experience and perseverance in the dating scene makes all the difference. Angel believes it is not about culture or country but simply what a person puts into their effort to meet someone of the opposite sex.
In Spain, Angel said, many guys usually get their first girlfriend by 16. Pubescent love there starts in the classroom or at house parties, while in China middle school and high school students are often banned by parents and teachers from going on dates, worrying that it may affect their academic performance.
“In Spain we start early, so we’ve already faced many situations and had more experience by the time a Chinese boy has his first girlfriend. More experience means more empathy and maturity,” Angel said.
Though Chinese boys may have some social disadvantages when it comes to flirting with women, it should not mean that they are “losers” at this game. Very often, Chinese men are praised for being more serious, devoted and responsible in a relationship than Western guys are.
In question posted on zhihu.com, the Chinese equivalent of Quora, asking about the advantages and disadvantages of dating a Chinese or a foreign man, a user going by name “flying bear over the cloud” explained that while foreign men tend to show all their alluring charms at first sight, Chinese men tend to save their charm until they have established the relationship.
The netizens added that she believes that the tenderness and passion of Western men can be understood as “romantic” but also as being “womanizers,” since they know how to successfully utilize such methods when it comes to lure girls.
“It is easier for Western men to start flirting with women and therefore you must be prepared that you are not the only beneficiary of his charm,” she wrote, adding that though Chinese men take more time getting to know women, once they’ve made up their mind, they tend to permanently settle down with her.
“In traditional Chinese values, a relationship leads to marriage. While in the West, being young just means having fun,” she wrote.