When learning about youth culture in other countries, what should you look at? Start with the food scene, entertainment, music, social media, and of course, dating culture! This is especially true in China’s case.
Here is a list of similarities and differences between dating cultures in the U.S. and China. They are mostly from my own observations and the colorful tales and complaints from my Chinese and American friends. One key point: the observations below do not represent everyone. There is a wide variety of dating practices outside the mainstream norms!
1 Courtship vs Dates
The concept of courtship seems to be archaic in the American dating scene. Flowers and gifts on a first date? Sounds like the move your grandpa made back in the day. Instead, most people in the U.S. go on dates to learn more about each other.
But courtship is very important to dating in China. People use the word 追 (zhuí) to describe the action of pursuing someone. It literally means “to chase.” The process of chasing unfolds like this: you meet someone, you like them, and that person is your partner.
How to show your interest? You can buy gifts, help with their homework, listen to them, or send them late-night snacks when they work overtime. Be creative. Show that you care.
Oftentimes, courtship is gendered in China. Men are usually the suitor. However, women are becoming more proactive. One of my best friends from high school relentlessly pursued her current boyfriend for an entire year! Ideally, courtship leads to #bae status. But I've seen people get happily friend-zoned or (on the extreme end) become enemies.
2 When to Establish a Relationship?
The time frame of courtship varies from days to years in Chinese dating culture. But if both people like each other, they establish a relationship right away.
It is common for Americans to date for months before 'the talk' to establish #bae status.
For young Chinese, American dating culture has become increasingly popular due to Hollywood and TV shows. Some still see situationships as people with commitment issues. Others, embrace the American style. It gives them more time to get to know the other person and make an informed decision.
3 Are we exclusive?
In American dating culture, it is normal to date multiple people at the same time before establishing exclusivity. Some couples in a serious relationship also pursue consenting open-relationships or polyamory.
In Chinese dating culture, romantic relationships imply monogamy. The perennial relationship talk - “what are we?” - seen in American movies is much less common in China.
4 Parental Involvement
Parents in both countries care a great deal about who their children choose as partners. But Chinese parents are more involved in their children’s relationships. My Chinese friends have complained countless times about their overconcerned parents vetoing their partner or setting them up on blind dates.
5 Romance or Pragmatic Concerns?
A quick scroll through Quora or articles on Chinese dating culture might give you the impression that dating in China is pragmatic and materialistic.
It's simply not true. There are golddiggers in every country. In my experience, people date for the same reasons: romance, love, infatuation, the company, and the mystery of it all.
There are distinct cultural differences in dating, but the pursuit of love and happiness is not unique to any.