My Experience with Marriage in China

I didn’t get married in China!  However, I have learned a lot about the changing attitudes toward marriage in China compared to traditional Chinese attitudes or those of the West.  In my Chinese class we have discussed how Chinese concepts regarding marriage have changed after China’s one child policy went into effect; attitudes changed from adolescents being expected to marry very young to young adults putting off marriage in order to pursue education and careers despite their parents’ desires for them to settle down and start families.

While China’s one child policy has now transitioned into a two child policy, the policy’s clear after effects still loom at the forefront of Chinese society and are currently playing out their roles in shaping Chinese cultural values and concepts going forward.  Specifically, the one child policy has largely influenced the status of women in Chinese society and even more so in the aspect of marriage.

Though the one child policy has created a huge gender imbalance in China (according to an article by the Washington Post, there are currently 115 male babies to every 100 female babies in China), there still exists a crisis surrounding China’s shengnu because of the values instilled in children who were products of the one child policy.

China’s shengnu are the “leftover women” of China; those unmarried women who are older than what Chinese society deems to be the cut off age for marriage.  From what I have heard from roommates and friends, this is usually around 30, although some parents start getting worried when their children reach as young as 26 years old.  China’s shengnu “problem” draws a lot from historical, cultural, and economic contexts, but its reach into modern day life is more extensive than one from the West could imagine.

Can you imagine a “marriage market” in which your parents try to set up dates for you every weekend?

The truth is, it exists, and I’ve been there.

The following pictures are pictures I took from my visit to Shanghai’s marriage market.  Every Saturday and Sunday, parents meet up in Shanghai’s People Square and attempt to arrange dates between their sons and daughters (who are not present).  Hundreds upon hundreds of umbrellas line the paths of the park, each with an “advertisement” for someone’s daughter or son attached.  Most of them describe women, although I did see a few sons looking for dates as well.  The descriptions include details such as year of birth (ranging from the early 70’s to the 90’s), height, weight, education level, residency status, whether or not the candidate owns a house or a car, etc.  There are usually no pictures involved.

This advertisement even lists the occupations of the parents, as well as what the parents/daughter is looking for in a potential match.

Having the opportunity to explore the marriage market on my own after learning so much about the context behind it in class has been such an amazing value add of studying abroad; I’m truly going to miss having these opportunities to see and experience for myself.


Almost One Week in Shanghai!

Tomorrow will mark my first full week in Shanghai!  As some of you know, after completion of Fall and January semesters in Beijing, I will be spending the spring semester in Shanghai.  This semester includes components such as Chinese language class, two elective classes, and a part time internship.  While I’m still settling in, I wanted to share some pics from my first week here below:

Soup filled dumplings with rice 🙂
Visting the home of famous Chinese author Lu Xun
The Lu Xun Memorial and Museum was about an hour and a half train ride outside of Shanghai in Shaoxing
Street food such as stinky tofu and lotus seed
Time for a boat ride!
My awesome new roomie

Just outside my new campus
Views from Shaoxing
More views from Shaoxing
Even more views from Shaoxing

What Studying in Beijing Is Really Like

One week from today my class time studying in Beijing will officially be done!  It’s a pretty bittersweet feeling.  While Janterm (my winter program I am currently studying under with CET) has been exhausting, and I am excited to see what’s next in store, I am also sad to leave Beijing!  To be completely cliché, Beijing has really become home to me over the last five months.  I feel completely comfortable navigating around the city and I’ve become more or less accustomed to the Beijing lifestyle (still working on drinking more hot water tho).  With that being said, I thought I’d share with you guys what studying abroad in Beijing with CET is really like on a day to day basis, apart from all the fantastic adventures:

I wake up at 7am Monday – Friday, get ready for class, and walk about 10 minutes to my academic building.  I use my phone to buy a cup of coffee for 10 RMB (about $1.50) and prepare for my classes.

I have morning class from 8:25am (do NOT be late) to 11:30am with about 10-20 minutes of rest in between.  Every morning starts with a 小考, which is a quiz on the vocabulary you should have memorized the night before.

What our classroom white board looks like every morning, covered in grammar structures and vocab

After 11:30 I usually have about an hour and a half off for lunch, which is a great time to go to the cafeteria, buy some baozis, or get an early start on some homework due the next day.

The afternoons vary from day to day.  Twice a week I have 副课 which is a supplementary afternoon class in which we usually watch a Chinese movie and discuss related themes.  Once a week we have a practicum class in the afternoon during which the whole class takes a trip somewhere in Beijing (park, museum, etc) related to what we are learning that week.  Usually in practicum class we are tasked to interview several Beijing locals and later create a PowerPoint presentation on our findings.  Practically every day of the working week I have both 一对一and一对二, which are one on one with a professor or two students with one professor.  It’s a great time to get really personalized attention and ask any questions about something you didn’t quite understand.

Conducting a group interview in a local park

Generally speaking, I am not done for the day until around 3:00pm, although it varies depending on what afternoon classes I have.  Usually I immediately start homework and studying for the next day after I am done with class, and the best place to do this is at a local bubble tea shop.  On top of daily assignments, preparing for the next day, and staying on top of long term assignments, I am typically not done until it is time for bed.

While it truly is exhausting, I can’t say enough about how the language pledge and sole focus on intensively studying Chinese every day has improved my language ability, especially in speaking.  Every ounce of hard work here has really paid off, and I am so happy with my decision to study here.  To any current Holy Cross sophomores who may be considering this opportunity with CET/study abroad – please find my email in the directory and feel free to reach out with any questions!  I’d love to talk more about my experience so far!

The Holy Cross banner hanging proudly in the academic building!