Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking for love in the Internet age

Whereas singles in both Taiwan and China use the Internet to look for a potential partner or spouse, priorities differ between the two countries. Twenty years ago, personal ads were frowned upon as a way of seeking a mate, however with the advent of the Internet, personals have become an acceptable way for young people to meet each other. Recently, the Want Daily, a newly founded newspaper published by the Taipei-based China Times, carried a series of reports on the subject.

In 1989, when Taiwanese writer Chen Yu-huei wrote The Personals, about the responses to her three ads, placing a personal ad was still a rare and embarrassing thing to do. Her book was made into a movie while most Taiwanese still considered personal ads a questionable form of meeting people. However, many of the men who responded were far from marginalized, and ranged from middle school graduates to PhDs, men seeking marriage, affairs or merely sex.

Another movie explored the male perspective twenty years later. In If You Are the One produced in 2008, Ge You, one of the most popular actors in the Chinese world, returns to China after studying overseas. He places a personal ad listing his short-comings. In the dating process, he met a wide range of women, and even a gay man, from those reluctant to have sex, to expectant unwed mothers, from sales girls to arrogant stockbrokers. In the end, he falls in love with a married woman.

These two movies both caused a ripple of discussions across the Taiwan Strait regarding the conflicts between traditional and modern societies, and marriage by way of the personal ads.

Taiwan’s personal ad users can include the rich, beautiful female nurses in their 20s, or teachers in their 30s, or even single mothers in their 50s. Whereas many personal ads in Taiwan are written by a web editor, those in China are often written by those seeking a partner.

Another major distinction between the two sides is that Chinese personal ads, although still focused on a pretty face, will attribute greater importance to a person of means. There are young beautiful editors who have their personal ad as part of their blogs. Even though they are independent and romantically minded, a big focus is placed on materialism. One survey of Chinese girls in their 20s showed their preference for men with the three basics – a car, a house and money.

Another website survey showed the big difference in the definition of a “good man” on both sides of the Strait. Whereas 39.53 percent of Taiwanese women considered “doing chores at home” as the top virtue, it was less of a priority in China. In fact, 72.83 percent of Chinese girls liked “smart, experienced and capable men,” while only 34 percent of Taiwanese females like this type of men.

Chen said in the preface to the second edition of The Personals that personal ads have moved from newspapers to websites and blogs. In the Internet age, we have virtual dating and virtual love affairs. The younger generations have less real social activities and are more prone to looking for mates via the Internet, she said.

According to statistics released by Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior, the number of marriages on the island totaled 50,612 from January to August 2009, showing a 18.5 percent drop, or about 34,000 people. During the same period, the number of divorces totaled 74,894, about 0.6 percent higher than 2008.

An interesting point revealed by the data is that 19.4 percent of the Taiwanese men married foreign brides, and the number of Taiwanese men marrying Taiwanese women dropped 21.6 percent, while the number of newly married foreign brides increased by 3.1 percent to 14,588.

Among foreign brides in Taiwan, mainland Chinese women accounted for about 60 percent at 8,714 persons, Southeast Asian brides totaled 27 percent (3,899 women), and other nationals made up 13 percent (1,975 women). Compared with the same period in 2008, the number of Chinese brides increased 5.6 percent, while the number of Southeast Asians marrying Taiwanese dropped 2.5 percent. The number of other nationals marrying Taiwanese rose 4.3 percent.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.