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Confusion at the Coffee shop – Surprises from Chinese Dating Sites

Continued from yesterday

In the week before his new girlfriend arrived, there was a flurry of emails. He told us that he was spending hours each night writing and reading her emails. She was kind enough to accept them in English and would reply in English, all with the help of Google translate. They would even talk on the phone, but that was just a few very simple phrases. My friend seemed genuinely happy with this new-found love. They were able to communicate well enough, and he thought that with her determination she’d be able to learn enough English to handle living in the US.

For now though he had a simple solution. He bought two pocket translators, and ever so slowly they could “talk” with each other. It seemed slightly crazy to me, but who am I to judge someone else’s love?

We met her on a Saturday morning. We started by heading to a very small art section on the west side of Chengdu. There we toured a photography exhibition, which my friend absolutely loved, and she seemed to have zero interest in. After about an hour there we headed to a small coffee shop.

My wife, my friend, and I all ordered coffee, while his girlfriend had tea. I had the fun of serving as their translator, and even though my Chinese is not terrific, I was causing more confusion than usual. My friend would say, “Do you want to live in America?” and she looked as if she had never considered it, “We live in China,” she replied.

“No, if we get married we move to America,” He said.

“But you live in Chengdu,” she said, I could hear the frustration.

When I translated this back to my friend he was bewildered. He told me that in his very first email he had explained that he was only in Chengdu for a few months, and then he would be heading back to the States.

Luckily at that moment the coffee shop dog came trotting over, and the conversation moved on to simpler things. I took the brief break from translating as a chance to use the restroom.

When I came back everyone look puzzled.

My wife, who speaks some Chinese, was trying her best to translate. “She said that you should use QQ now to talk with each other.”

The girlfriend nodded vigorously and said in English, “QQ, no YaFu.”

“What’s YaFu?” My friend asked. It took me a minute to figure it out. The Chengdu dialect sometimes switches “H” and “F” sounds, “Don’t use Yahoo,” I told him. This led him to the obvious next question, “Why?”

My Chinese seemed to function above its usual level for the next thirty minutes as we started to piece together why there had been so much confusion.

I’ll save you that frustration. It turned out that she didn’t want him to use Yahoo, because it wasn’t actually her talking with him through that account. She had hired a company to help her find a foreign husband, and it was actually one of their agents chatting on Yahoo and sending text messages.

My friend looked crushed, “But what about the emails I sent you?”

“The company would translate them and then I would read them. I really do like you, but if they know we are thinking about marriage, I have to pay them another 10,000rmb ($1,250). It was 1,000rmb just to meet you,” It was one of those things that feels awful to translate, but it had to be said.

Continue to learn all of the tricks Chinese dating sites use to trap you and your loved one into paying thousands of RMB for a bride that you know nothing about.


16 Comments

  1. […] Seeing Red in China The Middle Kingdom Made Easy Skip to content HomeAbout MeComplete ArchiveSuggested SitesChina Books to ReadThe Best China MoviesMap of China ← Guest Post: Tim and Yan Jiang’s Story Confusion at the Coffeeshop – Surprises from Chinese Dating Sites → […]

  2. Wow. I had never thought about all these dating agencies- related problem.
    Can’t wait to keep learning.

  3. Jiang Yan says:

    Oh my gosh! The ending is very shocking. What a poor man! This story is good material for creating a movie.

  4. People who do this sort of thing and pay a thousand bucks (in any currency) must surely be non compos mentis by any definition. In my experience of living and growing up in various places around the world (with my parents and on my own), I’ve finally come to the conclusion that people in this part of the world do actually have trouble exercising common sense. I mean, would you pay 1,000 dollars/pounds/zlotys/rmb/whatever to just to meet your potential mate? How desperate does that tell us about you? Know what I’m saying?

    • Chopstik says:

      I’m not sure the issue is one of common sense or using the sites to find your perfect mate, per se. I can easily imagine in more than a few cases that the underlying reason for going that path is to get out of where one is rather than finding the perfect mate. In those cases, the “perfect mate” is often no more than the catalyst for going somewhere else where they feel they may have better opportunities (for either another “perfect mate” or, more likely, a more prosperous or freer future).

      • Oh, yeah, of course, I understand that what you’re saying. Everyone’s seeking greener pastures, however we define it. I’m using ‘perfect mate’ in a loose way: whoever gets me out of my rut is a perfect mate for me and with me. Honestly speaking, though, seems to me those people in the way they’ve been described are heading. If I had met them personally, of course, I might change my mind about them.

      • Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

        No such thing as “a perfect mate”, whatever definition you use! And I have been in a marriage/good relationship for almost 47 years! If my husband dies, I won’t be looking for another “perfect mate” however. I’ll just enjoy a new phase of my life as a “singleton”! That will be my “agenda”. These “Look for Love Online” people would do well to examine their agenda and work out the likely agendas of any pospective partners. Great post Tom! I synpathise with your “nice guy 60ish” friend, but he is soo soo naive!!

      • @Meryl: Yeah, you’re right. Nothing is so imperfect as perfection, isn’t it? To the ‘nice guy’ in the story, I’m pretty sure all of us wish him well, but he IS kinda naive … and the woman also is kinda naive to expect getting a foreigner and not move away. Oh wells, such is life.

      • Chopstik says:

        I’m reminded of more than a few couples I’ve met who match the situation (in different variations) that Tom’s post describes. The one that sticks out in my memory the most, however, is from about 15+ years ago. A woman I knew asked for my help in teaching her English (she only spoke Mandarin and lived with her husband in the US – her husband only spoke English (poorly) and Cantonese). I only dealt with her for a few months but I learned that she had married her husband only to obtain a green card and to come to the US (with her young daughter) – and her husband was not all that pleasant, either, though I didn’t deal with him but twice in that time. She was at the end of her three years (I forget the significance of why it was three years at the moment) and ready to divorce him as the marriage was only one of convenience and needed to learn English so that she could survive in the US.

        It was a rather uncomfortable situation since she was clearly desperate (she tried a pass at me before I had to tell her that I could not teach her anymore as a result) and unsure of what to do to survive. I felt bad for her but I didn’t know what she had left in China to put her in the situation here and, to be honest, I felt uncomfortable with the fact that she had entered into a marriage of convenience (maybe I’m just an idealist when it comes to marriage) just to get to the US.

        In the end, I don’t know what became of her or her daughter but that situation has stuck with me when I consider situations like the one Tom describes in this post. Not all intercultural relationships are like this one (indeed, I know more than a few that are not) but this is just one sad example of how it worked out. Hopefully this is not rambling too much… Sorry, Tom.

      • Tom says:

        Thanks for this additional story, there are indeed several of these marriages of convenience. Which is unfortunate because there are so many intercultural marriages that are are truly wonderful.

  5. Nanshan says:

    “It turned out that she didn’t want him to use QQ,…”
    — Did you mean “Yahoo”?

    • Tom says:

      Thanks for catching that, I’ve made the correction.
      For those of you who read Chinese, Nanshan runs a great site and you should check it out.

  6. […] Seeing Red in China The Middle Kingdom Made Easy Skip to content HomeAbout MeComplete ArchiveSuggested SitesChina Books to ReadThe Best China MoviesMap of China ← Confusion at the Coffee shop – Surprises from Chinese Dating Sites […]

  7. I felt embarrassed for you friend as I read this. Oh man…

  8. […] Confusion at the coffee shop – surprises from Chinese dating sites […]

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