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Shanghai Dating Culture: An Ultimate Guide

Long ago, when people got married, they did it in interesting ways. Before the end of the Neolithic age, there were marriages where a woman from one family could marry brothers from another family, even if they weren’t related.

Then came maternal marriage, where couples stayed together as husband and wife. Later, during the Zhou Dynasty, sororate marriages became popular. This meant men could marry women from their wife’s family.

Polygamy, having more than one wife, and having concubines was common until the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Back then, dating customs were very different from what we know now. Elders and matchmakers would pair up men and women, sometimes even before they were adults or had met each other.

Though dating back then was different, some customs have survived over time, keeping their essence alive.

Unveiling Timeless Shanghai Dating Traditions

The dating customs of Shanghai hold a special allure, still observed with reverence in modern times. These intrinsic traditions have imparted a unique and incomparable character to dating and marriage in the city.

Here are some captivating Shanghai dating customs worth exploring:

Matchmaking by Elders: The venerable elders and senior members of Chinese families command great respect even in contemporary times. Marriage is regarded as a social function, and the younger generation’s coupling is largely influenced by the elders’ decisions, assisted by professional matchmakers. Social standing, financial stability, and family relationships take precedence over notions of love and romance.

Influence of Zodiac Signs: The ancient Chinese communities embraced the concepts of luck and astrology, which still wield a profound impact on love and relationships today. Zodiac compatibility is highly valued in traditionalist Chinese households, ensuring a solid and successful match. Fortune tellers may be consulted to predict the future of a relationship based on the zodiac signs. Sharing one’s birthday and year remains essential information in one’s online dating profile, and it can be used to highlight one’s best personality traits according to their animal sign.

Marriage Markets: Despite the age of digital advancement, marriage markets continue to hold significance in Shanghai’s dating culture. Parents gather to advertise their single children of marrying age and personally find suitable matches. This practice may seem primitive to other cultures, but it remains a dignified tradition in China, especially considering the critical role parents play in choosing potential partners, especially for accomplished young professionals.

Proposal Formalities: The final step of matchmaking involves exchanging “three letters” and executing the “six etiquettes.” The “letter of betrothal” serves as the official engagement document, followed by the “gift letter” describing the wedding gifts. When both families agree, the groom’s family presents the “wedding letter” to the bride’s family on the day of the ceremony. The “six etiquettes” encompass the proposal, birthday compatibility matching, gifting of betrothal presents, setting the wedding date, and culminating in the wedding ceremony itself.

Distinct Marriage Practices: Many Shanghai wedding customs were established during the Han Dynasty and are still observed by some today. For instance, the groom’s family provides gifts and dowry to the bride’s family. Another notable practice involves the wife moving into the residence of the groom and his family after the nuptials. Additionally, the tea ceremony remains an integral part of the Chinese culture, symbolizing love, respect, and loyalty. The couple serves tea to both paternal and maternal family members, often accompanied by presenting money in red envelopes or jewelry.

Evolution Of Dating Culture In Modern Shanghai

Throughout the millennia, the dating culture in Shanghai has experienced significant evolution. The dating phase has grown to be a substantial and distinct step in a relationship, with young singles dedicating more time and effort to its development.

Unlike in ancient times, the present generation enjoys greater freedom and independence in making dating and marriage decisions.

Noteworthy cultural shifts that have emerged over time include:

Online Matchmaking and Marriage Services: The advent of digital technology has provided an additional platform for exploring the dating scene and assessing opportunities more efficiently. Online dating platforms, like these free sites and apps, offer the assistance of professional matchmakers to facilitate connections. Such platforms have become an integral part of modern Shanghai dating culture, providing ample support and helpful information to foster compatible relationships.

Rise of Social Places in Urban Shanghai: Progressive young singles in Shanghai embrace mingling and socializing as a significant aspect of their lifestyle. Romantic destinations, such as Xintiandi’s nightlife, Tianzifang’s slick cafes, Huangpu’s river cruise, and The Bund’s rooftop lounges and bars, have become go-to places for modern dating experiences. There are also lots speed dating social events organized at these spots.

Tips For A Successful Dating Journey In Shanghai

  1. Choose an Interesting Venue: Shanghai offers a wide range of unique and exciting date venues. Depending on your interests, you can pick a trendy rooftop bar with a skyline view, a traditional tea house for a cultural experience, or a cozy café to enjoy some quality time together. The city has something for everyone, so consider your date’s preferences when selecting the venue.
  2. Plan Transportation in Advance: Shanghai’s traffic can be challenging, especially during rush hours. Plan your transportation in advance to avoid unnecessary stress and delays. If possible, use public transportation like the metro or Didi (China’s ride-hailing service) to get around the city conveniently.
  3. Be Punctual: Punctuality is valued in Chinese culture, so be respectful of your date’s time and arrive on time. It shows that you value and appreciate their company. If you’re running late, communicate with your date in advance to keep them informed.
  4. Try Local Cuisine: Shanghai is renowned for its delicious food, so take the opportunity to indulge in the local cuisine. Whether it’s savory soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) or scrumptious street food, trying local delicacies together can be a delightful and bonding experience.
  5. Respect Local Customs: In a culturally diverse city like Shanghai, it’s essential to be aware of and respect local customs and norms. For example, avoid topics that might be sensitive, such as politics or religion. Show appreciation for Chinese customs and traditions, and be open to learning about them during your date.
  6. Bonus Tip: If you’re not a Mandarin speaker, Learn a few basic phrases in Mandarin can also impress your date and make the experience more enjoyable.

(Learn other topics that will leave good impressions on Chinese girls here.)

What Not To Do On A Date In Shanghai

  1. Don’t be overly affectionate in public: While small displays of affection are acceptable, overt displays like kissing and hugging in public may be seen as inappropriate.
  2. Avoid sensitive topics: Stay away from discussing controversial subjects like politics or sensitive issues related to China, as it could lead to uncomfortable situations.
  3. Don’t forget proper etiquette: Be respectful and show good manners, such as using chopsticks correctly and finishing your plate to show appreciation for the meal.
  4. Refrain from talking about your ex: Avoid mentioning past relationships or comparing your date to previous partners, as it may come across as disrespectful or insensitive.
  5. Don’t be too pushy: Chinese culture values humility and modesty, so avoid being overly assertive or aggressive in your approach.
  6. Don’t ignore your date’s family: Family bonds are important in Chinese culture, so showing interest and respect for your date’s family can go a long way.
  7. Don’t disregard personal grooming: Taking care of your appearance is appreciated, so make sure to dress appropriately and maintain good personal hygiene.
  8. Avoid dominating the conversation: Allow your date to share their thoughts and opinions, and actively listen and engage in the conversation.

I wrote a detailed article on what not to do when date with a Chinese and this will apply to people from Shanghai also. READ HERE

Frequently Asked Questions:

Shanghai offers a wide range of dating spots to suit different preferences. For a romantic and scenic experience, many couples enjoy strolling along The Bund, a waterfront area with stunning views of the city’s skyline. The French Concession is another favorite, known for its charming tree-lined streets, cozy cafes, and trendy boutiques.

For a cultural date, Yuyuan Garden provides a serene setting to explore traditional Chinese architecture and landscapes.

Additionally, Shanghai Disneyland can be a fun and lighthearted option for couples who enjoy amusement parks.

What are the common dating etiquettes in Shanghai?

When dating in Shanghai, it’s essential to be mindful of cultural etiquettes and customs. Here are some common practices to keep in mind:

  • Punctuality is highly valued, so be sure to arrive on time for your dates.
  • Demonstrating respect and politeness towards your date and others is crucial.
  • Gift-giving is a thoughtful gesture, and bringing a small present or flowers for your date is appreciated.
  • Splitting the bill is becoming more common, but it’s still expected that the person who initiates the date offers to pay.
  • Public displays of affection should be done modestly, as excessive physical contact might be seen as inappropriate in certain settings.

How do dating apps and online platforms fare in Shanghai’s dating scene?

Dating apps and online platforms have become increasingly popular in Shanghai, just as they have in many other parts of the world. These platforms provide an efficient way to meet new people, especially in a fast-paced city like Shanghai.

Some of the commonly used dating apps include Tantan and Tinder. Users can set their preferences and connect with potential matches based on location, interests, and other criteria.

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