Chinese dating

It’s one of the more talked about Chinese shows around, with over 50 million viewers tuning in each week. Add to that a massive online following, and it’s no wonder this programme is being touted as a ‘cultural phenomenon’. In Oz, it’s known as ‘If You Are the One’, with new episodes airing each weekend. I am extremely grateful for the English captions, without which I would be LOST. 

Lights, camera, eviction

The show’s format is simple enough: 24 women square off to gain the affections of one male contestant. At the start, the guy picks his favourite girl and enters this onto the tablet. Only the contestant and the host know his selection. Occasionally, a guy would hand out gifts for a closer look at the potential dates before choosing. Throughout the face off, there is banter, humour, and a distinct look into Chinese culture and idiosyncrasies. The show has been a staple in many Chinese homes, its guests attaining celebrity status. As a result, a great many Chinese join in and there is always a huge backlog of participants. 

For each contestant, there are videos played showcasing his background, love experience and friends’ comments. If he manages to get as far as stage 3, his chances for a date are increased. Furthermore, a lad also has the chance to showcase his skills, which range from singing and dancing to nunchucks and kung fu, ventriloquy to shooting hoops. Each girl has an assigned light, which she could turn off at any time. When the last phase is reached, there might be a few lights left, one, or none. Prior eps have shown how the gentleman would reach stage 2 or 3 before all the lights are turned off. The info videos would then be stopped, and our guy would thank the hosts, walk the ramp, and do a final bow. He would then encourage viewers to contact him at his email, and would also analyse his onstage performance. 

Decision time

Sometimes the last video (friends’ comments) would play and one girl would keep her light on. Several times, this would be the guy’s favourite girl. In the past, I’ve seen a young cardiologist get turned down. Ergo, one could say that the show is full of drama and coincidence. Meanwhile, there is also a heartbeat girl, who punches a button to make sure the guy pays attention to her. The bloke could leave with her at any time, since she has declared her feelings for him. Said lady has a beating heart on her screen, and is assured a place to the very end.

Quick aside: a new setup has been added, which includes a lone female contestant and 24 vying men. The rules are essentially the same, except for the role reversal. The broadcasters will not rest in tinkering with their formats, always on the lookout for fresher, more intriguing entertainment.

A cultural juggernaut

In the best case scenario, a guy would play all videos and garner two or more lights at the conclusion. It would then be up to him to choose which lights to turn off. I’ve seen a Chinese American get 11 lights at that point. If two lights are still on, it would be the guy’s decision. The two remaining girls would walk the ramp together, following the heartbeat girl (if applicable), before the guy’s favourite girl is revealed. If not on stage already, she would do the catwalk alone. Generally, the guy would ask the girls one last question, before selecting from a set of topics. ‘Real life photos’ and ‘ability to housework’ are popular choices. He would then make his choice, almost always interrupted by ad breaks to heighten the suspense. 

In general, a bloke’s occupation, travel history, country of residence, and onstage communication, are heavy determinants of his success. For instance, you may be good looking but subpar Chinese speaking skills will hinder your cause. Usually, there would be endgame banter to reduce the amount of lights. Girls may ask lads if they’d be willing to relocate to their city or if they’d accept someone five years older. Mutual attraction and compatibility may better help in clinching a date. There are also specials, such as America, Australia, Spain, Japan, and others. Overseas Chinese from these nations would head to China and try to impress both their own and single, native Chinese women. The promise of love can bring expats to China, hoping that they, like so many others before them, could find ‘the one’.

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