This article is part of a series relating to our lives abroad. For more articles click here
If you know Shanghai, and China, you'll probably know about the 'Friendship Store'. These are department style stores that sell many imported goods, over priced souvenirs, and other stuff generally priced out of reach of the average Chinese person. Despite these often horrendous prices, many foreigners would find it difficult to live without them.
There are often all kinds of sales and promotions in a continuing bid to lure the locals into the new materialist consumer world. I particularly like the two sporty young gentlemen who, come rain or shine, spend their time at the front of the store playing tennis with a ball attached to an elastic strand. Back and forth, back and forth, ad infinitum. I'm not sure whether it's promoting the game or the goods. Or perhaps they're just bored. They seem oblivious to passerbys with the whom the ball occasionally connects. That's fine as most victims could hardly afford the merchandise in the store - let alone a good lawyer.
One day I met a lady in the Hong Qiao Friendship Store who obviously took the name more literally than the Communist Party cadres had probably ever imagined. I was perusing the foreign magazine and book section there when this lady, probably in her 30's or early 40's and averagely dressed, came up and said "Hello". Nothing strange in that. Many Chinese are always wanting to try out their English on you.
I replied "Hello", then there was a pregnant pause as I'm never sure what they'll say next. Hers was not what one would normally expect.
She said, "I want you".
I paused, wondering if she had really said that.
"Excuse me?" I enquired.
"I want you", she confirmed once again.
I stopped and pondered this for a moment.
I wanted to say, "I'm happily married and love my wife".
I wanted to say, "I'm not into that sort of thing".
I wanted to say, "Even if I wasn't happily married and/or not into that sort of thing I'm sure I could find someone much younger, prettier and cheaper at a bar in Xintiandi or Mao Ming Lu".
But I was sure she wouldn't understand all that, so I just stuck with a very basic "No, thank you" and left her to wander off and want someone else. I suppose it's just part of being a western male in China. It's unfortunate, but here many women throw themselves at western men or richer older men. Security and/or wealth seems to be the major, or maybe only, variable in choosing a mate. Over my time here I've seen a plethora of pretty young things in their teens and twenties with ugly old fellers. It could not really be seen as true love (using the term loosely). Generally these ladies are only after a better 'lifestyle' than they would probably get hooking up with another local of a similar social standing. One of my older single colleagues wined and dined a Shanghai girl and even began to whisper hints of marriage. Things were going swimmingly. Then one day he found her mobile number disconnected and her flat abandoned. She had disappeared into thin air. He was bitterly disappointed - for a couple of weeks at least, until he was smitten all over again.
Of course you don't have to go to bars, or the Friendship Store, to meet them. Why not try putting a personals ad in a teaching jobs column? This is one I particularly liked, that came from an employee of a major multinational computer company here in Shanghai:
Sexy ladies come on (posted: 2002-12-29) China & Australia Citizen very strong, computer IT, *** business experience in US Group; I'm looking for different nationality ladies making love. you must sexy, open-minded, especially large breast a plus, we can sexy message and romance. Strong man looking to meet mature ladies for physical relationship. you will happy with me. Mp:139********,Tel(021)6326****
The bottom line? Even if you're old and ugly but with lots of money, many Shanghai girls seem happy to make you feel like the veritable studmeister...
Till next time...
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