NZ women put hopes in Chinese dating show
By Kajia Deng
Two dozen Chinese women living in New Zealand are embarking on a trip to Beijing to star in a popular Chinese dating show they hope will help them find Mr Right.
One of them is 34-year-old Shelley Huang, a government consultant and travel columnist who has lived in New Zealand for 13 years.
She dreams of starting a family with her soul mate and having two children and hopes being on If You Are the One might help her achieve that.
The television dating show is one of the most popular in China, attracting nearly 300 million viewers.
- Click the 'video' tab above to watch an episode of the show (in Mandarin)
In early May, Ms Huang will appear on stage with 23 other Mandarin-speaking women who live in New Zealand, to interrogate the men standing in front of them.
"I am curious about the gentlemen who will show up; I bet all of them have interesting stories," she smiles.
She is not the first New Zealander to appear on the Chinese version of The Bachelor – Former Wellingtonian Sam Pearson made an appearance in May last year, although he was unsuccessful in finding a match.
She says she won't know who the men are until the show starts filming, and is expecting to be surprised.
On the show, each woman is given a light, which she uses to indicate whether or not she is interested in the man being questioned. The women who leave their lights on think he is a potential date.
It is then up to the man to make the final decision about one of them he will choose.
Ms Huang is not sure whether the show will be the beginning of her romantic journey, but says it is a chance for her to enlarge her pool of potential mates.
Although she may be one of the older contestants on the game show, Ms Huang is typical of women her age.
Born in 1979, the first year the one-child policy applied in China, she is among many other women who have faced high academic and career expectations.
Their parents expected them to be successful in all aspects of their lives. But as they got older and excelled in their careers, the pressure to fulfil their family duty to get married also increased.
Now, those who remain single are blamed for being picky, or labelled as 'leftovers'.
On the Chinese mainland, many anxious parents take their children's photos to 'matchmaking markets' such as the one at People's Square Park in Shanghai.
Ms Huang says her parents, who live thousands of miles away in the city of Nanjing, will be happy to see her on the show.
She recalls quarrelling with her parents, who have been pushing her to get married for years. Now that she is appearing on the dating show, the situation is not as tense as before because they can see she is making an effort.
"To be honest, I am sort of 'Zhai Nv' (a term referring to girls who spend most of their spare time at home and seldom go out)," she says. "I like cooking, baking, gardening and home decorating.
"But I won’t be a professional housewife in future!" she adds. "They are just hobbies and it will be more enjoyable if I could find someone to share with!"
Shelley is trying to improve her work-life balance after years of focusing on her career.
She was named the Deloitte 2011 Chinese Business Figure for her contribution to the Christchurch earthquake rescue mission, and represented New Zealand Trade and Enterprise during the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
The brave and independent woman has many stories to tell as she was once deployed to the Israel-Lebanon war zone as an international correspondent.
"No matter what I have achieve in my career, I am just a girl in the Auckland neighbourhood. If a man thinks I am out of reach after viewing my profile, I doubt he is my cup of tea."
Ms Huang says she simply wants to marry someone who shares her common interests and values, rather than focusing on money, or owning a house or a car.
Kajia Deng is an online editor for the Shanghai Daily. She is visiting as a guest of the Asia:NZ Foundation.