Matchmaker, Informal Matchmaker

Double Happiness Matches
if my experience means anything, many Chinese still turn to someone to play matchmaker -- even if that someone is just your coworker. (photo by DHSAM from

Last summer, I attended the Hangzhou wedding of my good friend Lao Da at the end of May. But it wasn’t until two weeks later — when we met over Dragonwell tea and snacks at a local teahouse — that I learned exactly how he met his new wife.

“We met through a colleague. He happened to be going out to dinner with a group of women who worked at the bank across the street from our office and didn’t want to go alone. So he asked me to come with him.”

“So, it was love at first sight?”

He shook his head. “No. I didn’t actually contact her until a few weeks later.”

“You didn’t have any special feeling for her then?”

“I had some. But later, my colleague said she had mentioned me, and he wondered if maybe we should date. You know me, I am not so outgoing. So I said I would meet her.”

Of course, Lao Da’s how-we-met story remained uniquely his — just like his geek-chic glasses, ocean-blue Chuck Taylors and funky stonewashed jeans. But I couldn’t help but notice that their story came down to the actions of one person: his colleague. He actually introduced them in a sense, and even encouraged them to get together. When I thought about it, Lao Da’s story felt hardly unique at all — but just another example of informal matchmaking in modern China.

I’ve heard so many stories in China like Lao Da’s. My brother-in-law, Cheng, met his wife Wenjuan through a cousin. Pi Yongjun, a close friend from Henan, found his wife through a colleague. My in-laws got together through the work of their parents. Heck, John and I might not have even dated without the help of our friend Caroline, who schemed to get us together.

Of course, this isn’t matchmaking like John’s ancestors used to know it — the old feudal China where older Yente-like go-betweens made their living on knowing everyone in the village, and staking their reputations on brokering good matches for families. Today, marriages in China don’t need a third party interfering to move forward. But if my experience means anything, many people still turn to someone to find their match — even if that someone is just the guy you share an office with at work.

My question is, how have you experienced informal matchmaking in China? Have your friends ever tried setting you up? Have you set someone up? What do you think of this?

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25 Replies to “Matchmaker, Informal Matchmaker”

  1. I don’t know about the situation in China. But in Malaysia match-makers and match-making have largely gone out of fashion so to speak. I had heard of horror stories of match-makers exaggerating the virtues of a potential spouse just to make some money. These were of course those who’s reputation didn’t last. Today, most Malaysian Chinese meet their future partners at work, social functions, parties, pubs, even sports meets or through their friends and relations. Of course friends’ recommendation, teasing and “string-pulling” do play a part in ultimately making or breaking a relationship for better or for worse.

  2. Nobody has tried setting me up, but I remembered I tried setting up a friend of mine with someone else. I thought they’d have a lot in common; both are music players, she liked Asian culture, etc. etc. Long story short, it didn’t work out. They dated a month or so, maybe less, then broke up with one another. I kind of wish I’d knew someone who could try to set me up with a guy, but I don’t know anyone. 🙁

  3. My matchmaking experience didn’t go so well. I interpreted my coworker’s “He doesn’t speak much English, but that’s ok because you don’t need to communicate much to date someone” as indirect communication for “you’re slutty because you’re white, and he just wants an easy lay.” It made me too paranoid about how he saw me and what his intentions were.

  4. Informal matchmaking is very common in Taiwan, and even somewhat expected. I tried to set a work colleague up with someone, and they had connected via Facebook but it turned out that soon after he met someone, they got married very soon thereafter and a few months later had a baby. So maybe not the best choice on my part, but several of us are still on the lookout for my work colleague. Like China, people are often very shy and need a bit of a nudge. I found find the prying into personal affairs offensive, but here it is expected to help people along in an active way.

  5. Matchmaking based on caste is very common in India and it is the lifeblood of arranged marriages. However, when Indians are abroad, particularly in the US, Americans try to matchmake for them without any historical or cultural sensitivity. According to most Americans if the race is same, there should be no problem. A white American woman in Singapore did not like the fact that this fundamentalist Indian Christian guy was dating her white American Christian fundamentalist friend. Instead she tried to set him up with an Indian moslem woman wearing the scarfe, from a very fundamentalist moslem family. She was told that if she tried to do this in India, her family would beat her up and this means she will get beat up physically. To this day she still does not understand what the fuss was all about…”he looks similar to her and hence the values should be similar.” As for the couple they broke up…something similar to the earlier story happened to him….the only difference was she went home to Virginia (she actually lives ten miles from here) and never contacted him after leaving Singapore. After the break up, she stopped her matchmaking. Her concern was that this dark skinned guy (pretty near black) was dating a lily white American woman…and she wanted to break them up!

  6. Great discussion! I met my Chinese boyfriend online, but that was because his parents told him to sign up; he didn’t want to do it at first! I suppose you can call this a modern twist on Chinese matchmaking. If his parents would not have pushed him to do so, we would have never met (that and the events of Tiananmen back in the 80’s that made his parents stay in Canada). My boyfriend was previously matched to Chinese women through mutual friends of his parents’ or relatives, but it never worked out because he didn’t feel any connection to them (different interests, opinions, hobbies, etc.). I’m really happy we found each other online as a result of his parents’ request (and even though I am the first foreigner in the family, they still accept me)! 🙂

    Sveta: I would love to help you and set you up with a nice guy from your area but I don’t know of anyone from Canada who would do the long distance thing to the USA. If you are over 19, maybe you could look into online dating like I did? Go with reputable sites like, but NOT the free type sites like plentyioffish because most people on there are not looking for a serious relationship. Anyone else has suggestions for Sveta?

  7. My gege tried setting me up with one of his best friends. (it was long distance, and I never met the guy.)

    But that didn’t work out too well. We are good friends.

    But I find it silly that most people meet in he work place, even though it is not usually accepted for a relationship between people, if they work in the same place. (learnt from you, Jocelyn and you’re other older posts.

  8. @ Bruce. Yes, I do like tall dark and handsome guys. I live in Dallas Texas.

    @Natalie. Thanks for suggestion, but apparently I have tried e-harmony, and this is what they said:

    eHarmony’s patented matching system was developed after extensive research into marital satisfaction. We use each person’s responses to our Relationship Questionnaire to predict the pairings of individuals that are highly likely to result in satisfying long-term relationships, based on what we learned through our research.

    Unfortunately, based on responses to our questionnaire, we occasionally find situations where our matching system cannot identify high quality compatible matches, and this has happened in your case. Please understand that it is a result of our matching process and in no way reflects on you as a person or your ability to be in a happy relationship.

    We apologize and regret our inability to find good matches for you. The time you spent completing our questionnaire, however, has enabled us to provide you with a free Personality Profile.. This Personality Profile lets you learn more about yourself and should provide you with valuable insights.

    We wish you all the best in your search for that special someone.

    Thank you for suggestions though, I really appreciate it.

  9. Attraction is going to be #1 on my list when it comes to matchmaking. Personality is 2nd on my list. Sparks will fly if you have attraction right away. The personality of a woman will eventually suck the man’s interest in her deeper! Sometimes, it takes a while for the two lovebirds to break away their shyness. Anyway what do I know because I’m married right? 🙂 . In the past, many people tried to find gf for me especially female friends and some male friends. Some other women gave me the impression that they wanted to be my gf but I didn’t have any interests in them due to my own personality and my hobbies. I won’t put a woman on a pedestral all the time ( once she’s spoiled, very hard to be pleased for life). I love a woman who understands me and we please(care) for one another. It’s called SELFISHLESS OR UNSELFISH. I really don’t know why I had so many close female friends ( they’re like my own sisters). Maybe I’m a soft spoken person and I do care about others or maybe I’m easy to talk to and caring! Any rate , it’s easier to hook you up with a woman if they really know you as a person so there won’t be any surprises. Timing is also important. From my experience, some women I liked alot but the timing was way off. To tell you the truth, if things worked out with those women then, I would not have met my current wife now. She is everything to me, my earth, my star and oh my god she completes me :). I don’t want to sound funny here . I know some of you are laughing or giggling right now but she is my soulmate. Married almost over 10 yrs .dated for 3.5 yrs Anything I do, she supports me 200% beside gambling, drinking ,smoking and other known bad things .. you name it :). Of course, I have to rethink again and again if those things are worth doing before I confirm with her. There is a gold mine of good hearted Chinese/Asian men out there, you just have to know where to dig. Start digging! JUST QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY! btw we were introduced by friends yuppie!

  10. Sveta,

    I know you will find a tall, dark and handsome man. My wife told her friends that she rarely see tall, muscular Chinese men like me where she lives. I told her that fate brought us together from thousands miles away . Yes, it’s possible. Remember there is no perfect person out there. You just have to work at it and everything will blossom like flowers. plant the seed (love,caring, endless support), your end result will surprise you. Maybe women see me as a tall,muscular guy (on their requirements) but there is something more important than tall ,dark and handsome . Just a thought from me. My requirements for a woman : caring, loyal,considerate, supportive, funny(sense of humor) and likes to laugh. Everyday we laugh out loud because of my influence. She doesn’t have to be my height (6’1) but can’t be 5’0″.

  11. Some Chinese parents I know turned to match-making for some of their kids overseas. It’s sort of cute and funny at the same time because sometimes, these Chinese youngsters probably wouldn’t have had any chance to meet each other in their native land but somehow got put together in a foreign place. To be honest, success stories of this type of match-making is low. The ones who made it went through the informal match-making that is, another friend, classmate, colleague, or relative of the same generation.

  12. Sveta,

    Have you tried
    Sometimes, it could work, because I saw in person some genuine matches.

    I don’t know what you’re particular type or deal-breaker is though. I know a young guy who lives in San Antonio, who is single and likes women, but not sure if he is currently searching. Another Texan friend of mine in Houston also has some single guy friends but I personally don’t know them. They’re in their mid-late twenties.

  13. It’s so interesting because I think in the US, or at least among my friends, there is still somewhat of a stigma about being set up by friends. Like it’s a last resort because you couldn’t find someone on your own. Yet here in China, it’s more like a first resort. I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of Chinese people (from what I’ve seen) don’t do small talk with strangers. According to my Chinese friends, their friends are either tong xue (classmates) or tong shi (coworkers), so the only way to meet people outside of their two circles is to be introduced by a mutual friend or a relative.

  14. Well, its OK to play matchmaker. But make sure that you pair the right persons together. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, he was introduced to this lady. After a couple of times out, they got together and eventually they got married. After less than 2 years, they filed for a divorce. It turned out that the lady was not what he thought she is/was. All is well when you’re not married, because people tend to wear masks. But when things don’t turn out the way you expect them to, it can get pretty nasty. What I m saying is, don’t try to be a matchmaker unless you know both persons well. As the story of me friend would remind me time and time again, if you pair the wrong persons together, you are bound to get blamed sooner rather than later. You see, after my friend filed for divorce, he told me that he’s going to get even with the person who introduced him to his ex-wife. What happened next, well, I don’t know. So if you want to be a matchmaker, again, do your homework. Don’t just introduce someone to your friend just because you think they make a ‘good’ couple.

  15. @Sam , I agree with you like I said you have to know those people and their personalities. It’s okay if they have different hobbies. They have to accept each other differences. Before marriage and after marriage you will run into arguments but it’s okay because it’s good to uncover those masks we’re wearing. Anything can go wrong within seconds during a conversation! From who’s going to cook dinner , I don’t cook and I won’t learn how to cook to cleaning up the home will ignite an argument. After a few months of dating, it’s time to get back to reality now. It’s normal to think that we’re still on a fairy tale stage but let’s use a little bit of common sense here. A fairy tale movie only lasts 2 to 3 hrs but a relationship will last a lifetime. Why do I always say relationship/marriage is a ongoing process? We’re learning how correct our mistakes all the time. We can play matchmaking BUT disclose up front that you don’t know their “real/true” personalitiesso once they get hooked they’re on their own. Maybe that will take care of the liability issue! My wife likes everything about me EXCEPT for my short temper. I told her that a true man with a temper is a real man!! :). She doesn’t disagree with me on that :). My father has temper and his genes passed onto me. If I ‘m a single guy and I register with E-Harmony, I won’t find a mate either. Red flags all over ! OMG “short temper,and rage?” The computer doesn’t know that in real life, a person like me can be extremely thoughtful, considerate , reliable, honest ,trustworthy etc.

  16. @Friend. A while ago I have tried but it didn’t work out. There weren’t cute guys, and to make long story short, I’m not interested in dating American men, and unfortunately those were the only ones I was offered. I’m about 26 so the age seems right. I’d like to meet your friends if possible. Thanks in advance.

  17. @Sveta, I will keep you on mind . now I know what kind of man you like. Tall , dark and handsome and MUST be ASIAN. You’ve made a good choice .


  18. Not sure one would count meeting people at parties or other social functions as informal match making. Pretty sure it was not host’s intention anyway 🙂
    If you are comfortable to start a conversation with anyone interested, then you may not need match making or online dating. I guess match making and online dating are necessary once you are out of college and still single.
    Personally, I would not play match maker but I don’t mind if couples hit it off at my parties 🙂

  19. I introduced a female friend to another guy friend 14 yrs ago and 2 yrs later they were married and she was pregnant. They looked very happy. Next time , if I’m going to match make someone, I will tell them to be friends first for at least 2 to 3 yrs. Why? Let them cry their eyes out during small fights. Let them deal with every little misunderstandings. If you go crazy once in while and have anger management issue , show everything on the table. If they later understand each other and reconnect , and they still get turned on by each other. If you guys tell me right here that you never verbally fight(argue) with your gf/wife before, I’m leaving right now. Unless you are a match in heaven! like two logs that don’t talk to each and hide somewhere in the house after dinner 🙂 lol hahahahah

    Bruce 🙂

  20. I don’t think it’s necessarily the matchmaker’s fault if things don’t work out. When you’re dating someone, you get to know them better than anyone else, including the person who introduced the two of you. @sam, if your friend only got together with the woman a couple of times or rushed into getting married, he has nobody to blame but himself for marrying someone he didn’t really know to begin with. Unless the matchmaking friend paired them up out of spite and wanted to truly hurt your friend, there’s no reason for him to want to “get even.”

    When people introduce friends to each other, it’s with the thought that there is POTENTIAL for them to work out. Whether or not they actually work out in the end is up to the two of them.

  21. Hi cvaguy,

    I think outside of school (and for some, outside of church, work or special events like weddings) most people tend to meet their other half through other people. Sometimes, it wasn’t intentional, while other times it was. Sometimes people in the background helped or a so-called professional “matchmaker” played a part. I wouldn’t say everyone but if I have to guess, probably 90% of couples are like that.

  22. Hi Sveta,

    I haven’t asked my friend yet, but out of curiosity, do you still have that account or maybe facebook? I hope it doesn’t sound too creepy, but I’m just wondering about your tastes and I, for personal reasons, sort of feel safer knowing more about people through those sites. I have an account too, but I’m in the West Coast.
    Sorry if I got ya hopes too high.

  23. Both men and women have to be courteous, sincere and willing to work anything out as a team in order to have a long , lasting, happy relationship(marriage). They can sound “mean” but as long as they have some of those characteristics, it will be fine. In Chinese, we have a saying that ” how many 10 yrs do you have in a lifetime?” all it means is that LIFE IS SHORT. By the time, you find a man or a woman of your dream, you’re old already. When you reach your most successful yrs in your life, properly it is the last yr of your life! Hey, I talk loud and sound mean in person but why people love to talk to me. I see so many people age in front of me. Well, GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING THAT YOU ARE PASSIONATED ABOUT !GIVE THEM 200% INSTEAD OF 110%. As humans , we’re afraid to do more than others. Actually, we gain more when we do more in a relationship. Let’s not talk about relationship here. Let’s talk about business ( w/ honesty,and integrity)! If you’re treated with trust , respect, and integrity as a customer, will you always think about that company when you want to buy things? basic 101 🙂


  24. I like to use the word ” argue or argument” is due to my past experience. I love to think about worst case scenerio situations. In fact ,in real life I don’t like to argue. I want to live peacefully w/o confrontations. I always like to handle the toughest, hardest case in my field. Once you deal with the worst, the rest is just a walk in the park. Like a relationship, when you’ve settled your differences and have argued from big to small issues already, the rest we wouldn’t want to explain why. Everything should be understood in a relationship already. Alot of men will agree with me that “SOME” women are like another species and no matter how well you inform or talk to them, they still want to argue with you or want to challenge you into a debate. That’s when complications appear! Be prepare to make up if you want a good night sleep :). Arguing is bad for your heart. ” I’m a lover, not a fighter” 🙂

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