Coucou8 founder Alex Edmunds helps Chinese click with a perfect mate
For China's "sea turtles", the pressures of settling back home don't end when they find jobs.
Many have a tough time finding suitable partners because of heightened expectations fostered by their cosmopolitan experiences.
"Chinese with an international background tend to be more mature. Like in the West, they prefer to find partners with similar personalities," says Alex Edmunds, an American who founded Coucou8, a social matchmaking platform for Chinese who speak English.
It didn't take long for him to discover that many participants approached such events with pragmatic expectations - meaning that ideal partners would own cars and apartments and earn enough to live on easy street.
"There must be other ways to help classy people get together," Edmunds remembers thinking. With help from friends, he organised special events such as cooking classes, badminton games and hikes to attract people with similar interests.
People use his website as a portal to join events, paying between 80 and 200 yuan (HK$100 to HK$250) for each gathering.
Ke Qianting, an associate professor of gender studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong, says many Chinese dating websites merely feed people's shallow material demands. Without foundations built on mutual trust, such matches are easily broken, she says.
"It's more challenging for people to find partners when they want someone who is a soulmate and also provides material support," Ke says. "Today, many people can support themselves without getting married. If they don't find their soulmate, many prefer to stay single."
China's divorce rate has been growing steadily, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Last year, for the first time, the number of people divorcing exceeded those marrying.
Edmunds believes that the personality-based approach to matchmaking offers a better chance of developing long-term relationships. To date, about 25,000 users have signed up for his website, and about 600 have participated in his events in Beijing.
"I think offline events will be the new trend in finding a significant other," Edmunds says.