It’s not often we’re granted entry to a wholly foreign world of televised matchmaking, which might explain why Chinese import Fei Cheng Wu Rao, otherwise known as If You Are the One, has enthralled us all.
While we can relate to certain romantic requirements (however muddled in translation) the contestants put forward, we can’t deny the stark cultural variances that come to the fore each episode.
Here’s what we’ve learned about relationship hunting in modern China through the world’s most-watched dating show.
Honesty is brutal yet productive
Many Westerners fall into the trap of stifling honesty in the name of sparing someone’s feelings, but it's a feat of cowardice/empathy that usually only leads to confusion or a lack of closure. Contestants of both genders on If You Are the One suffer no such trepidation and voice their dissatisfaction with a refreshing matter-of-factness that can only speed up their journey towards the ideal partner.
Idiosyncrasies are embraced
Thanks to meaning often being lost in translation, we should take all remarks from contestants with a drop of soy sauce. Nevertheless, there’s no denying Chinese love-seekers are far more comfortable with their personality quirks and less self-conscious in asserting their individuality, and therefore nowhere near as concerned with outside opinion as Westerners. This warts-and-all mentality is as hilarious as it is refreshing.
Things can get dark... quickly
The producers of If You Are the One don't seem bothered about keeping things light or unobjectionable. If a contestant says something on the verge of disturbing, it often makes the cut, suggesting the Chinese sense of humour is more wicked than ours or they’re more openly connected to the darker recesses of their souls.
Ex-pats are a doting minority
Occasionally, If You Are the One features a former Western citizen. It’s always a little odd to catch a white contestant speaking fluent Mandarin and hailing life in China as more meaningful than back home in the USA, Europe or even Australia.
Humiliation is part and parcel of If You Are the One
Are single folk in China more comfortable with the idea of humiliation? It would seem so. An endless queue of the nation’s women vie for a spot behind one of each episode’s 24 lecterns in the hope they project eligibility, opening themselves up to ridicule and embarrassment. I don’t know about you, but rejection on such a massive scale doesn’t seem too inviting to me, though it remains considerably more appealing than the phoney dramatics of Western shows like The Bachelor.
But is it actually that different?
On the other hand, perhaps the above distinctions between Westernised dating shows and those that hail from the East are mostly superficial. Enough evidence supports the argument that when you get down to the nitty-gritty, humans are all conducting a version of the same search. We all have our prerequisites, preferences and even prejudices when it comes to finding the ideal mate, and we should celebrate the binding similarities as much as what stands out.
To see what all the fuss is about, check out If You Are The One on Thursdays at 5:35pm on SBS VICELAND.