When it comes to romance, as the French say, Vive la Difference. In the last couple of issues I have written about some of the differences between the sexes that make for that certain je ne sais quoi.
When it comes to differences in how people approach love around the world, well, we all know the stereotypes: Italian men pinching women, European women putting up with affairs…I’ve heard from one too many men that they prefer to meet a Latina or someone from a different culture who might be a little more spontaneous than some New England women appear to them and on and on.
Even within the species there are stereotypes…the Western MA women who might prefer hemp and going au naturale to the chicly dressed on 5th Ave. Natalie Portman made the news going au naturale in Hollywood while walking her dog, but of course, she still looked like Natalie Portman.
Franz Wisner has fun elucidating some of the differences in his book: How the World Makes Love. Wisner traveled the world in search of some of these differences---nice job but he thought of it first, alas!
He even includes lists of the world’s worst pick up lines and, sadly, the worst places to be gay.
“The global community,” he says, “ shares each of our relationship woes. They are every bit as petty, jealous, unfaithful, conniving, selfish, sappy and forgetful of birthdays. But because they have been around a lot longer, they also have much to share that is good and useful.”
Wisner believes that in much of the world - parts of India, Africa and Asia, as well as the proverbial Jewish mothers - families help with advice and solutions, as opposed to the American you- and- me -against -the -world mentality. Before his world travels, he thought that this kind of family involvement wasn’t healthy and after his world travels, he changed his mind. Maybe it does take a village.
Lessons we can learn from our neighbors:
1.In many countries people anchor their relationships in faith, family and community, understanding the fragility of love, they look for support.
2.In many parts of India, the arranged marriage is still the norm and Wisner says that the “concept of love/earned love is one of the world’s greatest secrets where love is seen in the future tense.” Maybe that is why these marriages have such a high rate of success.
3. Interestingly only a handful of people in his travels mentioned looks when talking about their ideal partner. “The beautiful are better off marrying a mirror,” he quotes a taxi driver in Botswana. And my favorite line: “If you want to marry a ten” the world counsels, “simply declare your partner a ten.”
Despite the differences, it interested me to sit in my kitchen over a cup of tea with my young friend Echo Zhang who is a matchmaker in Shanghai. There is a long tradition of matchmaking in China—by relatives and friends that is—but apparently in the cities young people are having the same challenges meeting compatible singles as their US counterparts.
Echo told me that in the same way many American folks are getting burned out by Internet Dating, she believes Chinese singles will soon tire of that new technology and will turn to a professional matchmaker. At first she thought it would be easy to be a matchmaker, just meet people and match them up, she told me.
But it turned out not to be that easy. “ I found they need a lot of advice. They don’t know how to date. I’ve seen some ridiculous mistakes.”
So Echo and I came up with tips that seem to have universal appeal. Or at least between our two necks of the woods. Among them:
1. Don’t rush—get to know people slowly so you make healthy decisions and don’t put all your eggs in one basket too soon.
2. Use the present tense when meeting people. No too much info too soon.
3. Don’t judge people by their photos.
4. Don’t be too quick to judge others or look for instant sparks or magic.
5. Don’t talk about how much you miss your ex.
6. Don’t start planning marriage on your first date or ask a lot of personal questions.
7. Don’t expect a perfect person. There is no Prince or Princess.
8. Don’t have lots of requirements that have no bearing on a relationship. Tolerance, humor, common values and goals are the key.
9. Look for someone trustworthy and kind.
And hey, guess what? Hot off the press:
Echo is 32, single and adorable. She would like children and to meet someone 30-45 who has no children and would like a family. Her values are liberal and she is non-religious and would like a fellow with an education. She is smart and sweet. Seems reasonable to me.
She is willing to move to the US for the right person and travels to Western MA frequently.
So -- if you are interested, call your friendly Matchmaker, Lanie. It’s a small world, after all.
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