Many people have heard the stereotype surrounding Parisians… Paris would be the best city on earth without the Parisians; Parisians are stylish; Parisians are proud and arrogant; French people outside Paris don’t really like the Parisians; when a Parisian is asked (wherever he is in the world) “where are you from” he will answer “Paris” and never “France” and the list goes on.
Well Shanghainese ladies definitely seem to be the Parisians of China in many aspects. To many, French women can seem quite cold and hard to get; Shanghainese are even tougher. Of course as always the stereotype misrepresents a certain percentage of the population so this is by no means a generalization, but there is most definitely a marked pride and sense of superiority in the average Shanghainese gal that trumps that of Parisians. Even the most modest ones give off a condescension of sorts, and speaking Shanghainese is by far one of their biggest prides and binding glue.
The other day my foreign friend was in a taxi heading over to my apartment and I had with me my Shanghainese friend, and as the taxi driver didn’t seem to understand neither mine nor my friend’s directions I asked her to speak to him. After a brief exchange, she hung up smiling and said “I explained to him in Shanghainese and he immediately understood!” with the accompanying wave of her hand as if physically brushing away the whole misunderstanding.
Before hearing them speak, another tell-tale sign of the Shanghainese gal is their clad. As a foreigner walking the city streets, one first notices that Chinese people either have a really good sense of fashion and are quite well-dressed in matching outfits and brands, or they are outrageously accessorized in unspeakable combinations of colours, patterns and fake bags. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between and this dichotomy most definitely reflects the divide between the Shanghainese and other Chinese.
The Shanghainese girl will have her boyfriend carry her handbag for her and is definitely the dominant in the couple. Very strong-minded, smart and with high expectations, she is not easy to seduce. If we consider the fact that Chinese men already have the disadvantage of being far superior in number than Chinese women (because of the one child policy mainly, but the increasing number of foreign men coming and taking some for themselves doesn’t help!), the Shanghainese woman can be even more picky with her suitors. And doesn’t she know it! Income, status, height, education, appearance, age… There is a box for each and if one isn’t ticked, chances of success for the Chinese man become very, very slim. In their picking men, unlike us (or is it just me?) it seems like they hardly swoon and ogle over them. The Shanghainese woman judges, rational, pragmatism and all, and you can hear her thinking “so what have you got to offer… hmmm, great”.
I met a girl last weekend who asked me if I knew any 高富帅(gao fu shuai) men for her friend. I raised an eyebrow and elicited more information on this slang and learnt that this literally translates as “tall, rich and handsome”. The ideal man must already own a car, an apartment and preferably hold a Masters degree or have an excellent occupation. I was also told the female equivalent by the way: 白富美 (bai fu mei) which translates as “white, rich and beautiful”(explaining the craze in China around skin whitening products).
However, dating a Shanghainese lady does not only mean fitting the profile, it also most likely means tucking your manlihood into your back pocket and letting the woman wear the pants in the relationship. It does appear to me that the task of winning a Shanghainese girl’s heart is quite the Herculean task. The few who manage to do so without losing their virility must be few and far between!