South China Morning Post
Insight & Opinion
Yonden Lhatoo reflects on a matchmaker’s insight into love and relationships in a city where time is money and the gender imbalance just keeps widening
Too busy and too choosy for love – that’s us in Hong Kong. And everything around us, from the inescapable rat race to the gender imbalance, seems primed to facilitate a single lifestyle.
Just look at the latest demographics on men and women in this city, compiled by the Census and Statistics Department.
The male-female ratio has been declining for the past three decades, and is now down to 852 men for every 1,000 women, particularly in the 20-39 age group.
More people are leaving it until late to get married. The median marriage age for women is 29.4 and 31.4 for men.
Fewer people are tying the knot, too – the “never married” category of men has expanded nearly 61 per cent, and women, nearly 14 per cent.
The old boom is over for Hong Kong men finding wives on the mainland – that number shrank from 28,145 in 2006 to 15,300 last year. Instead, more women from the city are marrying mainlanders, though the number was relatively small at 7,626 last year.
What does all this mean? I had an interesting exchange with Ariadna Peretz, who runs the matchmaking agency Maitre D’ate and provides the kind of personal insight that you can’t get from statisticians and academics.
Hongkongers simply don’t have time for love, she says, citing a UBS study last year that showed people in this city clocking in the longest working hours in the world.
“That’s about 10 hours per day and when you add the commute, you’re left with precious little time and energy,” Peretz says.
“There’s a lot of casual dating and hooking up, but there is a dearth of deep and meaningful relationships.”
Is that because we’re too picky when it comes to finding partners?
“Hongkongers can be too focused on the outcome. We’re very goal-oriented people and that’s great in certain situations, but it’s not useful for everything, like love.
“Due to the prevalence of dating apps, there’s too much of a PBO [pending better offer] mentality and it means we have a foot out the door, waiting for someone better to cross our paths. This is everywhere in the world, but I think it’s especially bad in Hong Kong.”
And why do we have so many single women out there?
“Hong Kong women can be so focused on their career that it’s only when they hit their late 30s/early 40s they realise they want a family. They’re only making it harder for themselves,” Peretz says.
She cites advice from Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg: “Marry the nerds and good guys – not the hot guys, not the rich guys! Also, she tells women, ‘The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry’, so this decision shouldn’t be an afterthought.”
On a positive note, according to Peretz, we are not as shallow as I would have thought: “I’m happy to report that in my anonymous love and dating survey, most respondents say they would be willing to go down a couple of notches in looks to be with someone who met a lot of their other criteria.”
What about people who think love is overrated and genuinely don’t care?
“Not caring is totally fine as long as you truly do not care. But you need to be careful, because acting like you don’t care is a coping mechanism. Also, you may not care now, but if you think you may care in the future, you need to make sure you don’t put it off until it’s too late.”
There is a counter to that line of thinking. Serial monogamy, which can be defined as “spending as little time as possible being single”, can also be a coping mechanism.
Is it wrong to be alone? Different strokes for different folks.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post