Saturday, December 27, 2008

Child Swapping

Going to People's Square on the weekends is a daunting prospect. There, they run “English Corners,” which seeks to match up Chinese people who would like to learn English but don't want to pay, to foreigners who would like to teach some English but don't want to be payed. Since there are a great many more people in the first category than the second, these corners will start aggressively chatting up foreigners walking past.

I don't go to People's Square on the weekends all that often, even if this area is nearish to the excellent restaurants on Huanghe Lu, Lao Kele and Jia Jia Tang Bao. Last time I did, I was surprised at how greatly the English corner had expanded. There were hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people in their older middle age, hanging around and talking. I noticed a number of them were holding up signs. I had a closer look:

They actually aren't part of the English corner. The area has been overrun by parents who converge on the weekends to match-make for their children, it has the feel of a salesman convention. There's signs everywhere, often listing a short resume including their name, phone number, sometimes their pictures, their age, their height, their interests, and their schooling. There's no standard form, so different parents put up whatever would make the kids look attractive. I don't think I should put the information up on the web, so I erased some of the information in Photoshop, and then blurred it all, and I'll only include a couple of pictures with this update. Still, people looking for a Chinese boyfriend or girlfriend should definitely send their mother over!


Julien Bertrand said...

People's Square is also a great place for money scams. Nice-looking students claim they want to practice their English with you (the innocent English-speaking "expert" foreigner) and then bring you to a tea house where the fruit platter turns out to be 400 yuans. Years ago I fell for it and last summer I warned a guy being befriended by such scammers - who in turn insulted me in Chinese for having revealed their plans to the foreigner!

Jeff Rutsch said...

Thanks for the comment, that's a good point. There's also a bunch of scammers up & down nearby Nanjing Zhong Lu, and in general it's best to ignore complete strangers who start talking to you.

A visiting friend of a friend of mine got scammed by the "we're in art school" racket, although she left Shanghai competely happy with her purchase.