Monday, May 7, 2012

Speed Shopping, er Dating, in Hong Kong

The speed dating event above was scheduled to take place at the posh Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong yesterday. Following a public uproar against the two-fer stereotyping (racial and sexist) that this event managed to cause, the Mandarin withdrew the availability of its venue at the last minute, forcing the organizers to find an alternative venue. Dinner with Foreigners is clearly a misnomer. Not too many HK women, particularly white collar professionals, will pay over US$600 to meet men (who, incidentally, attended free-of-charge) from Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, India, Egypt or Kenya. Dinner with Wealthy White Dudes would have been a more accurate, if less PC, title for the event. Why did women get charged $600 to attend? To signal their serious interest in long term relationships rather than passing flings. Of course, how that pricing policy prevents horny scumbag men interested in passing flings from getting a free swanky meal and a free chat-up session with Asian girls is beyond me. Maybe the organizers just know high quality gentlemen with noble intentions when signing them up as members...

The event was hosted by the same folks who organize Dinner with Millionaires and Dinner with Flight Attendants. No joke, the latter event is pitched at men who are “CEOs, Bankers, Lawyer, Doctors.” Is that HK Speed Dating’s idea of a marriage made in heaven? Maybe. Regardless, it’s certainly their idea of an inspired social concept that allows highly successful men to chit-chat with well-groomed women who know how to activate oxygen masks and an inflatable slide, while eating decent food that is not served on fold out trays (presumably).

But getting back on topic with Dinner with Wealthy White Dudes, Hong Kong has long been a fertile ground for interracial coupling, particularly of the white male–Asian female sort. Let me first say that I have no fundamental problem with such pairings. I am in an interracial marriage, as are many of my close friends. However, interracial coupling in Hong Kong has been a subject of much discussion and conjecture among Hong Kong observers over my past twenty years living here. During that time, there have been several reasons that have been put forth to explain the phenomenon’s prevalence. Some of them follow below (don’t shoot me for them; I am just your humble reporter).

-     Love is blind. So is money.
-     Expatriate men have large housing allowances and decent-sized apartments (with equally generous closet space) that permit breathing room for young women away from cramped spaces stuffed with relatives.
-     White men don’t generally have the baggage of demanding parents, unlike Asian men. Asian in-laws are often thought of in the same vein as hell’s hounds.
-     When visits with expat men’s relatives are necessary, it means a trip to North America or Europe, rather than a noisy dim sum restaurant in Causeway Bay or Kowloon.
-     Expat men are worldly, and therefore, interesting. They speak cool European languages. Asian men are very wrapped up in making money and then spending it on golf and boy’s toys.
-     Western men have been emasculated by the burned-bra free-wheeling feminism of western women. So white men know to behave nicely to women. (Author’s note: any executive who has made a request to a New York-based personal assistant definitely learns how to ask politely and say “please”.)
-     Hollywood. Enough said.

In any event, I hope that the female participants in the sold-out event above found what they paid a pretty penny for. If the fawning girl in the advertisement is any indication, and the object of her desire fulfills that promise, we may all be blessed with a tighter, more loving, global mixed-blood village. Let’s just hope that pandering to stereotypes isn’t the way to get there.