From first dates and worst dates, to love, heartbreak, and everything in between, the Date Night China podcast and media platform celebrates and discusses dating and relationships in one of the most exciting countries in the world.
It was at the birthday party of a mutual acquaintance in Beijing in the fall of 2019 that hosts Rachel Weiss and Nathan Williams first entertained the idea of starting a podcast about dating in China.
At this point in their lives, Rachel and Nathan were single and making the most out of life in the bustling capital city of China. Having only met briefly twice before, the night started out like many first meetings in China do: “How long have you been in China? What brought you to Beijing? Where do you spend your free time?”
After many glasses of wine, Rachel and Nathan landed on another topic that often comes up in China: “What has your dating experience been like in China?”
This topic opened up a whole world of scintillating conversation. Meeting new people is such a big part of the expat experience in China, and it’s natural to look for love and connection while you’re so far away from home. The two future podcast hosts spent the entire night cross-examining one another, asking why a girl may say “this” or a guy may do “that” – and why on Earth is no one really talking about this? They decided that if it was still a good idea in the morning, they would make a podcast and go for it.
The next morning, Nathan woke up to a “ping” and a message from Rachel that read, “I’m in!” And just like that, Date Night China (DNC) was born in November 2019.
Since its founding in 2019, Date Night China has hosted a variety of events
The first season was utter chaos; recording in a kitchen, no microphones, just laptop audio and copious bottles of wine. Rachel, Nathan, and then host Eleanor began the podcast sharing everything from first dates to worst dates, scandalous stories and dating horrors – nothing was off the table for the hosts and the guests they brought on.
From there, DNC built up an avid international audience. Expats and local Chinese people alike from different cultures and nationalities began joining in the conversation and sharing their own stories – Tinder fails and Tantan scams, heartbreak and love, and even dates who fall asleep during dinner.
The DNC hosts not only wanted to share these diverse stories online, but also wanted to provide a way for people to meet offline and connect with others through events. In May 2020, DNC took on events manager, Michelle Muari, and kicked off their first mixer event at Beijing’s old XL Bar in Sanlitun (RIP).
Date Night China founders Rachel and Nathan with Events Manager Michelle
Since then they’ve hosted a variety of activities in Beijing, including scavenger hunts, trivia nights, rooftop parties, speaker events, bowling games, movie nights, speed dating, and more. The goal was to have events that would take the pressure off dating and offer more chances for people to gel with new friends.
DNC also hosted several editions of the Blind Date Live Show based on the classic 90’s dating show, where one contestant was blindfolded on stage in front of a live audience and given the opportunity to ask three single people three questions to determine if they were the right match for a first date. (One couple that met through this DNC game dated for two years afterwards!)
Contestants taking part in one of Date Night China's Blind Date Live Shows
The podcast evolved too, expanding from the wine-fuelled dialectics of three single people to a more diverse platform that dives deeper into the China relationship landscape. Season two and three of DNC featured more diverse guests for hilarious, insightful, and in-depth conversations about dating culture in China, building communities, mental health, intercultural relationships, the LGBTQ+ community, and having healthy relationships with yourself, your partner if you have one, as well as the other people in your social circles that make life meaningful in China.
In the height of summer 2023, DNC hosts have embarked on the fourth season of their podcast. But before they look ahead, they wanted to share some of their favorite stories with That’s to remind you that when dating or looking for love, you’re not alone. We’ve all had embarrassing, horrific, and downright depressing dates. But there’s also hope, with many ways to find love, friendship, or unexpected connections in surprising ways.
Bachata dancing at a Date Night China party
From a Fitness Class to Marriage: Intercultural Love in Suzhou
Jenni, from West Virgina, US, and Xingxing, from Xuzhou, China, met for the first time in 2021; not from a dating app or through mutual friends, but at a gym fitness class in Suzhou where he was the trainer!
Images via Jenni
But first, let’s rewind to their fated meeting. Jenni first came to China in 2014 to study at a university in Qingdao, but moved back to the US after that year and then spent almost two years traveling. She came to Suzhou for the first time in 2017 and liked it so much she decided to stay and work, and has had a base here for about six years, which led to their first time meeting at F45 Training, a group fitness gym in Suzhou. She tried the free week trial out and Xingxing was the trainer.
“I was drawn to him immediately,” Jenni said. “But every time we tried to talk we both got awkward. After the week's trial though, he asked for my WeChat. I bought that F45 membership so fast!”
They ended up seeing each other at a party that weekend, where he bought her a beer, and she asked him to go climbing with her the next day.
“I was surprised that he picked me up on time the next day and we spent our first date at the climbing gym,” Jenni said. “We absolutely sucked at communicating with words then and didn’t know which language to use, but we giggled a lot.”
They became a couple soon after that, spending time together doing fitness and other outdoor activities. “Xingxing loves to fish and I love to read, so often we would go out for a day of him fishing and me reading, enjoying our individual hobbies right next to each other.”
About their intercultural relationship Jenni says, “I’m almost positive we have a misunderstanding every single day. Some are big and some are small and some are due to language and some are due to cultural differences. When we don’t understand each other, we usually resort to laughing about it. It keeps us both on our toes at least.”
She also adds, “Both of our families are extremely accepting and supportive of each other. I was so nervous to meet Xingxing’s parents for the first time, but I have found that they are the best in-laws I could have asked for. They have done so much for us already.”
The couple got engaged at the end of July 2022 when they hosted a workout and dinner party event for their friends. After the dinner, Xingxing had a raffle planned, where they raffled off fitness equipment from his company.
“The last number he called was mine,” Jenni said, “and he proposed to me with a ring we had designed together in front of the people who watched us fall in love. It was very, very cute.”
When asked to give advice to other couples who are dating interculturally Jenni says, “Honestly, two people from opposite sides of the world figuring out life together is not going to be easy, but the effort is worth it. This relationship has taught us that loving each other takes practice, trial and error, and studying and learning through experience.
She continues, “We have read relationship books together, in our own languages. We write in our journals together nightly. We try really hard to make our relationship exactly what we want it to be. So my advice is to be open to communicating in forms you may not be used to, to exercise patience even when you think you’ve run out of it, and to be willing to compromise and make sacrifices for each other.”
The couple had a traditional Chinese wedding in Xingxing’s hometown of Xuzhou in October 2022, as well as a wedding dinner party for their friends in Suzhou. This summer they also went to Jenni’s hometown in America and had an American wedding with her family in July.
“When you have people all over the place, you can get three weddings!” Jenni said. “We’re excited for the future...and for babies.”
Follow Jenni on Instagram @jennizhenzhen
A Beijing Christmas Love Story: From Dating to Marriage
Nick and Song, a couple in Beijing, had their first date on Christmas Day in 2018. Their love story transcends cultural boundaries as Nick hails from South Africa, while Song is from Harbin, China.
Images via Song
They first met at Mix, a well-known Beijing club in the Gongti area, when Nick spotted Song dancing on the stage and was captivated by her beauty and talent. To get her attention, he caught a paper heart falling from the ceiling and gave it to her, promising to take her on a date when they were both sober.
“Seeing Nick catch that paper heart was such a sweet and unique gesture. I knew he was different from the guys I had met before,” Song recalled.
“From the moment I saw her dancing, I knew there was something special about her. I couldn’t believe my luck when she agreed to go on a date with me,” Nick said.
Two days later, on Christmas Day, they went on their first date to The Local Pub & Kitchen and strolled under the enchanting Christmas lights of Sanlitun. Their connection was strong, and they couldn’t resist showing affection in public, playfully licking ice cream off each other’s lips. Both of them rated the date as a solid 9 out of 10.
As their relationship progressed, the sparks between them intensified. After just three dates, they realized they were crazy about each other, and over the next two weeks, they explored various activities together, from Latin dance and shisha lounges to skateboarding and going to the gym. In a remarkably short time, they officially became a couple just before heading home for Chinese New Year, a mere three weeks after meeting.
“I think our cultural differences made us curious about each other’s backgrounds. We loved sharing our traditions and learning from one another,” Song explained, emphasizing the importance of cultural exchange.
Eventually, Nick surprised Song by proposing on her birthday in 2021, just before their planned getaway to Sanya. They enjoyed a delightful engagement honeymoon filled with surfing and intimate moments.
As their love deepened, Nick and Song decided to tie the knot, getting registered in Song’s hometown on September 29, 2021. They plan to have a wedding ceremony in the future, likely in the spring, with a livestream to include Nick’s family, who couldn’t travel to Beijing.
Offering advice to other intercultural couples, they emphasized the importance of love, understanding, and communication.
“Each relationship is different, and you can never compare them. But if you really want it to work, you’ll always find a way to make it work,” Nick advised.
Song added, “Keep an open mind, respect each other’s differences, and cherish the journey together. It’s the little things that matter the most.”
Moving to China for Love: A French-Chinese Wedding
Krys met her Chinese husband (who she calls Panda) seven and a half years ago. Panda was doing an internship in Marseille, which is her hometown in the south of France.
Images via Krys
“Panda and I first met because we were both working in the same hotel in Marseille, me as an employee and him as a trainee.” Krys said. “When another work colleague first introduced him to me, it felt a bit like a TV drama. At first, I didn’t see his face, as he was sitting and writing. But then to say hello to me, he put his things on the chair, stood up, and finally lifted his face. It was love at first sight for us both!”
Nothing happened between them at the time and Panda returned to China, but it was later when the November 2015 Paris attacks happened that they both realized how deeply in love they were.
“Panda told me the night of the attacks changed everything, and he decided to visit me in Paris the next Friday, even though his parents didn’t want him to go because they were scared.”
On November 20, 2015, while looking at the Christmas decorations in Paris he said I love you for the first time, and that was that.
“So I decided to follow him to China, where we stayed for two and half years. We were engaged and married in Shanxi, China, my husband’s hometown. I fell in love with him, but I also fell in love with China which gave me a passion in life that I share on my blog and social media.”
On meeting Panda’s family, Krys says, “My husband’s family are really open-minded. The first day I met them they were so nice to me and I bonded with them very quickly, even though I didn’t speak any Chinese at that time. They have always considered me as a part of their family and we have a beautiful relationship.”
And then came the big wedding day. “I had a traditional Shanxi ceremony and a Han ceremony. First of all, the groom comes to the bride’s house (I was in a hotel) to bring her to his house. There are lots of games to test the groom and his love. In Shanxi, the tradition is that the groom needs to search for the shoes of the bride and a bowl and chopsticks so she can leave. My shoes were in the minibar – I was so frozen.”
She continues, “Then he needs to carry his bride on his back all the way to his home without making her put a foot on the ground. She can only touch the floor when she arrives at her new house.”
The whole ceremony was a full morning. Krys was up at 4am to eat breakfast and then the make-up artist arrived at 5am. Panda came at 9am and the ceremony finished at 2pm.
“We did a few more traditions: The groom offers two mandarin ducks to show that he will love the bride forever. Then we eat a piece of meat, drink from the same ‘glass,’ and offer a lucky charm to each other, and then the groom puts a bow on the bride’s hair, as hair was very important in Han dynasty. If you want to make an even bigger love gesture, you can even cut some of your hair to give to your lover. Then we bow to our family again.
“I wasn’t too surprised by anything because everything was a very ‘soft’ version of the real traditions. Also my Chinese was so bad at that time that I couldn’t understand anything and was going with the flow. But I felt very touched when we bowed to our parents. We bowed three times: one for Heaven, one for Earth, and one for parents which are like gods. In Western countries this bow may not be received very well, and seen as a gesture of submission and shamefulness. But for me, it was very emotional. I cried because I realized all my parents had done for me since I was born – all the love and the opportunities they gave me. I will never be able to give them back enough. Though bowing is not enough to repay them, it is still a special moment. It was very emotional.”
Krys and Panda recently celebrated their seven-year wedding anniversary, and in May of 2023 the couple also welcomed a beautiful baby.
“We got married very fast in less than a year, but real love doesn’t have to wait. We are really different because of how we were raised, but our love is so strong. We also want to learn from each other so much. Sometimes I say that we are ÌìÉúÒ»¶Ô (“born a couple).”
Follow Krys and Panda on (@uneoccidentaleenchine)
“She took a mid-date nap!”
Greg shares one of his worst Tinder date experiences in China.
I was fairly new to the Tinder scene and met up with what I judged to be an attractive lady based on her pictures. Sadly, her Photoshop skills seemed to have aided liberally with this assessment, as I found out when we met in person.
’’Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound,’’ I thought. ’’I’m already here.’’
We headed into the bar and ordered food and drinks while I tried desperately to pry answers more than two syllables long from her, quickly exhausting my usual supply of small-talk starter questions.
’’So, how long have you been in Beijing?’’
’’Oh, cool! What do you think of it so far?”
No asking me anything. No giving me any information to work with.
I took a hefty gulp of my beer, wishing it was something stronger. She took another sip of her cider and got her phone out.
’’Perfect, a phone-starer,” I thought to myself.
The food came and we ate it in near silence, me having given up on getting blood from a stone and her seemingly not having cared in the first place. To be honest, the food was a welcome distraction from the beige abyss where her personality should have been.
Out of food and with no conversation to be had, I checked out a football match on one of the TV screens for a minute. When I looked back she’d fallen asleep. ASLEEP! Drunk off half a cider. Nice one.
This was the breaking point for me. I tapped her on the shoulder and gently said, ’’Maybe it’s time you went home.”
She woke up embarrassed about her little mid-date nap and we agreed to get the bill, which we split...ish. She sent me a WeChat hongbao for the cost of her food/drink minus tax and minus the cost of her cider... Weird, but if that was to be the price of getting out of this Chernobyl of a date, it was one I was willing to pay.
After saying our goodbyes I walked to my bike, making sure to delete her WeChat as I did so. I cycled home to a stiff whisky and decided that this was as good a time as any to take a little break from online dating.
’’If that’s the alternative,” I figured, ’’being single isn’t so bad after all!”
Image from Pixabay
Catfishing in the Capital
Have you ever been “catfished” before? A catfish is an informal label for someone who creates fake online personas to trick another person. And if it’s happened to you – don’t worry. It’s happened to many people. Here are some catfishing stories from Beijing.
In 2021, Aleese matched with this guy in Beijing on Bumble and the first red flag was he had a profile picture that was to the side and it was all in the shadow. So She couldn’t really see much of him, but they had good conversations. She wasn’t really that concerned with looks. The vibe was right and they had similar humor so they arranged to meet at The Local.
So she’s sitting there, chilling, and then she feels someone rub on her shoulders. She immediately tenses up and freezes. The guy walks around and her jaw drops and she’s like, no, this was the same man she had been on a date with a year ago that went nowhere and they got in a fight at the end of the date. He sits across from her and says, “Baby girl. The only reason I got on bumble was to find you. And I’m sorry, I catfished you but I’ve been looking for you and now we’re here and it is meant to be.” Cringe.
Jack Campbell, an American living in Beijing, matched with a woman on a dating app, and they engaged in light-hearted conversations. They had fun texting each other and the woman mentioned how life was unpredictable and anything could happen at any moment. Encouraged by her words and feeling a romantic spark, Campbell assumed the pin she dropped was her home address.
With a hopeful mindset, Campbell bought a bottle of wine, dressed up to impress, and agreed to meet at her place. However, upon arrival, he discovered that it wasn’t her home but rather a massage center and spa. It turned out that the woman and her team was using this as a way to promote and boost her business. Campbell felt a mix of surprise and disappointment, realizing that he had fallen for a group catfish, and even worse, he had purchased a bottle of wine; he didn’t even enjoy Pinot Grigio. Campbell did find solace and truth in her words though, life is unpredictable and he certainly didn’t expect any of that to happen!
Image via Date Night China
Cringeworthy Date Stories
From first dates to worst dates, Tinder fails, and catfishers, we’ve all had our fair share of painfully bad dates in China. Here are some that China daters have shared through the years.
1. “Once I went on a date with a girl and she just kept asking me why her ex broke up with her. All the while she was finishing a bottle of white wine and crying.”
2. “I will merely ask the question: Have you ever ended up in a place with someone you attempted to go on a date with but ended up blocking on WeChat and then had to get your friends to help you hide from the overzealous person in an overcrowded bar, filled with friendly, intoxicated people? Let’s just say... hilarity ensues.”
3. “There was one girl that took my phone during the first date, sent her picture to my WeChat, set it as the phone wallpaper, and then deleted the dating app we met on.”
4. “In Shanghai, a blind date brought his mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa on our FIRST date. Suffice to say I hid in the bathroom until I could make a timely and polite escape.”
5. “Once on a blind date, my date brought his male partner. They wanted to make it clear that I would only be his beard for his family.”
6. “I went on a blind date with a guy who put his toothbrush in my toothbrush holder at the end of a first date. There are no words. Except to say, I no longer go on blind dates.”
7. “One time a guy baited me into a date by telling me to come to a party in a pub. He told me everyone else was late or suddenly not coming. But it was all set up just to be alone with me.”
8. “A classmate brought me home to celebrate the Spring Festival with his family. Only quite a while after we arrived there, I came to realize that I was there to act as his girlfriend, not his friend. Nobody called me that directly, but still everyone thought so.”
9. “My worst date was when I was set up on a blind date and I got stood up. The girl showed up, looked in my direction at the restaurant, and then walked out.”
Image via Pixabay
So there you have it, Date Night China has bared all and given you an entertaining cross-section of life and love in China.
And like all good storytellers, Date Night China wouldn’t leave you hanging on without hearing an integral part of the story. After several months of friendship and many episodes published, Rachel and Nathan started dating and have just celebrated three years together.
“We don’t share stories about our dating life as much because we’re worried it would be sickeningly cute, but we get to approach our interviews with guests in a whole new light… and It’s fun doing something like this with your best friend,” Nathan said.