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Chinese men are turning to foreign dating coaches in China to find answers on how to be successful with women. Photo: IC

When Frank Wang (pseudonym), a 28-year-old who works as a purchaser in Shanghai, walks through a crowd, he immediately gets attention from people because of his warm-hearted smile, stylish clothes and the confidence in his speech and behavior.

But he was not always this confident. Wang's newly minted persona is the product of three years of working with a dating coach and diligence.

Wang has always been a nice guy, but lacking the social skills to have normal interactions with girls had bothered him for years.

In 2013, Wang met Kane Vast, a dating coach from Australia, and over a year and a half, Wang was coached in dating to become more confident in himself and his interactions with women. "The learning process was extremely challenging. I had to step out of my comfort zone and do things I would have never done before. For example, I had to lie on the floor in a mall or give coins to strangers to build courage. However, it paid off," said Wang. He is now in a relationship with a nice girl he plans to marry. 

Chinese men, especially otaku (people who like to stay at home and seemingly drop out of society), are stereotyped as nerdy and unsuccessful in love and relationships. However, some financially stable Chinese men like Wang, have recently shifted their focus to emotional needs and improving their image. These men are now turning to local and foreign dating coaches in hopes of finding success with women. The foreign dating coaches interviewed by Metropolitan find that when applying Western dating theories and tactics in China, it works well, even though there are cultural differences.

Foreign dating coaches think that Chinese men should focus more on improving one's personal value, rather than material value, to attract Chinese women. Photo: IC

Vincent (right) and his working partner. Photo: Courtesy of xinnanshi.com

The rise of dating coach

In 2011, Wang's dating coach Vast, started providing dating courses in Shanghai after he found that many of his foreign friends were interested in how to be attractive to women. Two months later, he started giving lessons to Chinese men as well, but at the time, he did not realize there would be an even greater demand for his services from Chinese men.

"It was quite funny how it started," said 31-year-old Vast, who now lives in Beijing.

He and a friend were at a mall in People's Square, talking to two Chinese girls. A Chinese man interrupted them and started insistently asking Vast and his friend, "How are you doing this? What are you saying to these girls? I want to learn!"

"He became my first Chinese student, and while I was out coaching him I met many other Chinese men who also became my students," said Vast.

During the past five years, he has coached hundreds of Chinese men, and now works as an instructor at Huainanhai, an online platform focused on coaching Chinese men in dating.

According to a 2015 news report from itxinwen.com, an IT news portal, there are around 2.3 million Chinese users and over 200 dating coaches using this platform.

"People think that Chinese men are not good at picking up girls or dating, but I do not believe that. I think they lack certain social skills because they are spending most of their time on work and schooling," said Vast. "But things in China's dating scene have begun to change dramatically over the last decade. Dating has evolved from blind dates and being introduced to potential partners by friends and family, to learning skills from dating coaches and finding people to date online or at social events."

Vast found that Chinese men have started to notice that making a lot of money and having a good job is not enough. Due to the development of the economy and the gender imbalance, women have more options. For these reasons, Chinese men have realized that they need to develop social skills, which has increased the demand for professional dating advice.

Making a difference

Vast's training includes theory and real life application of the rules and concepts learned in class.

Wang remembered Vast would take him to malls and parks to teach him how to approach and interact with women smoothly. Vast would sometimes take videos of the interactions to show how women reacted to him and analyze the conversation content, tones, body language and non-verbal communication.

At first, Wang was very shy and could not talk to women, Vast then asked him to practice what he would say with the other students.

Wang finally got up the courage to talk to a cute girl in the mall, but the conversation only lasted two minutes. "I was so nervous that I forgot what I wanted to say, and only got out, 'Hi, I'm Frank, nice to meet you. I think you are very lovely.' But she was not interested and walked away."

He did not let that stop him. After practicing the skills a number of times, Wang has made a lot of progress and gained more confidence. Wang said prior to his lessons, there were so many opportunities to talk to girls, but he never said anything because he didn't know what to say. Now, he knows how to communicate with them and understands their feelings more.

Vast said the training is not only about learning female psychology, how to be charming or attracting women. "For some people, this can be a life-changing experience: going from feeling like a loser or diaosi (underachievers from the bottom of the social class), to believing in yourself and being able to display the fantastic parts of your personality."

Vincent, a dating coach from Spain, is the founder of xinnanshi.com, a dating coaching platform for men, most of whom are Chinese.

"Dating coaching started around 15-20 years ago in the US, but it is quite new in China. Many men are shy and lack confidence. We help them understand how relationships and social dynamics work, how to communicate effectively and what creates attraction and kills it."

Vincent found that many men think that to be good with women, one needs to memorize pickup lines or stories, learn weird tricks, do magic and other cheesy things. However, it is nothing like that.

"It is about being the most attractive version of you. In reality, 80 percent of achieving success with women is based on one's mindset. It's your inner game, including confidence, behavior, and your understanding of women, that really makes the difference. The remaining 20 percent is the outer game."

The challenges of culture differences

There can be challenges due to cultural differences when Western dating culture and tactics are taught to Chinese men. 

The biggest one Vast has to overcome is the Chinese tendency of saving face and protecting their ego.

"They like learning theory and using apps more than approaching girls on the street, because they do not want to deal with rejection or losing face," said Vast. "Foreigners also like using social applications to meet girls, but their main focus is approaching girls in shopping malls, clubs and on the street."

Chinese culture is more traditional. If a strange Chinese man approaches a Chinese woman on the street, the woman is usually uneasy and might think that he is a casual man, said Vast.   

Vincent said some people want to hook up and date around before settling down with a partner, but there are many people in the West that want to find a girlfriend or get married. So do Chinese men.

"Social skills are just tools. It depends on what you want. Over all, learning the art of attraction can help you have a long and happy relationship and improve yourself," said Vincent.

Vincent thinks that another cultural conflict that poses a challenge for Chinese men relates to material things.

"Many Chinese men still think that they will win a woman's heart through money. But this mindset is a receipt of failure in modern China," said Vincent.

Vast agrees.

He said that Chinese and foreigners' views on how to succeed with women are vastly different due to the different values they subscribed to. Chinese and foreigners differ in their approach to finding a mate because of differences in their value systems; what a foreigner finds attractive in a woman is not necessarily the same for a Chinese man.

According to Vast, foreign men usually spend more time on hobbies and exercise; Chinese men usually spend more time on schooling and working to make money. Additionally, foreign men usually have more developed personalities because they have diverse life experiences, whereas most Chinese men have had a consistently similar life experience.

"The result is that most Chinese men are more financially stable but lack emotional and sexual expressiveness; foreign men are more emotionally expressive, which is a social and cultural difference," said Vast. "Being able to express our emotions and sexual desire is incredibly important when trying to attract women. Most Chinese guys compensate for their lack of emotion and sexual expressiveness by providing other needs, such as stability and security."

He said some coaches in China focus on teaching guys how to artificially improve their status, value and image, how to demonstrate "high value" according to Chinese culture without actually having it. This only works for short-term relationships.

"They should learn how to use their personal value rather than material value to bring girls into their life and keep them there," said Vast.