- Language Tips
BEIJING - November 11, or "Singles' Day" in China, is a big day for China's millions of single men and women eager to end their single status.
But the special festival, which gains popularity as the four "ones" in the date resemble four "bare sticks", meaning unattached in Chinese, seems to bring bitterness to many married couples who live apart: they may have tied the knot, but still have to live like single people.
Twenty-seven-year-old Chen Zhengming married his college schoolmate Liu Hui last year, but the young couple have to live a separated life.
Working with an IT company in Beijing, Chen rents an apartment with three other collegues while his wife lives in the dorm provided by her company. The couple see it a way to save money for their future house purchase.
"Our combined monthly salary is no more than 8,000 yuan (1,280 U.S. dollars) and we spend about 3,000 yuan on necessities and keep wiring money to our families. We can't afford to rent an apartment if we want to buy our own house," Liu said.
But their marriage without cohabitation has proved difficult due to a lack of interaction.
"We usually meet on weekends, but sometimes we could not see each other for half a month due to overtime work," Liu said.
"There're also roommates in my apartment, so my wife and I can only spend the night together in hotels, and we choose only cheap ones that charge about 200 yuan a night," Chen said.
Chen's plight is common in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, where high living costs and house prices have prevented many young couples from living together.
Boasting colorful cultural life and more better-paying jobs, such cities have become paradise for young Chinese hailing from far-flung cities and the destitute countryside. But sustaining a life in such glitzy cities means a cut-back must be made in their conjugal bliss.
Wang Xiaoling, an office worker in downtown Beijing, got married four years ago and is now the father of a 3-year-old girl. Both his wife and daughter stay in Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, due to high living costs in Beijing.
"My annual salary is about 80,000 yuan, far from enough to provide a comfortable life for the whole family here, and it's too risky for my wife to quit her job and come here," Wang said.
Long distance also makes it harder for them to get together. Wang said they can only meet once a month, and it costs them more than 10,000 yuan on transportation every year.
"At least we can say our constant travels contributes a lot to our country's GDP growth," Wang said.
Experts said staggering house prices, high living expenses and mounting work pressure have undermined urban marriages in China, forcing more couples to live apart over financial concerns.
"These couples report a higher divorce rate, as their emotional and physiological needs often go unsatisfied," said Zhao Yongjiu at a Beijing-based company that provides consultations on marriage and relationships.
But Yan Shan, standing director of the China Social Work Association Working Committee on Marriage and Family, believes the phenomenon is only temporary.
"It's understandable that these couples have to face such awkward situations, which is inevitable in the process of China's economic development," Yan said.
"The government should continue to strengthen the economy, improve its social welfare system, and balance regional developments to help improve people's living conditions. In this way, the couples will no longer have to live apart to balance marriage and finance," he said.