It all started in 2005.
It was hard not to notice her. She was slim, looked exquisite in her makeup, and had a poise and sophistication rarely seen in women of her age. Jason could even smell her light perfume.
She greeted her classmate even though she didn’t know him. Her accent sounded a little bit strange, but Jason felt she looked even prettier when she smiled.
Jason was instantly overwhelmed by the young woman’s charisma. Later he managed to get her contact information and starting pursuing her.
Well, it turned out that the woman was from Hong Kong.
She was pursuing a course at a university in suburban Beijing where Jason — a mainlander — had also enrolled.
As a Hongkonger, the girl didn’t have to sit for a college entrance exam to go to a mainland university, nor did she have to attend courses on Marxism and Maoism.
They started dating, sparking intense chatter among Jason’s friends and classmates. Though the friends didn’t know much about the young woman, the fact that Jason had a Hong Kong girlfriend was enough to trigger a feeling of awe back then.
Jason and his girlfriend got married eight years later, in 2013, at the Tsim Sha Tsui Marriage Registry in Hong Kong. The mainland groom took the wedding vows in clumsy Cantonese, with friends and relatives witnessing the ceremony.
Though Jason had now lived in the city for many years, his Cantonese is still limited as he seldom uses it in office. He uses Putonghua and English when talking to his wife.
Their marriage has been a happy one despite the frictions in recent years between Hong Kong people and mainlanders over issues such as parallel traders, Occupy Central, etc.
Government data shows that “cross-border couples” are still rising in number.
Such couples accounted for about 38 percent of the 55,274 marriage registrations in Hong Kong in 2013. Interestingly, the story is no longer about Hong Kong men marrying mainland women, but also the other way around.
Cases of Hong Kong women marrying mainland grooms have shot up from 1,390 in 1991 to 7,444 in 2013.
‘Does your husband work at a construction site?’
Last year a financial analyst surnamed Wang decided to apply for the “one-way permit”, the 150 permits per day immigration scheme that allows eligible mainland residents to settle in Hong Kong for family reunion.
The move came after Wang married a Hong Kong woman. Before that he was working at a state-owned bank in Shenzhen.
To learn more about the application process, Wang joined an online forum founded by new arrivals from the mainland.
He forgot to identify his gender and not surprisingly, other forum members thought he was a woman and asked him: “Does your husband also work in a construction site?”
The forum members are mostly mainland women in their twenties who hail from rural areas and like always, their Hong Kong husbands are significantly older, making a living at the bottom rung of the job market as construction workers or truck drivers.
Such families, after the wives arrive in town, typically congregate in Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long, or in public housing estates in Kwun Tong.
On the forum, the most discussed topics are about how to find a job in restaurants, insurance firms or cosmetics chains after moving to the city.
Though the army of mainland young women landing in Hong Kong can hardly squeeze out their local peers in the career race, as the mainland cousins are ill-equipped for the city’s well-paid professions, they do however pose a threat in the marriage market.
That is because of a gender imbalance in Hong Kong, with women outnumbering men.
In 2013, of the 3.42 million women in the city aged 15 and above, a million were unmarried. That compares with 970,000 unmarried men out of a total of 2.88 million males in the same age bracket.
In 2015, the gender imbalance became worse than ever, the Census and Statistics Department said in a report.
Last year Hong Kong had 3,938,700 females, 571,700 more than those of the opposite sex.
Chances of urban women finding Mr. Right where men are never in abundance in the city – 856 males to every 1,000 females – can only become slim. This explains the sharp rise in the influx of mainland bridegrooms in recent years.
“Had it not been for me, you would have been another miserable leftover Hong Kong woman,” Wang says jokingly to his wife.
But being able to tie the knot doesn’t mean life will be without any hitches. Even if the partners don’t let the China-Hong Kong political tensions affect their relationship, they still need to overcome the differences in culture and social backgrounds.
Jason often prefers to stay at home playing computer games, rather than hang out with his wife’s Hong Kong friends. The reason: the locals don’t mince their words when the issue of mainlanders comes up.
Among the various accusations are that mainlanders tend to be untidy and rude and that they always look to break the rules.
As for Jason, there is also the issue of language barrier.
Despite some problems he faces in the city, Jason says he has never thought of moving back to the mainland.
“I have become too accustomed to the convenience and simple interpersonal relations here. I think I won’t be able to adjust back to the ways of doing things on the mainland,” he says.
Translation by Frank Chen
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