The number of marriages between Chinese people and foreigners is on the increase, but so too is the rate at which they are getting divorced.
According to recent statistics from the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, the number of intercultural marriages is rising steadily.
In 2006, 2,960 marriages involving Chinese nationals and foreigners were registered in Shanghai, up 22.97 percent on the previous year.
However, the number of mixed couples getting divorced in 2006 also increased to 355.
The figures showed that marriages had taken place between Chinese people and foreigners from 55 nations and regions. Chinese-Japanese and Chinese-Canadian pairings were found to be the most likely to end in divorce.
Although divorce has traditionally been discouraged in China, its incidence has risen rapidly since the 1980s. And with more and more mixed marriages ending in divorce, there is now a growing need for help and advice for those dealing with life after a failed marriage.
A web-based survey conducted by the Weiqing Divorcees Club found that many of its members had been in unhappy cross-cultural marriages.
"Loneliness, cultural differences and adapting to a new lifestyle were quoted as the main reasons for not being happy," the club's Shu Xin said.
The club provides a range of services, such as helping with the divorce process and advising on the process of getting remarried. On a more positive note, it also gives lectures on how to make a success of cross-cultural marriages.
The Shanghai-based club claims to have about 1 million online members, most of whom come from major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Almost 10 percent of its members are classed as foreigners, which encompasses expatriates, American-Chinese and those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.
In response to the growing number of cross-cultural divorces, the Weiqing Divorcees Club recently teamed up with Europe's largest marriage and divorce consultancy, Added Life Value Ltd.
The firm, which has offices in Paris, France and Dsseldorf, Germany, claims to be in the business of "new beginnings," according to its German TV commercials.
Christopher Pruefer from Added Life Value told China Daily: "People really need help and good advice."
Help can also be found at places like the Shanghai Community Center, where experts provide family therapy and advice on extramarital affairs.
Annemieke Esmeijer, a psychologist and family therapist with the center, said that cross-cultural marriages fail for many reasons, including language difficulties, cultural changes, work pressures, a loss of identity for the spouse moving abroad and a lack of support systems from home.
Esmeijer said that it was crucial for couples from different cultures to get to know each other personally, socially, and culturally. They should also discuss key cultural differences regarding such things as attitudes toward the extended family, religion and values, how to spend money, raising children, and even what sort of food they will eat.
(China Daily March 23, 2007)