A chance discovery by the Chinese police in the eastern China city of Hangzhou reported an incredible trend in Chinese relationships.
The police had responded to a call by a bar staff who reported to have found a suspicious suitcase containing two million Yuan in cash – an extraordinary amount of money. They managed to trace the owner, who according to the local police, had arranged to meet his former girlfriend in the bar. The money? It was a “break-up fee” – a new trend in Chinese dating.
Everyone knows that dating can be expensive, squeezing out cash for drinks, meals initially or to buy gifts and holidays later on.
Not content at just to have the awkward meeting to hand each others’ things back, break-up fees have also emerged in recent years in China as a sort of compensation at the end of a long-term relationship.
Although it is not legally binding, this fee is like one party giving their former partner a divorce settlement. The partner who ends the relationship is expected to pay the fees. The partners decide, based on the amount of time, effort and money they have invested in the relationship, how much money they should give to their former partner.
Some decide pragmatically as they calculate the amount of money their partner had spent on them while they were dating, while others base their demand on the severity of the emotional damage of the break-up.
Break-up fees are more commonly paid by men – out of guilt or in order to offset their partners depression. However, increasingly, women can also be seen accepting to pay a fee, given that it is traditionally the man who will pay for meals and gifts in a Chinese relationship.
While some see this is an an urban mindset set off by consumerism, others see this as a shift from traditional thoughts when Chinese women were more financially dependent on men. Dating in China is traditionally pragmatic, eventually culminating into marriage. But the fee here is meant to prevent both parties from suffering emotional setbacks and to help them start afresh.
According to some reports, the fee specifically helps older women who feel they have lost opportunities that they might have had in their youth to either prioritise their career or meet “the one”.