In the mood for love

Updated: 2011-07-15 10:49

By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)

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In the mood for love
Ola Zdzarska (right) with Fishbowl Events business partner Allison Johnson at a recent speed-dating event in Beijing. Alexandra Leyton Espinoza / for China Daily

Polish matchmaker plays Cupid, aiming her bow at Beijing's single men and women

Ola Zdzarska says Beijing is full of attractive and interesting men and women who are just waiting to meet a partner. "There are plenty of fish in the sea, especially in Beijing. The biggest difference in Beijing compared to other cities in Europe is that more women speed date than men. Chinese men are too shy," she says.

But when Zdzarska landed in Beijing five years ago, operating a speed-dating business was far from her mind. After graduating from University of Warsaw in international relations and cultural anthropology she had planned to move to England.

"But I met my future husband and fell in love," she says.

"We wanted to do something different, and China seemed to be the place to be."

When she first arrived in Beijing, Zdzarska worked as a journalist for China Radio International and later joined Microsoft as a software language expert.

She soon befriended Allison Johnson and Pilar Busto, who had a company called The Speed Dating Specialist, which catered to expats.

Most clients were single teachers working at international schools in Beijing but soon the gatherings grew and different types of people began showing up.

The business was renamed "Fishbowl Events", and Zdzarska became more involved.

"Chinese men are now starting to participate, and more people are joining our events, which are becoming more open and relaxed," she says.

But like any business, sometimes there are bumps on the road.

Zdzarska recalls one night when two participants cancelled at the last minute.

She was forced to race to the closest coffee shop and handpick a couple of Chinese women to fill the vacancies.

"We told them about the situation and convinced them they would have a great time in getting to know new people. They agreed at once," she says.

"That would never have happened in Beijing 10 years ago. People today are more open to experience new things."

But she says there are participants who have a serious agenda.

"Some Chinese women want to find their future husbands and take speed dating very seriously," she says.

"One woman brought her computer and typed all the answers she got from her questions. She was creating a survey.

"We are not a matchmaking company. We don't work that way because there are plenty of Chinese websites that already do this.

"We don't ask for information about salary, pictures, health issues or future plans. A Fishbowl event is more relaxed."

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