Buying a house before marriage is an important issue for most couples all over the world. According to a 2013 study by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, one in four couples between the ages of 18 and 34 bought a house together before they got married. A TIME MONEY poll from 2015 found that 40% of millennials think that “it’s a good idea for a couple to buy a home together before marriage, while 37% think the purchase should take place prior to the wedding.”
In the Chinese-speaking world, however, home ownership is a particularly significant matter due to the importance people attach to marriage and face. Purchasing a home is a status symbol, a sign that a family functions properly. It is not uncommon for women in Chinese societies to expect their boyfriends to have the financial capabilities to buy a house as a precondition for marriage. This phenomenon, which is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, is expressed it in the old saying: 安居樂業 (peaceful dwelling, happy work).
As an article published on Sina in 2016 explains: “After completing the slow and long marathon of romance, boys and girls in marriageable age have to slow down and face the question of whether to buy an apartment.” Boys often want to get married before purchasing a house, while girls usually insist on owning a home first. Disagreement on this matter can even “lead to a break-up”.
Even if a girl loves her boyfriend above all else and is willing to marry him, “her parents won’t consent,” the article continues.
Many people believe that an apartment is the symbol of love and family, a guarantee of financial security. There can be no marriage without a home. The “increasingly large number of leftover men and women” have found out how important home ownership is, the article remarks.
Couples that break up because the boyfriend doesn’t have enough money to buy a house before marriage is a frequent phenomenon in Chinese-speaking societies, as the following example shows.
On May 18 a netizen published a post on a popular Taiwanese Facebook page complaining about his ex-girlfriend’s behaviour.
“You ask me to buy you the iPhone 7 plus,” he wrote. “I immediately buy it for you, and what’s the result? A few days after Valentine’s Day you break up with me …”
The reason why his girlfriend broke up, the netizen explained, is because he makes NT$53,000 a month (about US$1,700) and cannot afford to buy an apartment right now.
“I always work hard to save money,” he said, “I just have to save less than 20,000 and I can make a down payment. But you have betrayed me like this, what’s the point of saving all this money?”
The post was shared over 1,400 times on Facebook and was also picked up by Taiwanese tabloid newspaper Apple Daily.
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