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China Daily Global / 2023-06 / 16 / Page001


By ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-06-16 00:00

Demand rises for companions who share similar interests

At lunchtime recently, Sha Jinyuan, 22, sent a WeChat message to her meal partner, or fandazi, asking: "What to eat?" After her partner replied with "don't know", Sha said, "Let's just go!"

This conversation resulted in the pair leaving their offices to meet and find a place to eat together.

Sha and her partner Wu Hao, 21, are an example of a form of socializing that is popular with young Chinese who are not necessarily friends. Rather, they are dazi, or activity partners for specific pursuits, such as playing games, taking classes, traveling, or hiking and camping.

Sha, a senior student at a university in Jilin, Jilin province, is doing an internship at a media organization in Dalian, Liaoning province. She met Wu, who was an intern at the time, purely by chance.

"We talked a lot, and our offices were close together, so we quickly became fandazi ("fan" translates as "meal" in Chinese). We eat lunch together almost every working day," Sha said.

The term "dazi" has become especially popular online, with many social media users posting their requirements as they seek partners who share similar interests to themselves.

The Shanghai Dialect Dictionary published in 2007 defines dazi as "those who play cards together, or are partners in extension".

However, dazi now refers to a new kind of social connection with the aim of pursuing shared interests, rather than developing lasting friendships.

A search for "dazi" on social media platforms such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu turns up numerous users seeking partners ranging from food lovers to fitness fanatics.

Sha and Wu, who share the bill for milk tea, also take photos together at scenic spots in Dalian, which is building a world-class tourist destination.

However, if a particular idea is proposed and one of them is not interested in it, they just go their own way.

"As dazi, we have a strong sense of one another's personal space. We don't expect the other person to act like an old friend, and neither will we reluctantly go along with each other's preferences," Sha said.

Goals and interests

Early last month, a study of 1,335 respondents conducted by China Youth Daily's social survey center and online survey platform found that 72.6 percent said they had one or more dazi. Nearly 69 percent of the young people surveyed believe that finding a dazi is a brave step in moving out of their comfort zone to seek a new form of social interaction.

More than half the respondents said they go for meals with a dazi, while over 30 percent seek dazi for sports, travel, learning and playing games. More than 20 percent of the respondents have dazi for shopping or walking their children.

Those seeking dazi usually consider factors such as hobbies, whether they are a good match for one another, personality, physical appearance, and if they can provide mutual help.

Young Chinese are increasingly seeking like-minded peers on social media, such as partners to study at a library until it closes, those to buy another cup of coffee for an extra 1 yuan (0.14 cents), travel partners to share a hotel room with, and those to help them bargain on the e-commerce platform Pinduoduo.

Sha said: "If you can imagine it, you can find it. All kinds of dazi can be matched as long as the same goals or interests are shared.

"Can you imagine that I once had a 'toilet dazi' on campus? We went to the toilet together," she added.

Sha also has an online games partner. Initially, she knew nothing about the partner's gender, age, or where he or she lived, but this did not prevent them making appointments to play games together.

"We later added each other on WeChat to collect and exchange cards for the games. It was then that I learned my partner was female and that she was studying at an elite school in the United States," Sha said. "I do not talk to her about studying or living abroad. All we discuss is the video game."

When Sha was preparing for her graduate exam, she found herself an all-nighter dazi — studying with the partner until the early hours of the morning.

"Sometimes, we studied until 4 am. We then met two dazi who studied early in the day. My partner and I failed the exam, while the other two passed. This proves that 'early to bed and early to rise' produces a higher success rate," Sha said.

Sha, who graduates next month, believes that after she starts work, she will quickly find a variety of partners to enjoy a relaxing time with.

She believes that socializing with a dazi is a more open way of having fun that will yield numerous fresh and unique experiences.

"If you happen to know a very compatible person, it is natural to develop an intimate relationship. But there is a tacit understanding between myself and the dazi. We are partners, our communication is casual, and to avoid pressure, we don't interfere in each other's lives apart from our interests," Sha said.

"It is easy to disconnect just as easily as it is to get connected."

Experiences shared

Young people are sharing their experiences with dazi on domestic social media and lifestyle platforms, with the hashtag "fandazi" being viewed more than 6.5 billion times on Douyin.

On Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book, blogger Yangyangzi Aimoyu posted a photo of herself and her "nap dazi" sleeping soundly on a mat about 1 meter wide. An accompanying comment stated: "I don't know if it is because my nap dazi is back, but today's afternoon nap was smoother, and I don't feel as though I have a headache any more."

Some users express their sadness at losing a dazi. Such comments include: "My meal dazi quit her job. I felt sad all day and got a mouth ulcer. It is more painful than being disappointed in love!", "You can live without love, but you can't live without a dazi", and "Losing a dazi is even worse than losing a boyfriend."

The survey carried out last month found that young people seek dazi to share similar interests, to accompany them or share costs, expand their social circle, and to motivate, monitor and help one another.

Some young people search for dazi because their lives are too fast-paced and their social circles too small.

Xu Kun, an expert at the 12355 hotline for youth psychological counseling and legal aid in Dalian, said: "Young people enjoy doing things together. Unlike relationships with colleagues, classmates, relatives and friends, those with a dazi are temporary and almost superficial. With less responsibility and pressure, the two people concerned get along more easily.

"This is why young people these days are enthusiastic about forming dazi circles."

A dazi relationship meets young people's social needs, but also reduces the basic costs in terms of time, energy and emotion required to maintain a close relationship, she added.

"This type of lifestyle also shows that young people are paying more attention to their inner feelings and trying to explore social relationships for enjoyment and to perceive the beauty of life in a way they like," Xu said.

Cao Jing, 25, who has worked in Beijing for three years, said it became harder to find people to socialize with after she graduated from university, as her schoolmates moved away and she did not want to become overly familiar with work colleagues.

On weekends, when she might go dancing, play badminton, eat out, visit exhibitions or enjoy live performances, she has partners for her different hobbies and interests.

"In general, we only communicate about our interests and hobbies, and the conversation never involves work, family or other aspects of personal privacy," Cao said.

Fickle and fragile

Some netizens believe that a dazi relationship can be compared with a "fast food friendship", which is not high in nutritional value, but filling and convenient. However, with fast food there is always the risk of it "causing upset stomachs".

Many people have shared online their unhappy experiences with dazi, demonstrating that expectation is often better than reality.

A netizen named Berry, who likes playing mobile games, found dazi on social networking platforms and arranged to play games together. When he went online at the appointed time, he found they had disappeared from the game's friends' list without any explanation.

"I know that we can't rely on online partners, but that inexplicable disappearance was really sad," he said.

Other problems exist between dazi. Some drink wine together, but a wine dazi can be late and reluctant to share the bill. Some travel together, but one travel dazi did nothing to prepare for a trip, and was picky about the itinerary. Some people book a table at a restaurant, but their meal dazi fails to show up because he or she does not like their partner's appearance.

During the recent May Day holiday, social media platforms featured a wave of searches for travel dazi, resulting in happiness for some, but disappointment for others.

While young people benefit from a short association with a dazi, they also see the fickleness and fragility of such companionship.

Some netizens said their travel partner was ideal, but others said they would no longer travel with a stranger. Some even found that their dazi disappeared after receiving payment in advance for hotel fees.

In Hunan, Sanxiang City Express reported last month that Liu Xiaojie, who comes from the province, saw a post by a netizen from Shaanxi province looking for a travel partner. After chatting, the two women, who are both 24, had just resigned from their jobs, and had few savings, became dazi to travel on a budget.

In three months, they traveled to 15 cities, spending only about 5,000 yuan ($700) each.

Liu said: "Traveling with strangers is like opening a mystery box. There is a great deal of luck involved in the journey, and not everyone is as lucky as I am.

"A journey taken at the same pace and with the same ideas is perfect."

Liu added that during their journeys, they encountered travel partners who went their separate ways due to disagreements.

While Liu and her dazi have become best friends, some others have found love.

In posts related to finding meal partners, many people offer detailed personal information such as their age, star sign, educational background, profession and hobbies, as though they are attending a job interview or going on a blind date.

However, it seems that many dazi simply forget one another before finding new partners.







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