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British Expat Newsletter:
6 September 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Matchmaking
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

You may have heard of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. For over 150 years, single Irish men and women have headed to the village of Lisdoonvarna in Co. Clare to try to find a suitable marriage partner – or rather to get someone to find someone suitable for them.

Matchmaking festivals aren’t unique to Lisdoonvarna by any means, although it’s the most famous. In the prairies of America, line-dances and square dances were a very common way of matching up eligible young men and women. (Those of you who’ve seen the film Seven Brides For Seven Brothers will know this already, of course.) After all, with a very sparse population, many of them probably wouldn’t get to see each other in the first place. Which may also explain why Lisdoonvarna’s not older. Before the late 1840s, Ireland’s population was bigger than England’s; the famine and emigration meant that the population was suddenly much reduced.

In India many of the major papers – both English-language and vernacular language – have page after page of classified ads, particularly on Saturdays, advertising sons or daughters eligible for marriage. Generally they have some information about both the person advertised and the match sought – from the religion (and caste, if Hindu), education and professional prospects, down to the physical appearance – even the skin colour. (“Wheatish” seems very popular. Skin-whitening products do big business in the sub-continent; if you’re dark-skinned, you must have to work out in the sun and therefore be from a poor family.) So to some extent things have moved on since the events of Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy. But more traditional matchmaking methods still persist in most of the country – only the wealthy can afford to pay for newspaper adverts. (It still doesn’t stop families from going into massive debt to get their children married, though. Sheesh…)

In south-eastern Turkey, they do things very differently. To save on a bride-price when marrying off a son, it’s not unusual for parents to offer a daughter in marriage to the other family if they’ve got a single young man. Often it’ll be two brother-and-sister pairs getting married, but sometimes one of the families may have to rope in a cousin instead. This sort of marriage is known as a berdel marriage, and is preceded by a lot of delicate negotiation to ensure that both sides maintain face – where the handover of brides is to take place, how many cars each side is allowed to bring to the exchange, and so on. The final handover is a bit like a Cold War exchange of spies at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin; almost as tense as completion day for a house sale in England and Wales.

Of course, the most famous matchmakers of all are “Rev” Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church – the Moonies. (Remember them?) Up until about 1985, Moon personally arranged the vast majority of his followers’ marriages, although in recent years that rule has been relaxed. Because many of the marriages were international, there have been allegations that the purpose of the arrangements was partly to circumvent immigration laws. Moon himself says that the idea is to heal the wounds between the various peoples of the world. Hmm…

These days, Western culture has largely ditched the idea of matchmaking. People are doing it for themselves. Aren’t they?

Well, Dateline were already doing their computerised matching service back in the 1960s and ’70s. There are several other dating agencies around just like them. (Typically, Singapore has a government-run one: the wonderfully romantically named Social Development Unit.) Video dating caught on in the 1980s and 1990s. And now we’re in the age of the speed-dating evening, where you can meet a whole slew of potential partners in just a couple of hours, for just three minutes each. Just long enough to start fleshing out a first impression, in other words, and long enough to give marks out of 20. But although you do the legwork, there’s a team on hand to process the results afterwards – and to match up potential partners.

So it seems that matchmaking’s not such a dead duck after all. And the fact that the Lisdoonvarna festival’s still alive and well after so long – and has spread in popularity, with visitors from the UK, the US and beyond – suggests that there’s still plenty of demand for the matchmakers’ services.

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Times of India matrimonials page – you can search for a partner according to religion, language, country or education. It’s interesting to see how others do things.
Times of India: Matrimonials

Here’s what ukgameshows.com has to say about that classic of TV matchmaking, Blind Date. “You turned down Number Three, how could you?…!”
ukgameshows.com: Blind Date

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • canadese honda nighthawk
  • mugu gaga gigi
  • sexshop yorkshire
  • rome masturbation
  • what s the fattest bird?
  • offence under the postal act for any other person to open such an envelope. please find attached an application contact status which i require your chosen employee to complete. i am sorry it runs to eight pages but in order
  • mast flag hook
  • are there no salt and vinegar chip e-cards?
  • too so neither either
  • t0 matosinhos aluga-se
  • g0deo
  • duk sex

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.”

– Joanne Woodward, US actress/TV and stage producer (1930- )

Joke

Blind Date

Two student friends meet up for a post-mortem coffee on Saturday morning.

“How was your blind date?” one girl asks the other.

“Awful!” the other answers. “He showed up in a 1932 Rolls Royce.”

“Wow! That’s a very expensive classic car. What’s so bad about that?”

The disappointed girl replies, “He was the original owner.”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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