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January 5, 2011

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Shy young men look to pick-up artists

A GROWING number of bashful young men, inexperienced in romance and fearful of ending up alone, are signing up to expensive personalized dating courses.

Dating coaches - or pick-up artists (PUA) as they style themselves - advertise their services on online match-making platforms, enticing young men to attend training courses and promising to teach them how to be a hit with girls.

But a Shanghai Daily investigation has found that although the industry is expanding, most of the training "facilities" are still run underground without any legal business licenses or certifications.

The remainder appear legal because companies are running the business under the cover of licensed wedding firms.

The coaches usually charge 2,000 yuan (US$302) to 3,000 for a weekend training course, holding classes at small bars or KTV venues.

Part of the time is devoted to introducing PUA strategies, while the remainder is spent putting theory into practice, with the students dispatched to shopping malls to charm girls.

Typical advice includes: choose a good location; think of interesting topics of conversation; maintain eye contact.

He Lina, deputy director of Shanghai Wedding Industry Committee, warned local young people to be wary as the so-called dating coaches are probably cheating money out of their pockets.

"I don't believe in the pick-up skills taught by those opportunists," said He, "Isn't it destiny that draws people together?" She said the committee would host match-making parties next month to offer an alternative to the pick-up artists.

However, PUA coaches have tapped into a genuine need - many young men are painfully shy about approaching girls and don't know how to make a start unless someone offers to teach them.

"My parents didn't allow me to date a girl before I went to university," said a 25-year-old student, nicknamed "Carat" from Beijing, who has attended PUA courses.

"Now they want me to find a girlfriend before I graduate, but I don't have a clue how," admitted Carat.

Some PUA coaches are appealing for more understanding from both the committee and the government to what they do.

"PUA training industry is a new business, so problems are inevitable," said Wu Leji, one of Shanghai's PUA pioneers, who set up a "PUA camp" two years ago.

"It's possible that some people start the business to cheat money out of young boys, but with strengthened regulations and inspections, I believe the industry has good prospects," Wu told reporters.


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