Heart-to-heart: Chinese radio runs show for couples

Beijing : The Love Hour on Radio Beijing’s 774 AM is the country’s first bilingual call-in programme dealing with all things amorous and is, perhaps, also the country’s first live phone-in show with a foreign co-host.

The programme, which airs on Mondays at 8 p.m., tackles affairs of the heart, such as mixed marriages, online dating and irksome in-laws. Troubled lovers dial up the show’s hotline to put their romantic riddles to the two heart-smart hostesses, one of whom is Chinese, while the other is British.

“It’s exploring things you may not usually talk about with people,” British co-host Debbie Mason says, explaining that callers can remain anonymous.

“I love the chat when they call in, and I never know what they’re going to throw at me – ever. It’s quite a challenge,” she told China Daily.

The duo agrees that callers and listeners – about 90 percent of whom are Chinese although 80 percent of the show is in English language – benefit from the fact they generally offer opposite advice.

“Debbie is more cynical and critical than me,” says Liu Zhijia aka Chloe.

“I firmly believe in romance and love at first sight. We always hold different opinions and quarrel.”

But the 30-year-old Sichuan native and the 39-year-old Briton believe their differences have more to do with age, experience and personality than with culture.

“My love story is simpler than Debbie’s,” says Liu, who has been happily married to her first love for two years.

As Mason puts it: “My love life has been a complete disaster. I’m the worst example of someone to give advice – a single mother on the brink of divorce. But I think in some ways I know what not to do.”

The hostesses believe the show’s main purpose isn’t to solve callers’ quandaries. “It’s more to open people up and help them realise they’re not alone in having problems,” says Mason.

With intensifying work pressures and competition in China, people are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely, she says.

Briton Richard Arridge says he found calling in to “The Love Hour” helpful in dealing with his overly intrusive Chinese in-laws.

“I realised I should understand that with a cross-cultural relationship, I’m taking a lot of things on board,” says Arridge, who has spent four of his seven years in China in his current relationship. It also helped him realise a lot of his stress came from work and the birth of the couple’s first child.

“I also learned not to try to control everything and be more relaxed that I’m in a different culture and need to respect that.”

Arridge says it helped to hear both women’s perspectives on his dilemma.

“Debbie said I should be more tolerant and things would become clearer in time. Chloe thought it was normal behaviour and didn’t see why I was making any fuss at all,” the 50-year-old says.

Mason and Liu believe now is the time for a show like theirs, with the way the country’s transformation is changing views of love.

“In China, (love) isn’t quite as overtly expressed as in the West,” Mason says. “But it’s opening up and, in line with that, we want to throw it out for people to discuss.”

Liu says some of the more interesting calls they’ve received came from a Briton whose Chinese girlfriend began avoiding him after he bought her a TV, and employed an ayi (housekeeper) who couldn’t find Mr. Right online. “More intriguing stories are on the way,” says Liu.

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