Despite the Chinese influence, and the gradual import of western culture, movies and music, Tibet still remains a pretty traditional sort of place, especially outside of the major cities. If you’re a foreign lady, and you find yourself developing a healthy friendship with a Tibetan man, don’t be in the least bit surprised if he wants to take you home to meet his family, or in particular, his brothers…
In the villages outside of the major cities, polyandry is still the dominant practice. Which means that within the families, Tibetan’s like to share. It’s completely normal for all the sons in a family to share a single wife, with whom they will all live happily under one roof and raise a family.
She will rotate bedrooms at night, and do her best to be a good wife to each and every one of them. The eldest brother is the head of the family, and is privileged to be called “daddy” by any resulting offspring. The other brothers would all go by the title of “uncle”. Most children won’t know which of their ‘uncles’ is actually their biological parent, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
All but the most open minded male reading this is probably wincing at the very thought, but for the Tibetans it’s absolutely normal. There’s no friction between the various spouses, or any of the jealousy or other complications one might anticipate in such a set-up. In fact, it’s seen as an entirely healthy way to raise a family and keep the assets and wealth of that family, within the family.
In Lhasa people are more modern and men will take a wife all of their very own, although they’ll see nothing strange about the way their cousins do it in the villages. The younger generations have girlfriends and boyfriends, and there’s none of the nonsense about getting married before you become intimate that you find in many other very religious countries.
However, if you’re intent on finding a little romance during your stay (and you don’t speak Tibetan), you’ll probably be restricted to locals who can speak English, of whom there are only a few. The best place to find them is around the Barkhor (Lhasa’s old city), where there are many either trying to sell you fake North Face gear, asking for change, or wanting to abduct you for a few minutes to help them practice their English. Once you take away the number that are actually practicing monks, you’ll find you’re left with only a few on whom to actually work.
There’s plenty of young Chinese men and women in Tibet, especially in Lhasa and the city has a number of nightclubs where they congregate on Friday and Saturday nights to dance, drink and be merry. But don’t expect the kind of undeserved attention many a westerner (particularly males) receives from the locals in say Bangkok, or even Beijing.
While they may be smiley, and occasionally flirty the girls and boys tend to stick to themselves. In fact, well used to being the superior class in Tibet, the Chinese give little attention to foreign faces and go about their business with a certain nonchalant aloofness.
And with China fast becoming the world super power, you’re probably not going to find too many people want to sleep with you to get their hands on a new passport. Nope, out here you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way, relying solely on your good looks and charm. Oh, and there is always your disproportionate wealth, for the time being anyway….
One little known fact about Tibet is that it is unofficially one the sleaziest places in China with a booming sex industry continually expanding to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese military personnel stationed there.
Every town has dozens of brothels which take the form of dubious 24 hour hair dressing salons. Some streets in Lhasa have no less than thirty hairdressers, beauty salons and massage parlours, a brothel each and every one of them.
As one Tibetan put it:
“We have thousands of hairdressing shops in Lhasa, but it’s very difficult to get a haircut”.