The Battle for Singles Day Discounts – From Singles’ Rebellion to Commercial Hits – Culture


On November 11, box offices around the world will ring. Singles’ Day has also arrived in Switzerland. It started harmlessly enough with four frustrated students.

November is not the best time to be single: Summer is definitely over, darkness from 5:00 p.m. doesn’t exactly awaken the mood for dating, and mulled wine with friends is nowhere in sight. That’s where Singles Day comes in handy.

A day to celebrate and give gifts. At least that’s what the promotional emails in the inbox promise. Singles’ Day discounts – they are still the most suitable gifts for yourself.

A wave of superlative consumption

It’s no wonder that Singles’ Day has been a new shopping opportunity for years, especially in China. In reality, what arrives in this country is still harmless compared to the wave of consumption that washes over China every November 11th.

E-commerce giants Taobao (from Alibaba) and JD break new records almost every year. JD for example with almost 50 billion US dollars in 2021 – in one day.

Alibaba hosts its own show, showing live sales numbers and featuring international stars like Taylor Swift in 2019.

But where does Singles’ Day actually come from?

Four branches trump

Singles Day originated in China in the 1990s. In 1993, four college students were lying on dorm room bunks, eating instant noodles, drinking beer, and complaining that no women were interested in them. They called themselves “bare branches”, guanggun, a negative term for unmarried men.

The quartet decided to celebrate 11.11. such as Singles’ Day (“guanggun jie” in Chinese). Not only does a date consist of nothing but ones, it also visually resembles four dry twigs.

Whether the story is true or not, the self-deprecating tradition of the campus was beginning to take hold. Not least because being single in China often has negative connotations and family pressure to find a husband or wife steadily increased in the 1920s.

Celebrating the single away status

Soon the Chinese began to meet up with friends and enjoy themselves, or get over their single status. Singles Day has become popular for declarations of love and proposals, speed dating events and wedding dates.


Singles’ Day is a popular wedding date, as it was for this young couple.

Getty Images/Future Publishing

He even got his own snack: four «youtiao», that is, four sticks of fried dough, just like the four on November 11.

Since 2000, this day has been gratefully accepted in the e-commerce industry. It has been ringing the tills ever since. After all, November 11 is also conveniently located, in the seasonal dip in consumption before the Chinese New Year – or in our case: Christmas.

Radio SRF 2 culture, 100 seconds of knowledge, 11/11/2022, 6:54 a.m.

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