What It's Like Dating In Three Asian Cities
As a Philippine-born Chinese, I’ve spent most of my life living abroad. Before moving to New York, I was in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Manila. These experiences have shown me some of the cultural differences in how people date and how technology has influenced our lives.
In my early 30s, I lived in Hong Kong and wanted to settle down. But at that time, work took up so much of my life that I barely managed to socialize with friends, let alone find love. Some friends assured me online dating was the way to go, so I caved in.
Truth be told, I wasn’t open to online dating at first. I found it weird meeting strangers from the internet. I also felt daunted by the fact that some men can be opportunists. But as fate would have it, I met a guy who checked all the boxes. We dated for three years before he proposed, and now are happily married.
Online Dating in Hong Kong
Online dating, as we know, is hit-or-miss. In Hong Kong it’s particularly challenging because there is a large gap between the number of men and women. According to statistics released by Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, in 2019, the ratio between women and men aged between 30 and 34 was 329,000 to 227,700.
Like New Yorkers, Hong Kongers live busy and frantic lives. Working professionals often have unlimited data and are connected to the internet 24/7. Accessing dating sites and apps like Coffee Meets Bagel, OkCupid, Tinder and Bumble is so easy that it has become the new normal for meeting people. When I lived there, we used our phones to buffer the anxiety of meeting someone new. Online dating is prevalent especially among expats, foreigners and western-educated locals.
Online Dating in Shanghai
Meanwhile, Shanghai, one of China’s first-tier cities, is different. When I lived there from 2004 to 2009, online dating wasn’t huge yet. Finding love sometimes even happened through the “marriage market”, where Chinese parents display photos of their adult child at parks on weekends hoping to attract the parents of other singles.
But as technology became increasingly accessible over the past decade, so did Chinese online dating services, such as Jiayuan and Baihe. Millennials moved on from unsuccessful blind dates set up by their parents and expanded their dating pool in hopes of finding love. In contrast to Western dating apps that are commonly associated with a casual “hook-up” dating culture, Chinese online dating services are typically used by singles who are in search of lasting relationships and possibly marriage.
Online Dating in Manila
In the Philippines, people traditionally frown upon meeting someone through the internet. As someone who grew up in a conservative family, I often have to conform to strict rules so I am not criticized or judged by society. The rules may vary from one family to another, but most traditional families still prefer their child to meet a partner through someone they know.
Among young people, that has largely changed; Chinese Filipinos, AKA Filipinos of Chinese descent, as well as millennials, have become more open to finding their partner online. There’s Kaysiao.com and some Facebook Groups where you can meet single Chinese Filipinos. Some favor US online dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble.
However, I find there’s still a stigma in dating online in the Philippines, since it’s a Catholic country. Chinese and Filipino cultures are quite similar in that they place more emphasis on what other people say rather than what their heart feels.
I’m probably one of the few people who’ve successfully met someone online. And what I learned from this experience is that sometimes we need to take risks in life. I’m happy to have tried it. If I hadn’t, I may still be single right now.