Guest Post: Single and Abroad? Here’s What You Need to Know About Dating Apps in China

If you’re single in China — and interested in using dating apps to meet people — this guest post is for you. Nicolas Chan, a communications professional based in Shanghai, gives you the scoop on dating apps in China.

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These days, dating and sexuality in China are big news. HIV, sex education and abortion were at the forefront of last November’s popular Economist article “Dream of the Bed Chamber.” But there’s also a softer side of the story, as described in an article published last month by 1843, the Economist’s new culture and lifestyle publication.

In “Whan, Bam, Tantan,” 1843 journalist Alec Ash describes China’s changing attitudes toward dating and casual sex – spurred on in part by an explosion of Chinese dating apps.

As a foreigner living and working in China, I’m intimately familiar with the apps that Ash describes. I’ve met locals on Tantan, wooed fellow expats on Tinder, and tried my best to meet that special someone on the overwhelming large, multi-faceted Momo.

Dating apps in China might resemble their Western counterparts, but the rules of engagement can be completely different.

In Western countries, Tinder is a popular tool for one-time hookups. In China, however, this is not the case. As Ash explains in 1843, Tinder is linked to Facebook, which just so happens to be banned in China – giving the app little foothold in the mainland. Instead, mobile users looking to make a connection will choose Tantan. And when I say “connection,” I’m not being euphemistic. Few online daters in China are after one-night stand. They want a new friend, or a basketball partner, or even a spouse – especially if they are one of China’s more than 20 million single men.

The way in which men and women interact on dating apps is also different than foreigners might expect. Women in China rarely describe themselves on an app or post lifestyle pictures that offer insight into their hobbies or interests. Instead, they opt for touched-up selfies and a blank profile – the idea being that if a guy is interested, he’ll make the effort to learn more.

Indeed, he probably will. The plethora of single men in China is a result of sex-selective abortions in the 20th century, and dating apps offer an exciting new avenue for these “bare branches” to find a partner. I’ve looked at far fewer men’s than women’s dating profiles, but I have no doubt that the 1843 article is correct in its findings that men on dating apps in China try to overcome the gender gap by exaggerating their salaries or showing off their flat or car.

Whatever you’re looking to get from your dating app experience in China, I recommend keeping an open mind. Dating apps are a great way to make friends from different industries and different walks of life. Just remember that if you’re on the app, there’s a good chance someone you know will be on it too – so if you don’t want your office mates gossiping about your dating profile, don’t post anything that would make Betty in Marketing blush.

Nicolas Chan is a communications professional based in Shanghai. In this guest article he takes us on a tour of the local dating landscape and offers pointers to those hoping to ‘swipe right’ in China.

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