Dating Without Borders

What happened when one writer dates her way through three continents

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Why let a little thing like geography get in the way of true romance? What if  Mr Right, Mr Right Now or your new best-friend-with-benefits happens to live thousands of miles away in California, or Australia, or Japan? Lisa Reich explores the new, far-flung dating frontiers. What happens next will surprise you.

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The world used to be such a big place, but the internet has made it tiny. From sites such as match.com to newer apps like Happn (that man you just walked past in the street? He could be yours), it feels like there’s never been a better time to date.

And the big headline hitter is Tinder Passport. It launched this year and in terms of love (and hooking up, if you want to be cynical), the possibilities suddenly seem endless. ‘Nowadays people travel constantly, and a common problem users tell us about is that by the time they actually get a match and get to see the person, their trip is practically over. They want to swipe before they get there,’ says Tinder CEO and co-founder Sean Rad (who is, for the record, handsome and single). By the laws of probability, wherever you go on your travels, there are Tinder users waiting for you, so you have to think big – you can fall in love anywhere in the world.

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I’ve spent thousands of pounds on dating websites and matchmaking services. I persisted even after eharmony.co.uk informed me that there were no matches for me. The problem with mulling over ‘personality-based’ set-ups is that you ignore the snap decision and try to look beyond the immediate. I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve, my laptop and the soles of my shoes, and it’s taken a beating.

While living in London, I’ve had some truly, spectacularly awful dates. Pocket Dave: said he was 5ft 10in, was 5ft 4in. Maybe the clue was in the title. I didn’t mind that as much as I minded the fact he wanted to ‘cut to the chase’ before I’d even finished my first drink.

Then there was the guy from match.com who turned up at the restaurant in a blouson leather jacket and an unbuttoned turquoise shirt, bought me two expensive cocktails, popped to the gents’ quickly and didn’t come back.

The best date ever was with a man called Dan, who lied about where he lived – which was Milan, not London. Still, he said, why let a little thing like that stop us, and flew me over. We had an amazing weekend. The earth moved, I finally realised what all the fuss was about, sex-wise, and it was just like a film. But this was his thing, he said: a series of wonderful weekends, not a relationship. He was honest, I was heartbroken and on the journey back to the airport, I discovered he was a man who was terrified of women’s tears.

Disastrous as it was, the Dan affair reminded me that there is a whole world out there for me to search. I may not have made it work with London, but look at the map! Look at the world! It’s enormous and, thanks to the internet, loads of it is accessible and potentially stuffed with single men. And yes, I’m willing to invest time into finding me a perfect man, wherever in the world he may be. I’m the mountain, and I’m more than happy to make the journey to wherever it is my Muhammad happens to be.

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And so my adventure begins. I’m going global. To find out which city he is most likely to hail from, I research the top dating sites and apps for each city, then join them all – match.com, eharmony.co.uk, pof.com (Plenty of Fish), okcupid.com, Tinder and rsvp.com.au. To gauge my success rate, I will chart my unsolicited winks or favourites, and work out what percentage is positive (my hit rate). My travels may be virtual – no passport or suitcase required – but my commitment to finding love is very real. All I need is a computer, an open mind and a little faith.

New York

Expectation
Pof.com’s top data scientist tells me New York men fall mainly into three camps: weekend warrior (likes drink, money, and women); eternal optimist (considers himself happy, fulfilled) or artistic (into art, photography and cerebral pursuits).

Experience
There are 200,000 more single women than single men in the Big Apple. I’ve never been competitive and, while I love New York, she can keep her men. To date in New York, you have to invest a lot of time and always be superbly put together. I don’t have the former, and my dog tends to be better groomed than I am these days.

Hit rate
37%

My favourite New York singleton
Max78

Him: What’re you doing tonight?

Me: I’m actually in London, so watching Emmerdale probably. Sorry : )

Him: I know that show! So get on a plane, I’ll meet you at Brass Monkey in Meatpacking, 10pm. You know where that is, right?

Me: I’m in *London*.

Him: So what? It’s close, right? Few hours? I’ll buy dinner and I’m a great lay(over) LOL.

Do…
Expect to work hard for your dollar: competition is fierce. ‘NYC men have an entitlement issue when it comes to women because they have the advantage,’ says my friend Lydya, who lives and dates in the Big Apple. ‘To date here, you need to work it.’

Don’t…
Go in with the expectation that you’ll meet The One. Dating in New York can be fun, if you limit your expectations. It can happen, and it does. If you like to meet tons of new people and date five men a week, then go for it. Me, I’m not going to do well here.

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Verdict
I’ll always love New York, but not as a place to date. It’s too ruthless for me.

Lessons learned
Hard work, but you’ll be glad you did it. Not for romantic types with fantasies of bumping into your dream man while reaching for the same non-fat muffin.

Melbourne

Expectation
There are some beautiful men here, so I don’t think I’m going to do well – I’m not clean living or positive enough. Too much smiling makes me depressed. I join top Aussie dating site rsvp.com.au, and focus my attention on the hip Melbourne suburb of St Kilda.

Experience
Have I struck gold? I’m so popular. I wake to 12 messages, three of which I read. I could have really gone for GoneBoy222, but he sussed me out in email number three and wrote, ‘Listen, you don’t sound Australian. What’s your game?’

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Hit rate
41%

My favourite Australian singleton
AndyRStrikes111

Me: Thanks for the wink.

Him: That’s it?

Me: Just wanted to say thanks, and maybe Strikes up a conversation (excuse the pun).

Him: Eh? So, you about later?

Me: No small talk?

Him: Time-waster alert…

Me: Probably.

Him: [De-favourites me.]

Do…
Select photos that are natural and fun – no posey ones. Have a sense of humour. Melbourne men have a reputation for being direct and attractive but I find that some also have an antenna for anything less than 100% genuine, which is at once reassuring and terrifying. They’re proactive, not into time-wasting (ie prolonged messaging when you could be talking in person), so if you’re like me and prefer to have exchanged at least 20 messages before you even talk about actually meeting, then you will need to reconsider your tactics.

Don’t…
Faff about with long emails. They want to see the goods in person pretty soon after establishing you like each other.

Verdict
I think I’m drawn to Australian men because they’re quite similar to the Welsh: rugby-obsessed, outdoorsy, big, strapping, manly… But it seems the ones I really like aren’t that fussed about me.

Lessons learned
The opposite of New York. See something you like? Grab it with both hands and don’t by shy. Aussie men can’t be bothered with witty banter: it’s all about the chemistry. If you spot a man you like, don’t bother with the winking, the liking and the hints that you’re interested. Write to him and say, ‘I like the cut of your jib, you free tonight?’

Cardiff

Expectation
I know this sounds horrible, seeing as I’m Welsh, but I had low expectations. Historically, I have never fancied a Welsh man – except for Tom Jones.

Experience
After joining via match.com, I give it a day to see if there are any potentials. My hopes are dashed. These men are punching way above their weight. The ones who’ve winked and messaged are almost exclusively balding over-50s with hairy chests who take selfies of themselves sitting up in bed with a sated smile on their faces.

Hit rate
67%

My favourite Cardiffian singleton
WantRugbyUnion

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Him: Where you from, butt?

Me: *Butt*?

Him: Welsh for mate, butt. LOL.

Me: Oh. So you’re looking for a mate?

Him: In the man-woman sense, like. If she speaks Welsh, likes rugby and has an arse like any one of them Kardashi-wotsit sisters, I’ll bloody marry her on the spot.

Do…
Be up for some sharp verbal jousting, but don’t try to impress as they’ll just laugh at you. Be aware that while in many cities it’s normal to complain about where you live, Welsh men are fiercely patriotic. And to say that rugby is mportant to them isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.

Don’t…
Expect an emotional one-to-one. Lots of Welsh men feel deeply but prefer to save the tears for when their team loses badly or wins the Five Nations. You’ll know when a Cardiff boy is flirting with you by how much he makes fun of you. So if you’re sensitive, brace yourself. 

Verdict
The only ones that like me look like seasoned swingers.

Lessons learned
Have a sense of humour, and stop taking it all so seriously. They don’t.

LA

Expectation
Zero. I like LA but consider it the antithesis of my personality. I’m a hermit, intimidated by really glamorous, outgoing, happy, beautiful people, and just too grumpy for this city.

Experience
As I filled out my profile on okcupid.com, I knew this was going to be an epic fail. I posted the photos of myself I liked the least and put minimal effort into selling myself (and that’s what online dating is ultimately about). A negative approach, but if you don’t put 100% into something, you don’t feel so bad when you do fail, do you? Imagine my shock/horror/morbid curiosity when I checked my account 48 hours later and saw I had 21 messages, more than 200 views and 84 winks – it just compounded my theory that LA men are weirdos. I spent the next two days being shocked by how wrong I was.

Hit rate
74%

My favourite LA singleton
YoSaurusRex

Him: Hey you, how are ya?

Me: Bit grumpy. You?

Him: I’m just admiring how cute
you are. Grumpy, huh? Really?

Me: Quite, 90% of the
time, anyway.

Him: I’m 70%, so we match.
I kinda think we should play…

Me: Play what? Chess? Scrabble?
Top Trumps?

Him: Wow, you play chess? I’m totally up
for that. When were you thinking?

Do…
Feel the fear and do it anyway. My brazen attitude to dating in LA clearly paid off.

Don’t…
Allow your own hang-ups to skew your perspective of how you might be perceived.

Verdict
I start exchanging messages with YoSaurusRex. I think he’s too young for me. He’s 25 and I’m not. He is, I think, beautiful. He makes me feel… I don’t know, just feel. So I don’t write to him for five days and he sends me a short message to say he’s worried about me and could I just say ‘hey’ so he knows I’m OK. He adds he can’t wait to meet me, and I believe him.

Lessons learned
I’m a dating snob and I have no right to be. I dismissed LA men as being pretty baubles: fabulous fakers with ridiculously specific types. And then I realised that description fitted me better than any of them.

And so I’ve learned a valuable lesson during the course of my research. I’ve been looking for love in the wrong places. And by that I don’t mean bars or museums, I mean countries. This epiphany hasn’t exactly filled me with hope though. Instead, I think I have a new condition I’m going to coin ‘dating agoraphobia’. My inner hermit is pleading with me to shut Pandora’s box. I’m half-listening. Then I’ve got StupidCupid_2015 whispering in my other ear, ‘But what if? What if?’

 I suppose it can’t hurt to look at flights to LA, can it? I mean, what have I got to lose? And what if… well, let’s leave it at ‘what if’.

 

Words: Lisa Reich

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