I think it’s pretty safe to say that Tinder has garnered a bit of a “bad rep” amongst some communities. For those who stand firmly behind the “old-fashioned” way of meeting people and for those who care more about the quality of their interactions vs. the quantity, Tinder can come off a bit, um … aggressive. That’s one way to put it. Well, coming from someone who was never into online dating, I’m here to tell you that there are “other” ways to use Tinder, because I’m a part of one of the few real success stories that have come about despite the countless subpar connections made via the app.
For the record, I had never used Tinder prior to the instance in the story I’m about to tell, or any dating app for that matter really. I used Bumble once, and by “used” I mean my friend made an account for me and I forgot about it until someone told my sister they saw my profile and she relayed the message to me. Curious, I found the app in my phone and clicked on it. I proceeded to do a minimal amount of swiping around. I matched with someone and promptly deleted the app from my phone after passing my info along to him. We went on a couple dates, but alas, I didn’t feel the fire I need to feel in a relationship. When that ended, I had zero desire to replicate the experience with someone else. I saw nothing wrong with online dating if that was what someone was comfortable with, but it just wasn’t my thing.
Before I tell this story I want to disclaimer by saying that I don’t necessarily feel as though my personal experiences in other countries paint an accurate picture of the country and its inhabitants as a whole, they are merely personal anecdotes, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
Fast forward to my trip around Europe last July with my good friend Joma. We hadn’t had the best experience during our first stop in Paris. We found the locals that we interacted with to be a bit aloof, with no interest in making us feel welcome. London was our second stop, and once we got to the bar next to our hotel, our experience was the polar opposite. People smiled at us, they cracked witty jokes as we ordered drinks, and they weren’t hesitant to initiate conversation. Immediately, our trip took a turn for the positive and we felt compelled to socialize. Shortly thereafter, Joma told me a story about how some of her colleagues made a group Tinder profile to meet locals while they were traveling in Japan and Brazil, and they ended up finding lifelong friends. I added that I had once heard of another group of friends doing the same thing while traveling as well. She suggested we give it a shot so that we could have locals show us the way around town and capitalize on a more authentic experience. I excitedly agreed.
To clarify, why this use of Tinder is different from the typical way people use it, is because 1. it’s a group, so it completely alleviates the pressure of a “date” or any one-on-one interactions, 2. it makes it clear that you’re just there to hang out and meet locals (you can indicate this in your profile description), and 3. you’re in a different country, so in the unfortunate event that you meet people you’d rather never see again, the likelihood is, you won’t.
We made our Tinder profile, indicated that we were open to meeting men and women, posted photos of the two of us together, and explicitly stated that we were two San Franciscans in town for 4 days and we were looking to hang with locals to get an insider look into London. We got to swiping. It felt weird for the both of us because she had never done it before and I only had the one extremely short-lived experience on Bumble. We matched with a few people quickly but we continued to swipe for a bit. While there were a few interesting prospects, none of them quite hit all the marks that we knew would lead to meaningful interactions. Finally, we stumbled upon Emil. His profile radiated good energy (it’s pretty interesting how much you can tell about someone by the way they choose to present themselves online these days), so when we matched with him, we decided to send him a message. We got to chatting, and it turned out he was DJ’ing with some of his friends at a venue not too far from where we were staying. Perfect!
We got dressed and made our way to Shoreditch, passing a number of nightlife venues that looked rather lively. I found myself feeling a bit anxious because I thought Emil was really attractive on his profile. I was hoping he was the same way in person as he seemed online, and that he wasn’t a total douchebag. We can spot those from a mile away anyway. When we got to the bar, we immediately made eye contact with him and he greeted us warmly with hugs. He then proceeded to introduce us to his friends, one of whom looked down at my hand when I gestured for a handshake, motioned me to put it away and said, “We don’t do handshakes here, come on in for a hug.”
I’ll never forget that. Those are the kinds of interactions and warm welcomes that leave a mark on you for years to come. Emil and all of his friends were so fun, so kind, and the rest of the night was filled with dancing, great conversations, and endless laughter. We got along with them so well, that we ended up seeing them every day for the rest of our time in London. Joma and I both left London wholeheartedly satisfied with our experiences there. It was time well spent, exploring the city the way locals do, and building friendships that would last a lifetime. Luckily for me, Emil also found me attractive, so he met us in Nice, France after we left London, and well … he’s my boyfriend now. Yes, I’m in a long-distance relationship with a guy I met on Tinder in London. Crazy, I know. But it’s been so well worth it.
It’s important to note that the takeaway from this story is NOT “thanks to Tinder you’re going to meet a really attractive person with a sexy accent in some random country and fall in love”; what happened to me won’t happen to everyone (although it might). 😉 What IS important to take away is that when you take a shot at authentic, real, and meaningful interactions, you’ll likely walk away with lasting friendships (maybe even intimate relationships), no matter where you are in the world. I still would have been 100% happy with my London experience even if the feeling with Emil wasn’t mutual, because in my opinion, the bottom line is the friendships are what you should be aiming for. The rest is an afterthought.
That said, here are 5 Do’s and 5 Don’t’s for Tindering abroad (or Tindering in general in some cases):
- 1. Make it 100% clear that you’re there to make friends. Anything further should happen organically after a true friendship is established.
- Take the time to really look into who you might potentially be meeting up with, not only in the interest of seeking quality interactions, but also for your own safety.
- Chat with them first. If you like how they present themselves via chat, you’re much more likely to like how they are in person.
- Make sure to meet in public places, especially at first. It eases tension and ensures safety.
- Exit the situation promptly if you feel at all uneasy.
- Go for the guys or girls with excessive amounts of vain selfies on their profile. I’m not speaking for everyone, but the likelihood is they’ll be more preoccupied with themselves than they will be with showing you a good time.
- Meet with strangers at their house unless it’s a group setting, and even then, do some SERIOUS vetting. Not only can this unintentionally incite more aggressive behavior, but it can send mixed signals.
- Agree to meet people too late in the night, as this can also send mixed signals. Besides, you need to be rested for all your adventuring around while traveling.
- Meet with anyone alone. I get it, we’re all adults here and we can do what we want. But be smart about it. We have a much better read on people after a few interactions with them. Don’t meet anyone alone unless you really trust them.
- Go into any meetup in search of an intimate relationship. The best things happen when you least expect them, and when you aren’t looking.
So you see, Tinder can be a great tool for meeting people, if you know how to use it properly. Just like all of life, Tinder is what you make it. So if you have anymore shitty experiences on dating apps, blame it less on the app, take accountability, and use it as an opportunity to examine not only the types people you’re attracted to, but the types of people you’re attracting. Be open to the irreplaceable memories that can come about from traveling and meeting amazing people while you do. After all, we humans are wired for connection. Who knows, maybe you’ll try it out and come back and tell me you had the same amazing experience I did. I hope you do! Just remember, quality friendships first, everything else second.
The rest is browser history. 😉