Dating is complicated. Dating in the city is complicated and exhausting.
We’re all so busy with our lives these days, from managing our careers to meeting social obligations, that trying to find time for ourselves is nearly impossible. Forget about finding the time to date! So when I was asked if I’d like to try out EastMeetEast (an Asian dating site) and write a review1, I thought “What do I have to lose?”
Hi, I’m Jen2 and I’m really bad at the dating game.
As a writer, I find myself holed up in my apartment most of the time. Sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop for a change of scenery but even then, I’ll have my earphones in lest I be distracted by the conversations around me. In other words, I spend a lot of time by myself.
It’s difficult to meet people in the city. Or at least, quality people with whom I might actually want to spend some time.
Everyone seems to be doing some form of online dating these days (“swipe right” and “swipe left” have become common phrases in daily conversation) and I’ve heard plenty of success stories, including from within my own circle of friends. For me, there’s still a weird stigma attached to online dating, but I decided to put that aside (all for the sake of research!) and sign up for EastMeetEast (EME).
EastMeetEast is advertised as the “#1 dating site for Asian urban singles”. I can see how this is appealing, whether you’re Asian-American or someone who emigrated here later on in life (like me). I’ve dated non-Asian men before and have had perfectly fine relationships, but I understand the appeal of wanting to date another Asian person. There’s an innate understanding of a culture that isn’t often understood by Westerners (or at least not without some explanation).
And then, of course, there’s the relatability factor. I moved to the US in my early teens (oh hey, adolescence), and it was devastating to leave behind the friends I’d had since childhood. It's always nice to find people who experienced something similar. Luckily, I grew up studying English, so language wasn’t an obstacle for me, but people still spoke to me like I had a hearing problem. (Fellow Asians, you know what I’m talking about.)
So, here’s a quick rundown of things you should know about EME:
The sign-up process is relatively painless. You basically provide all of the info that you want to include in your dating profile, such as your interests, body type, faith, and education. One of the nice details about EastMeetEast is that you can also include info like the age you came to the US (or Canada, or wherever) and the languages you speak (Cantonese, Malay, or Tamil, for example).
Something I noticed is that, although EME is advertised as an Asian dating website for people in North America, they give you a whole list of countries to select from when filling out your profile. So, I guess I could be (for example) a Vietnamese woman in Poland. Or Egypt. Or Costa Rica.
Wait, make that an African-American (or Middle Eastern, Native American, or Caucasian) woman in Poland because the ethnicity selection isn’t limited to Asia, either.
(Perhaps EME isn't JUST Asians for Asians...?)
Then I uploaded a photo and sat back. My profile was complete. What should I do next?
I decided to poke around the site’s dashboard. The UI is simple and makes the site easy to navigate. There are separate sections for messages, smiles, and visitors, and a little notification badge appears if you’ve received any of these. There’s also a “favorites” page, where you can save profiles that you like for quick viewing later on.
It’s easy to edit the info in your profile and change or upload photos. There’s also a profile strength meter that clues you in on how compelling your profile is. Mine is currently at 40% or “Maybe I’d check you out”. I’m still receiving a decent number of smiles and messages, though, so it seems I’m doing alright, even at 40%. (Tell that to my mother.)
Although the US and Canada are the main countries, you can search for singles in tons of other places. I took a look at Australia, Finland, Switzerland, and the UK, and sure enough, there were plenty of Asian guys waiting to make a connection. Curious, I then searched in various cities - Seattle, Vancouver, Houston, Chicago, Melbourne - to see what came up. Ladies, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Then, I focused on the NYC area. There were Filipinos, Taiwanese, Japanese, Cambodian, Thai, Chinese. Guys from Hong Kong, Laos, Vietnam…It was dizzying.
But by using the extensive search function, I was able to apply very specific filters that helped narrow down the list. When I searched for guys who spoke English, Mandarin, and/or Cantonese and who had arrived in the US at 15 years of age or younger, I was able to thin out the crowd.
Suddenly, my phone pinged with an email notification. “You’ve been smiled at! Hi Jen, someone liked your profile and has smiled at you…”
I quickly jumped back to the site to look at the “Smiles” section. When someone “smiles” at you, it’s a subtle “Hey, I think you’re cute and maybe we can strike up a conversation”. If you’re interested, just “smile” back and then you’ll receive an email saying that there’s a mutual match. From there, you can start messaging each other to see if there’s a connection and see where it goes.
In addition to checking out the people who have smiled at you, you can also see who's visited your profile in the “Visitors” section. My admirers seemed to be within +/- 10 years of my age. Among the guys who smiled at me were a DJ, an accountant, a graphic designer/animator, someone in construction, and a physical therapist.
Unsure if I wanted to start making connections right away, I held off on responding.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
More email alerts letting me know that someone had smiled at me. I couldn’t help but feel a small boost in confidence, even though I knew that some of these guys probably smiled at every woman who signed up. (By the way, you can disable the email alerts if you’re not about that instant gratification.)
And then I began to receive actual messages.
There were a few bland “Hi, how are you?” one-liners. (Booooring. If you’re going to strike up a conversation, add a little flavor, please!). But there were also some pretty decent ones. One guy seemed like a great prospect…until he used “it’s” instead of “its”. Sorry, but proper grammar and spelling are pretty important to me. If we already know each other and you make a typo, that’s one thing. But if you’re writing something that’s going to be my first impression of you, you better damn well take the time to make sure it’s properly written. (#sorrynotsorry)
As far as Asian dating sites go, EastMeetEast seems pretty solid and is a great way to dip your toe into the online dating pool. I’m surprisingly pleased about having access to a dating site that caters specifically to the Asian and Asian-American communities.
What have I learned? That there's a hell of a lot of single Asian folk out there, and not just in the major cities like NYC and LA. (Say hi, Houston and Atlanta! Shout out to Portland!)
As for my dating game? Well, I did smile at this one guy...
Reader, he smiled back and after a few chats online, I’ve decided to meet him for coffee.
Next, I’ll be writing a review on the EME mobile app, so stay tuned! Let’s see what it’s like to do online dating on-the-go!