Either out of boredom or a general interest in the dating culture abroad, I decided to rekindle my relationship with Bumble and Tinder. It’s been a complicated relationship and I have a long history with both, but I rejoined and decided to classify it as “research.” I changed my bio to include the catchy “a broad abroad” and started swiping. My tactic, mainly out of the fear that messaging first with a pun will scare anyone away, was to wait for the message first. Bumble is inherently different than Tinder, but to make up for the difference, I’ve made it an experiment this time to send the same “Star Wars” GIF to each match, in an attempt to break the ice and allow them to respond. So far that has been wildly successful. I’d like to believe that “Star Wars” is universal.
One of the first things you notice when you start swiping through these apps is the almost unreal amount of people that you can match with who aren’t from London. A testament to the diversity in London itself, these dating apps are a good representation of all the different places its inhabitants hail from. There are students studying abroad from other countries, people who grew up in nearby towns and people who moved away from home to live here. Living in Europe is like that — in any given country or any given city, you’re going to find great representations of people from all over the world, speaking many languages and willing to share their stories.
One difference I’ve noticed is that European boys tend to be more interested in getting to know you, where you’re from and where you’ve been. They love to talk about the different places they’ve traveled and love to list the different states they’ve been to. As a New Yorker, I love to hear the enthusiasm that surrounds Times Square, although somehow I can never seem to sympathize with it. As an American, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I’m liking life “across the pond.” I’m unsure if I ever want to hear that phrase again. They ask me my thoughts on Donald Trump, Brexit and sometimes “Harry Potter.” Somehow I’ve managed to avoid talks about my favorite football club, as I’ve tried to avoid the barrage of questioning that comes with being a Manchester United fan.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that they’re generally forward, but not in the crass way that I’ve experienced in America. They’re quick to offer a nice dinner, a walk or coffee because it seems like they want to get to know you. They also love to message first, which aids in dissuading my fear of saying the wrong thing. The messages I’ve received have ranged from the themed, “America! Love the accent!” to the bizarre, many of which are unsuitable to be printed, some of which are weirdly patriotic. This weekend a boy in Milan started with the sentimental “love you” while another went for overwhelmingly sweet, “I thought you were cute until I found out you were American.” I sent a carefully worded response and never heard from him again. Rudeness can also be universal.
Although I know that Tinder and Bumble are temporary platforms, especially since I will be leaving in two short months, they’ve been fun to use to try and understand the cultural differences that exist here and in the other countries that I have visited. Sometimes, senses of humor do not match up, neither do word spellings or punctuation marks. Sometimes they just end their sentences with a simple “x” and add the letter “u” where I think it doesn’t belong. Some people are too crass and too forward, some get offended often and some you forget to respond to. The instant casino gratification of matching and the ability of people to match with add to this passivity. If there is anything to be comforted by, it’s that no one really knows how any of this works. Which is to say that like many things in life, except for taxes, it should never be taken too seriously.