Young Vietnamese turn to dating apps to seek relationships

By Bao Ngoc, Dat Nguyen   May 16, 2019 | 10:58 pm PT
Young Vietnamese turn to dating apps to seek relationships
Tinder and other online dating apps are gaining popularity among young Vietnamese. Photo by Shutterstock/BigTunaOnline
An increasing number of Vietnamese are turning to online dating apps to look for their future partner.

When Quynh first heard about Tinder, she was not convinced it would actually work, but downloaded it anyway out of curiosity.

The app allows users to browse through thousands of profiles to find an interesting one. If two people are matched, they can start an online conversation.

Sitting with a group of single friends at a weekend party recently after a busy week, Quynh heard the story of a man and a woman sitting next to each other at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi when they were matched by the app. They went on to become a couple.

"It sounded too good to be true, but I didn’t know many men at school and office, so I wanted to give it a try," the 25-year-old, who works for an NGO in the capital, said. On the first day she was matched with over 50 people.

Quynh is not alone. Many of her friends are also active on Tinder and other apps such as Grindr and Bumble. "It would be hard to find a young adult who has never heard of online dating apps these days," she said.

Hai, a 28-year-old government worker from the northern coastal city of Hai Phong, said he has chatted with hundreds of people since starting to use dating apps in 2013.

"It’s so easy to start a conversation with someone without prior background information, and you can do that not with just one but many."

In a rapidly growing economy where people are buried under work and surrounded by smart devices, Quynh and Hai are among the increasing number of young Vietnamese who are turning to online dating apps as a quick and easy solution to find real-life relationships.

Dating apps are believed to be an ideal solution for young people surrounded by smart devices. Photo by Shutterstock/XuanHuongHo

Dating apps are believed to be an ideal solution for young people surrounded by smart devices. Photo by Shutterstock/XuanHuongHo

While many Vietnamese parents still like their children to get married "in time," young adults are opting to get married later as they prioritize education and careers ahead of a family life. Most youth in their country make their own decisions on finding a partner, and do not subject themselves to parents' matchmaking efforts, although parental approval still plays a role in marriages. 

Dating apps have stepped in as a convenient option for people busy with career responsibilities. Phung, 28, a staff at a media company in Hanoi where the majority of employees are women, said: "There aren’t a lot of opportunities for me to find my significant other. Most people I know talk a lot about dating apps, so I signed up for an account, just for fun at first."

But what initially was "just for fun" led to something more serious when she was matched with an American. He became her boyfriend four days after they first met at a popular egg coffee place. Together they went to her friend’s wedding, movies and her parent’s place.

"I came to the app without much expectation, but the guy I was matched with created a big impression in me."

Psychiatris La Thi Buoi said dating apps offer a new and exciting experience to young people who are looking for unusual diversions from their regular routine.

"Young Vietnamese now want more freedom in their decisions. Whether they seriously look for relationships or just to browse through interesting profiles, dating apps give them the freedom they need." 

That freedom is what Hai desires. His friends and family introduced potential partners to him, but he found the traditional process awkward and uncomfortable, while the app offered a new way to get to know someone.

"People seem to be more open when I meet them through apps as they do this by choice, not compulsion."

There are an estimated 10 million single people in Vietnam. Facebook recently introduced its own dating function in the country, seeking to leverage its 58 million users, the seventh highest in the world.

But a dating app does not guarantee a serious relationship. Psychologist La Linh Nga said that though an app could be a great way to establish new relationships, many people, especially men, tend to use it for sexual purposes.

"I have women patients reporting that their matches touched them or expressed their desire for sex. The girls were disappointed and shocked."

Some people treat these apps like a game and create a variety of profiles for themselves, she added.

Quynh said there were times when she was "addicted" to checking hundreds of profiles a day, only to be matched with men who directly or indirectly suggested they meet for sex.

"The half-naked photos, shallow descriptions and boring conversations led me to delete the app. Most of the people I found on Tinder looked for one-night stands. It is not a place for a girl who still believes in fairy tales."

Phung, who found the American boyfriend through an app, still uses the app, but with lowered expectations. 

Their relationship ended recently. Though their journey together began with the assistance of a digital matchmaker, they had to face all the challenges of a normal couple: fighting, compromising and breaking up.

"A dating app cannot automatically solve all your relationship problems. That is in your hands."

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