Young Vietnamese walk into blind dating scene with eyes open

By Thanh Nga, Ngoc Ngan   June 14, 2024 | 05:30 am PT
Despite more than 10 failed matchmaking attempts, Anh Thu remains hopeful and continues to go on blind dates in the hope of finally meeting her perfect match.

Every weekend during the past year the 27-year-old from Hanoi's Thanh Xuan District has been going to a local café that organizes blind dating events for VND300,000-1,000,000($11.8-$39.3).

At the coffee shop, which seems to take the "blind" part seriously, she is blindfolded and randomly sat with a man for a 30-minute conversation.

If either finds the other uninteresting, they can change partners. Otherwise, they take off their blindfolds. Thu has also been part of numerous matchmaking arrangements made by her family.

They were traditional matchmaking events, planned by her parents or acquaintances, and required formal attire and deference to social norms.

"Rejecting someone you meet through matchmaking puts the family in a very awkward situation," Thu explains. "I like to express my true personality freely on dates with strangers."

Anh Thu on a trip to Japan. Photo provided by Thu

Anh Thu on a trip to Japan. Photo provided by Thu

She says she feels comfortable confiding in strangers, especially in the relatively safe and open setting at the cafés surrounded by people similar to her.

She admits she probably has too high standards, which have caused all her attempts to fail.

She recounts meeting humorous but immature men and older but unromantic dates who expected her to lead. "Still, blind dates remain my preferred way to find a boyfriend. Even if I don't find love, it's still enjoyable."

Quynh Dan, 29, of Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, was almost shattered after being betrayed by her boyfriend.

"It took me a whole year to heal and move on, thanks to conversations and dates with strangers," she says.

At a blind dating event she met someone compatible, caring, gentle, willing to listen to her, and not insisting on quickly starting a romantic relationship.

"We have been talking for almost half a year now. We still care for each other like in a romantic relationship, though we are not officially dating. He's waiting for me to be ready."

A study by VnExpress last year found a thriving dating scene at coffee shops and pubs in Hanoi and HCMC, with dozens of such establishments organizing them.

Interested people send their personal information to the organizers to arrange suitable dates.

Some owners say the number of people signing up for these blind dating events has soared, with 60-80% being young people.

Nguyen Thi Dao Luu, a psychologist and lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Van Lang University, says these events are popular because blind dates meet young people’s need for random matchmaking and dating.

"Not everyone, especially young people, has ample opportunities for a lot of social interaction."

As a result, she says, blind dates have become the choice of many who lack the skills to make friends, socialize or strike up relationships.

Experts warn of the risk of solicitation for sex at such events given the blurred boundaries and difficulty in controlling them.

In early June a coffee shop in HCMC’s District 1 sparked controversy by installing one-way mirrors inspired by a Japanese model. It allows male customers to observe women but not vice versa. The low seating area for the men was particularly controversial.

A blind date in Hanoi. Photo by Thanh Nga

A blind date in Hanoi. Photo by Thanh Nga

Mai Huyen once found herself in a difficult situation during a blind date at a pub in HCMC’s District 1. She had prepared all week for it.

But upon entering the place, she found it was dimly lit, murky and seemingly unsafe. "The male guests were visibly drunk and speaking rudely; I had to leave before anything unsavory happened."

Luu the psychologist points out that dating strangers has never been completely safe, and in fact is dicey.

"It takes a long period of interaction to fully understand someone's character, and so one can never be too cautious."

She advises against sharing personal information with strangers, says people should be mindful of dating locations and cutting off all contact if someone makes you uncomfortable.

Having heard that a café in District 1 organizes blind dates and male guests are required to cover all expenses, Pham Chi, 23, decided to give it a try, but was taken aback at seeing a price list in front: VND180,000 for one hour of conversation during the matchmaking, VND300,000 for three hours of unlimited conversation, VND1 million for three days ...

Chi felt that by visiting this place, where love could be bought with money, she had compromised her self-esteem. "I will go back to using dating apps where, if I like someone, I can choose to meet them," she said. "This way, I can maintain my initiative and autonomy."

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