Left. Right. Left.
Wait, Chocolate! Hard swipe right.
It’s a celebratory expat day in Bali. I’ve just secured a coveted client and after days of downpour, the sky has been clear for almost 13 hours. One of my favorite live music spots has an Indonesian R&B band playing tonight. After a year of living abroad, I know how to do victory nights solo…but…
Left. Ugh. Left.
*Tinder message notification sounds.*
It’s the Moroccan firefighter. He’s been sweet, non-aggressive and has decently held Tinder messages afloat. He’s also been persistent.
Yet, he is on holiday, which means fling or…I fall in love and have to move to Morocco. I’m a bit more optimistic due to the work high, so I find myself putting on my best, “Oh this old thing” black dress and violet lip.
We meet at 8p and end around midnight after dinner, music and virgin nightcaps because he’s preparing for Ramadan. I’m pleasantly surprised. He sees me off on my motorbike, requesting one more “nightcap” that I turn down.
Hmm, there are still some sane, consistent, sweet guys on Tinder, I think while driving home.
Make it in? It’s him.
Just opened the door.
Are you sure you don’t want to hang out some more? You could come to my hotel.
I could show you how well I can use the hose between my legs.
BLOCK. BLOCK. BLOCK.
Curating a love life in Bali anchored by Tinder can be a special kind of lake of fire, with embers aglow. They tell you, come in; it’s warm, cozy. And sometimes it is, but many times it’s a sweat lodge trying to see how long you can last. Here’s what I’ve learned the past year while opening myself up to the possibility of love finding me abroad.
1) Note the cultural nuances of your location.
Dating in Bali (or almost any island) means you’re likely to come across three kinds of men. The “holiday-er,” typically only looking for a good time, maybe even a tour guide. If good time means sex than I’m neither… and must explicitly note this. Or else, I’m told that I’m teasing (side eyes fragile masculinity and hormones). Then there’s the expat who is semi-interested in something real, but often still figuring out their life abroad, therefore, slightly unstable. Lastly, is the local (read as Balinese man) who’s normally sweet as pie, but possibly intimidated and doesn’t fit your typical “list.”
2) Go beyond your list, but note, first dates are a calculated risk.
Take the Moroccan for example. I currently have 21 matches on Tinder (no judgment zone, right?). Are all of these guys my type? Not even, but life abroad means you’ll end up a bit more open to the package love comes in.
It takes me at least three to five days of messaging to know whether or not it’s worth my time, because Ubud, Bali, is a small community and I will more than likely have to bump into you again. Not all risks are bad, but it’s worth doing a bit of field work (talking) before you invest the physical time.
3) Be empowered to tell your real story…and glean theirs.
I’m at a café with another expat, relaxed first-date material. We matched because of our love for tech and media start-ups. Our previous Tinder conversations surrounded our entrepreneurship, expat life and Bali faves. I Googled him and he was legit (still no judgment zone, weeding out risk). A Japanese millennial, by way of San Francisco and I was moderately excited.
“What brought you here?” is a typical starter conversation. Being an expat comes with a story of its own and it’s worth being real about.
Back to the date. As a journalist, I’m pretty good with keeping the conversation flowing…until. Until I realized he’d been going pretty hard on wanting to know the details of my infant-phase start up. Aggressive enough to put me off. Enough to realize it was all business. Enough to have me call my cousin (another expat) after the “date” and tell her… I think a Tinder date just stole my start-up. Next, berating myself for being an almost fully open book.
But, I thought you said tell your real story? I did. However, it’s still a dance. Learning how much to share, how fast, how much ethereal skin to show is key. Pace as you learn their story and motives. Yes, this goes for any date. However, even more so while dating abroad, because most dates know they can disappear quite easily.
4) Let “love” be fleeting.
That should really read, let “like” be fleeting. Even though the rice fields are not always greener on the other side, I have experienced some great dates that didn’t turn into love yet good friends. Often, we are so stuck in the forever, to the point where we miss opportunities to have a good time in the now. Being in the latter part of my 20s, I’m certainly more interested in the long-term. But I won’t block allowing my heart to embrace how those early days feel, adult crushes and possibly increasing my circle of kindred souls.
What I will do is practice a bit more discretion, eh and maybe delete Tinder for a few. There’s been a guy at my local work café and it’s looking like the old school way is best.