Expat Essentials

Sarah Nagaty on expat dating, Pt. 2: Dating apps offer women unlimited opportunities for love … and for disappointment

(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of a two-part series on expat dating in Lisbon. These posts are drawn from Sarah Nagaty’s research and interviews. You can read Pt. 1 here.)

I still remember quite well when people met offline. This didn’t only change because of the pandemic. COVID-19 has been around for only a year now, so it can’t be the pandemic causing this heavy dependency on dating apps. We used to meet, and hear about people meeting, at work, at university, during volunteering activities, book clubs, language lessons and most commonly
through mutual friends.

Are people going out less? Do we now have smaller circles? Did people stop showing interest in each other in real life and find it easier to express their interest virtually? I honestly do not know.

Dating apps are great as they don’t limit you to your social network. It is true that many serious relationships start off on Tinder; however, expectations have to be lowered to avoid repeated disappointments. It is no secret that many men are only looking for sex through dating apps which makes it more challenging for women who are looking for love.

Moreover, dating apps allow you to meet someone whose path would have never crossed with yours without the privilege of the defining technology of our day and age. However, this also means that there is a big room for disappointment.

First, you need to keep talking to someone online for God knows how long. Second, you go on a first date with him, and once you see him, you might find him a bit creepy or that he has poor hygiene. It would have taken you less than one minute to reach this conclusion had you met that person at work first or through mutual friends.

However, Lisbon female expats had loads of strange, funny, and successful stories and tips to share about their online dating experiences:

Tip 1

Jenny, from the UK, said: “Do not go out on a date without making a 10-minute phone call first.” Talking to your potential date on the phone allows you to get a better feel for his vibe through a flowing free-form conversation with pauses and inflections. If the guys is creepy, there is a better chance you will find that out through a phone call rather than text messages. While phone calls are now obsolete, this short phone call may save you from many days of texting … and a potentially horrible date.

Tip 2

Ana, from Brazil, recommended OKCupid over Tinder for those who actually want to have a long, real chat. However, she also warned other women about a bearded, good-looking, semi-retired, Irishman using the dating platform. “If you see him, run!” Ana said. “Also, if you see a guy into web development who is complaining that his laptop doesn’t work, RUN FASTER!’ she added. She wouldn’t really elaborate, so use your imaginations …. Apart from the bearded semi-retired and the dude with the broken laptop, OKCupid seems to be doing well in Lisbon.

Tip 3:

Almost all the women advised those using dating apps to be ready to go on many casual dates or dates which don’t go well. Be patient and it will get better once you develop an internal sensor for the right matches,

My and final two cents on the matter are:

Sometimes being an expat makes up drop the internal filters we always lived with in our comfort zones. Think of how we avoid dodgy neighborhoods in our hometowns, but we won’t mind having a walk in one at 1 a.m. in a new country! If you are a globalized woman, who lived in many different places and have so many stories to tell, you are likely to seek out a connection with a man with similar experiences back in your own home country. Hence, don’t change that when you move somewhere new.

Don’t seek out any less than the same open-minded man, whether he is a local or an expat like yourself, anywhere you go. Unless you are looking for a more traditional, more isolating experience, many locals, everywhere in the world from the United States to Mozambique, may not be the right match for you.

It is really not a matter of men on Tinder, or men in Portugal, or men on
Mars, but a matter of focusing on having the same kind and level of experience as your partner. This is a natural filter which may eliminate some of the ‘dating fatigue’ and help us focus more on what we truly need.

About the author:

Sarah Nagaty is a PhD researcher of cultural studies in Lisbon. She’s lived in Portugal for three years.

As a student of cultural studies, Sarah is drawn to what connects people from different backgrounds to new cultures and places, how they relate to their new surroundings and what kind of activities they could engage with in their new hometowns.

See all of Sarah’s Dispatches posts here.

See Dispatches’ Lisbon story archive here.

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