Myanmar’s Dating Game

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The Dating Game.

Modern-day dating is a minefield of faux pas and unsolicited photos. With Valentine’s Day upon us,  Min Ye Kyaw talks with dating app users on the rules of the game. Cover photo by Rasmus Steijner.

One of the biggest associations with February is Valentine’s Day, a gooey occasion for starry-eyed lovers and tequila-time for lone wolves.

What was inspired by St Valentine helping Christian couples wed in the 3rd Century despite a ban from the Roman emperor has now turned into a worldwide celebration that has been embraced by Myanmar.

Flowers fly around Yangon, tables at high-end restaurants are booked out and hotels lure couples with special ‘staycation’ packages.

There are even agencies and event planners offering to orchestrate the perfect romantic day. That’s all good and well, but how do you meet someone in the first place?

Approaching new people can be awkward—especially if your shyness reduces you to a fumbling buffoon, staring at the end of your shoe and nothing else.

These days, though, the rules of the dating game have changed. We live in the age of swipes and likes, where daters can flick through prospective partners like a catalog.

Arguably it began in 1995 with the advent of Match.com, an online dating website that soared to 26.6 million users by 2002. Fading were the days of spontaneous meet-ups at universities, bars, parties—things our old folks probably did.

Now there are many dating apps, believe me. This has delivered seismic shifts to Myanmar’s dating scene. Things are changing fast for Myanmar, but its people are mostly traditional and conservative. That has not stopped the younger generation from jumping at dating apps. As a young Myanmar person and a seasoned dater, I’d say the top 5 are:

1)   Tinder—everybody’s favorite hookup app, usually used by people aged between 18 and 30 in Myanmar. Swipe left to reject and right to…ah, you know how it works.

2)   Facebook—for many in Myanmar, this is basically the whole Internet, and a handy tool for maneuvering out of the friend zone.

3)   Badoo—founded in 2006 and with its headquarters in London, this dating app posing as a social network gained popularity in Myanmar in 2016.

4)  BeeTalk–allows you to send users near you a “whisper” message that disappears afterward (as well as doodles and “cute stickers.”) This is also superb for dating.

5)   Viber—a free Japanese cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP app. It’s the most commonly use app in Myanmar for dating and information-sending among locals.

Focusing on the first app—Tinder—we asked five of its users in Yangon about modern-day dating etiquette.

1) Where do you take a date?
2) Do you turn your phone off?
3) Should the guy pay?
4) Do you hook-up on the first date?
5) How has app dating changed the way people meet?

Christian Betzmann, 27, a teacher from Germany who lives in Sanchaung Township.

1)   Bar, beach, or café. It depends.
2)   Yes. Turn them off.
3)   No, the guy should not pay for the drinks! Both should have turns.
4)  I have done, yes.
5)   Dating apps are a simple way to meet but are often considered as ‘sexual meet-ups.’ That’s why a lot of people tend to think someone just wants sex instead of a nice conversation.

Shun Lat Chan Thar, 20, a student from Pazundaung Township.

1)   Movie or coffee.
2)   Of course, I don’t like a guy using his phone while dating. Attention is very important here, but it’s cool if the incoming call is important.
3)   If it’s the first date, it should be separate bills. Girls should know that. But it’s okay if the guy says it’s his treat.
4)  No.
5)   I don’t know, it’s weird from the girl’s side, knowing the guy is seeing other girls. Something like being cheated on.

Mathieu Guilleminot, 20, a student from France who lives in Sanchaung Township.

1)   Restaurant, bar, cinema…
2)   Turn on but don’t use it.
3)   Yes, why not? It’s normal.
4)  Ha! Not for the moment.
5) I prefer meeting someone in the street than with an app, because the feelings are more important in that case.  

Ravipapat Kaewnumthip, 22, a student from Bangkok who lives in Latha Township.

1)   Mall or some café.
2)   I use it sometimes but only if needed
3)   Both should share the bill.
4)  Nope, I don’t hook up with people on Tinder. I use it just to make friends and hangout sometimes.
5)   People can meet and know each other much easier in real life.

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