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Love In The New Way: How the Young Chinese Diaspora in Australia Use the Chinese Dating App to Find Love

By Angela Chui, Liying Huang

18 March 2019

Logging in the account to start swiping, matching with people to start chatting. Does it ring a bell? It’s a dating app! Certainly, the online dating method has become more diversified nowadays which provides people with an alternative way to find love. With the rise of Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, a dating app originally from China, Tantan, is creeping into young Australians with Asian backgrounds.

Just like its Chinese name, Tantan is an uprising mobile application that allows users to discover and connect with people. Tantan made itself stand out with 3.9 million playing users in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the financial results disclosed.

According to app analytics, App Annie, Tantan is one of the top ten social apps in Nepal, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with more than ten million installs.

As a local-based dating app, Tantan allows its users to match with one another based on their location, distance and gender preferences like Tinder. But it offers something more, a “Moment” function that allows users to post their live stories for a limited amount of time on their own profiles. “That makes me feel at least they have a life, they actually are doing what they are doing… it adds some security I guess,” said Angel, one of the Tantan users.

As Tantan was originated from China, most users share similar ethnic Chinese backgrounds. Our interviewees are second generation Australians of Chinese descents. They said they prefer Tantan than Tinder because they prefer finding people with Asian backgrounds and Tantan accommodates that.

“It depends on whom you wanna find if you wanna find westerners than Tinder would be more suitable”, said Emily, one of the Tantan users. 

Another Tantan user, Leo, revealed that he only swipes right on Asian girls, “it’s my personal preference. I don’t find it racist. You like it then you like it, you don’t then you don’t.”

In fact, they all aim to meet new people by using the app. “I was underage. I was like finding new friends to meet. And then I just went on Tantan. And I just went on meeting people with my friends, had dinner together. Yeah, just randomly,” Emily explained, never thought that her first and only Tantan date would turn out to be her boyfriend.

Leo, on the other hand, started using the app when he was in high school just to mock around with friends. He said he started really use it when he was in year 12. Leo is currently a second-year university student. 

Just like Tinder, there are “super like” buttons. And premium Tantan users can use up to 5 super likes per day which claims to increase matching rates by 5 times. While male users believe that being a VIP makes them more attractive, female users find it as a turndown. Emily believed that people are looking for more than friends when they are paying for the VIP membership. She swipes left on profiles that have the VIP logo.

In most cases, they know how the app works and they are aware of the dark sides of online dating like the chance of being catfished. While Tinder user Isabella said that Tinder is a big website for people who hook-ups. She revealed that a lot of her male friends swipe right on every girl to increase the chance of getting matches.

According to Tantan user Elliot Tu, he believes that using the app to find long term relationship is unrealistic and we should just use the app for fun. Elliot is Emily’s boyfriend that she met via Tantan a year ago.

Leo said that his primary reason to start using the app was to play around and meet new people. Until recently, it was to find love. While Emily stresses that you can’t expect too much from a dating app.

When we ask about their love stories, Emily and Elliot quickly shared a wicked grin. “She is the only one I met in the real world,” sayid Elliot. Emily and Elliot spoke with each other for a week before they decided to meet up. Emily said that Elliot was more easy-going and not that creepy like the other guys she talked to that were pushing to meet up. Emily also encountered people keep talking to her in Chinese after she stated that she couldn’t read Chinese on Tantan.

After the date, they both logged out of the platform and deleted the app, because they are not looking for anyone else. The same happened to Isabella, while she met her boyfriend in her first Tinder date, they shared a few mutual friends before they met. As for Leo, he deleted the app after seeing his girlfriend, but he kept the account just in case.

Over the course of a month, they all find it fun to talk to people online. Emily said that you have to go in with the right intention and don’t expect too much out of it. While Leo who has started using the app since high school, warns people to be careful, “If you see something wrong, leave the scene.”

In the eyes of these 19-year-old, they believe that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship, the trick is to find someone you can relate to and doesn’t want to change too much about you.

When speaking about the odds in finding the one, they suggested maybe 1 out of 100. “It’s pretty hard. But it’s easier compare to finding people in the world… if you find someone on the street, you have to build up the confidence…they might be taken as well… but on Tantan, you know they are single, and they are looking,” said Emily.

Throughout the interviews, they agreed that using the dating app to find partners is the trend among their generation. “Everyone is so lonely nowadays and people are on their phones all the time,” said Elliot. “Technology makes us more lonely…it’s easier to start a conversation but it’s harder to maintain it,” he added.

Leo believed it was more of a social norm, “once you swipe right, it shows you’re interested in knowing the person which could spark a conversation; whereas when in real life, you don’t really meet other people unless you go party…. You don’t just go up to a girl and say hey, you’re cute, can I talk to you.”

On Tantan, our interviewees said that it has less of a pickup culture than Tinder, and they were surprised that they made a lot of friends out of it. They said that people are more open to online dating than before and these dating apps actually did a decently good job in users’ security and privacy.

When we ask what they think about the relationship like polyamory, which means the opposite of monogamy. Emily argued that everyone is different, but she is not one of them. While Leo thought that was very wrong. According to Vice, dating sites like OkCupid, Tinder and Pure have made it easier for poly people to find their partners. On Tantan, there is no setting to accommodate that.