This post intends to provide an outline on the state of dating and the ways in which people can improve their dating lives. While it’s written with a view to improving your dating life while living in a foreign country, most of the information applies more broadly to dating no matter your location.

Being so fundamental to the human condition, the topic of dating and romance is incredibly rich and profound and it would be impossible to substantially cover it in depth in one article. I intend to write follow-up articles to this piece which will go into more detail about the specifics of each method plus further tips on dating abroad. Let’s jump in.


So you’ve settled into your new life in the country.

You’ve finally got the hang of the transport system and know which train to take to work and which ones to avoid so you don’t get dragged out of town.

You’ve learned that the way to board and disembark from buses here is different and have adopted the etiquette reaching a point where you don’t look like a clueless tourist.

Your supermarket journeys aren’t twice as long as you no longer cross-examine every item you pick up.

You’ve even made a couple of friends, one who’s a fellow expat and one who’s a friendly local from work who loves some cultural aspect of your country.

The honeymoon phase feels great and you don’t feel completely overwhelmed by culture shock.

Suddenly however, it dawns on you that you’re single and haven’t dated in a while. You saw little point in the weeks leading up to your move abroad and since landing you’ve been busy settling in.

Now you want to ‘get back out there’ but the process seems daunting. How do I date people as a foreigner here? Is it even possible if I don’t speak the language well? Can I just use that app I was using in my home country? These questions simmer in your mind and in excess can make the future of your love life seem doubtful. This post seeks to provide clarity on finding romance abroad.

The problem with modern romance

Whether abroad or in your home country, the modern landscape of dating feels difficult to manoeuvre through for so many. In our highly interconnected and globalised world, opportunities seem more abundant than ever yet statistics show there is a relative lack of relationships compared with previous generations. People propose all kinds of specific reasons about why this is and why there’s a continual increase in loneliness in the urban developed world but the underlying causes can mostly be grouped into two reasons: mindset and culture.

When it comes to mindset, many people have a misguided application with the energy they spend towards dating and relationships.

One of the hallmarks of the liberal democratic influence that pervades much of the world is the championing of an Emersonian self-reliance, the idea that we can create self-transformation in different aspects of our lives by taking ownership of our outcomes. This influence is evident in contemporary culture—you only have to look at friends and family or consume any type of media to see evidence of people all around striving to make gains in their careers or health.

Yet few people allocate as much time and effort towards relationships. A passivity towards meeting people sets in, people assume that the ‘right person’ will eventually come along and they just need to be patient. Or they assume that by working restlessly on other ‘metrics’ in their lives such as career or fitness, they will inevitably attract a compatible mate as if such an extension is a given right.

As for culture, it’s clear to anyone not born under a rock in the past couple of decades that the dating landscape has been drastically altered by digitisation.

Online dating started out as matchmaking websites to meet people beyond local areas but has since morphed into aggregator mobile platforms that commoditise your attention based on image profiling. Over-reliance on ‘swipe platforms’ leads to all sexes predominantly focusing on physical attributes with initial interactions beholden to the asynchronous communication of digital messaging and text services. As algorithms determine who gets prioritised at the top of the swipe list, those who only rely on swipe platforms for dating quite literally outsource their dating lives to algorithms. That means exactly what you think it means—if you only use dating apps you’re allowing a computer and only a computer to determine who your future partner/spouse/parent of your child(ren) is.

Dating Problem

Additionally, dating apps are designed to be addictive. For example, the founders of Tinder designed the app to feel like a game. The company has employed behavioural psychologists and UX designers to concoct the Goldilocks balance of ensuring the app triggers reward centers in your brain from potential matches but not too much that you end up satiated, leaving the platform and costing them revenue.

These factors have resulted in online dating becoming the norm in several countries with many people entirely dependent on apps to meet new people. Despite well over 50% of people of all genders and ages stating they dislike dating apps, a large portion reluctantly plough on with their swiping, pacified into using them as they see no other alternative.

This has the knock-on effect of increasing siloing of interpersonal communication. Research shows that the Millennial and Gen Z generations have worser social and relationship skills mainly due to the hinderance of those faculties from over-usage of digital devices.

Here lies the real issue with an over-reliance on dating apps. Since the majority of relationships occur in-person regardless of how couples first meet, younger generations in particular are at higher risk of starting relationships off with worser interpersonal skills even if they do end up finding a partner online. Contemporary culture passively accepts this as the norm despite the empirical evidence suggesting this can have negative reverberations on relationships, sex and intimacy. This isn’t to say that online dating is completely flawed; dating apps can be suitable if used tactfully and as a supplementary method to meeting people as I will explain below.

The reality is that unlike mindset, culture is extremely hard to change. It’s not a wise use of energy to spend your time trying to change behaviours and norms that are hardened in the people around you. Instead, it’s better to adopt a stoical approach that focuses on controlling your thoughts and actions so that you can show up as the most datable person you can be which will inevitably improve your dating outcomes.

The 5 ways of meeting people for dating

While there seem to be a myriad of ways of meeting different people for dating, all of them can be grouped into five types:

– Day encounters

– Night encounters

– Social circle dating

– Events

– Online dating

Someone with a good mindset towards their dating life will very likely be partaking in more than one of these types. Using two or more of these methods will diversify a person’s dating efforts making them more likely to encounter ideal dates as well as prevent over-reliance on any one method.

Too much of a dependency on one method can lead to periods of frustration and boredom from repetitiveness particularly during slow spells where one’s efforts may not be leading to a lot of dates. This is one of the primary reasons why a lot of people are frustrated with their dating lives, they stick to only one method through thick or thin. Perhaps the method worked well for them in the past when they were younger and they remain oblivious to alternative routes. Or perhaps they rationalise not using other approaches as it doesn’t ‘fit’ their personality.

As already discussed, mindset is crucial—if you’re not already using multiple ways to meet people for dating, the most proactive step you can take is to diversify your approaches towards dating. In the next part, I’ll show how pretty much anybody can use each of the five ways (although using all five is not necessary) to advance their dating lives even if they don’t think a certain method is for them.

Day encounters

Day encounters refers to meeting people spontaneously in public outside of any planned social commitments (such as friendship groups or work) or night-time venues. These encounters can be anywhere in public: a bookshop, a department store, a supermarket, the street etc. In that sense, day encounters can be defined as any interaction that’s not one of the four other types. Compared to the other four, there are plenty more possibilities for where encounters can take place.

Most people reading this will find the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger in public they’re interested in daunting. We’re conditioned from a very young age to be wary talking to people we don’t know. This caution serves us well when we’re children as we’re more vulnerable to unknown parties. Yet carrying the same degree of caution into adulthood for every new person we meet is often excessive.

In the context of being an adult seeking relationships, it’s counterproductive to always follow the mantra of ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ that we adhered to as children. For anyone not in a remote, rural environment, we often interact with strangers for operational reasons such as the cashiers and clerks at the local shops we frequent. Yet if we limit ourselves to these rote situations, we narrow our social and dating pools due to the vestiges of a now arbitrary attitude that no longer serves us in the way it used to.

The reason the attitude of over-caution towards strangers is arbitrary is because everyone in our lives past and present outside of our families was a stranger at some point before we got to know them. That includes your best friends, ex-lovers, coworkers and yes, those online dates you had.

Compared with spontaneously meeting someone in public, what likely distinguished those people in your life were different contexts that smoothed the transition between complete unknown person to someone you now trust.

The irony however, is that most of these contexts are trivial in the grand scheme of determining whether we can establish a degree of trust with people when they’re initially strangers.

There’s no logic to why a noisy nightclub, office space or online dating chatroom provide smoother contexts for transitioning an unknown person into someone we trust compared with a public day encounter. All are very different contexts and for every person that has met a stranger from one or more of these contexts that they ended up trusting and dating, I’m sure you can easily imagine a number of people you’ve encountered in those same contexts who you didn’t trust as much due to incompatibility or their vibe (yes, that includes the office).

If anything, online dating should prove the least trustworthy of all—the initial visual is likely enhanced, and for the few that check bios, you only have a snippet of info to go on. Yet today, most people could see themselves establishing trust to date someone they meet online despite the documented risks of catfishing, fake accounts and other problems that are avoided when meeting someone in public.

The ever useful disciplines of psychology and behavioural economics have demonstrated how self-serving bias distorts our perception of the world. When it comes to public spaces where nobody knows each other, we believe that we are the ones who are righteous, trustworthy and of good standing compared to everyone else around. The ultimate irony of course is that everyone else in the area thinks the same. The vast majority of people in the world are not ‘out to get each other’ and will not be offensive, dubious or deceptive should a conversation between them occur impromptu.

Dating Day Encounters

This isn’t to say that we should be completely laissez-faire when it comes to interacting with new people and that risks aren’t possible. It’s just that most of the time, we conflate the risks in our mind and fail to realise that current contexts mitigate common worries we may have when interacting with people we don’t know.

Most people who relocate move to highly urbanised areas such as cities at a time when the world’s population is higher than it’s ever been in history. This also means that most cities’ public areas are more ‘public’ than ever. This reduces the risks from awkward or negative interactions with strangers which were already in the tiny minority anyway. You’re statistically more likely to interact with someone with ill-intent in a nightclub or dating app than in a public space in the daytime whether that be a shop or street.

Day encounters as a method does not mean attempting to interact with people who seem suspicious or dangerous. Exercising common sense is important but the same can be said when in a nightclub or on a dating app.

It’s understandable why most people default to the contexts mentioned above that aren’t day encounters. In the cultures we grow up in, these contexts are often familiar and have been socially vetted somewhat. When encountering unfamiliar people the easiest thing to do is fallback on heuristics that claim meeting people should only occur in ‘this way’.

Yet ironically, it’s day encounters which have been natural for the vast majority of our species’ time on the planet (along with social circle dating) instead of the more modern mediums invented more recently in our history which are the least natural of all.

The first nightclubs appeared only in the mid-19th century and are highly artificial environments which have somehow convinced their frequenters that the only way to socialise is to enter such establishments from late in the evening till early in the morning (usually with an entry fee), with a specific dress-code, gender ratio and mandatory inebriation via alcohol. Don’t even think about trying to socialise or meet someone until you meet these requirements. Oh and when you do tick these boxes, be aware that you won’t be able to have a conversation at all because these establishments need to blast the latest claptrap tunes from the charts at a volume that can give you tinnitus in only a few hours because then and only then will the clubgoers have fun. Too bad if you suffer from epilepsy, don’t you know that strobe lighting equals fun for socialising?

Online dating is even more recent being an extremely new medium for meeting potential partners. The first documented dating platform used an IBM computer for a school project in 1959.1 I’ve already highlighted some of the features of online dating in ‘The problem with modern romance’ section but regardless of whether you think they’re positive or negative, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone claiming online dating is the most natural way of meeting potential dates when thinking of us at the species level.

As discussed, accepting online dating as the norm is tantamount to nightclubs creating the frame of how and when you meet people except that this establishment is digitally cloaked and has its own set of rules: imagery obsession, vacuous bios, addictive swiping and if you’re lucky enough you may get a proverbial pat on the head by getting bumped up the algorithm.

For many demographics, neither of these two mediums is necessarily familiar to use but they have been socially vetted since everybody is at least somewhat knowledgable about them culturally. Regardless of whether you’ve ever entered a nightclub or swiped on a dating app, you’re aware that tons of people in your own country participate in them daily and this provides received knowledge that explains why both have become cultural zeitgeists in the modern era despite their atypicality when viewed under the lens of the human condition.

As with any trend, once something gains enough traction, it usually displaces another trend as the norm. Nowadays, you very likely know friends or family that met partners using either approach but few or none that met via day encounters. A few generations ago, there very much would have been a role reversal along with social circle dating as the norm. The rewards for saying ‘hi’ and introducing yourself to someone in public can be great. There’s something very liberating about communicating with people in a way our ancestors had to.2 The added bonus we have compared to them is that this is just one of the options, they never had clubs or dating apps to supplement their romantic lives in the way we can.

Contrary to expectations, starting a conversation with someone during the day isn’t limited to men approaching women but is possible for all genders and sexes. Camille Virginia, author of ‘The Offline Dating Method’ empowers women to meet their ideal partners in the real world. A core component of doing so is by showing them how to create real-world connections to avoid the negative consequences of outsourcing dating lives to apps for the millions “starved for face-to-face conversations with each other”. This means learning how to become receptive to day encounters but also how to start conversations to get the ball rolling.

While the dynamics of day encounters are different for men and women, learning how to be receptive and proactively start conversations can be transformative for all. This is particularly the case if you’ve moved from a more socially-closed society to a more socially-open one.

Night encounters

Night encounters are ones that take place in night-time venues for socialising such as bars and clubs. They’re distinct from day encounters not only due to the time of day but also because the people in the venues expect to be in a social environment interacting with different people. This expectation of interacting and mingling with others creates a social lubrication that many other types of situations don’t have. The drinking that takes place in these environments also greases the social wheels for many. Such factors make what many consider the most difficult aspect of meeting new people easier—starting a conversation.

Night encounters come with some caveats, one of which is you typically have to interact with groups and be in a group yourself. Most people don’t enter bars or clubs on their own so even if you’re interested in someone in particular at the venue, you’ll often have to interact in groups first. This doesn’t have to be a negative of course, but it’s less to the point than the one-on-one focus that day encounters and online dating give you.

Moreover, night-time venues are usually high energy environments and may feel less suitable to less party-oriented personality types. Regardless of sexuality or gender, if you consider yourself more of an introverted type of person, you’ll likely feel better diversifying how you meet people and using night encounters to supplement your dating life if you want to.

In today’s world, most cities have an expat scene with bars and hangouts that expats frequent. These places are also visited by locals who tend to be open to meeting foreigners in their own country. While it’s better to ensure you are socialising beyond expat bubbles in the long run, they can be a useful source of social opportunities, especially in the beginning when you may be less familiar with the culture and language of a place you’ve moved to. They can help you get your feet off the ground meeting new people and setting up a dating life at night time.

Expat scenes are generally not difficult to find, you almost always gain quick familiarity with where the expat spots are in a country and they usually have well established social media groups that you can join to find out more information.

Dating Night Encounters

Social circle dating

Unsurprisingly, social circle dating refers to dating people from within existing social circles in your life. This type of dating is distinct from all the others because the people you meet are ‘warm’—they’re not complete unknowns even if you’re introduced to someone new in your circle. Therefore, any type of scenario where the people you encounter aren’t complete strangers comes under the umbrella of social circle dating. This means long-term friendship groups, work, hobby and recreational clubs, sports teams and more all fall under the social circle dating bracket.

Throughout human history, dating through social circles has been a reliable way of meeting partners. There’s something very powerful about kinship ties in groups that helps enable romantic connections should two people find themselves attracted and compatible with each other.

First, there’s a high degree of trust from the get go as new people have common ties as part of the circle (even if they are technically strangers at the start as discussed above). Additionally, being part of the same social circle likely means a person has something in common with you regardless of their personality which helps cultivate a connection.

Even so, social circle dating has its limitations. A main one is that unless your social circle(s) are large and constantly expanding, your pool of potential dates is unlikely to be as large as the other methods. While there are exceptions, the majority of social circles are circles due to having an established core of people with strong connections meaning the circle exists because those people put time and energy into their bonds with each other. This makes ‘turnover’ of members less common and reduces new footfall into such groups which can narrow the number of new people you can meet per social circle.

Relatedly, you may not feel particular social circles have the types of people you’re looking for. For example, there are highly gender-skewed types of social circles where most, if not all the group, are a particular gender so if you’re looking to date another gender, that could nullify social circle dating for you.

Another important point to mention is since you’re operating within an established group, you usually can’t wait too long to show your interest or ask someone out. All types of groups have dynamics whether perceived or not. If the dynamic between you and a person you’re interested in has been platonic or friendship-based for a while, it’s unlikely to smoothly switch to a romantic one even if you attempt to escalate. There are countless stories of people who were ‘friendzoned’ due to not understanding this aspect of dynamics and timing.

While social circle dating has a lot of strengths when done well, a person should ideally never rely on it alone. If you’re in a phase where you’re looking to date around, compared to all the other methods you’re unlikely to meet a high volume of people to find enough compatible matches. If you’re dating to find someone to settle down with, then social circle dating can be more appropriate but it’s still better to diversify with other options too.

A core theme that permeates this article is taking control of your dating life and reliance on existing social circles means that who you meet can be outside of your control so it’s best to broaden your dating pool. Nonetheless, joining and nurturing social circles should be a high priority in your life when moving abroad as social relationships are invaluable so be proactive with them.

Dating Social Circle


Events form a distinct category for two reasons. First, they’re planned social occasions that can take place at any time of day making them separate from the spontaneity of day and night encounters. Second, the attendees are ‘cold’ meaning that unlike social circle dating, the people don’t know each other beforehand.

‘Events’ in the context of dating can refer to any regular events such as a networking events, workshops, meetups or festivals. Or it can refer to literal dating events such as speed dating or singles nights.

Like night encounters and social circles, events have a degree of social lubrication making it easier to interact with unknown people due to the shared expectations of the events’ themes. Compared with dating through social circles, events tend to offer a wider variety of people you can meet. There’ll always be more events going on than the number of people in any one network.

That said, events aren’t immune from drawbacks. If you’re not attending a specific dating event, there’s no guarantee that you’ll meet someone interested in dating at a regular event. This is particularly the case at corporate or niche community events where attending with the agenda of finding someone to date isn’t conducive to the purpose of the groups.

Even events with dating agendas can be hit or miss. If a dating event isn’t run by knowledgable organisers it can be a disappointing experience. Think repetitive interview-esque conversations at speed dating events or the hounding of a particular demographic due to lopsided gender ratios (sausage fest anyone?).

The strength of events is that there are countless types taking place meaning there’s an event for everyone. This allows you to narrow the scope of ones you attend to niche interests with likeminded people or broaden your reach to general ones such as social meetups. Either way, events have a utility whether you’re local or abroad so consider putting yourself out there at them if you’re not doing so already.

Dating Events

Online dating

The last type is online dating. As already mentioned, online dating encompasses any type of medium where people use the internet to coordinate dating whether that be specific matchmaking websites, specialist internet forums or the most common one: dating applications.

Online dating has been placed as the last type in this list as while it’s the most common method for many, it’s also the most passive and over-relied upon. I’d encourage anyone who’s moved abroad to not depend on online dating as the primary tool for generating a romantic life, particularly if you’re new to a country.

Some readers up to this point may believe my article constitutes a polemic against online dating but this is not the case. If it were true I wouldn’t cover some of the following ways online dating can be effective when dating abroad.

One of these is that online dating allows you to screen for people who would be interested in dating foreigners. This is helpful for those who might consider interacting with unknown natives in real life intimidating outside of their home country. If language is a potential issue where you’ve moved then online dating is a useful way of filtering for those who might speak your language or communicate regardless of language ability.

Dating Online

Another positive of online dating is the services available to matchmake those who are looking for a serious relationship. Despite the range of casual dating apps on the market, the proliferation of dating services on the internet has led to high-fidelity professional matchmaking services online which would have previously only been possible via in-person appointments. Many countries have their own quality online dating services beyond the mass market apps. These types of services will help avoid some of the dissatisfying drawbacks to casual dating apps but most of them are for serious relationships so be prepared for commitment.

A tip you can use for online dating especially with dating apps is to specify in your main bio that you’re looking for real dates and not a texting buddy. You can make sure this is translated in the target language of the country if necessary. This will help weed out the significant number of people who use dating apps for ‘confidence boosting procrastination’ (people who aren’t on dating apps to find dates but to receive external validation from the signals of being ‘desired’ that the apps give them).3

You want to focus on quality over quantity with dating apps—everyone else is playing a numbers game swiping frenetically yet outcomes rarely improve for those users. Interacting with people who aren’t really invested time and again is probably the number one reason people become jaded with online dating.

To avoid repetition, I won’t mention here some of the drawbacks to online dating that I’ve covered earlier but it’s worth reminding that you should refrain from placing your dating life solely in the hands of apps. Using dating apps is designed to be an addictive process and at their worst they can engender a capriciousness in communication that you end up succumbing to yourself. Use online dating mindfully aiming for quality interactions using quality apps/services to set yourself apart from the herd. Most crucially, ensure you’re using them supplementary to other methods and not spending inordinate amounts of time on them. You didn’t move to another country to spend hours swiping on your phone did you?


In the modern era, dating and forming relationships can be challenging for many, something that can feel compounded for those who move abroad and are yet to get acquainted with anyone.

Many of the problems for those who have trouble with modern dating come down to two major factors: mindset and culture. Passivity is symptomatic of the problems of modern romance and straddles both factors. Overcoming such passivity by adopting an attitude that focuses on becoming the most datable person you can be (mindset) along with diversifying the ways you date whilst avoiding the negative aspects of dating mediums that don’t align with your personality (culture) is key to bettering your dating life.

There are five main ways for meeting people to date: day encounters, night encounters, social circle dating, events and online dating. All five have their pros and cons but many people fail to use more than one of these ways to meet people which holds back both the quantity and quality of their dating opportunities.

Despite being by far the most recent type of way to meet people, online dating is overused by many demographics with a high percentage of users becoming frustrated and jaded with the platforms. Such people would do well to elevate their dating lives by incorporating some of the other methods to meet people.4

Those who’ve moved abroad should see the novelty of their situation as a strength for dating. Such people are often better placed to take advantage of multiple, if not all the methods for dating than if they were in their country of origin. The uniqueness of their life situation means they lack some of the metaphorical ‘baggage’ they had back in their home country. Furthermore, those abroad often find it easier to screen for likeminded people as generally the culture of a country forces one’s hand in a good way when it comes to compatibility.

1 Yes, 1959 = extremely new. In the context of our species, anatomically modern humans emerged around 300,000 years ago. This means as of the time of writing this article, online dating has existed for roughly 0.02% of the time humans have been on the planet. This isn’t even factoring in ‘real online dating’ which requires a widespread user base (to move beyond the embryonic forms it had when it started on IBMs) which developed decades later.

While I don’t have a concrete answer (and I don’t think any paleontologist would either) as to when the first day encounter took place, I think we can safely say that it took place much, much closer to 300,000 years ago. This is because night encounters and online dating didn’t exist back then but you didn’t need me to tell you that.

2 I’m aware I’ll probably get accused of being a Luddite or even a primitivist by some people. However the aim of this article is not to ignite a movement making people revert back to the ‘purest’ forms of meeting people like the relationship equivalent of the paleo diet but rather inspire readers to broaden their conceptions of what’s possible in their social and dating lives instead of passively accepting their cultural lot simply because they were born in a specific time and place.

What’s continuously incredible to me is how many people feel disempowered when it comes to socialising and dating despite living at a time when we’re more globalised with higher standards of living in more countries than ever. The way things are in certain parts of the world, you’d think that online dating has a monopoly on something fundamental to our human nature—the desire to connect intimately with other people in line with our sexuality. Nightclubs and dating apps have an agenda to ensure that you feel your social and dating lives are beholden to them even when this is not the case. The key is to not feel limited to whatever the cultural zeitgeist for dating is in your country by adopting the right mindset and being proactive about all your options.

3 A study that interviewed around 10,000 college students found that around 45% said they use the dating app Tinder for ‘confidence boosting procrastination’ showing just how significant alternative motives beyond seeking proper dates is among many users of such apps.

4 Although I admit I couldn’t resist poking at some of their weaknesses during this article, I’m not against online dating nor nightclubs. Many happy relationships, marriages and babies have been created via both. It’s the potential harm caused from entirely outsourcing something so fundamental to the human condition in dating to these mediums that I’m concerned about.