City Weekend

Sleepless in Hong Kong: how to shake off the singledom blues and find love in the city

Forget about your age, stop mindless swiping at home, and relax if you want to find ‘the one’, experts say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 11:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 11:33am

Hongkongers should forget marriage deadlines, stop mindlessly swiping on dating applications, and step back from their busy lives if they want a shot at true love, experts say.

The belief that women must be married by 30 years old and the perceived availability of “better options” stemming from dating applications, combined with our busy lives which don’t leave room for self-love and meaningful connections, is creating rise in singledom in the city.

The Women and Men in Hong Kong Key Statistics 2017 report states people older than 15 who have never married increased by 61 per cent for women, and 14 per cent for men, from 1986 to 2016.

Not only are more people living single lives, but the average age of tying the knot is also increasing, suggesting people could be taking longer to find love. In 1986, the median age women wed was 25, while men were 28. But in 2016 women were 29, and men 31.

“I think Hong Kong needs me,” Ariadna Peretz, the founder and managing director of Maitre D’ate matchmaking agency says. “Hong Kong is a special kind of hell for single people who don’t want to be single any more.”

The love expert, who lived in Hong Kong for five years and now works from London, began matchmaking after realising she had “way too many cool friends who were single and didn’t want to be”.

Relationship coach Valentina Tudose realised many single women around her were complaining dating was hard. She trained at the Relationship Coaching Institute in San Jose, California, and left her job in advertising 18 months ago to coach full time.

“Hong Kong people take so much pride in how busy they are, it’s a badge of honour,” the 43-year-old Romanian says.

People in the city “are always trying to achieve the next milestone, be better and bigger and more successful” and there is no time to find someone, agrees Peretz.

The pair have come together to create a free e-book, Winning the Dating Game. How to find love in Hong Kong, which Peretz describes as “a repository of our best advice and tips”.

Locals need to get rid of the cultural belief that women older than 30 are “leftover”, Tudose says. She often sees women older than 30 who were told by their parents not to date while studying, but are then expected to be married by 26. As a result they have never had a proper relationship, yet think they are too old to start now.

“For them to check out and say I’m doomed, is a little bit crazy,” Tudosesays.

Equally, local men often generalise Hong Kong women as “princesses” who are demanding and extremely financially aware.

Preconceived perceptions make many think dating in Hong Kong is hard, Tudose explains, when actually “these beliefs stop them from going out and finding someone”. Her job is to get them to understand how their limiting beliefs are affecting their chances of finding love.

Singles instead turn to dating applications, like Tinder, Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel.

In July 2016, Hongkongers were using Coffee Meets Bagel more often than people in any other place in the world: 66 per cent of users in the city logged on every day, according to data released by the developer.

“We are just swiping at home, in our underwear, without thinking about the person we are speaking to,” Peretz says. Dating applications “have reduced the quality in effort, because there is so much available and we just get gluttonous”, making it difficult to concentrate on what matters and easy to move onto the next person.

But if people are smarter managing profiles and screening people rather than “spend six months chatting with someone and don’t meet them” then applications can be useful, Tudose says.

“I thought dating was very easy, but I know it was because I’m not stressed over it,” the relationship coach, who has been with her boyfriend for 18 years, says. “I have the attitude that the world is full of opportunity and I realise people thought it was difficult because they had the attitude of, ‘I’m never going to find anybody.’”

Hongkongers need to relax and “not let their friends, family or society influence what they want, but be authentic and look for what they actually want”, Peretz, who is married, says.