I first entered the world of dating apps during a semester abroad in London, and I had zero idea what I was getting myself into. I was 21, had only ever dated boys I'd met through work, school, or mutual friends, and my appreciation for romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant had (perhaps, possibly, definitely) warped my expectations of British men. But as I quickly learned, dating as an American in London wasn't quite so easy.
A few weeks into my dating app adventure, I stumbled upon a fellow named Tom. He worked in advertising (my major), had a cat named after Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, and was into all of the same '90s sitcoms and pop bands that I was. By dating app standards, we were pretty darn compatible. But each time we made plans to go out, something would pop up at the last minute — "Shoot, my boss just threw a massive project at me! Can I make it up to you next week?" The third time this happened, Tom confessed that he was just too stressed about work to even think about jumping into a relationship right now (which seemed like an extreme leap to make? But sure). I explained that my study abroad program ended the next week anyway, wished him the best, and kept on swiping.
Then my phone buzzed again.
"You leave next week? Well I can make time tonight if you're free?!"
(Quick note: This all took place over three years ago, but I have a near-photographic memory when it comes to text exchanges. It's like, the worst superpower ever.)
"Hmm, I think you're too busy with work for that," I said.
"Not too busy to hook up with a hot American!" was his ever-so-charming reply.
If I had to sum up the blessing and curse that is using dating apps abroad in one convo, I'd say this does a pretty solid job of capturing both. Did he not see the sweater I'm wearing in my pics? It's made of girlfriend material.
Swiping abroad can be loads of fun (playing Tinder tour guide is a ball). But, in my experience, swiping outside of your home country also comes with the risk that matches will see you as nothing more than a fleeting fling. It's something I'm still struggling with as a grad student in London, TBH, but I've also picked up a few tricks along the way.
Here are my top three tips for uncovering womanizers on dating apps abroad (in case you're also on the hunt for a Harry).
1. Include your nationality at your own risk.
Throwing an American flag emoji into your bio is like catnip on dating apps (some fellows have told me it's the Meghan Markle effect? Who knows). So if you're hoping to rake in as many matches as possible — or if you're hanging out in a country where you don't speak the language and want to make that clear — absolutely include your nationality in your profile. But fair warning: not all of those matches are going to be swiping for ~the right reasons~. Many of your matches might be hoping to "hook up with a hot American," like our old buddy Tom, and not actually date you like a human person.
2. Plan dates during the day.
Crazy, I know. I, too, hate being seen by other singles in the light of day. But I've found that suggesting a daytime outing is a surprisingly easy way to uncover a match's true intentions (and, if you've just moved to a city, it's a chance to explore your new home in the sunlight!). Even if a person's not available during the day, their response will usually hint at what they're really after.
For example, if someone says, "Wow, 2 p.m. is so early. Can we meet at 11 instead?" It's way more indicative that they're looking for a hookup than something like, "I've got lunch plans during the day, but can we meet for dinner?"
3. Avoid group photos in your profile.
Another weird one, yes — but hear me out. Dating apps are largely based on snap judgements, and any time I've had a profile that featured more than one group shot (especially if those group shots included women in Greek letters), it has — very incorrectly — sent the message that I'm an American party girl on a EuroTrip adventure. Which, you know, is not the Julia-Roberts-in-Notting-Hill vibe I was going for.
If you're also aiming to give off a Julia Roberts vibe, I'd limit the number of group or party shots on your profile to two max. It's totally fine to have pictures with friends, of course, but also throw in a few photos that capture your interests (dogs, pasta, hiking, whatever they may be!). It'll give the people who are looking for more than a hook-up a better sense of who you are and what you like, beyond the basic "I'm American and I have friends!"
Oh, and um, does anyone know any young, Hugh Grant-type gentlemen living in London? If so, please send them my way. But only if they're willing to stick around.
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