As our lives in Thailand get busier and busier, many of us have less and less time to invest in an arguably vital aspect of it—the search for the one. Since the age of relying on our parents’ matchmaking skills is long gone, Thais are turning to alternative methods. In a conservative culture where women who try too hard to find their significant other are condemned and men traditionally have to make the first move, the advent of increasingly popular dating applications and services in Thailand is interesting to note.
Although there are still some who have an old-school mindset with regards to dating, people’s attitudes towards using these services are becoming pointedly more open. Today, Thais use many kinds of dating services, from apps to face-to-face consultations to professional date coaching in their grand quest to find true love. Here, we survey four of the most popular or intriguing services on the market.
Notable for its premium quality profile screening and matching, MeetNLunch is a dating service that efficiently connects eligible singles in six locations in Southeast Asia, including Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Hong Kong and Jakarta. Headed in Thailand by Nikki Assavathorn, MeetNLunch is also Thailand’s first matchmaker to be certified by the New York based Matchmaking Institute.
“I’ve been in the dating industry for 10 years, and I’ve always liked matching people up,” the 35-year-old CEO recalls. As Nikki explains, MeetNLunch is one of Lunch Actually’s dating products; the other one she directs is eSync.dating. Both products cater to different user tiers: eSync covers mass users nationwide while MeetNLunch is more premium, personalised and covers only Bangkok.
“We have two separate products because we found that this is the best way to meet our customers’ needs. Normally, people will want to meet others with similar educational levels and social backgrounds.” So far, MeetNLunch has screened more than 5,000 people and arranged more than 63,000 dates since 2004. The dating service has been rated satisfactory to excellent at 85 per cent from users. When asked why MeetNLunch is superior to other dating services in Thailand, Nikki replies confidently, “It’s simply a numbers game. At MeetnLunch, we have a large pool of quality eligibles. The more you try our services, the more chance of success you have to meet your match.”
As a quality dating service, MeetNLunch only accepts about 10 per cent of the 200 to 300 people who register to use its services every day. This is to make sure that its users are truly serious about seeking a relationship. Once registered into the system, users may use SoulSeek, MeetnLunch’s customised matching system based on compatibility of different values. SoulSeek comprises a comprehensive analysis of clients’ dating criteria, such as appearance and education.
“Another factor that helps to ensure high quality people in the MeetNLunch community is its high price point. Our services’ prices range from 20,000 to 300,000 baht, which helps to screen out those who are not serious about relationships,” adds Nikki. “So, every person we show you at MeetNLunch is someone with potential.”
Another special service that MeetNLunch offers is MeetNLunch Academy. This is a one-on-one date coaching service to improve customers’ dating skills. “We found that sometimes the matches we make are good but the issue is that people don’t know how to date. They don’t know how to talk or flirt. For this, there is MeetNLunch Academy. Here, for instance, people will learn what colour clothes they should wear for a date; or how to text; or what to do before and after dating. Everyone has different weaknesses, so the coaching must be one-on-one to fit each person.
To create MeetNLunch Academy, the company acquired another image-coaching company and further developed the coaching content to help every eligible single improve their dating skills. “At MeetNLunch, we offer holistic dating services. In fact, we practically do everything except for the wedding planning,” jokes Nikki, laughing.
Founded in 2006, MeetNLunch is a reputable dating service with significant media exposure throughout the years. Media partners include the popular dating show Take Me Out Thailand. “Next year, we are also going to be part of a soap opera on Channel 3 called The Cupid, starring 16 Thai superstars, including Chompoo Araya Hargate and Ken Theeradej Wongpuapan,” Nikki excitedly shares.
As a dating service in Thailand, Nikki recognises the cultural barrier and negative perceptions that some Thais have about these offerings. These perceptions have some truth and many people have had bad experiences with dating services. For straight men, these include going on unexpected dates with prostitutes, transgender people or con women. For women, these include unpleasant experiences such as dates who intend to only hook up for a one-night stand.
“Of course, there will still be such people,” clarifies Nikki, “but there are also genuine people on these communities. At MeetNLunch, we try our very best to screen the very best people, to make your experience pleasant and safe. At Tinder, you have to use more discretion by yourself, since the company doesn’t offer the same safeguards.” On a closing note, Nikki urges Thai users to keep their minds open about MeetNLunch. “If you see it as a channel to increase your opportunities to meet new people, you’ll be more comfortable. And of course, at MeetNLunch, we prioritise confidentiality. No one will ever know you’ve used us!”
“Are you on Tinder?” This question has become increasingly common amongst Thais, as the location-based social service has grown in popularity around the nation. Here’s a little
introduction for those who aren’t familiar with it: founded just over four years ago in 2012, this international dating app works by showing users profiles of fellow Tinderers— most, but by no means all, of them singletons—in nearby areas, to which users can use a simple swiping motion to indicate their interest or disinterest. A left swipe means “nope,” a right swipe means “like,” and a top right swipe means “super like!” If any two users both indicate an interest, a match will be created, meaning that the two people can talk to each other via Tinder, and then take things from there.
Conveniently, Tinder is connected to Facebook, which reduces the efforts users have to take to fill profile information into the platform. This means that most likely, Tinder users will get to see information that another user has provided on their Facebook profile, namely their name, age and occupation.
In my quest to faithfully write this article, I downloaded various dating applications on my smartphone and attempted to use them. What I did not initially know was that once I had connected my Tinder profile to Facebook, everyone who was my friend on Facebook and used Tinder could see that I was on Tinder. I learnt this days after installing the app, and on doing so couldn’t snatch up my phone fast enough to go to Settings and disable the Show Me on Tinder button. Great, now my whole social media circle knows I’m desperate.
The reason I mention my personal experience on Tinder is that I feel it is similar to many Thais’ perceptions of online dating applications and services. For example, I interviewed my close friend, who I’ll call Mary, and—whether justified or unjustified— she has the same sense of shame of using such a service. When I revealed to her what I had learnt, she didn’t click disable on the Show Me on Tinder button as soon as she realised her mistake—she deleted the app altogether. “No one must know,” she said, glaring at me.
Before Thailand Tatler receives incensed emails about the biases of its writer, let me offer another side to the story. Although generally, some Thais still have negative perceptions about online dating apps, people are becoming significantly more open to them. “I use Tinder because I’m very busy in my daily life. I’m a planner at an ad agency, so apart from work and home, I don’t really have the time to go meet any new people outside my social circle,” says Jenny, 28. “I think it’s a good thing because it’s not just about dating; it’s about meeting new friends. It also helps boost my self esteem and enlightens me about cool human insights that are beneficial for my job.”
Jenny has absolutely no negative perceptions of using dating applications, viewing them as just another way to make her life run more smoothly. So, maybe there is some benefit to using a social application such as Tinder to possibly find new friends or possibly the love of your life.
“Noonswoon is a tool for people to meet other interesting people outside of their social circle. Think of social discovery, not just dating,” explains Kavin Mickey Asavanant, managing director of Noonswoon. Founded in January 2013 by Kavin and two other friends, Noonswoon is a Thai dating app that has made approximately 150,000 connections, matched 100 couples, and even resulted in 20 weddings and six children.
“I personally have attended three Noonswoon weddings,” says Kavin with a pleasant, amiable smile. The handsome, clean-faced Stanford graduate started out his career by wearing two hats—one of them as a lecturer at Chulalongkorn Business School (CBS) on entrepreneurship and the other working to use IT to improve efficiency in a hospital. “As I got older, I started to go to more weddings; everyone started getting married,” he explains. “For the rest of us, I only saw applications or services from abroad to serve this need, such as Match.com or eHarmony.com. Those have no presence in Thailand. So, with the increase in smartphone use, I began to research business models in Korea and the US, which I adapted to create Noonswoon.”
With the advent of global or regional dating applications such as Tinder and BeeTalk, why should users consider Noonswoon? While looking relaxed, the jeanswearing entrepreneur admits that the actual user experience is similar to applications such as Tinder—users can choose whether they like or do not like a shown profile, and a match is created in the case that both parties like each other. However, Kavin insists that Noonswoon is better for those who are more serious about relationships due to its strict user screening.
“When people reach their 30s, they start paying more serious attention to finding a life partner. BeeTalk and Tinder cater to a younger crowd. They’re more casual, just about meeting more people. However, at Noonswoon, we allow only a limited number of users. We match you based on your interests, age, height, education, career and so on. These matches are people that we think you will actually be interested in knowing. In reality, people are not going to be interested in knowing 200 to 300 different people. Only 20 to 30 good quality people are enough.”
To ensure good quality people in the Noonswoon community, it automatically bans people who come to register with inappropriate pictures or content. “We do the heavy lifting for you,” says Kavin. Partly due to this heavy lifting, Noonswoon’s members tend to be the hard-working, career-minded sort; a notable chunk of females are doctors, nurses or from the pharmaceutical industry, and a large percentage of males are business owners, entrepreneurs, or stock brokers.
“We have good profiles,” Kavin states, with more than a hint of pride. “The guys who are here are mostly shy, people who are not so adept at flirting, so they need to use IT to approach someone. The girls here are those who don’t get to meet others in their daily lives, so they need to use Noonswoon to expose themselves to other people.”
Viewing the love landscape as a whole, Kavin believes that mobile dating is going to continue growing in Thailand as people become more exposed to the concept of dating. “Thais don’t yet have a strong concept of dating. There are usually two relationship statuses for them—they are either friends or girlfriend and boyfriend. The grey area in between has to be very quickly surpassed, described by words such as gik. But we’ve had a lot of successful couples through our dating service.”
Although dating applications such as Noonswoon do offer more opportunities to meet other people, Kavin, in his trademark, straightforwardly friendly style, does not avoid mentioning that there is a negative side effect. “When you have more choices, some people are uncertain about committing to anyone. Sometimes, if there’s a little dispute, they give up and find someone new rather than working through the relationship. This is just something people have to keep in mind and look out for. To settle down, you need to have some steadiness of heart.”
Nevertheless, the founder of Noonswoon ends the interview on a positive note. “Yes, I do believe in love. I met a special someone from Noonswoon. I still use the service now just to get customer feedback, and she knows. If anyone asks if I’m dating, I say yes!”
BeeTalk is a dating app with a lifestyle twist—users don’t only build new relationships with other people, they can also join communities based on a shared interest or location. Launched in 2013, BeeTalk also offers the option of connecting to Facebook to access friends’ contacts. In my
experience of personally using BeeTalk and from interviewing users, one thing is clear— this social application is geared towards youngsters. This younger crowd includes teenagers or young adults that some would call krien, a Thai slang word that roughly translates as ‘trolling.’ These people like cheesy jokes, cliché pick-up lines and reading bizarre articles.
This helps explain why BeeTalk has so many extra features in addition to helping users connect to other people. Currently, the most prominent feature of BeeTalk is its Live DJ. Here, users can access different BeeTalk DJ channels and watch them live and comment freely—no bad words or inappropriate content, of course. The DJs comprise both males and females, all of whom exhibit a different personality.
Most of these DJs are just living their daily lives and showcasing themselves live, such as just sitting in front of the computer, eating, or playing music. They make cheesy jokes and respond to live comments. These comments are mostly friendly in nature, ranging from “You’re sooooooo cute!” or “Hahahaha you’re so funny!” to flowers, an approval symbol similar to likes on Facebook. However, if you’re a stickler for polite language, one should avoid listening too closely to the DJs.
Another interesting feature on BeeTalk is its communities. Users can search for communities they want to join in based on location—MRT Chong Nonsi or MRT Lumphini for example—or interests. The interests are wide-ranging to say the least, spanning from badminton lovers to the heartbroken, Buddhists and even knife lovers.
As a dating lifestyle application, BeeTalk also has short articles for its users to read on its Discover feature. These mostly consist of BuzzFeed-like content or content whose only use is to clutter pubescent minds, such as “Why you can’t forget your ex,” “Pictures of turtles hatching eggs,” horror stories, and tacky quotes. And if you’ve had enough of all the dating and lifestyle features, you can activate the turn off button, which means no one will now see you on the application.