August 1

Why is dating so hard in Singapore?


If you’re on the train, dressed up, properly made up, with tears slowly rolling down your cheeks, wondering why your date didn’t ask you out again, have hope.

If you’re going back on the bus, rolling up your sleeves, and trying to figure out just what went wrong for that date to ghost you again, please, relax.

It may not be about you.

If you’re tired of dating, have hope.

Why is dating so hard in Singapore
Okay, relax relax. You don’t have to keep texting someone who doesn’t want to date you.

It’s not over yet.

Yes, I know.

You’re now at a stage where you’re going down your contact list, and desperately wondering who’s single.

You’re reaching out to old contacts, even those in primary school, suddenly popping out a text to them asking,

How are you?

And when they tell you they’re married, or they found a boyfriend, you yell,

Why does no one love me?

What’s wrong with me?!

Or you might even have had friends who referred you to their best friends, and you end up messing up the lead-up to the date, that even your relationship with your friend get strained.

We know, we know.

We’ve all been there.


Yes we’ve all been there. Where the date doesn’t reply.

How do you get attached in a place like Singapore, where everyone just doesn’t seem to have time for you?

First off, let me just say.

I speak from experience, not expertise

If you’re coming here and wondering how many girlfriends I’ve had (the answer is zero), and who I am to give you advice, the answer is that I’m just another traveler on this journey with you.

A week ago, I was at a Friendzone event when I realised that all of the tech guys on my table had used the same blind dating agency.

Kopi Date.

We broke into a laugh as we traded advice on how to get girlfriends.

But after an hour of this, I saw two things.

  1. That the guys really are great people,
  2. That getting attached in Singapore is really, really hard.

There are three main reasons why.

  1. The context of Singapore as a city
  2. The circumstances in Singapore
  3. The culture of Singaporeans

People are really busy

If you’re reading this article, I suspect you’re reading it because you’ve not managed to get a date during the ‘easier’ periods in university, where connections are more spontaneous, and where everyone is less intent on an outcome.

But when you move into adulthood, and you have a full-time job, you realise that you’re really tired after your job.

Trying to think about what to do with your date, or even trying to think of how to reply in a funny way that will make your date entertained, just feels like too much effort.

If one party starts flagging in her attention to the budding relationship, there is a knock on effect.

The guy might think that the girl doesn’t seem as ‘hot’, when the lady might just be having a busier time at work.

Both parties may be new to the dating scene

why is dating so hard in Singapore?
Your date may not have that high a skill level in dating yet. She might end up draining you.

If you think about how dates ‘come into the market’, they may be there after concentrating hard on university, their careers, and realising,

Gosh. I need to get married or risk getting left on the shelf.

This also means that when you go for the date, you might be facing someone who’s relatively less skilled at the dating game.

For example, I’ve met ladies who have come into dates not knowing how to play the conversation game. In one recent date, I asked about 42 questions. The lady?


Knowing how to play conversational tennis may one of the early skills one needs to pick up.

(Most) Singaporean guys move too fast

Don’t take it too fast, young Palawan.

I made the mistake of confessing my love and asking the lady to go exclusive (like a distributorship) with me after 2 months.

And 6 dates.

I also made the worst faux pas of telling her that I was pissed with her in the morning, for constantly being late.

Hear this.

I’m really pissed.


Because when we’ve met, you are late 4 out of the 6 times.

She rolls her eyes.

Oh I didn’t know you were counting.

In my head, I think,

Duh… of course I am!

Few moments later, I confess my love and how much she means to me.

Talk about timing.

I know, I know. I’m the worst person when it comes to timing.

But later a friend was telling me about how he wanted the girl to give him clarity after two months about whether the relationship would progress beyond.

Guys want the answer fast, so that they can move on.

Girls, from what I’ve heard, prefer to wait.

The usual time?

6 months.

So keep going out, making your interest clear.

But even when she rejects you initially, keep going.

It may not be a hard no.

They just need more time to think.

Accepting that it’s going to be hard is the first step

I walked out of the gelato parlour on Saturday feeling like it had been an absolute waste of time.

I had rushed down after doing a speech in the morning, and dressed to the nines in a long sleeved shirt with cufflinks, I was excited.

This blind date is going to be good, I thought to myself.

Except that it wasn’t.

I’m sure she would have been great for others, but she just wasn’t for me.

Kopi Date doesn’t give you the contact details of the person, and you thus have to ask, or wait for them to coordinate the exchange of contacts (if you agree).

On past dates, I felt it’d be mean to not ask.

But this time, I didn’t ask.

Because as I walked to the MRT with her, I realised I didn’t want to give her the false hope that it’d work out.

Which is the first lesson.

Accept that getting attached is hard, but celebrate the qualities you bring so that you end up getting attached with any Jane Doe that’s out there.

Choosing a partner is going to be hard, and the conventional advice is that you should lower your standards.


I don’t think that might be the best advice.

What I think can be lowered is one’s expectations of physical attractiveness, because that will eventually fade over time. But character qualities shouldn’t be dropped from your list.

That’s where this advice comes in. Accepting that this is going to be a journey, and that it will take time, will help you to be mindful that you aren’t going to get attached at the first date.

Frequency matters

And that in dating, the initial frequency of different dates count.

When you first start dating, it will be awkward. You won’t know what to ask, and it could feel like an interview.

Take the first few as lifting more and more reps.

But take time to also think through

  1. What went well,
  2. What didn’t go as well
  3. What you would improve on for the next date

If you’re serious about reducing the number of times you go out on dates, then reflecting doesn’t sound that crazy.

Because let’s face it, dating isn’t fun.

Understand the stages of dating

Before I studied in the U.K., I never even knew that there were stages.

The stages before getting attached
The stages before getting attached

Getting past the first stage where the girl agrees to see you again, is not that easy.

It is important to help the lady feel desired. It’s not just about asking her out over and over again, because she would be trying to wonder where you’re taking this.

After a first date, as we were walking home, I remembered telling a lady,

Wow, that was fun.

I would love to meet you again.

Would you be keen to?

Having that conversation in person is better, rather than leaving yourself in knots as you wait for her reply.

It also grows the size of your balls (sorry, I meant courage).

Does working on yourself work?

Many people talk about how you should work on yourself before working on the date. It’s probably a simultaneous process.

What worked for me was focusing on 3 skills:

  1. Confidence as a character trait
  2. Conversational skills
  3. Courage

And there’s no better way than going for dance classes. Don’t laugh.

It works.

In salsa, you’re expected to hold stranger’s hands, wrap them around your arms, and dance with them.

It grows your ability to walk up to girls you like and actually ask them for their number (or hand).

Go where you’re in your element

Your friend may recommend the club as the best place for pickup, but if you’re not that kind of guy who enjoys shouting into people’s ears over loud, pumping music, there’s no point.

Go where you actually enjoy yourself. That’s where the next advice comes in.

Go where there’s regular activity

In Singapore I’ve noticed that if you ask a lady to meet one on one with you, their alarm bells start ringing.

They think you’re romantically interested in them. Whether or not that’s the case for you doesn’t matter.

What matters is that they think it’s the case.


Friendzone Singapore events
Here’s how to make new friends

But meeting in groups is easier. Because you get to see them on a regular basis, converse, without there being an expectation to date.

These non threatening environments play a very important role in helping you, and her, to get used to each other.

You also get to see how she is amongst friends. She might react differently in front of you.

Of course the question is how to move beyond the initial meetings to a deeper meeting.

You might just need to text

I hate texting.

Hate, with a capital H.

Because it’s just not as efficient as meeting. Texting for 30 minutes a day, for 2 weeks, just doesn’t seem as efficient as having a quick 1 hour chat.

Unfortunately, how ladies determine whether someone is worth going out with is through the text message. She thinks if you text well, you should meet well.

Well, we know that’s not always the case.

Whilst I haven’t personally managed this, text with the intent of meeting. After 2 weeks of texting, try to arrange a meetup.

That’s the amount of time I would personally give to each party to get mutually acquainted and to feel comfortable, before asking them out.

How you treat others, how others treat you, and how you treat yourself

Okay, I confess. I’ve been reading some dating books.

One of the highly recommended ones is Mark Manson’s “Models”.

His primary advice is that

women judge social status by behavior.

Social status is determined by how you behave around other people, how other people behave around you, and how you treat yourself.

Courtesy of Mark Manson’s ‘Models’
Courtesy of Mark Manson’s ‘Models’

How do you treat yourself? Others? And how do others treat you?

During the first year of university, a Russian I was dating told me something I’d never forget.

You dress like a vagabond.

There’s no second first impression.

You need to make a good first one.

That’s when I stopped wearing the jumpers everywhere, and started dressing up in Oxford shirts, everyday.

No kidding.

Taking the effort to iron the shirt everyday, even though everyone else in university was just wearing shirt and sometimes their pyjamas, helped me to present myself better to others.

And as Manson continues,

These are the three tenets of being a high status and a highly attractive man: treat others well, be treated well by others, and treat yourself well.

Is it okay to be yourself?

This is going to be a painful time.

For those who say that you should be yourself, sure you can.

But that may come at the cost of you eventually dying yourself, alone.

If you want a partner, you need to make space and changes for a partner to enter. You’re not perfect.

Taking an honest look at yourself and ask yourself:

  • Do I love myself?
  • How do I treat others?
  • Do others love me?
  • Why or why not?

Getting attached might take work, but it will be worth it.



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