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Foreign Relations: How to Meet Women in Argentina, China, Russia, Brazil and Japan:
Sex

Foreign Relations: How to Meet Women in Argentina, China, Russia, Brazil and Japan

The swipe right on Tinder. The double tap on Instagram. The Facebook like. Flirting in America is a well-oiled, wi-fi-connected machine fueled by a handful of apps instead of old-school barside meet-and-greets. But if you think your—let’s be real—lazy emoji use will impress singles overseas, it’s time to up your game. Tech makes it easier than ever to meet strangers around the world, and a little knowledge of cultural traditions will help you hook up on a global scale. So grab your passport as we give you a primer on foreign relations.


ARGENTINA

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GETTING ON THE SCENE
Believe it or not, Argentina, the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, in 2010, still stigmatizes online dating. That’s because Argentineans respect tradition, including that of organizing romance through family, school and church (70 to 90 percent of the population identifies as Catholic). “Although people here are meeting online, they aren’t admitting it,” says Valeria Schapira, a Match.com consultant and author of Tangled: Sex, Humor and Love on the Web. But hope is in sight for the digitally devoted: Match.com is gaining thousands of new users in the region every month, and Argentina is quickly becoming one of the largest online-dating markets in Latin America, along with Brazil and Mexico. “There is still some fear, especially among women, that online dating will make him or her look desperate,” says Schapira. “But it’s better than it was a decade ago, when I’d tell people I was dating online and they’d look at me like I’d gone mad.”

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Aside from Match, a leading network in Argentina is nine-year-old Badoo. It works well because it’s nominally a social-networking service that subtly functions as a dating site. Searching for matches on Badoo mirrors the same process on your standard dating app: Sign in, select an age range and check out nearby singles. Users choose whether they’re there to flirt, share photos or meet in real life; they can also see a list of everyone who checks out their profile. (Consummate OkCupid users know all about this mind-fucking feature.) Badoo makes online seduction easy and surprisingly effective. It’s a wonder the site hasn’t caught on in the U.S.

HOW TO PLAY THE FIELD
Unlike in the States, where a continual slate of rom-coms have conditioned guys to chase the girl, Argentinean men have an advantage when it comes to meeting beautiful women. In urban areas, single men who date online often find a large number of women looking for someone their age—and the women are far more aggressive online than they are in person. “Today the number of Latin American women who take the initiative and message a man first online is bigger than the number of men who do,” says Schapira. “That would never happen in real life.” Here’s to online empowerment.

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Santiago, a 34-year-old journalist in Buenos Aires, says Twitter is the best site for meeting women. That makes sense, given the country’s polarizing take on digital matchmaking. Santiago says his friends scope out the profile pictures of women who follow them. If they’re attractive, the men will automatically follow them back. “You have a lot of people hitting on each other on Twitter,” he explains. “Once you start following each other, there are all these opportunities. You can direct-message, send a phone number, whatever. I invite people who follow me to come to barbecues at my apartment. If they accept, you’re in.”


CHINA

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GETTING ON THE SCENE
In China, the tradition of matchmaking based on family status goes back more than 2,000 years. Now dating apps lend a hand to those old-school rituals, especially as thousands of people migrate from rural to urban areas, breaking ties with their old social networks along the way. With a billion-plus population, it’s no shock China is home to the world’s largest dating market, but what is surprising is that the market operates like a high-end industry. Here, some online dating companies house massive call centers where female, often older, employees fix up singles just as they might have a century ago. Which leads us to.…

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Zhenai (zhen means cherished, ai means love) has more than 90 million users and is growing by 40,000 every day. By all accounts, it’s one of the leading online dating businesses in a country that has banned Facebook and Tinder. Zhenai offers three different services: The first, which is free, lets people post profiles and send digital “winks” but withholds messaging capabilities. It’s basically foreplay, and the goal is to tease people with enough potential matches that they’ll shell out around $60 for a yearly membership. The paid service works like most American dating sites and is accessible on most devices, including Apple Watches. Zhenai’s third service is the most unconventional by U.S. standards—and the most expensive. It’s called the “online to offline matchmaking service,” and it will set you back roughly $2,500 for an eight-month term. What does that dough buy? An in-person (or phone, depending on where you live) consultation with one of Zhenai’s 3,000 matchmakers. Clients meet their coach to craft a description of themselves and the kind of person they’re looking for. First dates take place in the company’s meeting rooms with the matchmaker present, in an effort to eliminate that all-too-familiar first-date awkwardness. “Some Chinese women want a husband to own an apartment, because real estate prices are so high,” says Song Li, Zhenai’s CEO. “This is awkward to ask someone, but the matchmaker can find out for you ahead of time.” Plus, you’ll get feedback on your game. “A lot of times when people meet someone, they can’t tell if their date is interested, so you can find out from the matchmaker,” says Li. “In our culture, people won’t tell you the truth about why you’re rejected. A matchmaker will.” It all sounds incredibly intense—and says a lot about how seriously Chinese singles play the dating game.

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Ditch the humble brag in profiles. Li advises men to show off their educational credentials, income, ambitions and career potential. “I actually did a study of the relationship between a user’s monthly salary and the number of winks they receive on our site. For men, the line is a straight slope up. You can literally calculate how many more winks you’ll receive for every 1,000 yuan.” For women, Li says, “that same line is flat, until you reach a certain level of income, at which point men’s interest goes down.”


RUSSIA

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GETTING ON THE SCENE
Hooking up isn’t easy in Russia, where you’re more likely to have a one-night stand with a matryoshka doll than the person you had vodka shots with at a bar. “There is less of a hookup culture here than you see in the U.S.,” says Melissa McDonald, who has analyzed the Russian dating scene for Yandex, the country’s equivalent of Google. According to her research, 81 percent of Russians who use dating sites are looking for “love and serious relationships,” and 17 percent are looking for “friendship.” Only two percent fall in the “other” category, which includes casual sex. But with 83 million internet users in Russia in 2013 alone, the country remains Europe’s largest online market. For comparison, Europe’s second-largest market, Germany, had about 60 million users.

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Scores of local services vie for a piece of the action, but Fotostrana, Mamba and Topface are a few of the go-tos, and they’re similar to American sites. On Mamba, you sign in through e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. (For good measure, provide a mobile number so the site can confirm your “REAL-status,” which lets prospects know you’re legit.) Mamba’s user-friendly interface asks the across-the-board basics: your gender, what you’re looking for, your physical features, desired age range and location. Mamba categories not commonly seen in the States? Try “bad habits” and “accommodation,” the options for which range from “lives with parents” to “no permanent accommodation.”

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HOW TO PLAY THE FIELD
Russians don’t mess around when it comes to profile pictures. If you’ve got it, flaunt it—money, muscles, whatever. “For both genders, sexy photos are the best,” says Dmitry Filatov, CEO of Russia’s fastest-growing dating site, Topface. Indeed, foreigners and journalists who visit Russian sites seem to find the people incredibly hot: “Rest assured, when you sign up for one of these dating sites, you will see a number of stunningly attractive women,” reports one dating blog. “But a photo that shows how rich you are is also good,” adds Filatov. Men in particular use their profile pictures to display their wealth—and their abs. On the other end of the spectrum are troves of pictures that are seriously WTF. BuzzFeed recently ran the listicle “29 Completely Unexplainable Russian Dating Site Pictures.” All of them lived up to that description.

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Once Russians start flirting, they follow strong traditional gender roles. Prior to a first date, men might send digital flowers or other virtual gifts via the dating site—and the number of bouquets a woman has received is clearly advertised in her profile. So, you know, no pressure. Also, though Tinder has become a major player in Russian social life over the past few years, beware. Russians use it not only for dating but for social networking and business as well. So don’t get too excited when an attractive person in St. Petersburg swipes right on your profile: He or she may be interested only in your résumé—or your pocketbook.


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BRAZIL

GETTING ON THE SCENE
Extroverted isn’t a strong enough word to describe how Brazilians present themselves on dating sites. Exhibitionistic might be a more appropriate term—and that’s part of the problem for online dating companies. Locals are not in the least bit culturally conservative. Life in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is remarkably social, playful, open and spontaneous, which means it’s actually easier to meet people on the street, at the beach or in a bar than it is to hook up online. The good news for dudes: Single women in Brazil outnumber men by more than 4 million. The bad news for dudes: That huge disproportion is the result of higher mortality rates among young men. The imbalance is particularly apparent in Rio, host city for this year’s Summer Olympics, which is home to nine men for every 10 women.

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If you’re adamant about finding a date online instead of on the shoreline, one of Brazil’s leading dating sites is the LGBT-friendly ParPerfeito (“perfect match” in Portuguese). As the name implies, users are likely on the hunt for spouses or serious partners. If you’re more interested in a fling and don’t have time to brush up your Portuguese before landing in São Paulo, your usual wingman, Tinder, will do. During the 2014 World Cup, soccer fans from around the world, including tens of thousands of young Americans and Europeans, came to Brazil and brought their Tinder accounts with them. The app exploded as foreigners recommended it to strangers on the streets. “Everyone was using it,” says Gael Deheneffe, general manager at ParPerfeito and Match LatAm, the Latin American outpost of Match.com. Fun fact: The World Cup helped precipitate Tinder’s Passport feature, which allows users to change their location before vacation, in case they want to rack up matches to meet upon touchdown.

HOW TO PLAY THE FIELD
Count on your date to show up with a gang of friends or family members. Dating in Brazil is a group activity, so don’t expect an intimate conversation, let alone something sexual, until you’ve been vetted by the pack.

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Before he moved to Rio, Deheneffe, who is French, worked at a popular European dating site. “When I compare Brazilian faces on profiles with what I saw in France, it’s amazing. The French think looking stern and serious is sexy. Here, it’s about the joy you can express with your body,” he says. “That’s natural, since Brazil has miles and miles of beaches. Something like 90 percent of profile pictures are of people in little bathing suits, wearing sunglasses. If you’re coming down here to meet someone online, be ready to reveal some flesh.” But you’ll also need a killer smile. “The smile is huge in Latin America,” Deheneffe says. “It’s a beautiful, touching part of the culture.”


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JAPAN

GETTING ON THE SCENE
Japan is struggling through a romantic drought of historic proportions thanks to—get this—the popularity of dating-simulation games such as Konami’s LovePlus. The number of people between the ages of 18 and 34 not involved in a romantic relationship with the opposite sex now stands at 61 percent for men and 49 percent for women. Thirty percent of men in their 20s and 30s have had no dating experience, according to one survey, and nearly a quarter of women called sex “bothersome” in another survey. Alas, instead of drawing on the latest technology to rekindle passion, young Japanese singles seem more interested in cuddle bars, soap massage parlors and masturbation aids. The sexual crisis is so dire that the Japanese government has introduced programs to encourage and even subsidize dating among the young and unattached. It’s no wonder that, according to some reports, one in four Japanese women say they’re still virgins at the age of 34.

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An app called Pairs wants to rescue Japan from its sexual depression. As with Tinder, users sign up for Pairs through Facebook. “That gives it more credibility with young people,” says Kumiko Endo, a Japanese American sociologist at the New School whose doctoral dissertation is about dating in Japan. “People feel they can trust it.” They need to, because Pairs asks for some very personal and unorthodox information. It has specifications for body shape (from somewhat thin to rather thick), blood type, birthplace, profession, highest degree, nonwork days and alcohol consumption. “I had to laugh when I saw the blood-type question,” Endo says, “because we are firm believers in blood-type compatibility. That is quintessentially Japanese.” Pairs is free for women but requires men to pay a modest membership fee, and the app’s digital marketplace seems to play into the country’s current obsession with virtual romance. Users must purchase virtual coins to buy and send “like” messages to people they find attractive. If a “like” is reciprocated, senders can then exchange messages. That protects both parties, and it’s comforting to women who may avoid online dating sites because they fear getting notes from creepy men. “Only your initials appear in the profile,” explains Endo. “Japanese people still fear that their friends and co-workers will find out they’re trying to meet someone online. We have a hard time getting over our traditions. The stigma around internet dating is still strong.”’

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Japanese singles say one big problem they have with dating sites is that they encourage users to post flattering profile pictures. “That’s so narcissistic,” says one attractive single woman in her early 30s. “This is a culture of modesty and honor, and putting up a sexy photo of yourself is boastful and obnoxious.” The preferred photos for online dating? Cats, street signs and rice cookers. Yeah, we’re confused too.