Some Nepali women find husbands on Tinder, others just want a flingIn 2004, Samridhi was a fresh high school graduate on a gap year with not much to do. This being the early 2000s, cell phones still had qwerty keypads and tiny screens, with smartphones still a long way off.
In 2004, Samridhi was a fresh high school graduate on a gap year with not much to do. This being the early 2000s, cell phones still had qwerty keypads and tiny screens, with smartphones still a long way off. Samridhi and her friends communicated primarily through landlines, planning their day well in advance before heading out to restaurants to socialise. She was often introduced to interesting men by her friends at these social events and even went on a few friendly dates, but not much came of it.
Fifteen years later, Samridhi, now 33 and a social worker, has turned to Tinder, like much of the Western world. Her friends forced her to download the app in 2013 and she’s been using it intermittently, installing and uninstalling it in fits of indecisiveness. When Samridhi was growing up, she had never thought that connecting with people and finding a dating partner would be as convenient as it is today.
“I’ve met matches and if either of us didn’t want to connect again, it was easy to disappear,” says Samridhi. “The virtual setting has changed dating.”
During her younger days, if a woman was spotted drinking a cup of coffee with a man, onlookers would assume that they were dating, says Samridhi. However, the adoption of hook-up and dating apps like Tinder signal changing cultural mores and more cosmopolitan attitudes in the cities.
With Tinder, women and men can sit at home and browse through a plethora of singles, swiping either left (reject) or right (like), depending on how much the single-in-question’s profile and pictures appeal to them. If both swipe right then they can message each other and set up a date. What happens next might be all in their hands, but for Kathmandu’s women, experiences on Tinder haven’t been as exciting as they would’ve liked.
Samridhi, for instance, still prefers the old-fashioned way of meeting men—going to bars. She finds the men a little too awkward on Tinder.
Twenty-seven-year-old Abha Dhital, founder of the Little Things store, was first introduced to Tinder during the 2017 Valentine’s season. She was on Tinder for a total of five days, after which she uninstalled the app, as she didn’t find any compatible matches. However, things changed altogether in September 2018, when she gave Tinder a second shot—she matched with more than 40 men.
“The second time I was on Tinder, I was bold. I was tired of the mundane and I wanted something exciting. I knew what I wanted out of it, or at least I thought I knew what I wanted,” says Dhital. “I matched with more than 40 men but of course, only 13 of them really made an effort to talk. I finally ended up going out on a date with four men.”
Amshu Dali, the founder of Prakriti Breads, lasted only two days on Tinder when she downloaded the app in 2015. She was single, bored and wanted to see if it had something different to offer, but then she realised the dating app just wasn’t for her.
“Kathmandu is a very small place, everyone knows everyone and when I was on Tinder I found quite a few familiar faces, which could have made things awkward to swipe either right or left,” says Dali.
For many young, single women, Tinder use has been exploratory. Since avenues for dating and meeting people remain limited in Kathmandu, the app has been a useful tool in gauging the depth of the dating pool and preparing to jump in.
“The app has been a big time pass for me,” says Sudeepa, a 19-year-old Bachelor’s student. “I’ve made many friends and healthy flirting has helped boost my self-confidence a lot.”
Sudeepa wasn’t initially too sure about going on dates, but Tinder has helped her realise that dating isn’t as daunting as it appears and that she has a lot to offer. She’s been an active Tinder user since 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. However, she has a certain standard when it comes to swiping right. She immediately swipes left if a man does not show sex appeal in his pictures.
“Tinder is a dating app and you ought to look good in all your pictures,” she says. “I too have my best pictures up so that interested men can swipe right if they like me.”
Dhital’s standards are different. “I really dig funny and smart bios,” she says. “Left swipes are mostly for men who are obviously narcissistic. Even if we match, it takes a five-minute conversation to know if we actually click or not.”
While most of the women I spoke to haven’t had much luck on Tinder, whether it is casual dating or long-term romance, Prapti, 26 and a kindergarten teacher, might be the exception that proves the rule—she downloaded Tinder in 2015 and met her husband on it.
“We connected instantly,” she says. “There has been no looking back after that first swipe right.”
“Tinder is a mixed bag,” says Dhital. “I really liked how each guy was different, but I went on dates with guys after clarifying that I wasn’t ready for a casual hookup. If someone suggested coupling, I immediately ran away.”
Sumnima, 28, agrees with Dhital. She joined Tinder in July 2017 as she wanted to explore the online dating scene in Kathmandu, and since then, she’s met all kinds of men—from men who could actually hold a conversation and were friendly to men with fragile egos, men who were too eager to impress, men who had terrible opening lines.
“I think men lose their inhibitions when they are on Tinder, so they say things that they would not normally say to you face-to-face,” she says.
Just the fact that a woman is on Tinder seems to send the wrong message to most men, says Sumnima. “All women on Tinder are available for sex and hence, they think they can get away with awful pick up lines,” she says. “But they will get a ‘no’ or they’ll get unmatched.”
Tinder, like dating, is not the same for everyone. While most young Nepali women might not have had the experiences they expected, for others, Tinder has been a boon. Ever since downloading the app last year, 27-year-old Simrika has been on at least one date every week or so.
“You can just sit at home and pick and choose who you want to go on a date with,” she says. “I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences but for the most part, it’s been fun. I’ve probably met more than 50 guys.”
You need to use the app for what it’s made, says Simrika. “Tinder is great if you want a casual fling, but if you’re looking for romance then maybe you should try something else,” she says.
Maya, downloaded Tinder in January for just that reason—to have a fling. “I joined Tinder with no hopes and expectations of finding true love. I just wanted something casual,” she says.
For women like Sudeepa, Simrika and Maya, Tinder has provided them with the space to explore their desires, figure out what kind of men they want, and maybe go on a date or two and have a casual fling—something that might not be possible in close social circles.
“If you have expectations, you’ll hurt yourself at the end of the day,” says Maya. “You just need to play it cool.”