How to Use Tinder (Safely!) While Traveling: Case Study in Korea

As some of you know, I recently went to Korea for Ultra Music Festival. But instead of just going for the festival itself, I went a couple days early (to eat, of course), during which I was traveling solo. So with that time, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and do a "scientific" case study using my guide to finding a local to show you around to do just that. Because we all know, if you can't reproduce the results, you're going to have to fix your method (thanks, seventh grade science). First, I'll go through my process, and then I'll dissect how the dates went.

Spoiler alert: Without giving too much away, I will say that while I wasn't quite as successful as I was in Malaysia (though honestly that was likely an anomaly of a good time and I did have a lot more time there), I certainly did get what I meant to out of it, along with some unexpected perks as well. In sum, I'd say the guide is pretty reliable so far.

Before I left Japan, I made sure to prep my (newly restarted) profile but had it switched to unfindable until I landed. I arrived in Korea at about 2:30pm on Thursday, switched my profile on, and started swiping. The train from Incheon International Airport into Seoul is over an hour long, so I had quite a bit of time to get going before I even reached my AirBnb. It was during this early bit that I matched with the person who would become my first meetup (at just before 3:30, according to the chat history), but more about that later.

At the beginning, I had my distance radius set to 50 miles since the airport was quite far from the city, but once I reached Seoul, I narrowed it to 10. I was swiping mostly on people who were local (or looked local), or who stated in their profile that they had been living in the city for a while. Though I was also swiping on other visitors who were there for the music festival as well because, let's be honest here, when you're with a group of girls (which was to be my case that weekend), meeting up with a group of guys in a music festival is a pretty sure way to know that you're not going to have to pay for anything once you're through the gates without even the expectation of necessarily seeing them again for the next day. Of course, anyone I swiped on had to also meet my criteria written in my guide. That is, not being a creep and looking semi-interesting.

Going on this, I ran out of right swipes at about 7:00 pm. Wait, what, she ran out of swipes? How desperate. Yeah, I know. But AGAIN, this isn't about your high standards and receiving superficial validation only from people you deem attractive enough. Also, to be clear here, I wasn't just sitting in my room swiping the entire time. I arrived at my AirBnB at around 4:00, put my things down, and went exploring. The swiping was actually pretty casual in between message exchanges. I'd say that it was maybe 60 or so right swipes before it capped me. Once the 12-hour pause was up, I continued until I hit it again and stopped soon after that. I don't think I swiped at all after Friday afternoon because I knew I'd be busy all day on Saturday and Sunday. In the end, my final match count for two days of swiping was 148, I received messages from 87 of them, and I ended up meeting with three. 

So pretty early on I found someone to do dinner with on the first night (the one mentioned above). His profile was rather minimal, but he was good at keeping the text conversation to the point, and his Instagram checked out, so why not. Plus he lived in the area I was staying in, which meant we'd be meeting someplace I could easily walk to. Plus I'd be getting a tour around this really cool, bustling (i.e., lots of people) neighborhood. Keep it safe, y'all.


We met at one of the subway exits at 7:30 and walked around a bit before going to get dinner. Dinner came out to about $20, which he covered on the premise that I'd get dessert. Totally cool with me as dessert ended up being smoothies from this place he said was popular (for good reason - they were really good!), which totaled maybe $7 for the two of us. After that, smoothies in hand, we walked some more around the area, going up and down the shopping streets and through the cutest little park. At about 10:00 he had to leave to have a video conference or something and I went on my merry ol' way back to my AirBnb. Done and dusted.

So yeah, looking at the straight facts, it seems like it went pretty well. I got a tour of the area, a pretty cheap meal, and a little insight into local perspectives.

I bet you can already hear the "but" coming, so here it is.

But, in terms of quality of conversation it could have been better. He wasn't a bad guy by any means, and I really did learn a lot about differing school systems, workplace culture, the mandatory military service in South Korea, etc. All of which are topics that I would gladly converse about. Except he just would Not. Shut. Up. And not just about things that he knew about, but also things that I brought up and that I definitely had more knowledge about than he did. I guess mansplaining just happens everywhere!

Despite that I'd still say it was a successful first Tinder date in Korea. Day two, however, turned out to be a little trickier. While KL was full of expats and digital nomads and shift workers, it appears Seoul is a city of students, corporate slaves, and American military, at least according to Tinder. Which meant that I had quite a rough time finding someone free during the day on a Friday. Or maybe they were all just thirsty mofos trying to get me to go out and get a little intoxicated at night. In any case, Friday ended up just being a me day, which I spent shopping, visiting museums, and meeting up with an old friend. So definitely not a loss.

Now the really interesting part came on Saturday. As I said above, I wasn't only swiping for tour guides, but for festival friends as well. And if you've never been to a festival, just know that everyone is keen to meet new people, so the hardest part about meeting up is deciding who to meet up with and how to find them

I went in with a group of three other girls but we decided that I'd split from them to find the person that I decided to meet with and meet up with my friends again later. I wasn't really worried because I knew that this person was with a big group, and all of my friends had data on their phones and wouldn't be hard to find. And honestly, this was probably one of the best decisions I made all weekend. It turns out their entire group was from Kuala Lumpur, which instantly gave us something to talk about (other than the music, of course), and we all just vibed and had a good time and now I've got more people to hang with when I'm back in Malaysia in August. Wins all around.

That's Tinder for you. Sometimes it kind of gives you what you want, and then sometimes it surprises you with something amazing that you didn't even know you wanted. As long as you're smart about it and open to taking some chances, the potential for a lot of good is there.

I guess the one thing to take from this, though, is don't rely on this for all of your plans because you might not be as successful as you hoped. Depending on the culture of the place, your timing, and probably a whole slew of other factors, you might not get the results you were expecting, so be prepared to do something else.  

I hope this was enjoyable and informative because I had a ton of fun doing this. And who knows, maybe this will become a regular thing.

(And in case you were wondering about that third meet-up, it turns out that the guy that I met up with at the music festival had a twin brother who I also matched with and was, of course, part of the group. It really wasn't as awkward as it sounds. Promise.)