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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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The Elephants in the Room    

By Peter V
2966 Views | 2 Comments | 2/21/2014 3:52:20 PM

When it comes to international online dating, there are certainly choices. Although eHarmony and match.com are perceived primarily as domestic dating sites, each of these sites has international options as well. In the case of eHarmony, the same website covers both domestic and international dating, while match.com requires international members to purchase a separate membership. Below are my impressions of these sites.

 

eHarmony

Ever gotten a colonoscopy? If so, you will have some sense of what it feels like to fill out the required information to get you started on eHarmony. To begin, you rate yourself on a series of thirty emotional and character traits, things like, warmth, wit, wisdom, irritability, kindness, aggressiveness, and romance. Next, you are given a series of twenty-five statements and are asked whether they describe you “not at all,” “somewhat,” or “very well.  The statements are things like "I do things according to a plan," "I seek adventure," "My personal religious beliefs are important to me," and "I get stressed easily." Third, you are asked how often you have been happy, sad, anxious, confident, hopeful, fearful about the future, etc., in the past month. Then you rank how skilled you are at things like creating romance, keeping physically fit, finding and taking on challenging activities, and the degree you are interested in things like watching movies, going to parties, shopping and dining out. Take a breath. Perhaps a drink or two. Do you try to accommodate the other person's position, to resolve conflict, and are you looking for a long term relationship leading to marriage? Do you agree or disagree with statements like "it is difficult for people to get close to me," "serious relationships should be monogamous," and "it is important to have close friends"?  “How important is your partner's sex appeal, physical appearance, friendship between partners”?

 

All of this activity is required before you even begin to provide your personal data (age, weight, height, occupation, income, etc.) or fill in the essay part of the application ("what are you most passionate about?” “what is the most important thing you are looking for in a woman?” “who is the most influential person in your life?”).

 

When it comes to organizing your contact and communication with potential partners, eHarmony’s methodology is as unique as its application process. To begin, it is not possible to search for potential partners; instead you are limited to the matches that eHarmony sends you. So if you are interested, say, in dating Chinese women, you can put that you want to receive matches from women in China. You can add other countries as well. Or you can just say that distance is not important and receive matches from around the world. 

 

Also, you don’t just do something as rude as send a message to someone you are interested in. There is a step by step process.

 

The first step, "Getting to Know Each Other," consists in sending the other person five questions from a list of a couple of dozens. The questions are ones like (1) what is your philosophy of travel? (2) what is your opinion of soulmates? (3) where do you see yourself as living in fifteen years? and  (4) do you consider yourself ambitious? Each question contains four possible answers with the additional option of filling in one's own response.  If you respond to each other’s questions (and like the responses) you move to the next level called "must haves and can't stands.” This consist in choosing from a preordained list character traits you feel are either extremely important or else completely unacceptable. At the third stage you go deeper. We wish we could describe this stage but we never succeeded in getting to this level with anyone. Fortunately, it is possible for you to skip all of the above, however, and go straight to sending a traditional and boring email.

 

Match.com

If eHarmony is a full strip-search, match.com is a mild pat down by comparison. As I stated above, the international version match.com requires a separate membership from the domestic version.  Nevertheless, in style and content, international match.com operates in an almost identical manner to its domestic counterpart. After providing a basic profile of yourself including age, relationship status, physical characteristics, and occupation, you will be asked to spend a substantial amount of energy on the topic:  “About Me and Who I Looking For.” Next, you take what amounts to a multiple choice quiz on your interests, sports and exercise, pets, political views, and, sadly, zodiac sign. Finally, you finish up with some short essay questions where you state what you like to do for fun, what your favorite hot spots and favorite things are.

 

Like eHarmony, Match will send you weekly matches, but unlike with eHarmony, it is always possible as well for you to do your own search as well. So if you are interested in women in China, you can search for women in China and get a fairly robust search result. Both sites can be joined for free, although doing so is an essentially worthless activity unless you simply want to see what sorts of women are available. For example, when you join for free on Match, you can create a profile, search for matches, appear in search results and receive emails, while you can only contact other singles or send emails with a paid subscription.

 

Although wildly popular domestically (match.com had 35 million unique visitors every month, eHarmony 7 million) when it comes to servicing the international market, however, both websites have substantial shortcomings. An article in the Daily Beast “Why Online Dating is Struggling to Go Global (2/13/13)  speculated that the problems these websites are having establishing themselves overseas is due to cross cultural issues the fact that in many of the places where they are trying to set up shop, the sort of online dating they are promoting is simply not popular.  A bigger problem has to do with language, especially with e Harmony.   As you can tell from the description above, completing a eHarmony profile requires much higher language skills than most foreign women has. Hell, it requires more language skills than many domestic women (and men) have. And speaking of language, neither offers any translation services.

 

Both sites as well suffer as well from a type of conceptual confusion.  As anyone who has taken time to skim the profiles on these Match or eHarmony knows, the individuals on these sites expend a great deal of effort attempting to display the individuality that sets them apart from everybody else on the dating site: that they don’t read the same books, watch the same TV shows and films, engage in the same pastimes, or visit the same vacation spots as everyone else.  These sites encourage you to emphasize your uniqueness throughout the profile. But uniqueness is simply not a major draw in many parts of the world, especially in Asia. In The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why? Richard Nisbett notes that when North Americans are questioned regarding their characteristics and traits, they routinely overrate their distinctiveness. On question after question, North Americans report themselves to be more unique than they really are, whereas Asians are much less likely to commit this error. The implication for IOLD is that sites like eHarmony and Match.com that make emphasize individuality are going to be less of a draw in cultures such as Asia where this is not such a sought-after trait.

 

Finally, there is the issue of cost. Both eHarmony and match.com require all members to pay if they want to contact other members. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have some skin in the game, as they say, you are apt to take it more seriously. But there are a number of international online dating sites that allow nonpaying members to communicate with paying members. The result is that on these sites women become free riders, able to participate fully in the site because of the men who pay the standard membership free: not unlike the thinking that goes into Ladies Nights at bars, where the women drink for free. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that many women will stay away from sites that charge them to participate in an activity they can do for free on other sites. I found this to be especially a problem for Match.com more than eHarmony probably because Match.com allows you to send as any emails to as many women as you want. If very few of the women on the site are paid members, you will get very few responses. At least I tell myself that’s the rationale! Also, match.com seems popular in only a few places. At least when I was a member of the international site, most of the matches I received were from Beijing.

 

So the bottom line is that although these are both excellent sites for domestic dating (although see my last blog post for what I think about domestic online dating) they both have substantial shortcomings as international online dating sites. 

 

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
Comments
(Showing 1 to 2 of 2) 1
#2014-02-21 16:03:47 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, pretty difficult for me not to agree with this article. I have to tell you that, although it was long ago, when I tried the two sites I found myself dropping out of eHarmony before I could even complete the extensive interrogation that caused me to foresee that anyone I might meet there was going to be far too persnickety and uptight for me to be able to tolerate for more then an hour or so. Match.com took me about a week to decide it was just too boring to bother with. So I went Asian a long long time ago, and I'm glad that I did.

#2014-02-22 01:07:30 by anonymous8991 @anonymous8991

I did eharmony for a while after my divorce and in my opinion it was slow to start but as you rate their potential matches and answer the questions as to why you did or didn't like it, it modified its search algorithms and it started sending me women who were more and more personally interesting. Like making a radio station on pandora and thumbs up n downing songs..

My problem was that when I told it I was really pretty much only interested in Asian women it started only giving me a few matches that were invariably so far away, still within the USA but across the country, that I lost interest.

I did meet a few women who I, had I not moved, would probably have ended up great friends with for life and I can imagine if I was more open to any ethnicity, read that as white American women, i probably would have found a perfect match there.

It just takes patience to let it learn your tastes, but I did like it more and more as it had time to fine tune.

Lol, had I not paid for 6 months up front though, I think I too would have dropped it before I got to the point where every woman it matched me had an amazingly cool job and hobbies that matched with mine etc. really if you are mainstream in your tastes and more patient I think its great. I'm just not that mainstream. If I lived in California or NY it might have been better for me too.

But CLM has definitely worked... I couldn't possibly be happier with my return on investment here. Our visa process and all the difficult waiting is almost finished.

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