Making friends in Thailand

“Wait, why are you getting Tinder notifications? Don’t you have a boyfriend?” 

Despite my constant insistence to others that I was on dating apps solely to make friends, I received a lot of skeptical mm-hmms or “right, that’s why you’re on a dating app” *wink*.

There are a lot of people – generally attached ones – on dating apps who state in their bio they are just here for friends. Conventional wisdom dictates that they are probably cheating on their partner. But I am living proof that dating apps are not just for hookups, you can find genuine friends there too.

An attached person on a dating website

When I moved to Thailand in June 2018 from Washington D.C., I was so excited to finally make new friends with whom I share the same culture. After a couple of months here, I realised that forming a squad would be a challenge, as the traits that helped me form new friendships in other countries sometimes made me yue (too much) here. 

cavapoo in purse

Me, yue? You mean that taking your puppy everywhere Paris Hilton-style is ‘too’ extra? 

While still hopeful to make friends, my social energy was drained from trying to figure out what worked or didn’t work in conversation. I’ve heard of people building genuine friendships on dating apps; and at this point, I’ve tried everything from meetup groups to striking up conversations with people at the gym. So, I was willing to try my luck.

Bumble BFF PhotoMy best friend of 15 years and I at my kimono photoshoot that we thought was completely normal – guess ‘extra’ for us translated to ‘overly obnoxious’.

I spoke to my partner, Jonathan, about going on Tinder to *hopefully* find my posse. After months of having to be both my partner, best friend and part-time girl-friend, he was supportive of the idea. We established that I would be using the app for friendship purposes ONLY, and that he could ask questions at any point – he didn’t.

“Only looking for friends” 

Jonathan and I made my Tinder profile together. He actually helped me select photos that would make me look “fun” and “approachable” – ones of me on the beach meant I would be up for anything, ones with my dogs showed that I was compassionate and ones with him just in case people misunderstood.

scuba diving phuketJonathan thought that this picture would attract like-minded adventurers 

I set my “preferences” to both men and women and wrote in my bio, ONLY LOOKING FOR FRIENDS”. 

I was so excited and hopeful – many other people had the same sentence in their profile. Despite the very clear message in my bio and only swiping on others who seemed to have the same intentions, I still got DMs that read “I’m also looking for ‘friends’;)” or “Do you and your BF need an extra friend?”. 

Tinder for friendship onlyThe photo I used on Tinder to show that I was in a relationship, and was only looking for friends. 

At this point, Jonathan and I were questioning whether our definition of “friend” was wrong – we gave up on Tinder about a week in. 

Finding a pearl in a sea of people 

Almost desperate for a girl-gang, I Googled “How to make friends in a new city.” That’s when I heard of Bumble BFF – a function within a dating app that was aimed for people who were looking for platonic friends. Jonathan and I were so excited – maybe this would be the solution; he helped me make my profile, again, and even helped me pick my ‘objectives’. 

Long Time Friends
My best friends of over 15 years in 2012. After being in an all-girl school for 10 years and in a sorority in uni, I was in desperate need of some sisterhood. 

While swiping, I came across so many interesting profiles with whom I still keep in contact with. This story, though, is about Muk, whose name means “Pearl” in Thai. 

What immediately caught my eye was her bio, which read “Rocking shaved head, I AM NOT A TOMBOY”. The following sentences stated that she was interested in dance, extreme sports and was a mental health advocate – just like me! 

Two friends in an elevatorMuk and I after an impromptu photography lesson/swim sesh

Muk’s profile was the first one that I saw on Bumble BFF that mentioned mental health and had such an outspoken bio; so, I closed my eyes and swiped right. I’m pretty sure I remember squealing and showing Jonathan my potential BFF when I saw she also swiped right. 

‘Outsiders’ unite 

As a person with zero chill, I messaged her immediately asking about her bio, to which she explained it’s to deter the neverending questions about her sexuality based on her hair. 

That led to an endless back-and-forth about how both of us needed to justify our life choices and styles so people wouldn’t immediately be put off – my tattoos, her shaved head, our inkling for extreme sports and “aggressive” way of speaking. 

friends swimming in bangkok
Muk giving me a lesson in photography and how to pose for the camera 

Muk also told me that people constantly tell her she’s yue due to the fact that she shares her accomplishments on social media; while I understand that humility is a value, I also thought that showing your accolades without being boastful was accepted.

One of Muk’s photos from her social media, which she primarily uses to discuss her modeling career

She explained that you’re supposed to silently hustle towards your goals, especially if your appearance doesn’t match the majority of key players in the field.

Both of us we’re told we were “too big” to be aerialists and to stop posting about it to “save ourselves from embarrassment”

Celebrating all kinds of love 

Muk and I shared a lot of great memories: from partaking in TikToks during quarantine, conducting impromptu bikini photoshoots after ordering way too much food (and finishing it anyway), to attempting to do the #WAP Challenge. 

This Bumble BFF love story goes to show that dating apps are NOT just for hookups or romantic relationships. Thanks to my boyfriend’s support and encouragement, I was able to find someone who I can be yue with on a dating app – in fact, it encouraged him to try it out, too. 

So, remember to celebrate all types of love this Valentine’s Day – romantic or platonic – the importance of having a friend who you vibe with is so underrated. 

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