I found myself yelling at the taxi driver to put his foot down and drive, all whilst trying to pull my date for the night into the taxi whilst she was being held back from entering by the waitress of one of Taipei’s most desirable restaurants.
The Taxi driver wasn’t moving because another waitresses was standing in front of the taxi stoping us from leaving. “You have to wait for the police to come” She said. How did I end up in such a predicament? By meeting up with local Taiwanese I met by online dating in Taiwan I had spent four days alone in Taipei mostly working in my shoebox apartment. With what little spare time I had in those four days, I had manage to see all the mainstream tourist sites and was beginning to feel at home in this bizarre, thriving, temporary home of mine. What I needed now was to meet some locals to show me the real Taipei and not just what the guidebooks tell me where to go. But where was I going to find such people just willing to hang out? I could just go on the street and start talking to people to see if any were keen to hang out, but I’m pretty sure playing the role of the weirdo foreigner on the street corner was not one I wanted to play. So instead I took the next least creepy option – online dating. Dating across cultures can be tricky at the best of times, but when you have been in a country less than a week and don’t even know how to say ‘thank you’, then you’re sure to be thrown a few curve balls and misunderstandings when it comes to the cultural nuances of dating in a totally unfamiliar culture. For example there are plenty of girls with profile pictures on online dating in Taiwan like the one below. I have no idea how to interpret that.
I chose Badoo as my network of choice (aka Blendr in some countries). Why? This site is known for quick meets. You can see how far someone is away down to a 100m or so and if they are close, you can ask if they wanted to meet up for a quick drink as you’re literally just around the corner. It has the reputation as a bit of a hook-up site in my home country. Given that I’m only here for a short amount of time a hook up could be a nice bonus, but for Online dating in Taiwan, Badoo usually considered just like any other dating site.
I signed up, uploaded my best photos from Facebook and spewed out a few clever paragraphs to describe myself and hopefully catch the attention of female users. I was ready to go. Now I’ve been on a dating site or two back in my home country and as an average looking guy, I can tell you that girls aren’t really lining up to send me messages. Instead the process is more like hitting up all the girls you can with thousands of other guys, write a tacky message in the hope of standing out from all the other messages they get, then pray for a reply. Thankfully in my online dating in taiwan experience was different. My profile was live for only 5 minutes or so before my first message came in, then another, and another. Being different looking (shall we say exotic?) and standing out as a foreigner definitely played to my advantage. The first message was from a girl called Raquel (all names have been changed by the way), she was Filipina working in a factory near by to Taipei. Raquel was very chatty and I was keen to learn about her life, why she had packed up left her family behind in the Philippines and came here for? I found out she has a contract to work at a factory which includes living in a dorm owned by her employer. The dorm is filled with other foreign workers mostly also from the Philippines as well as Indonesia.
Her story was somewhat saddening and a taste of what for many is the real world. It almost felt like she was trapped in Taiwan working for a minimum wage, unable to leave as she literally lives in the factory and has no where else to go if she quit her job (which she cant because she’s contracted in for 3 years). I was intrigued to meet up with Raquel for a drink, she was good looking, great English and perfect to show me her favourite parts of Taipei on her non-work days. But Raquel was not so keen, her excuse was that she met a western guy from Badoo two weeks ago, and got so shy when meeting face to face she could hardly talk. She didn’t want that to happen again so she refused. On to the next one. I had received a message from someone calling themselves “IamSexySpider” . She honestly looked somewhat attractive in her pictures, but her profile kind of said to me that something isn’t right. See below;
Hmm why is she so tall and heavy by (Taiwan standards)? Why does she want such a big guy? When “SexySpider” started talking to me she was very direct and straight to the point, you might even say sexually aggressive, it only took her four lines to talk about sex. Again this didn’t seem to add up.
Girls naturally don’t behave like this, she’s either crazy… or a man. None the less I decided to go along with this and see where it ended up. If she (he) was pretending to be a girl then I would make sure I had the last laugh. Time to go in for the kill and find out for sure.
I created my own web and Sexy Spider walked right into it. She was in fact a he, and it was time to end the conversation there. One other feature with Blendr / Badoo is the mutual attraction game. You can look through photos of prospects and give a “yes”,” no”, or” maybe” to wanting to meet the people that Blendr randomly brings to your screen. My next contact came through a mutual attraction.
Jess and I had both said “Maybe” to each other, but I decided she was worth a chat to anyway so I began by quizzing her “Only maybe??” We got talking and found out Jess was a nurse who like most girls in Taiwan loved her tiny little puppy way too much. Like Raquel before, she also lived in a dorm near her workplace, unlike Raquel she shared a room with a lesbian nurse who often locked her outside so she can get down with her numerous lady friends late at night. The dorm was no place for a puppy, so the dog lived with her Mum which she visited most weekends. Jess was a bit older than me at 36 and appeared confident enough to meet up. It was Wednesday night in Taipei, which meant ladies night at all the bars and clubs, and just as big as going out on the weekend. I wanted to experience Ladies night but didn’t want to be ‘Nigel No Friends’ in the corner so I asked Jess to go clubbing with me and she agreed. We met up in the Xinyi district – the area around the world famous Taipei 101, and near by to Club Myst, our destination of the evening. We had a couple of warm up drinks at a bar that served breakfasts all day. Whilst initially we were both a little nervous we quickly warmed to each other, but it was clear on both sides this was likely to be only as friends.
There was a promo girl for a beer company working in the bar with a skirt so short it must’ve only been legal to wear in public by half a millimetre, and impossible for it not to capture your eye when she walked past. Jess noticed my eye wandering and immediately grabbed my phone, and did her best to try and take a photo up the girls dress for me… Somewhat surprised, shocked I ultimately ended up impressed at Jess’s craziness and thinking she was pretty cool (in a perverted kind of way). We got chatting some more and we agreed to be each others wingman for the night.
Myst is a very opulent club, most famous for it’s indoor fountain, and one I‘ll review on my blog shortly. We arrived early and got chatting, that’s when Jess revealed a taste for western guys so I decided to live up to my end of the bargain about being a wingman and see what I could do for her. First up I found her a French dude. He obviously had been an expat for too long with a very arrogant attitude and thought we were beneath his attention. Next up Jess pointed out a guy she was interested in so I made contact for her, only I thought she pointed at someone else. I brought back the wrong guy. He was Swedish and was balding pretty bad despite being only 24. It was clear he liked Jess (despite Jess being 36 she could pass for even as low as 23 or 24). But Jess wasn’t having a bar of it and it took a bit of effort to get him to go.
Next up I pointed out my target to Jess, and given the amount of attention I’d got on Badoo I decided to punch well above my weight and get Jess to talk to one of the hottest girls in the club. The hot girl agreed to talk to me, but wasn’t really into it, after I went away to the bathroom the conversation became really hard work, and flat until she went and told Jess that she wasn’t so keen on me. (Fail). It was approaching 4am and Jess had to be at work, in an operating theatre no less, in a few hours, so we said our goodbyes and agreed to stay in touch as friends. My last and final date was with Kristina. I had actually been messaging her for a while but she would normally take forever to write back, and well, looking at her profile picture below it was fair to say she was probably pretty popular. Girls take note forgetting to wear pants in photos gets attention! But you probably don’t need me to tell you that.
Kristina actually invited herself along on one of my dates. I was mentioned heading to the original outlet of Din Tai Fung, the famous dumpling restaurant on my second last night in town when she said she said I should bring her along . She also suggested that I pay for her because restaurants like that are “too fancy for her to afford”. This set off a few alarm bells, but hey she’s hot and its my one of my last nights in town, what do I have to lose?
We agreed to meet and she was really insistent about meeting at a very particular place in the metro station (bottom of the stairs at exit 5, facing the ticket counter) and that I be there at a particular time. I had to make sure I LINE her (LINE is a popular instant messaging app in Asia, similar to Whatsapp) when I leave my apartment and when I get there. To be honest there was a little voice in the back of my head thinking she might be some kind of honey trap, setting me up to be kidnapped or something, given that she wanted to know all of my complete whereabouts when meeting down to the metre. When I did meet her at the station, she hadn’t gone through the turnstiles yet, instead talking on the phone , waiting at the gate until I arrived , I think she was sussing me out to whoever was on the phone before deciding to go through and have the fare deducted from her ticket . After seeing her, maybe she was actually more worried of me than I was of her. We found our way to the Din Tai Fung and I was thankful to have her there to make ordering a breeze. This restaurant is so popular they actually have you start to order your food outside whilst waiting for a table. Food was great and not too expensive by western standards and I had no issues getting multiple courses including deserts.
I was also thankful to have her there to show me how to eat half of the food, most of it was completely foreign to me, but the taste was simply divine! Kristina was very flirty throughout the meal and insisted on having her photo taken at least every two minutes. She had her photo face mastered and remarkably a perfect smile would emerge whenever the camera was placed in front of her that managed to look incredible in every photo I took.
But as the meal went on I still had my suspicions about this girl, some things just didn’t add up. She mentioned she was in sales for a pharmaceutical company. Yet she said she couldn’t afford to eat in a place like this, (The meal cost US$30 all up, including entrées and deserts, hardly expensive even for your average Taiwanese). She also wanted to fix up her make up halfway through the meal, but instead of going to the bathroom, she instead turned her back at the table, got out a little mirror and did it there. I found that rather odd, perhaps indicating that she did not know how to behave in a restaurant. Meal complete and taste buds satisfied it was time to move on I had plans to continue the night on at the Ritz Carlton, which has an amazing top floor cocktail bar. As I went downstairs to pay the bill she said she wanted to go back upstairs because she forgot something. I thought nothing of this at the time, but things would change. Waiting outside for a taxi, two waitresses came running over to us and began speaking in Mandarin to Kristina, she was starting to look distressed and the conversation seemed to be going on for about 4 or 5 minutes. Neither Kristina nor the waitresses would tell me what the problem is. I had a hailed a taxi by now, the driver was waiting for us and the meter was running. I pushed harder to find out what the problem was. Kristina began to plead with the waitress not to tell me but I insisted. Eventually the waitress told me that Kristina had stolen from the restaurant. “Is this true?” I asked her? Feeling like a disappointed parent. She initially denied it but decided to come clean after I got the waitresses to agree to let her go if she returned the what she stole. So, Kristina went deep into her bag and brought out a jacket wrapped very tightly, she then unwrapped it to reveal the salt and pepper shakers and a toothpick holder stolen off our table. “Are you fucking serious” I thought, why would anyone steal something so inexpensive, tacky and plastic? She handed them back and I’m thinking, time to go right? Wrong. The waitresses, now they had proof she took the stuff, would not let her go and said we had to wait until the police arrived. I was like ‘fuck that’ , so jumped in the taxi, and tried to pull Kristina in with me. The waitresses wouldn’t let go of her and one stood in front of the taxi yelling at the driver not to go off. It was clear we weren’t going anywhere. Realising that this situation was not going to get any better for me, I decided to let the waitress pull Kristina out of the cab, and I stayed in and had the driver take me away. If police were going to be involved then the last thing I needed, as a foreigner, was a trip to the station for a crime I had nothing to do with. Police in some Asian countries are known for being racist and there was no way I wanted to test out of this was the case in Taiwan. This also raises another question. That night was going good, and there was every chance that after a few drinks at the Ritz Carlton, that Kristina could’ve ended up at my apartment . Would I have woken to find my wallet, passport and other valuables gone? There’s one question of which I’m thankful I’ll never know the answer to.