Dear AAPAAN: I been trying out online dating looking to meet a compatible person (could be Asian-American, or any other ethnicity).  Not going well so far.  Any hints on how best to go about this?  Signed Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

The Dear AAPAAN panelists have been out of the dating scene for a quite a while and we don’t feel we’re in a good position to answer your question.  So we polled our younger Alumni who have more current experiences and here is what they told us.  

Like most things in life, there’s no one path, but instead the paths are many.

There are some obvious ethnic centered sites (which can easily be found through Google (e.g. DilMil, Minder,, EastMeetsEast), and all of the generic ones (e.g. Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Match, etc.). You can check on their reviews and ratings on line, all of which are quite subjective.  Here we thought we would focus more on general strategies shared from our polled group. 

Meeting People.  On-line dating (apps/websites, etc.) is obviously preferred by many – it’s easy, anonymous, and convenient. You’ll have chances to meet great people that way.  But don’t forget about the traditional way – friends and family.  Tell people you’re single – there’s nothing wrong that and it’s not a sign of desperation.  Wouldn’t you ask friends and family for help if you were looking for a job?  Your close network is probably the #1 way to meet like-minded people. In addition, focus on attending events that interest you (hiking, pottery, reading clubs, etc.).  You may find someone with a similar interest right around the corner.  It is easier and much less awkward to start a good conversation around shared interests with that person. Set concrete goals (e.g. attend 1 outside event a week, do online dating a few hours a week, or ‘email my close network every 2 months reminding them about me’!)

  • Caution: It’s very easy to get distracted and demoralized if you are constantly looking for someone 24/7.  It’s ok to take a few weeks off and just relax. 
  • Expectation management: You don’t always meet great people nor have a great conversation with your date. It’s ok to feel awkward or frustrated sometimes. Try not to blame yourself or others much. Instead, just see it as a chance to meet a new person or an opportunity to practice your conversation skill.
  • If you are an introvert, you might feel stressed about meeting people one on one on your first date.  You might feel better participating in a group setting/activity at first.  Tap your network of friends.


Be Honest and Communicative.  Just like applying for a job, it will be readily apparent if you are dishonest.  Many personal characteristics are factual in nature and can easily be ascertained, but other items can be determined by getting to know a person.  There’s no point in wasting each other’s time by materially overstating something.  We heard lots of stories about people hiding something, or simply just going through the motions of dating without any real purpose of what they want. 

  • To be clear, everyone is entitled to put their best foot forward and you should always be confident and comfortable in the person you are, but the key is be open and communicative to your potential partner.
  • One comment we heard a lot about was intentions.  It’s hard to measure intentions, but fairly easy to measure action.  It appears there are too many missed connections and lack of follow-up early on because of work, vacation, not properly communicating feelings, etc.  Give someone the benefit of the doubt  – don’t always judge someone if they don’t text you back in 1 hour or 1 day.  Try and be proactive in your communications and be positive – the other person will be able to see that positive attitude. 
  • But, at the end of day – try to respect each other’s time, and match each other’s effort.  You need to be looking for Mr/Ms. Right, not Mr/Ms. Right-In-Front-You.

Be Open-Minded.  The funny thing with an abundance of choices (apps, websites, etc.) means that it sometimes makes it more difficult to settle down, and people tend to look for perfection.  Sorry friends, but perfection doesn’t exist. 

  • The key is to be open-minded and figure out why you place a premium on certain traits.  Apply logical rigor (like you learned at UVA) to understand how important that particular trait is (i.e.: height, weight, education level, ethnicity, family upbringing, etc.) and whether it’s fair to consider it.  
  • For some people, marrying someone of the same faith is deeply personal and important – and that’s great.  For others, faith or ethnicity may be at the bottom of list but it is perceived to be ranked higher because of the influence of friends or family.  Weed out those weaker requirements and continue to get to know someone for as long as reasonably possible –as a famous quote goes: “You like people for their qualities, but you LOVE them for their faults.”
  • Also, don’t be afraid to make the first move if you have some interest to get to know your date better – email/text them – don’t just wait for someone else to ‘wake up and realize how great you are!’.  Attraction or chemistry takes time to grow – there will be more opportunities for people who take more initiative.

Don’t do any of the following:

  • “Ghosting”, i.e. ignoring calls/text messages from a person because YOU are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.  Just be honest in a quick message and say ‘It isn’t working out’.  No need for explanations or long diatribes.  You’ll appreciate it when it happens to you so you can quickly move on.  The sooner you stop wasting time hoping someone likes you, the quicker you can find someone that really does care about you for you.
  • “Benching”, i.e. keeping someone on the back-burner just in-case your main ‘squeeze’ ghosts you!  Not a nice thing to do.  Surely people are entitled to meet lots of people initially as they get to know someone, but if you think intentions are mismatched – say something!  (See Rule #2 above).

In closing, we hope that if you follow these tips, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.  Remember, Rome wasn’t built overnight.  Just because you haven’t found someone “quickly” doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong – as long as you are meeting people, are honest, and open-minded – the right person will come along.  Along the way, relax and enjoy meeting different people.  The next person you meet may not be your future mate but he/she could turn out to be a friend nevertheless.