Expat Life, Japan

Dating When You’re A Broad: It Ain’t Easy!

A Couple in the Dark by Carlo Nicora

I don’t write about my dating life on this blog much (or at all, really).  When you write about your life on the Internet, you gotta draw the line somewhere and I guess that line for me is discussing details of Relationships Past, Present or Future.  I think it’s important to respect people’s privacy, which is why I don’t write about my friends or family much either (other than the occasional, casual mention).  That, and most people I know aren’t as comfortable sharing their lives with faceless strangers from the Internet.

Fair enough.  Sometimes I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with it, especially when I’m applying for jobs and some of my most personal thoughts and feelings are only a Google-search away from a prospective employer’s eyes.  It’s an odd feeling to walk into a job interview and wonder if the manager seated before you has read about that time you set off the fire alarm in the shower or the time James Franco almost fell in love with you. It’s situations like that that make me wonder if I’d be better off blogging anonymously.

Especially when I get concerned phone calls from my parents that begin with:  “I read your blog today…about how you got into a fight with the photocopy machine again….” And end with:  “Reannon, are you sure you’re okay?”

Recently I broke my vow of silence though and submitted a piece to Vagabondish about how tough it was being single in Tokyo.  I actually wrote the piece over a year ago, while I was still living in Japan and submitted it to a few Japan-based magazines and webzines and was told (and I quote) “We get pitched this idea too often.”  While it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who found the dating prospects in Japan to be well, limited to say the least, it was also perplexing.  If there were other women writing about how they had trouble finding a date in Tokyo, why wasn’t anyone publishing anything about it?

Well, if you were like I was a year ago, a single girl in Japan suffering through both Valentine’s Day (and the equally offensive White Day) with only your boyfriend pillow for company, well you can rest assured that at least there were – and still are – others suffering along side you.

Like one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Marchildon of The Hollywood North Report, for example.  She writes about her dating pitfalls in Japan far better than I ever could (they’re equal parts hilarious and depressing) and provides details that I’d be far too embarrassed to have splashed on the Internet.  I’m grateful that she had the courage to include them.  My favorite posts of hers were Man Hunt and Man Hunt: Part II.

And then there’s my article:  No Sex in the City:  What it’s like to be Female and Foreign in Japan.

It’s ironic that some of the qualities that make it possible for western women to move to a foreign country by themselves to begin with (their strength and independence, for instance) are the same qualities that damn them to lives of celibacy once they get there.  My male friends have claimed that I’m stereotyping men everywhere with this theory, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.  But it’s my opinion that the reason women have trouble dating (locals and foreigners alike) while abroad is that men (in general) are intimidated and threatened by women who are independent and emotionally strong enough to pack up and ship off half way across the world alone.

I could be wrong (and I seriously hope I am, because being right would mean that I’m never going to find a boyfriend ever again) but this article about which sports men find sexiest, certainly suggests that I could be onto something.  According to a poll of 6,000 people, which was conducted by Sam Murphy and Richard Wiseman (a fitness expert and a professor from the UK), men ranked aerobics, pilates, ‘going to the gym’ and running as the sexiest female sports.  Women, on the other hand, found rock-climbing to be the physical activity they found most attractive on men (an activity that unlike ‘going to the gym’ is an actual sport).  Professor Wiseman’s theory for the difference in gender-preferences was this:

“Women’s choices appear to reflect the type of psychological qualities that they find attractive – such as bravery and a willingness to take on challenges – whilst men are more shallow, looking for a woman who is physically fit but not challenging their ego by being overly strong.”

So brave men who read this blog, what do you think?  Do you find women who live (or have lived) abroad ‘challenging to your ego’ or is this all a bunch of feminist BS?

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13 thoughts on “Dating When You’re A Broad: It Ain’t Easy!

  1. Nice entry. I wrote the article you’re referring to. I have to admit, I think we took different things away from that story…you read it as “men are intimidated by strong, independent women,” and I read it as “rock climbing is awesome and totally better than every other sport, especially golf.”

    But I think that daring and independent people tend to roll with other daring and independent people. It’s how the equation plays out. I couldn’t see myself dating someone who didn’t have the confidence to take big risks, because then I think that she’d A. be able to participate and/or relate to very little of my life and B. she’d end up worrying herself bananas over all the risky things I do.

  2. “But it’s my opinion that the reason women have trouble dating (locals and foreigners alike) while abroad is that men (in general) are intimidated and threatened by women who are independent and emotionally strong enough to pack up and ship off half way across the world alone.”

    I heard this a lot from American women living in Japan (Eurpean women generally did not seem to have problems dating in Tokyo) and it always came off as sour grapes, an attempt to turn the fact that they were alone into a sign of their own virtue rather than an indication that they were simply in an environment where the competition for men was more intense and where they could not expect to do as well.

    First, I don’t think the stereotypes of Japanese women held by Western women are true (and if they live in Japan, I think they must know this). Hearing Western women talk you would think it was the 19th century and Western men were sailors being entertained by accommodating geisha.

    Japanese women are not shrinking violets. I have found Japanese women to generally be more outgoing and confident than Western women. Perhaps it is because the Japanese culture places more of an emphasis on social roles. Japanese women just seem more comfortable in social settings, engaging in conversation and generally connecting with other people. I have found Western women to be much less outgoing, perhaps because the competition for men is so much weaker (at least in the US).

    I also have not found Japanese women to be particularly submissive. In fact, I would describe them as being more typically “feminine” than their Western counterparts. They are more likely to lie, get emotional, throw tantrums or otherwise be manipulative to get their way. Some Japanese women prefer Western men particularly because they are more likely to get their way with them.

    Finally, I think a woman just has to assume that if she moves from a place with a relatively low quality female population and high quality male population (e.g., San Francisco) to a place where the opposite is the case, such as Tokyo (although the men have really worked on their looks recently), that she is not going to do as well. Simply by virtue of the fact that Tokyo is a relatively young population, has low immigration and doesn’t have the obesity problem of the US, the percentage of attractive women there is going to be multiple times that of a typical US city. I often refer to the US (and SF in particular) as a woman’s Tokyo. In Japan, you’ll see a not particularly attractive guy with a decent looking woman (say a 6 on a 10 point scale). In the US, I often see decent looking men with horribly obese and otherwise unattractive women. It is simply a different competitive environment. The US is kind of a bubble in that way and I think it creates unrealistic expectation among American women (i.e., that simply by not being fat they will be in the top 10% of the female population and showered with attention).

    That said, I met a lot of nice Western women while living in Tokyo. So I conclude (a) anytime you move to a new place you are going to have trouble dating and finding a new social network, (b) that problem is going to be exacerbated if you move to a place that is more competitive for your gender and (c) if you want to overcome (a) and (b) you actually have to care about making yourself appealing to the opposite sex and be outgoing. In the case of (c), I just don’t think a lot of American women living in Tokyo are capable of doing this.

  3. One more comment after having read your article. I never noticed the “pale, greasy haired” white guys who you obviously loathe winding up with “prom queens.” They would wind up with women who were attractive by American standards but only average by Japanese standards. This is not surprising since the impression that Japanese women love white guys is largely an illusion propogated by short-term residents who never leave Roppongi. My impression was that most Japanese women, including almost all of the more desirable ones, would not even consider dating a non-Japanese. The ones who go around trying to get foreign guys tend to occupy the fringes of Japanese society, although there are some nice, educated ones who have an international background and have different tastes for that reason.

    I think the dynamic is basically like this. A guy who is a 4 in the US will be a 6 in Japan because of slightly weaker competition. Because he is a foreigner he’ll only be able to get a 5 in Japan instead of another 6. But he is happy because this 5 would be a 7 by US standards, So you see that both sides are happy. The Japanese woman is a 5 but gets a 6 by Japanese standards. The US guy is happy because he would get a 4 in the US but gets a 7 by US standards in Japan. It is all based on a different competitive environment.

    As I said above, I think that to the extent US women are not successful in finding guys in Japan, it is a result of having more competition and not being used to competing.

  4. I agree with JT. He makes some good points. We (western people) think that nerdy western men are getting overly hot Japanese girls, but really they aren’t as attractive as Japanese men would see it.
    This happened to me. When I first moved to Tokyo, I literally fell in love every 5 minutes, I had almost no standards. I thought almost every young Japanese girl was hot.
    After a few years of seeing Japanese girls every day and dating them, I realized that the girls that date western men are not the most desirable Japanese women.
    They are some that are cute and attractive, but not 10’s, to put it crudely.

  5. Hi Reannon. I thought your article was pretty bang-on (and thanks for the link to my blog posts!). But unlike your other commenters (who raise good points), I am a Western female living in Japan. The point that you made is that it’s difficult to be Western and female and dating in Japan. It’s true. 100% true. I don’t think you were trying to prove a point about western guys dating Japanese women. It happens. It’s everywhere. It’s a fact of life. The point is that foreign women don’t get much attention because Japanese guys are generally shy and the western guys are generally too busy chasing after Japanese women. Fact.

    I like what Adam wrote: But I think that daring and independent people tend to roll with other daring and independent people.

    Which is how I actually found a boyfriend in Japan after all these years! He’s not Japanese and he’s not interested in Japanese women. So kind of a rarity but I got lucky 😀

  6. I’d love to find someone who likes travel and adventure like I do, but the ones I’ve met are too flighty for a serious relationship or aren’t interested in my own flighty-ness. Maybe I just get bored too easily.

  7. I’m feeling you as are MANY of my Western female friends living in Japan. I just wanted to add a few points from my own observations that I’ve made in the last couple years living in Tokyo.

    I think there’s an additional reason that many Japanese men don’t approach Western women. Western women generally don’t stay long and I find they’re a LOT less likely to stay in Japan for the long-haul. Many Japanese guys will always ask me, “how long do you plan on staying” and almost turn and walk away when I say, “I don’t know, but I do want to go back at some point.”

    I wouldn’t say it’s hard to find dates here, I’d say it’s hard to find decent men here who are looking for commitment. Men assume Western women aren’t sticking around, and that’s probably true. I’ve found plenty of dates, but nothing that has stuck. The Japanese guys I have found wanting to date white girls, have turned out to be work-a-holics, cheaters/liars, or looking for a mother-figure. I also steer clear of the guys who only want to date white women. How can you develop a solid relationship when the other person’s main criteria for a partner is that they’re white and speak English?

    As for the point about European women having no problem with dating in Japan, that’s because they have no problem “going with the flow.” I’m rather tired of hearing men say, “let’s just see where it goes” or “don’t you just want to have fun?” Which basically means, “I want to just sleep with you until I grow bored and move onto the next woman.” European women seem to have an easier time of doing that than North Americans (although I’ve heard plenty of French, British, and German women complain about having the same problem with dating as us North Americans). In the end, many Japanese men see us as easy and temporary. And it’s probably true, as I don’t know many women who would willing settle down here. Most of the women are strong and independent thus upward moving (which can be extremely difficult in the male dominated workforce). If they want to actually get anywhere, at some point they’ll have to leave.

    In regards to Western women being bitter or jealous, I’d have to disagree (at least for myself). I’m not jealous of Japanese women. I’ve spent HOURS listening to men bitch about their Japanese wives or girlfriends, talk about how they cheat on them all the time, and how the women belittle them or deal with them in passive aggressive ways. What I’m tired of is listening to men blindly praise Japanese women for qualities that are really just manifestations of manipulation and then once the woman stomps on their heart listening to the guys complain (if you don’t like it stop dating them!). As far as there being more competition, I’d totally agree…but unless I’m willing to dump all my time and resources into my appearance, there’s no way I could compete. Many of these women spend all their energy, time, and resources on attracting and keeping men. They live at home and have few bills or responsibilities, leaving them with nearly unlimited resources to spend on clothes and products.

    As my very cute and unassuming Japanese friend says, “we pretend to be kittens, but once we get married we become tigers. Japanese women are on top.” This is the same friend who asked her boyfriend (who was at work) to buy her cat a crib on his way home (even though he lives an hour away from her and she was on holiday and could have done it herself). And yet us Western women are somehow undesirable because we expect to be treated respectfully and equitably in a relationship?

  8. If you think it is hard to get a date in Japan as a single woman… try being single with a 11 yr and 12 yr daughter in Belize, or Guatemala…especially on Lake Atitlan…my choices are… one night stands, a local thinking I am a meal ticket and a lay, or some one 30 years my senior still looking for an easy….been here for 3 months and dating is not part of the scenerio…traveling alone with my daughters is a joy in many ways…yet it still has it moments of loneliness when it comes to dating.

  9. This has been a good read. I’m currently in the process of coming over to teach English in Japan, and have to say, these articles and discussions provide some good insight.

    My situation is a little different as I am not interested in dating. I’ve had a boyfriend for some years now, but am jetting off to Japan to experience something different than my current corporate desk job.

    But in my efforts to find information about women relocating and trying to socially connect and make friends, all I can find are articles about being single and lonely. Although this isn’t exactly the information I’m seeking, there are some overlapping tendencies, such as being ignored in general and people expecting you to leave the country soon, so no effort is made to connect with you.

    As a 24-year-old, friendly American woman, am I doomed to spend Friday nights at home alone with not even a friend to be made? I hope not, because I can sing some Karaoke!!

  10. Wow surprised at how much more civilised responses are to thsi blog post compared to the last one relating to this. Looking forward to more work lovely! 🙂

  11. Confirmed feminist tripe. Men are not scared of your strength. We just don’t like it. It is unattractive, like a horseface. We want to be the strong ones who are leading. Foreign women afford us this courtesy whereas Western feminists do not. Hence, given the choice, we choose the skinny, nice, complimentary and compliant native women.

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