Tying the Tinder knot

Thought love was impossible in the singles capital of Germany? Hookup apps have come to the rescue of reluctant committalists! We meet three Berlin couples who successfully swiped their way into each other’s lives.

Alexa Vachon, Exberliner, Odd Couples, Tinder, CJ&Rochel, Portrait, EXB 179, Berlin
Alexa Vachon

Thought love was impossible in the singles capital of Germany? Hookup apps have come to the rescue of reluctant committalists! We meet three Berlin couples who successfully swiped their way into each other’s lives.

With close to a third of its residents without a steady partner, Berlin is Germany’s singles paradise. For sure, this transience comes with an array of exciting sexual opportunities. But it also makes people flaky, and far less likely to commit. And past the excitement of improvised polyamory and one-night stands, many singles are secretly craving the kind of emotional comfort only a long-term relationship can provide.

For those reluctant love-seekers, modern technology has presented a fast-track solution: hookup apps! Whereas good old online dating services still require some level of dedication – write an attractive text about yourself, answer dozens of questions, and exchange long messages with potential partners – the new generation of phone-based apps like Tinder, Bumble and Happn come with a much lower sign-up threshold. To start you simply upload a few photos of yourself, write a tweet-length blurb, and you’re up and running. To match with prospective dates? You merely swipe right, or like their profile, and wait for the matches to come rolling in.

Of course popular belief would have you doubt a dating app is the right place to look for love. With its new #singlenotsorry campaign, Tinder itself seems to be owning up to the fact that if you’re looking for commitment, you’re looking in the wrong place. Or are you?

Swipe right to rebound

That’s what Sung Ju Kim*, a 29-year-old office manager originally hailing from South Korea certainly would have thought a few years ago when she first started using Tinder and Happn. She had just come out of a six-year relationship, and definitely wasn’t looking for love. For her, the apps were all about what most people think they’re for: “I used them to fool around,” she says. “I wasn’t looking to have a relationship or to meet friends or anything. I just used it purely for sex.” To that end it was successful. She met maybe five matches over a period of a couple of months. “I’d have guys over to my place and not even want them to sleep over,” she explains, “that somehow felt too intimate.” But one day, just before Christmas, one of her matches, Julian, came over, and after what her parents might have euphemistically called ‘being intimate’ together, he ended up doing something truly intimate for the 21st century: staying over for the night. “It wasn’t what I was looking for, but the next morning I realised I slept really well next to him,” remembers Sung Ju. She took it as a sign, and while she was still reluctant to start something serious, the spark had been ignited.

After messaging and arranging to see each other a second time, Julian and Sung Ju spent the next four days together. Just four months later, Julian moved into Sung Ju’s Prenzlauer Berg apartment. And a year after that, they got married, and have been happily together since. “I was scared to have another serious relationship and wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted,” says Sung Ju. “But it just happened naturally somehow. We just really couldn’t stay away from each other.” They now have many plans, including “getting rich, buying a house in Italy – and eating a lot of delicious pasta!” she laughs. “Oh… and also two kids!”

The ‘super like’ trump card

Tinder is very good for hooking up. But hook ups also lead to marriages.”

CJ, a Swede who works in marketing for a Berlin-based sex toy company, also just came out of a relationship when a friend “forced him” to download Tinder. “I’m not a big fan of the bar scene,” explains the 27-year-old, who enjoys hardcore and metal and goes to a lot of concerts. He doesn’t smoke nor drink, which excludes him from meeting people the ‘old-fashioned’ way in Berlin. Do people ever approach strangers in this city, besides to ask: “Hast du Feuer?”

For CJ, using Tinder was anything but fun at first. He wasn’t looking for one-night stands, but something more serious, and that search was exhausting. “It became kind of a full-time job you know,” he recounts. “Like you match with people that you obviously are attracted to, but then you have to be smart, you have to be polite, you have to be funny, you have to be engaging, and it’s really tiring… I hated it.” After some weeks and a run of not-so-successful dates, he was close to giving up. But then, call it fate, an algorithm, or a lucky thumb, the Tinder cupid looked down on him kindly one day, when he swiped to the profile of an attractive young woman named Rochelle. She was wearing the t-shirt of a metal band called Revocation, a group that CJ also happens to really like.

Intrigued, he used his only ever ‘super like’ to try to match with her. Twenty minutes later, four of the most beautiful sounding words of the 21st century flashed across the app – “It’s a match!” After four or five days of chatting they met up for their first date, and hit it off immediately. Since then, they’ve been practically inseparable – making the commute between CJ’s place in Friedrichshain and Rochelle’s at in Neukölln virtually every night. CJ is still marvelling at how seamlessly their lives have intertwined. “We share the same interests, like our music tastes. So we can go to shows together and do all these kinds of things we’re both interested in. It’s really cool.” While most Berliners have problems committing to a weekend trip to Brandenburg more than two weeks ahead, the pair just booked a month-long holiday to the west coast of Canada – where Rochelle is originally from – for this summer. And their next plans? Finding a flat together in Friedrichshain.

A mis-app and a ring

“I would have never imagined that I would meet my husband through Tinder!” laughs Zuzanna, a 29-year-old who comes from a small village outside of Wrocław, Poland. She met Thomas, 36, four years ago and it wasn’t love at first swipe. Thomas, from Palo Alto, California, was a decade-long online dating veteran, while Zuzanna was a Tinder newbie. “For me it was just a way to distract myself. I was not actually looking for a relationship,” she says. Having freshly finished her Masters in History at the University of Lodz in Poland, she was in Berlin for an internship, and thought she’d try out the app for fun. “I knew that I was only going to be here for three months, so I wasn’t expecting to develop a real connection with anyone.”

In fact, Thomas was the only person she ever met through a dating app. And it almost didn’t happen. After messaging, and setting up their first coffee date, Thomas cancelled on her at the last minute. “I had friends in town, we were out drinking, and I thought it was a bad idea to pause the partying with my friends to go have a coffee date with a random Tinder hookup,” Thomas explains. He then left town for a few weeks, and by the time he was back Zuzanna had deleted the app.

Lucky for him, he had her number, and after reaching out, she agreed to give it another go. Following a successful first date in the romantic setting of Kulturbrauerei’s Christmas Market, they started seeing each other. But when Zuzanna’s internship came to a close, it was time for her to move back to Poland. Meanwhile, Thomas, exhausted from working in the Berlin start-up scene, had plans to travel around the world for a year. He sublet his Zionskirchplatz apartment, and was unsure if he would ever move back to the city. “We were both in very uncertain and nomadic phases of our lives,” says Thomas.

But they kept messaging. And in their case, distance truly made their hearts grow fonder: Zuzanna joined Thomas for a few weeks in Thailand, and he visited her in Poland, even taking on a Wwooffing gig, volunteering on a farm near her home village Krasiejów, just to be close to her. After two and a half months of hitchhiking together from Poland to Greece, they finally knew they wanted to be a pair and chose Berlin as their home. Just a year later, while walking home from a friend’s birthday party, Thomas got down on one knee in front of the Zionskirche and proposed to Zuzanna (in Polish no less!). Their plans for the future? They’re just about to move into an apartment near Nordbahnhof – which they bought together, and are planning on starting a family.

Stop giving Tinder a hard time

People say it’s not real, but what’s not real about it? You can still tell a lot about someone from the pictures they choose.”

These are not the only lucky exceptions to finding love on an app. Contrary to most people’s assumptions, a whopping 35 percent of Germans met either their partner or ex-partner online. Still, people tend to be cynical about the possibilities of finding a genuine connection through an app, mostly reputed for mere sex hookups, at the very best.

“If you’re a thirtysomething who is working all day and isn’t partying every weekend, how are you supposed to find a partner? Will you just approach somebody on the S-Bahn? This is just the way people are doing it now,” argues Zuzanna. After all, phones are not only for booking dentist appointments or email just for making job queries. Why would Tinder only be about one-night stands? As Thomas says: “Yes, Tinder is very good for hooking up. But, you know, hook-ups also lead to marriages.”

Sung Ju also thinks people give Tinder a hard time. “People say it’s not real, but what’s not real about it?” To her it’s just like meeting someone in a bar. Sure, people are putting their best foot forward on the app, “but you can still tell a lot about someone from the pictures they choose.” Sung Ju thinks she developed a good sense of who to pick by carefully reading into both pics and description. “Even before Julian I always had very good dates.” Her tip: “Never pick some- one who puts ‘Hogwarts’ or ‘school of life’ as their background!”

In hindsight, they all agree that you should have fun with the app, no matter what you’re looking for. “Anybody getting frustrated doing online dating should just take a break. Just try other things or just forget about it,” says Thomas. “Tinder is far from the only way to meet someone in the 21st century!”

But to repurpose a quote by Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” And Tinder lets you take an awful lot of shots. So keep swiping, going to meet-ups, or partying at KitKat. No matter where you are, as long as you’re not taking yourself, or the search, too seriously, you’re probably looking for love in the right place.



Tinder (2012) The original swiping app 

Each day over 26 million matches are made on Tinder worldwide. The total number of matches that have occurred on the app? A staggering 11 billion! To match: Simply swipe right on users found in your area, Tinder then matches prospective dates after they both like each other’s profiles. Users: over 50 million.

Bumble (2014) Ladies to the front

Bumble barged onto the scene as the result of a female co-founder of Tinder leaving and suing the company for sexual discrimination. Much like Tinder in design, feel and functionality, here women must initiate the conversations with the men they match with. Users: 40 million.

Happn (2014) Acceptable stalking

Ever wonder if that cutie at the gym/cafe/park is single and looking? That’s how it happns. Unlike Tinder and Bumble, which just show you people you’re currently near, Happn shows you users based on those whom you cross paths with IRL. Users: 50 million.