Eat, Pray, Swipe: Dating in the Czech Republic
There was one promise I made to my parents before heading to the Czech Republic to teach English for one year: not to fall in love with a Czech man. My parents were having a hard time accepting that their only child would be across the Atlantic for a year. It was their fear that if I fell in love over here, I would stay and never return. I always laughed and brushed off their concern. I was not going abroad to find love—I was going to “find myself.” This would be the “year of no men,” especially since my last relationship fell to the wayside because my ex refused to support my dream of returning to the Czech Republic. This year would be about exploration and transformation before returning back to the States healed.
So, why did I download Tinder and Bumble before boarding my flight Prague last August? Perhaps it was a joke, or at least a social experiment. I had used these dating applications in the past without any luck—maybe a few exchanges of “Hey”, or ignoring inappropriate banter. I never believed that I would find love on a dating app, as it appeared anyone I matched with had a different intention than just grabbing a cup of coffee and truly getting to know me. While I didn’t want to have preconceived notions about what these apps were like in the Czech Republic, I had little hope other than having a few laughs at the valiant efforts of tourists trying to find a rendez-vous in the city of a thousand spires.
I was not going abroad to find love—I was going to “find myself.” This would be the “year of no men”
My first few days in Prague, the matches were split between native English speakers and Czechs. Many of the English speakers were tourists, only passing through Prague for the night and looking for company out on the town. The majority of my Czech matches wanted to practice their English and become friends with an American. Of course, I could not completely avoid people who were just on these apps for sexual conquest. Most of my matches I stopped responding to immediately. As I left Prague for my orientation in Brno, I felt some disappointment. Although I kept telling myself I was on these dating apps for a few laughs, deep down I was hoping that maybe I would have a connection with someone. I was alone in a foreign country and needed a friend.
Of the 10 or so days I was active on Tinder and Bumble in the Czech Republic, I noticed there was a difference between how users utilize the app in the States and here. I found most Czechs were using them to find an English-speaking friend to practice their English (with love to hopefully follow), and that native English speakers were looking for another expat to befriend—to discuss the challenges and highlights of living in a different country than our own. If you are living in a large town or city in the Czech Republic, I highly recommend letting go of any stigma that you feel about these apps in the States. Although meeting someone behind a screen should never replace meeting people in person, I think it can be a way to making a fast friend in a new place.
Although I kept telling myself I was on these dating apps for a few laughs, deep down I was hoping that maybe I would have a connection with someone. I was alone in a foreign country and needed a friend.
The reason I deleted these apps after 10 days was not out of frustration, but out of excitement. As I left Brno for Nová Paka (approximately four hours away by train), I got a notification that I had been “Super Liked.” Michael’s profile opened on my phone—an American living in Brno who would be spending the year there teaching. After a few exchanges, in which he immediately admitted he hated messaging and would rather get together in person to grab a coffee, disappointment set in that I was no longer in his vicinity. Yet we decided to add each other on Facebook and hoped our schedules would align one weekend.
Michael, who was soon referred to as “Tinder bae,” became so much more than that the first few weeks of the school year. We would message each other back and forth on Facebook about lesson plans and our lives prior to our arrival. We had open and honest conversations, the type you have with people you have known your entire life, not someone you just matched with on Tinder. When we did finally meet in person in Prague the middle of September, my nerves overwhelmed me. I was worried that his online persona and true self would be different—but I was extremely anxious that the real me would not live up to his perception of online Kelley. With that, I put up walls on our first date that had not existed in our online communication. When we parted ways that weekend, I believed we would remain good friends and a support to each other, but perhaps nothing more.
When we did finally meet in person in Prague, my nerves overwhelmed me. I was worried that his online persona and true self would be different—but I was extremely anxious that the real me would not live up to his perception of online Kelley.
Yet something inside me urged me to go out with him again—living in a small town, there is ample time to reflect. I realized that my nerves and self-doubt had convinced me that there was no spark, even though there was. I was so set on the fact that this year I had been determined to be “man-free” that I was sabotaging this relationship before I could see if it would go anywhere. We continued to talk daily and continued to meet in cities around the Czech Republic. The more time we spent together, the quicker my self-made walls fell down. I was afraid to be vulnerable, which is ironic because uprooting your entire existence to a foreign country where you do not speak the language or fully understand the culture requires you to be vulnerable. Yet to allow myself to fall in love, something that I never thought would be on the cards while abroad, was more petrifying than boarding that plane in August.
When you travel, you can plan things, but experienced travelers know that you constantly need to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. I did not plan to find love in the Czech Republic, but it found me. Sometimes the best things in life come from a “Super Like” and a swipe right. At least I kept part of my promise to my parents: I didn’t fall in love with a Czech here, but I did fall in love with another American.