Relationships

Dating in Singapore

Discover the ins and outs of dating in Singapore, including how to meet people, navigate social etiquette, and avoid making the most common faux pas.

Couple standing near the Masjid Sultan in Singapore, looking at each other and smiling.
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By Kiera Healy

Updated 18-3-2024

Dating in another country can be tricky. This is especially true in a place like Singapore, which is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and traditions. Ironically, it is this cosmopolitan feel that attracts so many expats, which in turn can make the search for romance feel like a mission.

However, with a little understanding, it is possible to navigate the local dating scene with ease and – if you’re lucky – find love in the Lion City.

Here’s what you need to know:

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Overview of dating in Singapore

With almost 30% of Singapore’s adult population living the single life, it is fair to say that dating in the Lion City is a tricky affair.

Given the diverse range of nationalities calling the country home, you might expect it to be easy to find a potential partner. However, sadly that is not the case. In fact, the 2022 Marriage and Parenthood Survey reveals that 50% of singles in Singapore are not currently dating.

Two people sitting outside on a ledge in an alley. Woman is leaning on her hand, smiling like she's in love at the guy next to her. She's obviously flirting.
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Moreover, 38% of that group say they have never dated before, offering a number of reasons for the surprising statistic. These include:

  • Having a limited social circle (58%)
  • Not having many opportunities to meet potential partners (57%)
  • Wanting to concentrate on their jobs or studies (37%)

If you do manage to secure a date, however, there are some important things to bear in mind. After all, dating in Singapore can be rather surprising. For instance, 88% of singles prefer not to drink alcohol at all on a date. So if you were planning on hitting the bar together, it may be time to think again.

Moreover, Singapore is still very conservative when it comes to dating. For example, 20% of residents will wait to have sex until after marriage. So although attitudes are slowly changing, expats looking for a casual hooking-up dating experience may be in for a shock.

Is Singapore LGBTQ+ friendly?

When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, Singapore is a mid-performing country globally. For example, it ranks 59th out of 197 countries on the 2024 LGBT Equality Index. However, shockingly, same-sex sexual activity for men was only officially decriminalized in November 2022. For women, it’s never been explicitly against the law.

Same-sex marriage and civil unions are still illegal in Singapore, and a 2023 IPSOS study found that just 55% of the population was in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Just over 25% is completely against it.

Although violent physical attacks on LGBTQ+ members are not commonplace, incidents do occur. In 2021, for example, police investigated a Singaporean man who made knife threats against the queer community in an Instagram video.

Same-sex couple lying on a bed, smiling. They're holding hands.
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Despite all this, Singapore has a thriving LGBT+ scene that attracts many international visitors, especially during the summer months. One of the most established pillars of the LGBT+ community is Pink Dot, which has organized annual Pride events since 2019. Pink Fest (a wider, more commercial festival) is held throughout June.

Although you might want to be wary about displaying too much public affection as a same-sex couple in Singapore – a bit of a no-no in the country, even for heterosexual couples – there are some great gay-friendly places.

For example, Neil Street in Chinatown – Singapore’s LGBT+ district – features plenty of bars and clubs. If you’re new to the country, it’s worth checking out local groups such as MOVE Community or the Pelangi Pride Center.

What are Singaporean views on mixed dating?

Although Singapore is a very diverse country, interracial dating was historically very uncommon. However, today, attitudes are changing, and more Singaporeans are happy to date outside their ethnic group. In fact, about one in five marriages are now interracial. This trend has also been increasing slowly but steadily over the last thirty years.

Even arranged marriages, which have traditionally been common within Singapore’s Indian and Chinese communities, are less controlled and mandated than they used to be. That said, like anywhere in the world, you may find that the older generations are less comfortable with the idea of cross-cultural romances.

An man on a bicycle laughing with his girlfriend as she put her arm around him. They're standing in Marina Bay.
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Notably, Singapore is by far the most religiously diverse country in Southeast Asia, with no single dominant religion. Commonly held faiths include Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. This is something to bear in mind when navigating the dating pool and getting to know people of different religious backgrounds. Some families may also expect potential partners to convert to their religion.

How do you meet people in Singapore?

In the past, Singaporeans were more likely to meet new partners through friends, at work, or school. However, this has changed drastically.

Government data reveals that only 18% of residents met their partner through friends in 2021. This is much lower than in 2016 and 2012, when 27% and 32% (respectively) met this way. Conversely, most residents (29%) met their partners through online channels in 2021. This compares to just 13% in 2016 and 7% in 2012.

Below are some of the most common ways to meet single people in Singapore.

Dating apps

International apps such as Tinder and OKCupid are common in Singapore. Bumble, which has a reputation for being a safer, friendlier choice for women seeking love online, is also popular.

Notably, Paktor, a homegrown dating app, offers a local alternative. The Chinese version of Tinder, Tantan, is also popular within Singapore’s Chinese community.

Although many people in Singapore use these dating apps, they tend to stumble upon the same issues as they would in other countries. For example, the apps are primarily based on looks and often seem to cater to those looking to just ‘hook up’. Therefore, if you are looking for something more serious, you may need to try other options.

One option might be Coffee Meets Bagel, which claims to cater to single people looking for a serious relationship. The US-made dating app is surprisingly popular in the Lion City. In fact, around 4% of its global users are in Singapore, which is a remarkable feat for a country with just 5.5 million residents.

Man standing in the kitchen, holding an espresso cup, while looking down at his smartphone.
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Another option is LunchClick, from one of Singapore’s biggest matchmaking agencies, Lunch Actually. Notably, the app limits you to a single match each day and does not allow married people to use it. In fact, it even requires users to key in their identification number so that it can check against a national marriage database to make sure they are single.

No matter which dating app you opt for, though, taking the time to craft a really good profile can make all the difference in attracting the right kind of people.

Dating websites

Dating websites can offer a change of pace when swiping left and right becomes too tedious. Unlike apps, which encourage snap, looks-based judgments, websites allow users to show more of their personalities and unique traits. This makes them a better choice for expats looking for relationships, rather than hook-ups.

One of the most popular local sites is Singapore Love Links, which is free to use but requires payment in order to access its special features. The website Sugarbook, on the other hand, has caused intense controversy in Singapore as it claims to match potential sugar daddies with ‘sugar babies’. Its country of origin, neighboring Malaysia, has even banned it.

Young couple sitting on chairs at a veranda. Both are smiling like it's puppy love. He's showing her something on his phone.
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Expatica Dating Singapore also offers a great way to meet other singles in the country. Popular with both men and women, it helps to connect people who share similar interests and passions and ultimately find love in the Lion City.

Of course, whatever dating sites you try, it is important to be careful and use common sense when interacting with others. This is particularly true in light of the rise of internet love scams in recent years. Indeed, the Singapore Police Force reported 868 cases of online dating fraud in 2022. This resulted in Singaporeans losing over S$35.7 million.

The government’s Scam Alert service provides helpful advice on how to spot internet love scams and how to stay safe when using online dating platforms.

Meetups

If online dating is not for you, then in-person meetups can be a good alternative. You can start by looking for social groups on Facebook, Singapore’s favorite social network, that fit your interests.

You might also want to check out local events on Meetup, which aims to connect people with similar hobbies and interests. Even if you don’t find the love of your life, you might make some new friends.

If you would like to meet people while making a difference, you can also try signing up with the Singapore government’s volunteer network, SG Cares. You will find a vast selection of causes to join. These range from animal welfare and youth work to elderly care and conservation. This offers a wonderful way to make connections in your new home and potentially meet your match.

Meeting people through friends

As mentioned, meeting through friends was once the most popular way to find a partner in Singapore. However, this has lost ground to online dating in recent years. That said, it is a tried-and-tested method that has worked well for generations. Therefore, you don’t need to write it off entirely.

Group of friends smiling and chatting over lunch at at outdoor cafe. One of them is grabbing some food of the plate of the guy she's sitting next to. Another one is on her phone.
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Moreover, unlike in the past when people were more private about their romantic lives and felt the need to ‘save face’ when it came to advertising their single status, it is now perfectly acceptable to make it known. Therefore, you can happily let friends or family know that you are open to meeting people or even ask them to set you up with someone.

Meeting people while out and about

Some cultures consider it acceptable to approach someone at a bus stop, in a café, or on the street and strike up a conversation. However, this is not the case in Singapore, where you are likely to get some strange reactions if you try chatting someone up in public.

Moreover, while invading people’s personal space is a fact of life in Singapore – as it is in any major city – unsolicited approaches are less common and not likely to be well received. Therefore, you might want to think twice before you gently touch someone else’s arm in a flirtatious way, without their permission.

All in all, if you are looking to meet people to date in Singapore, it is best to stick to bars or organized meetup events.

Dating etiquette in Singapore

A typical dating scenario

The majority of Singaporean women (61%) still believe that men should make the first move. However, only 20% of men agree with them, which can lead to a stalemate if you are waiting for someone to suggest a first date.

That said, although it may be unusual for women to make the first move in the country, society does not frown upon it and it does not carry any particular negative connotations. In fact, it is becoming more popular among Singapore’s younger generations.

A happy couple smiling and chatting as they drink coffee at a cafe.
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First dates in Singapore are fairly casual, with 64% of singles saying that they prefer simple plans such as taking a walk or having a meaningful conversation over coffee. Therefore, you might want to wait until the second or third date to treat your partner to a fancy dinner or something special.

Dating behavior

Traditional viewpoints are still alive and well in Singapore. For example, 40% of Singaporeans believe that the man should pick up the bill on the first date.

That number rises sharply to more than 50% among the over-35 age group too. So if you are in that category, be prepared for the man to pick up the tab during the first date. Regardless of gender, if the other person offers to pay, it is polite to offer to split the bill.

Although the majority of Singaporeans prefer not to drink on a date, enjoying one is not totally out of the question, and you certainly won’t be judged for suggesting to meet at a bar.

However, if you are used to going home together after just one date, you may be in for a shock. Indeed, only 11% of Singaporeans believe that it is acceptable to get intimate during the first two weeks of dating. Therefore, be prepared to take things slow.

Moving into a relationship

In general, relationships in Singapore still tend to follow quite traditional lines. For instance, the majority (80%) of young singles aspire to get married and have children. The cultural expectation that a long-term relationship will lead to matrimony also remains extremely high.

Getting married

Marriage proposals have traditionally been a man’s responsibility in Singapore. The rise of social media has also seen several elaborate proposals go viral in Singapore. These often involve fully choreographed dance routines, fleets of drones and cars, and so on.

However, this kind of visually spectacular proposal is the exception, rather than the rule, and getting down on one knee and offering a ring is still the most common form of proposal in the country. On average, men get married at the age of 30 in the Lion City, and women at 29.

Bride and groom beaming with happiness and laughing at their wedding in the afternoon sun. She is looking at him.
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Marriage is very practical in the Lion City as it opens doors in terms of government benefits, housing, and tax breaks. Indeed, the Singaporean government offers a large amount of support to married couples, including priority housing schemes and grants.

As a result, long-term, unmarried relationships are rare. In fact, while marriage rates continue to decline in many other countries, Singapore is bucking the trend. Indeed, in 2022, it recorded the most marriages since records began.

The challenges facing unmarried couples

Unmarried couples face a number of potential pitfalls in Singapore which is something to bear in mind if you are moving there with your significant other. That said, women are not expected to take their husbands’ last names, which means that a couple with two different surnames will not cause a stir.

Those who are unmarried will discover that buying a home is significantly more difficult as they do not have the same legal protections as their married counterparts.

However, given that more than half (51%) of Singaporeans say they wouldn’t live with their partner before marriage anyway, this shouldn’t be a major problem for most. After all, if tying the knot is on the agenda, these legal protections will come into play at the appropriate time.

Notably, while you won’t get socially shunned if you are part of a long-term unmarried couple, you might raise some eyebrows, especially if you have children. Indeed, starting a family without getting married is remarkably rare in Singapore. In fact, there are around 30,000 to 33,000 births per year, of which only 830 are to unwed mothers.

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It is also important to be aware that while the government does provide some support to single parents, life is far more difficult for couples who choose not to get married before having children.

For example, fathers cannot enjoy paternity leave and will need to legally adopt their children. Moreover, only married spouses qualify for a Dependant’s Pass, which allows spouses and children of employed individuals to join them in Singapore.

Do families play a role in dating?

Family units are important in Singaporean culture, and more than 50% of residents believe in meeting their partner’s family within nine months of dating.

Like in many Asian countries, local culture dictates that children should support their elderly parents. As a result, close family connections are common in Singapore, and dating a local will involve getting to know their relatives.

English is Singapore’s lingua franca, and it has become the most common language spoken in local households. That said, elderly people are less likely to speak it at home, particularly in the Chinese and Malay ethnic groups.

While learning your new partner’s mother tongue may not be strictly necessary for communication, it will certainly help you impress their parents.

The role of the family in weddings

Families in Singapore are heavily involved in engagements. For instance, men should ask for permission from their girlfriend’s father before proposing.

Expats looking to tie the knot will also need to prepare themselves for what could be a very expensive type of culture shock as dowries remain a tradition among Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures in Singapore.

In Chinese culture, the groom’s family offers a ‘bride price’ to the bride’s family. This should be at least S$1,000, and ideally, the figure should contain as many 8s as possible, as it is a highly auspicious number. This is in addition to dowry jewelry and betrothal gifts. Notably, the bride’s family also gives gifts but on a lesser scale.

The standard Malay dowry is not as expensive, however, betrothal gifts and cash are still expected. An Indian dowry is traditionally paid from the bride’s family to the groom’s. However, these are no longer common in Singapore’s Indian community. That said, it is still appropriate for both families to exchange gifts leading up to the wedding and even during the celebrations.

Useful resources

  • Honeycombers Singapore – an article on The 14 best dating apps and websites in Singapore
  • The Smart Local – an article about finding love on dating apps
  • Singapore Brides – an article on 11 beautiful Singaporean cultural wedding traditions and what they signify