What are the Differences Between Dating in the US and India?

I work at an online matchmaking company, so when I moved to India, I was curious about how dating works here…

What are the differences between dating in the US and India? In India, arranged marriages are common and with a divorce rate of only 1.1% many Indians will only date that one person. In the US, dating multiple people is common and doesn’t necessarily need to lead towards marriage. The National Center for Health Statistics found that US men between 25-44 had 6.6 opposite-sex sexual partners and women had 4.3 partners.

Modern cities like Delhi and Mumbai are more Westernized though and dating is becoming more common. The dating app Bumble just recently launched in India. They will join Tinder, Vee, TrulyMadly, Happn, OkCupid, DilMil and Shaadi as online dating services for Indians.

A survey by dating app Woo found that 70% of women now feel safer using dating apps so it could gain popularity.

If you’re traveling in India, you may wonder how you could meet a partner. Here’s an overview of the dating customs that I’ve learned from living and traveling here for months, and doing also some research.

An Overview of Dating Customs in India

Man with ceremonial paint on his face in front of a sign about dating in India

India’s history dates back over 5,000 years and it is such a diverse country. It is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions and there are at least nine recognized religions. There are 22 languages spoken here. With a population of ~1.3 billion people, there is a wide range of customs and rules for dating. I won’t be able to sum up all of the customs but I have found certain trends where I live.

Strong family values: India has stronger family and matrimonial values. Many families still select a marriage partner for their children. Or at least it is common to seek the approval of your family before dating or marriage.

Arranged marriages: In a recent study of Indians age 18 – 34, they found that 84% had an arranged marriage. 53% did not approve of dating before marriage.

Casual dating without the strict goal of getting married is unheard of.

More traditional: The culture is also more traditional in values. The same study found that almost 60% of married women did not work. 41% of the survey respondents fully or somewhat agreed that “it’s not right for women to work after marriage.” In the US, 68.6% of married women have a job and that number is growing.

Monogamy is the standard: In some cases, dating is not allowed unless the couple has already agreed to marriage. Having sex with more than one person is taboo and sex is reserved for marriage. If someone breaks this social norm they may face ostracism. This is similar in the US in some places, however, in the modern progressive city that I lived in, it was common and accepted for men and women to date multiple partners.

Date people who are like them: Indians are encouraged to date people similar to themselves. Religion, socio-economic status, values, and the location is important. People in India will usually marry in their local community. This is similar to the US though too, and seems like people in general, but more pronounced in India.

Do love marriages happen? Love marriages do happen and as Western values influence the society they are becoming more popular. It is still common that the primary purpose of dating is to get to know your future husband or wife though. Many parents and Indian society as a whole doesn’t think a ‘trial and error’ approach to love is smart.

The Differences and Similarities with Dating Norms in the US

Americans have more sex partners, date more, and generally have more freedom in dating. There are similarities though between the cultures and in some ways maybe dating in India works better.

Americans have more sex partners (National Center for Health Statistics, 2015).

  • Number of sexual partners in life for men and women aged 25-44 years of age: Men – 6.1%. Women – 4.2%
  • Number of men and women aged 15-44 who have had 15 or more opposite-sex sexual partners in their lifetime: Men – 21.1%. Women – 10.1%
  • Number of men and women aged 15-44 who have had 5 or more opposite-sex sexual partners in the past 12 months: Men – 4.0%. Women – 1.7%

Online dating is popular: Statistic Brain Research Institute found that 49 million Americans have tried online dating. 1 in 5 relationships began online. 1 in 6 marriages began online.

Dating multiple partners is common and accepted: I lived in the young hip city of Austin, Texas and most people I knew were using Tinder or Bumble to meet new people. Dating was what you did on Friday night and showing someone your latest match is a popular topic of conversation.

Most people are looking for a match, not a hook up: Some guys in India think American women are highly sexualized like the Hollywood movies they might have seen, and this just isn’t true. According to this research, 80% of users are looking for a compatible match or a partner and not casual sex. According to statistics from EHarmony, 60% of women are looking for a match and not a hookup. Only 33% say they have had sex on the first date.

Millenials would marry someone of a different race: Pew Research Center found that 8 out of 10 millennials are open to marrying someone who is NOT the same race as them. In general, people in the US marry and date people similar to themselves too though. I bet we would also find that young Indians in modern cities are more willing to date someone of a different race.

Tips for a Western Man Dating in India

Before I started working at the matchmaking company, I wrote a lot of dating advice articles for various types of businesses: matchmakers, dating coaches, and even women’s health magazines. I got into this field because I just generally liked to date and had researched what was working and what wasn’t 🤓 

In my experience dating in India, here’s what I’ve found:

Build up a social network: The dating books I had read would call this ‘social game.’ It’s basically being just making friends, explore your hobbies and meeting people who also enjoy them. It’s not really rocket-science but you could be more proactive or intentional about it.

Approaching women on the street to ask them out or get to them is difficult in the US, but might be nearly impossible in India.

Online dating is available but less common: I used Tinder in Chennai, the biggest local city and there were significantly fewer matches than I found in Austin which is a smaller city. In Chennai, I ran out of matches in just a few days and that’s a city with a population of +7million people. I rarely ran out of matches in Austin which only has a population of less than 1 million people.

Most of the people I matched with were other Western people in Chennai too.

I currently live in a town in South India with a population of 145,000 people and I just checked out Tinder for the first time. Here’s what I found as I varied my settings

  • Within 25 miles. Ages 28 – 38: “There’s no one new around you.”
  • Within 50 miles. Ages 28 – 38: 7 profiles to swipe. 2 did NOT have a profile photo of their face. 1 did NOT have a profile photo.
  • Within 100 miles. Ages 28 – 38: I stopped at 57 profiles, so there are options if you want to drive. I saw one other Western woman. 3 were from over 3000 miles away.

Related Question:

What are some tips for dating an Indian man?

According to some friends, they say that Indian men are shy and don’t know much about asking a woman out. Prepare for some awkwardness but once they get to know you they can be extremely generous so prepared to be showered with gifts.

They may have high standards and be hypocritical about what they want.

For example, they may not work out but expect you to be as fit as an Olympic athlete. They can be a bit overdramatic in the Bollywood-inspired way. You will probably need to impress his Mom to have any chance of it working out. His family is going to be very involved so prepare to meet his immediate family and everyone else who he shares 1 or more genes with. 😘

Benjamin Jenks

Traveler, Filmmaker, and Lover of India. I've been living, writing and sharing what I've learned about traveling in India since 2018. Learn more about me here or Youtube.

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