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Sun, Feb 22, 2009
The New Paper
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Love in a time of recession
by Shree Ann Mathavan

NEVER MIND the recession. Singaporeans do have love on their minds.

That is why even though the 10 contenders for the Most Bedazzling Singles competition held on Saturday are good-lookers in their own right, they all hope to meet that special someone.

The competition – part of week-long mega dating fiesta Bedazzled: Dating in Style (9-16 Feb) – was organised by dating agencies The Dating Loft and Lunch Actually.

Take one of the contenders, doe-eyed beauty Aarthi Sankar, 22, a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate who has been single for the past two years. She feels it makes perfect sense for people to look for love during the downturn.

She said: “Regardless of the downturn, if you work so hard that you have no time for romance, you’ll start to realise something is missing.

“I see such (dating) events as a good way to network and meet more people.”

She’s open to joining more such events, such as “group outings or mass dinners, where I can meet other like-minded people, as long as it’s not a blind date”.

While Miss Sankar didn’t meet the man of her dreams through the event, she hopes one day to find someone like her late father, who died four years ago.

He would have to be someone with “a good sense of humour and who can take things easy”.

Such dating events can help make the work of getting to know someone lot easier.

Most Bedazzling Bachelorette winner Dianne Loh, 27, an industrial designer, blames her long work hours for her single status. While she meets many men when she goes dragon-boating, that special someone has remained elusive.

Miss Loh, who won more than $5,000 worth of prizes, said: “I was too busy in the last few years building my career, so joining such events helps me to meet more people.”

Like Miss Sankar, Miss Loh isn’t keen on traditional forms of matchmaking. She enjoys hip events which are group-based.

Mr Leonard Chan, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who has been single for the past 11/2 years, agrees that tough times tend to make people actively seek out love.

He said: “Everything is volatile during the downturn.

There’s a lot of uncertainty, so people generally look for a strong base and steady relationship to fall back on.”


Greater openness has also helped people to turn to dating agencies, said Miss Jasmin Natalie Lee, 26, a participant.

The attractive executive officer to a CEO in an educational institute has been a single for the past five years, even though she is not short of male admirers.

She said: “Previously, Singaporeans weren’t so open to matchmaking because of the negative stereotypes involved. But I think this is a new era of matchmaking.”

This heightened longing for that special someone is something those in the business of love welcome.

Dating agencies here say that despite the downturn, they are seeing more eligible singles flocking to them.

That may come as a surprise as membership at most agencies can go up to thousands of dollars, depending on the duration.

This is consistent with a trend in the US. Earlier last week, The Chicago Tribune reported that dating agencies there are doing a booming trade.

The New Paper’s check with five dating agencies found that business has jumped between 25 and 50 per cent.

Ms Lydia Gan, 34, owner of Clique Wise, a four-year-old dating agency, has seen an increase of 25 per cent in business since last month.

She said: “People tend to say Singaporeans are only concerned about work. From the increase, we can conclude people are still very much actively looking for love.”

She rationalised that the downturn has given people more free time. She said: “Companies are retrenching.

Some are forcing their workers to work shorter hours or take leave, so this gives them more time to socialise.”

Similarly, GoMovieDate, a five-year-old dating agency, has seen a jump of almost 30 per cent since last month.

Said its founder Mr Matthew Tan, 35: “When things are down, more people need a listening ear, someone to talk to and share their worries with.

“If you don’t have anyone, you tend to feel even lonelier and more depressed. So that gives singles an extra reason to look for a significant other.”

Added Ms Violet Lim, 29, co-founder of Lunch Actually, which co-organised Bedazzled: “It (the trend) is consistent with the trend overseas. My peers in other countries tend to say that matchmaking is a recession- proof industry.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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