Picture this, a 28-year-old mujer just graduates from her Master’s program. She secured a job in Hong Kong, so she starts her second stint abroad, this time as a bonafide expat. Prior to accepting this move, she has lived in New York City, where feeling attractive, curves and all, was easy, even overwhelming at times. The ‘oye mami’, ‘mira ven pa’ca’, ‘dang you look good’ and the plethora of other catcalling, however, would soon be nothing more than a distant memory.

In this new life, the Cantonese Fragrant Harbor promised fortune and professional advancement. By no stretch of the imagination did this chica think that the move would bring romance or true love, after all, she had already lived in Asia and understood that transient nature of the expat community. All of that was okay because sacrifices needed to be made for a career. Why else did all her abuelitos immigrate anyway? It would be disrespectful to their sacrificios not to milk every opportunity, no matter what linguistic, cultural, familial or personal consequences might arise.

IMG: Evening Hong Kon. Bernard Spragg. Public Domain

Thus, the eight-year journey in Asia’s Financial Capital began. It became quickly apparent that Hong Kong and Shanghai, where this señorita had previously lived, were two entirely different beasts. Meeting people for something more than platonic encounters proved to be harder than it was in its northern neighbor, where there seemed to be more interaction among foreigners of all nations than the divided entities that are Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. While dates and even love did make the odd appearances during her time there, overall the Special Administrative Region created an invisibility cloak that our protagonist did not quite understand was there until she left and hit the South Pacific.

A group trip to Samoa prompted additional trips to the Cook Islands and New Zealand, for a month-long sojourn in Polynesia. In the months leading up to the trip, research was done and there may have been some ogling at the various images of Samoan men and women found online. It certainly served as motivation for the trip, to say the least.

IMG: Lalomanu Beach. NeilsPhotography. Flickr. CCBY 2.0

Once in Samoa, the oil laden, bare-chested men that Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua would have one believe run rampant in the islands, were not exactly abundant. Add to that the group dynamic, which can make any type of one on one connection more complicated. So, when trying to maintain some semblance of privacy, often times one depends on side conversations and glances. If friends catch on, soon you find yourself having your crew trying to intercede for you. What is not always accounted for are local customs and just how small a village really is. For example, if an elder senses that one is trying to lead their nephew astray he will make it abundantly clear that his nephew is in fact married, which if notice were given of said union no flirting would have taken place whatsoever. It is in those moments, praise is given for not pursuing anything, lest the village come after you for being a homewrecker.

IMG: Vaimaaga, Rarotonga (482249). Robert Linsdell. Flickr. CC BY 2.0

In contrast, a solo getaway to Rarotonga, Cook Islands offered the perfect opportunity to decompress and explore the local delights at one’s own leisure. There one is likely to find more of the highly-exported images of Polynesian beauty, which would cause most living beings’ hearts to race a bit faster upon first glance. While enjoying the various activities that Raro had to offer, one inevitably had the opportunity to hear how some of the New Zealander cougars spoke to the local eye candy. Admittedly, the freedom they possessed, to flirt and carry on without a care in the world as to how they would be perceived, sparked a twinge of jealousy. Fortunately, our heroine’s inquisitiveness came in handy as she sought advice so she too could approach the gorgeous specimen that stood before her with the same confidence her Kiwi counterparts had done. So, take the cougars’ encouragement, add some deliverance from body dysmorphia, sprinkle a new-found confidence and this new age Carmen Sandiego allowed herself to pursue an individual she would have otherwise thought was out of her league. Much to her amazement flirtation was a two-way street and resulted in a private rendezvous.

IMG: Auckland waterfront.NZ. Bernard Spragg. NZ. Public Domain

The final leg of this Oceanian adventure took place in the largest of the Polynesian nations, New Zealand. Armed with some courage to pursue her interests, a little bit of help from some online dating apps and more than two weeks at her disposal, this Kiwi at heart set to discover what the North Island had to offer beyond the guidebooks. Auckland proved to be quite diverse, given the range of nationalities that initiated contact and made time to share their piece of the City of Sails. Being perceived as a Desi more than likely had something to do with the high volume of South Asian suitors. Having a rental car certainly facilitated mobility and allowed for a tête-à-tête virtually anywhere. Mission Bay was a go to for coffee or lunch. Hamilton, despite most Kiwis’ aversion to it as a place of residence, offered a lovely walk along the river and a most gracious suitor. Aotearoa proved again why it’s so beloved.

The South Pacific deserves eternal gratitude for the rebirth of a nearly extinct dating life.

What region resurrected your dating life?

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