Apps with terrible pick-up lines are a surprising hit in China
Apps give men some questionable recommended chat replies for women, taking inspiration from pick-up artists
If you’ve ever found yourself chatting with the girl of your dreams but struggled to find the perfect thing to say, Chinese app makers have a novel solution for you. Local app stores now offer dozens of apps with ready-made answers for even the most peculiar inquiries.
The way the apps work is simple. You just type into the search bar the last thing a woman said to you in a chat. The app will then give you several possible replies that you can copy and paste into your chat.
The apps use big data to supposedly come up with the perfect response, and they’ve quickly caught on in China. But the apps are geared towards men talking to women, and the app makers have some peculiar ideas of what they think women like to hear.
Here are some of the answers I received from some of these so-called “romantic chat skills” apps.
Woman: How are you?
Man: Missing you, are you missing me?
If you find this a bit cheesy, it’s not just you.
“It’s liable to effectively increase the number of singles,” one person commented about the app on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
Some of the replies in the apps are supposedly created by special “love mentors” and then combined with “big data,” according to app creators cited by local newspaper Beijing Youth Daily. Romantic Chat Skills Master claims to offer up to 200,000 possible replies.
But the apps don’t stop there. Some offer opening lines men can try out. One app I tried, Romantic Chat Skills Search, offers jokes. They’ll also tell you how to reply if you only receive a smiley emoji, and they offer customized GIFs to spice up the conversation.
They even offer advice on matters of love, some of it useful and some not so useful. Advice includes what to do when your girlfriend is mad but you don't know why. (The answer is “apologize anyway.”)
But some of the more cringe-inducing dating advice on the apps is co-opted from Western pick-up artists, whose dubious advice on achieving sexual success has traveled all the way to China.
Some of the suggested replies also reflect this. For example, if a woman says she’s going to take a shower, one suggested reply might be a playful invitation to take a shower together. Or it might offer something like this:
“You managed to arouse my most primitive desires.”
We decided to see how creative some of these apps could get. The most obvious test is a woman fishing for compliments. This is what we got when we searched for “how do you like my outfit?"
The first answer was, “It’s too good looking, you’re going to be in the limelight.” Not too shabby. But the second answer was a bit more… eyebrow-raising.
“Oh, not bad. Are you planning to buy that for my mom?”
We also tested the app with the question that makes men so nervous it’s practically become a meme in China: “If your mother and I fell into the river at the same time, who would you save first?”
The question is a tough one because no man wants to admit he wouldn’t save his mother or his girlfriend first. Here is how one app solved this conundrum.
Option one: The rhetorical reply. “If your father and I fell into the river at the same time, who would YOU save first?”
Option two: Confuse the enemy. “I will save your future mother because my mother is your future mother, and you are our children's future mother.”
Option three: Melodrama. “You both fell into the water. What's the point of living? I… I would go down, too.” (A crying emoji is optional.)
Many of these apps offer paid features, such as unlocking more possible replies or counseling sessions with “experts.” Some of them even offer live coaching on how to dress and behave to attract women.
But even though the apps have been largely ridiculed and criticized for a lack of sincerity, they still have millions of downloads. So if you’re chatting with a guy who asks if you bought that nice dress for his mom, you’ll know why.